As a continuation from my last post here are three more business books that you should consider reading. All three were all released last year.

Mitch Joel – Six Pixels of Separation

linchpin_six pixels of separation_freeThe central theme of Six Pixels is “personal branding.” The notion is that you should be front and center for who you are and what you can provide. He writes to the business owner and explains that your brand is the sum-total of who you were before you started your business. While you can put thought and design into the process of branding yourself, the brand is something that is formed in the mind of the person who is evaluating you. Want proof positive that this is how branding works? Do what the prospect does and Google yourself. It doesn’t matter what you say about who you are, it’s what Google says you are. They’re forming their own opinions based on that.

He contrasts traditional advertising with web based communication, the move away from interrupting to engaging audiences. It’s still possible in the digital age to push out messages, but for an audience to make them viral, you have to continue to engage with them so that they can genuinely believe in the value that you have. He urges people to share more text, audio/video is also encouraging people to let go of controlling their products or services and to listen to what the community wants to see happen. It’s crucial to take the community’s feedback to heart, as those are the best pieces of information that can guide any of your content and enhance your business strategy.

Joel doesn’t claim to have the exact set of tactics for how to develop your online presence, but he explains the rights and wrongs. He tries to illustrate the best methods for building a following online and from that standpoint, you can learn why you want to act certain ways and make it second nature. While Six Pixels stays fairly high-level, that aspect is what will maintain its usefulness for longer than most social media books that are all about tactics. They are out of date by the time they are printed.

Seth Godin – Linchpin

Linchpin starts off with what feels like a secret history from the Industrial Revolution forward. His notion: our socioeconomic apparatus was set up for workers who follow instructions, play it safe, subvert their identity and aim for uniformity with all other workers. But we’re not in an industrial economy anymore; as most of those who have been in the workforce over the past 10 years can attest, the system has broken down. We’re now in an economy that needs individuals who figure out for themselves what to do next. Who best fits this description? Artists. The hitch is that artists overcome the urge to keep their creativity bottled up; they ‘put it out there’ at the risk of public criticism. Seth says taking risks is the hardest but most necessary quality we need to have as we emulate artists.

My first comment about the book is that its theme doesn’t as much get developed in the book as it gets restated. So if you’re crunched for time, you’ll be OK if you just read some of it. Secondly, be prepared for Seth’s use of allegories. Here’s one excerpt from the book’s conclusion,

“The only thing keeping you from being one of [the] Artists is The Resistance, the loud voice of the lizard brain, telling you that you can’t possibly do it; that you don’t deserve it; that people will laugh at you. We don’t have a talent shortage, we have a shipping shortage. Anyone who makes the choice to overcome The Resistance and has the insight to create the right map can become a successful linchpin.”

If you don’t pay attention when he introduces these terms, you’ll most certainly be lost when he throws them around like he has here.

Chris Anderson – Free

Being the Editor-in-Chief of Wired must mean being exposed to many radical ideas. Anderson’s idea that we can make money by giving things away at first sounds radical, but as he takes us through many examples of where it’s done today, the idea of free becomes more and more logical.

Anderson argues that unlike the “bits” economy where physical goods that carry hard costs were sold, it’s now “atoms” that get shipped. He invokes Moore’s Law and the fact that the cost of bandwidth, storage and processing is halving every 18 months as the chief reason why costs are moving to zero. He phrases it this way, “products are becoming too cheap to meter.” This can help you judge when something that’s nearly-free for you to distribute might as well be free. When you do this, you should give something away and concentrate on how to parlay the value of what’s free into something people will pay for. You have to think creatively about how to convert the reputation and attention you can get from free into cash.

He delves into several ‘free’ business models, including gifting (i.e. blogging for reputation), piracy, freemium, third-party payee and cross-subsidy. But be prepared to do some work as you go through “Free.” It runs through some involved microeconomics. It’s not exactly light reading, but it’s very thought provoking.

These books wouldn’t have been published if it weren’t for the ascendancy in the last few years of Web 2.0. These authors argue that we should all be contributing; which we now have the means of doing thanks to SaaS, mobile apps, social networks and blog/podcast/video platforms. If you are looking for inspiring ideas on growing your company or yourself, reading any of these six books should help you think about how you can go about doing it.