Interview with Digital Marketing Rock Star Mitch Joel

In an interview with Avinash Kaushik, I asked who I should interview next for the Compete blog and Avinash said emphatically, Mitch Joel. "I don’t know of anyone else who has a better handle on all things Social Media and Web 2.0 and Marketing 2.0 and how the web is fundamentally altering our lives."

Mitch is President of Twist Image — a digital marketing and communications agency. Marketing Magazine dubbed him the "Rock Star of Digital Marketing" and in 2006 he was named one of the most influential authorities on Blog Marketing in the world. He is a marketing and communications visionary, interactive expert, community leader, Blogger and Podcaster.

In your upcoming book a key focus will be on the ways that technology is empowering individuals to build personal brands that will rival corporate brands. Will that change where / how marketers add value and differentiate corporate brands?

What we’re really seeing is that branding and marketing is no longer relegated to the big companies with the even bigger pocketbooks. These digital channels empower and enable entrepreneurs of all kinds to direct the right message to the right people. Because of this, I think it is going to be increasingly more challenging for all marketers (regardless of size and money) to get their message through. In terms of personal branding, it’s going to be a big challenge for organizations to deal with individuals who have huge personal brands within the organization (through channels like Blogs, twitter, Podcasts, etc"¦) when compared against their own leaders.

What best practices can we all learn from when it comes to building a personal brand?

It’s important to understand that something like personal branding is so new, I would never say that there are any specific "best practices." To have a successful personal brand (which, in and of itself, is pretty vague idea to define), you’ll need to follow the basic common sense rules you use in every aspect of your everyday life — be honest, be kind, say "please" and "thank you," add value, build community by giving abundantly and always play nice. It may sound hokey, but the best brands (personal and corporate) that are doing this are scoring big. The most important aspect is to be yourself. I’m constantly reminded of what Oscar Wilde said: "Be you because others are already taken."

Lastly, a personal best practice is to always see how you can add value to others. In turn, you will be surprised, shocked and pleasantly pleased with what comes back.

Has the rise of personal brands changed the way marketers are or should hire social media experts for their marketing organizations?

It depends. An individual being hired to manage the social media aspects of a business doesn’t have to — necessarily — have a huge personal brand. They have to be someone who likes to help others and get things done.

Many companies think they need "a name" to help build their credibility. What they really need is to be producing something remarkable (think about Seth Godin’s Purple Cow). Having someone who can speak to people in "human" and not "business" talk is huge.

There’s also been lots of Blog talk around what, exactly, is an expert"¦ The waters are still a little murky simply because it’s still very new and most of the major success we’ve seen in the space could well be the exceptions and not the rule.

All this to say, that hiring someone to be the social media go-to person in an organization is not an easy task and you do want to ensure that whoever it is has some level of experience, knowledge and know-how.

Besides staffing, what are some of the other organizational shifts in marketing driven by social media trends that they need to address?

Wow, where to begin? We need IT and Marketing to work closer together. We need customer service and Marketing to speak with the PR and Communications people. We need to better understand the data we have about our customers and what we’re doing with it.

Silos have to change and the hierarchy of who can say what to who needs to also loosen a little. If you have an admin person who has got the Google Alerts going and can address an online situation, it’s important to empower and encourage that person to make things right.

This is a game of corporate pride. Your employees are your best brand evangelists and you can empower them to grow their personal brands by allowing them to connect with consumers.

How do you stay on top of trends in digital marketing?

I swear by Google Reader, Google Alerts, Technorati and the Podcasts I listen to. I’m also very transparent, so if you ever want to see what Blogs and Podcasts I follow, they are all on my Blogroll at I also share stuff I find in Google Reader (also available off of my Blogroll) and if anyone wants to connect with me via Facebook, you can feel free to, as the stuff I find interesting is also posted there.
On the traditional mass media front, I read a lot of books and pick up Wired, Fast Company and Fortune magazine.

What is the next trend on the horizon that marketers need to prepare for?

I don’t think it’s so much of a trend as the new reality. With all of these tools to publish our thoughts and share them, and if you tie this into how deep and long Google’s memory is, I think we need to be very prepared for these new individuals (and their personal brands) to rise. I think we’re going to see entrepreneurs grow new business like never before, and it’s a good time to be in the marketing and communications game.

You recently wrote a warning to marketers, “don’t forget your website.” At a time when companies are constantly battling public perception and outspoken individuals, do you have specific advice for optimizing a website to speak directly to potential or current customers?

Simply put: speak to your consumers in the same way that they speak about your products. Jargon, acronyms, fancy pants words don’t work. Speak from your heart. Speak with passion. Be real.

Who should we interview for the Compete Blog next?

Garr Reynolds from Presentation Zen. If you can get to Presentation Zen, you can do it all.

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