internet marketing books

A Small Collection of Personal Branding Books Worth Reading

There are tons of books out there on personal branding, all with their own take. Many self-improvement, management, and organizational psychology books don't label themselves as personal branding books explicitly, but should be considered as such.

I've rounded up a collection of great personal branding books read over the course of the last few years that will help anyone become more effective and successful in managing their own personal brand. Take a look at these gems:

How to Build a Great Blog, by Choice

How to build a great blogSuccess is less about being lucky, but more about what you do to take advantage of the luck you get. This is one of the many insightful findings Jim Collins and his team of researchers discovered about great companies in the book, Great By Choice. Turns out, much of what it takes to build a great company applies equally well to building a great blog. Learn what it takes to build a great blog, by choice.

Elements of Greatness

Collins and his research partners defined success as companies who beat their industry competitors on average by a factor of 10. Their research showed that all of these companies shared three essential behaviors: fanatic discipline, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia. Let's apply these concepts to blogging as way of understanding them:

  • Fanatic Discipline - This habit is all about having a purpose for your blog and being utterly relentless in your pursuit of this goal. If you want to have the best blog on a given topic, you need to be mono-maniacal in your consistent approach to publishing great content in that area. It also means having discipline in setting up goals to measure against your objectives, and then measuring your output against these goals.
  • Empirical Creativity - Demonstrating this behavior entails not looking just to best practice examples or case studies for what to do with your blog, but moreso to evidence, direct observation and practical experiments in tandem with bold creative initiatives to define what works for you. Test things out constantly, and double down on the stuff that works.
  • Productive Paranoia - Being great means never getting too comfortable. Productive paranoia is about staying hyper vigiliant and attuned to new tastes and threats in your industry. It also means having safety measures built in. Don't rely on just one source of traffic, and build relationships with your audience to future-proof your readership.

Great By Choice focused on the greatness of companies such as Southwest Airlines, Microsoft (during the Bill Gates era), and Progressive Insurance. And while none of these companies relied on a blogging to achieve greatness, the same might not be true for the companies of the future.

Instituting the habits of fanatic discipline, empirical creativity, and productive paranoia into your blogging will help bring your blog from so-so to greatness, and in the process it might just do the same for your business.

Have you read Great By Choice? Either way, what do you think of the elements of greatness as described in this post?

Image credit: Flickr

28 Marketing and Business Books to Read in 2012

A man reading business and marketing books.At the beginning of 2011, my friend and digital PR expert Arik Hanson posed a challenge on his blog: read a book every other week all year long. I took Arik up on his challenge, and discovered nearly thirty amazing marketing and business books this year in the process.

And now that I've gotten into the habit of regular reading, 2012 will be no different. Will you join me next year? Here's a few tips and 28 marketing and business books to encourage you to join me in the 2012 26 Book Challenge.

How to Read a Book Every Other Week

Getting through 26 books in a year doesn't just happen. It's the type of thing you have to plan for, both in terms of the time it will take and medium that will work best for you.

First, where do you find yourself having chunks of time where your brain isn't engaged? Nearly everyone has that half an hour or more per day where they're stuck in traffic, on the bus/train, walking on a treadmill, etc. 

Next, what's the best medium for you to consume books during this free time? Between good old-fashioned paper books, electronic books (e.g., Kindle) and audio books (e.g., Audible), there's a way for nearly everyone to find time in your existing schedule where you could be reading and learning new things. Personally, I listen to books via Audible to and from work during my half-hour commute. That alone is responsible for most of the books I read this year.

28 Marketing and Business Books to Read in 2012

Some folks read for pleasure or simply to escape. I use my reading time to get through books on marketing and business. If you're looking to take the 26 Book Challenge in 2012, consider some of the gems* I read this year (you can also read my ever-growing list of Internet marketing book reviews):

General Online Marketing and Marketing Books:

 Content Marketing, SEO, and Social Media Books:

Marketing and Business Psychology Books:

Personal Branding and Business Philosophy Books:

*Note: there are Amazon Affiliate links contained in this list. Please buy something to subsidize my own reading habit. :)

A Complete List of 2012 Marketing and Business Books

What do you think of the books on this list?  I need your help to figure out what's missing, what deserves to be there, and what people should avoid. What great marketing and business books can you recommend? Leave a suggestion (or a few) in the comments to help my readers and me as we set our sites on the 2012 26 Book Challenge. Be sure to also leave a comment if you plan on being a part of the challenge in 2012.

Image credit: Flickr 

The Reason Your Ideas Aren't Going Anywhere

Made to Stick ReviewIf people aren't acting on your good ideas, it's probably because you are cursed. At least that's what the authors of Made to Stick think. Authors and brothers Chip and Dan Heath assert that your good ideas aren't gaining enough traction because of something called the Curse of Knowledge. If you've ever had a great idea and wondered why everyone didn't accept it immediately, you'll certainly want to check out this 2007 examination into what makes ideas stick.

What is The Curse of Knowledge?

As you learn more about a topic (e.g., your job), it becomes harder and harder for you to imagine what it is like to know nothing at all about the subject. This is the Curse of Knowledge at work. For example, how would you describe blue to someone who has never been able to see? The Curse of Knowledge is the near-reflex tendency to compare blue to oceans, the sky, or a Smurf. Without your knowledge, your audience doesn't have the context to fully understand you.

Turns out, the Heaths have developed a way to overcome the pesky curse and make your ideas easier for people to understand, which is the first step in making them stick.

SUCCES with Ideas

Chip, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford University, and his brother Dan, a former researcher at Harvard, put their heads together and came up with a six step plan to combat the Curse of Knowledge - SUCCES:

  • S - Simple - What is the core message of your new idea? It's easy to lose your audience if you try to say too much. Give your audience one very important thing to remember and put all your effort behind getting that point across.
  • U - Unexpected - Our attention spans our minuscule. If you want people to spend time thinking about your idea, it needs to catch them off guard. We think we've heard it all before until we're suddenly very wrong. If you can surprise your audience with a story or counter-intuitive statistic, they'll be more likely to pay attention your idea.
  • C - Concrete - Our minds don't understand abstract concepts as well as they do specific or concrete examples. Take the example from above. Was it the explanation of the Curse of Knowledge itself or the analogy involving blue Smurfs that helped you understand the phenomenon? Express your ideas into concrete terms to maximize comprehension amongst your audience.
  • C - Credible - In order for us to believe in new ideas, we have to think the source is credible. This is why you see "experts" endorse products on TV and why we trust the opinions of our friends and family over complete strangers.
  • E - Emotion - We have analytical and emotional parts of our brain, and our emotional part makes most of our decisions (whether we like to think so or not). To get someone to act requires appealing to their emotions, not their sense of logic.
  • S - Story - Stories help us remember a large amount of information at once because everything becomes related. For example, most people couldn't remember a series of 13 random letters, but it's somewhat easier to recall 13 letters if you arrange them like this: comprehension. Stories help us weave together large amounts of information. They also help us remember complex ideas.

I enjoyed every last insightful morsel of Made to Stick because my line of work (SEO, conversion optimization and web analytics) can be complex, technical and/or difficult to explain. In fact, reading Made to Stick (published in 2007) convinced me to read the Heaths' newest book, Switch, next.

Have you read any good books lately? I'm always looking for suggestions if you've got them. I'm partial to books about the interwebs, as is evidenced by my Internet marketing book review page.

Audible: The Cure for a Boring Long Commute

Audible cures long boring commutesEveryone has that unavoidable downtime in their lives. Commutes, chores and work-outs chew through our day while leaving our minds with nothing to do. If you're easily bored like me, this type of mental inefficiency drives you nuts.

Recently I did something about it. I signed up for and started listening to books during my daily downtime. Now I've rid my long commute of boredom by learning about new Internet marketing strategies and tactics as I sit in traffic. Audible has been amazing so far.

My boring downtime occurs during the daily trek from St. Paul to Bloomington along the dreaded MN I-494 corridor, where hundreds of commuters inch to work five days a week. The five mile stretch of interstate is transformed into a thirty minute ride each way. Yes, I realize that my commute is brief by many standards, but still. It's three-plus hours a week of captivity that I wanted to use better.

Until signing up for Audible, I was listening to podcasts during the drive. Podcasts were great for news and information, but they often lack lasting value. Books, on the other hand, are perfect for commutes because they have the depth and coherency that podcast lack. Enter Audible audiobooks.

I'd heard of Audible through podcast legend Leo Laporte and his online network of tech shows. Laporte also convinced me to use the Squarespace web publishing platform for my blog and I haven't regretted that decision at all. It didn't take me long to warm up to the most trusted name in audiobooks. I signed up in December and haven't looked back.

Each time I get into the car, I flip on the Audible app on my iPhone and start listening to the latest book on business or Internet marketing (or whatever your cup of tea may be). Most book are around ten hours long when narrated but I use the 2x speed option on the app to speed up the pace of the narrator. As a result, I find I'm clipping through books at the rate of more than two per month just by listening during my boring and long daily commute.

I'm working towards a goal of 26 books read in 2011 along with friends Arik Hanson and Patrick Garmoe. With Audible's help I've already gotten through six of them. In fact, I've been reading so many books lately that I even created an entire book review section on my blog.

How do you deal with your downtime? Do you impatiently sit in traffic during your commute and curse the minutes of your day lost to the daily grind? What do you do to stay efficient? Do you listen to Audible audiobooks? Leave a comment below with your best tip or suggested read.