Book Review – 33 Million People in the Room

Subtitled “How to Create, Influence, and Run a Successful Business with Social Networking“, this book is an introduction to social media and social networking.  It is by no means an indepth study of what the subtitle leads you to believe.  The book is an easy read, consisting of only 154 pages, including the text, glossary, acknowledgments and index.

When I read the first few pages, my first impression was “hmm, this could be pretty interesting”. Ms Powell begins with a story about the 2002 TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) conference, and how Chris Anderson proposed a new model for the organization – opening it to the general public via the use of technology.  She goes on to tell how in 2006 June Cohen began reshaping the organization, creating a broader audience through TEDtalks.  Later in the chapter Ms Powell describes how the connections within social networking structures provide access to amazingly large audiences, explaining how a group of 25 networked individuals provide over 33 million possible connections.  I was intrigued.

Chapter 2 was a let-down, diving into definitions of Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social networks.  Oh no, not another treatise on which social network is better.  Luckily it was a short chapter.  Chapter 3 was somewhat more of the same with the focus being “Making Social Networks Work for You.”  Explanations of how to manage your online persona, using Linkedin, Facebook, mobile applications, etc.  Stuff you would expect most people would already be doing.  I was getting more discouraged.

Fortunately, the next few chapters took a different vector, and the remainder of the book held my interest.  Each chapter tells a story, which brings the concepts of social networking to life and makes them real.  Ms Powell does a pretty good job of demonstrating how different social networking concepts/methods (strong ties, weak ties, social captial, cultural capital, crowdsourcing, co-creation, vlogging, virality,etc.) have been applied in real world situations.  Situations to which you and I can relate – Johnny Chung Lee (Wiimote innovation), Gary Vaynerchuk (Winelibrary TV), Barack Obama (change.gov), Al Gore (Current TV), and Jeffrey Kalmikoff and Jake Nickell (threadless.com).  Each of these examples focused on one or more aspects of how social networking enabled a new way of engaging constituents to reshape people’s thinking,  their buying habits, or their social conscience.

Ms Powell focuses on a couple of concepts that I found interesting.  The first was “microcelebrity” status, and how you can attain and maintain it.  Not everybody can be an internet, web 2.0 or social networking sensation.  But you can think about “Me 2.0″, and how you can use the resources at your disposal to create and expand your persona, which leads to the next concept of “social capital” – according to Ms Powell is “the extent of your personal network of friends and colleagues and the potential value carried therein.”  Building social capital is the first step to building influence outside your immediate network – a term Ms Powell calls “cultural capital”.  Increasing both your social and cultural capital ultimately leads to increased financial capital – a term which we all understand.

While this book was a little light on specifics, it was an interesting read from the perspective of being able to relate all this social networking stuff to realworld examples.  In the end, the book really doesn’t define the “three things you need to do on Monday morning” to achieve what the subtitle suggests.  But, it is thought provoking and worth tossing into your carry-on and reading on that next cross country flight.

33 Million People in the Room – How to Create, Influence and Run a Successful Business with Social Networking – Powell, Juliette; 2009, Pearson Education, Inc.

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