Podcast 66 Transcript: Art of Management: Mitch Joel

Written by Ian Portsmouth

Ian Portsmouth: Welcome to the Business Coach Podcast, an advice-oriented series that tackles the top issues and opportunities facing Canada’s small businesses.  I’m your host, Ian Portsmouth, the editor of Profit Magazine and we’ve developed this podcast in cooperation with BMO Bank of Montreal.

Today, we have another special episode in store for you, I am on location at the Art of Management Event in Toronto where a great line up of management speakers have been sharing their insights and advice into multiple aspects of doing business better.  Next stop is social media and joining me right now appropriately is Mitch Joel, Canada’s most influential thinker on social media.  Mitch is the President of Twist Image, an award winning digital marketing agency based in Montreal.  His first book “Six Pixels of Separation,” named after his very successful blog and podcast was published in the fall of 2009.  Mitch, thanks for joining the Business Coach Podcast.

Mitch Joel: Always a pleasure.

Ian Portsmouth: So, Mitch, we’ve all heard of the concept of six degrees of separation, what’s different about six pixels of separation?

Mitch Joel: Before we had this crazy thing called the internet, we were in a world where if I wanted to meet you, I needed some sort of introduction, I had to be somewhere where you are and I think what has happened in all of this sort of interconnectedness of online social networking and just websites in general, all you really need to do is doing a quick search and we’re connected.  Like, you could follow me on Twitter, I can follow you on Facebook.  I believe that that changes who we are as people and I think that it actually is a real fundamental change in how we do business.  Traditionally, you would just put your messages out there and hope that people would see them and talk about them. But we live in a world where we really can focus on who we are trying to get our message to and just get our message out to them.

Ian Portsmouth: Why is understanding social media so important to business owners these days?  And this is something you wrote about in a recent issue of PROFIT.

Mitch Joel: I think the fundamental thing is that people sort of look at these channels and think, I’ll do it if I have time or like sort of marketing always comes last and you know, if we’re in a recessionary times, it just sort of keeps going back and forth, I am not sure if we are,  as the editor of Profit you’ll have to tell me.  Are we in a recession or are we still not in a recession?  I don’t even know.  Let’s say we are.  The real job that an entrepreneur of a small or medium businesses has, and I am one of them, is to find out what people think about my brand, products and services, see if there is an issue, what they are talking about and if not, at the best level, is to get new customers.  And I find it amazing where people think they don’t have time for these channels when in reality, these are the channels that are going to help you achieve those goals fastest and most efficiently.  So, I get excited about them obviously but just for more practical standpoint, I just can’t believe how many businesses ignore the fact that there are thousands of people online right now looking for that.  Literally, they have a problem that their products or services could solve and they are not present.  It’s mind boggling to me but that’s why I write books and speak and run an agency.

Ian Portsmouth: Now, that addresses social media from a positive opportunistic perspective but a lot of people look at it as something to be avoided because they do not want to facilitate any sort of negative discussion about their brand or their products.  What’s your feeling on that?

Mitch Joel: Well the first is that conversations happen anyway.  So, you can choose to put your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist but there are instances where people getting one or two even negative news is affecting their overall business. So that’s one reality of it.  There other side of it is we actually know statistically that people who open up and are accepting it actually do better than you would think.  So the common concern is, you know, if we do this, what if people say if they say bad stuff.  A company called Bazaarvoice serves third party auditor, peer reviews, customer reviews.  They’ve done 10 billion, they average 10 billion, that’s 4.3 out of 5.  Actually, we know statistically that if you give the consumers the option, they are more inclined to say nice things.  More importantly though, is when it comes to sales, a product that allows reviews has four more times more likely to be sold whether it is positive or negative than a product that doesn’t.  And so right away, we do know that people are looking at reviews, in fact when the stats talk about it, I think 81% of people who bought something online during the holiday season look at a consumer review. And so, again, it’s not a question of whether or not you believe it or not, it is happening, and I think our role as small and medium size business owners, is to get in touch with that conversation and figure it out.

Ian Portsmouth: Is this drifting off the idea that consumers would rather buy a product that they at least have some information about that they can weigh or whether there are some peer review whether it’s positive or negative than go with a product that they haven’t heard anything about and is a mystery?

Mitch Joel: I think we do a lot more research than we did before.  So that’s one thing but the other part is that you know, if you and I are friends, you still might not know the stuff I am looking for, like a specific digital camera or something.  But if I go online, I can actually learn from people who have bought it already and experienced it.  And that always happens when we buy something, and you’re like, does it what it says or does it something different. You have no way of gauging that unless you actually do some research and these platforms allow anybody to share their thoughts about it.  I think it’s crazy.

Ian Portsmouth: Everyone in the audience right now is probably wondering what does Mitch Joel think about Twitter?  How can businesses leverage that?

Mitch Joel: I do love Twitter but I love it I think for different reasons.  One of the things I love about Twitter is it’s an open API, it means anybody can sort of access the technology and code.  Twitter has a very powerful search engine called  Go in there, type in their industry, type in your products and services without joining, just look at the amazing wealth of what people are saying out in the wild, just out there naturally about your products and services.  You don’t have to join it or have people follow you, just listen to these organic conversations better than any focus groups.  One of the examples, I think I talked about it in the PROFIT issues, we worked with a client that we were having at our kick-off meeting and they were showing us these four points that they uncovered by working with a huge research company that they paid a quarter million dollars to do.  And while they are doing that, I was on the back on Twitter and I wrote down the four that that I thought and they were the exact same four because it’s basic. You can do some research and see exactly what people say organically about a product or service. It’s wild.

Ian Portsmouth: Is it ever too early to jump in to any particular social media platform?  A lot of people have been waiting to go into Twitter.  Is there a point where it becomes too late?

Mitch Joel: I don’t think it’s an early or late.  I think it’s the why, that’s my big thing, is why do it.  And if you can tie it into a strategy and results, and ROI and KPIs and dollars, then it makes sense, it doesn’t matter early, middle, late.  I think the problem is people jump on with a sort of panic, like “what are we doing on Twitter? Everyone’s on Twitter!” We’ve got to be there!” It’s the wrong attitude.  If you focus on the why, I don’t think time matters. 

Ian Portsmouth: And can you tell us what’s the best social media tool that you’ve used to promote your business?

Mitch Joel: I would definitely say that the blog is still the thing for me but again it ties into the why.  My background is in writing, my background is in journalism and publishing.  I have a passion for writing and I really love doing it and so I think that that passion comes out in the writing.  So for me, the ability to have a thought, write it out and publish it immediately is wild and when I compare, it’s like, I wrote an article for you guys, it takes a couple of months going back and forth. It’s a different type, but it’s a different way of thinking.  Where if I have a thought as a journalist or as a writer, I can publish, it is an amazingly liberating concept.

Ian Portsmouth: Mitch, thanks for joining the Business Coach Podcast.

Mitch Joel: You’re an officer and a gentleman.

Ian Portsmouth: Mitch is the President of Twist Image, an award-winning digital marketing agency based in Montreal.

That’s it for another episode of the Business Coach Podcast.  Be sure to check out other episodes, which you can download from, and iTunes.  If you have any comments or suggestions about the podcast, then please send them to me at

Until next time, I’m Ian Portsmouth, the editor of Profit Magazine, wishing you continued success.

Originally appeared on