The Best Books I Read In 2013


I hope you like my new video content about the best books I read in 2013. Below is the list of books, the links are affiliate links to Amazon.

Paper Books


Kindle Books




Here are a few other links to some of the other things I mentioned in my video. Hope you enjoy!

Really cool NPR interview with Paul Davies of Cosmic Jackpot.

Here is a link to Rob Kelly’s Blog (the book I was waving around at the start of the video).

My recent blog post about my favorite quotes from The Launchpad (yay Kindle).

Thanks again for reading my blog.


Social Media 101 – Your Social Media Reading Homework

Social media is the future of advertising and brand engagement and it can have a powerful impact on you and your business, but many people struggle to even understand its basics.

What most marketers don’t get is that the reason social media is powerful is not the platform itself – it is that unlike the era of mass media – social media lets you connect directly with the people.

That is its true strength. Seth Godin puts this perfectly into context in his blog post “What’s Your People Strategy?

Hard to imagine a consultant or investor asking the CMO, “so, what’s your telephone strategy?”

We don’t have a telephone strategy. The telephone is a tool, a simple medium, and it’s only purpose is to connect us to interested human beings.

And then the internet comes along and it’s mysterious and suddenly we need an email strategy and a social media strategy and a web strategy and a mobile strategy.

No, we don’t.

It’s still people. We still have one and only one thing that matters, and it’s people.

All of these media are conduits, they are tools that human beings use to waste time or communicate or calculate or engage or learn. Behind each of the tools is a person. Do you have a story to tell that person? An engagement or a benefit to offer them?

Figure out the people part and the technology gets a whole lot simpler.

Now its time for you to build your own people strategy. Here is a list of a few of my absolute favorite books on the subject. I’ve tried to keep this list as short and sweet as possible. It’s time to hit the stacks!

Core Curriculum

Crush It! (Amazon)

The seminal piece by social media legend Gary Vaynerchuck. You can probably read the entirety of Crush It in less than an hour. This book won’t wow you with a ton of never before seen social media secrets, but the raw power of Gary V’s enthusiasm, and the fact that he was one of the first people to realize the true potential of social media – make this book the starting place for any social media reading list.

If you consider yourself well versed in the basics – you can probably get away with skipping this one. But if you are clueless to social media and its potential – this is a mandatory starting place. This book answers the “Why” of social media. Here’s a picture of my favorite chapter in Crush It! (and one of the most important lessons in social media)

Smarter, Faster, Cheaper (Amazon)

I originally discovered David Siteman-Garland when looking around for website similar to Mixergy. He does a great web video / podcast series called Rise to the Top where he interviews entrepreneurs and talks about their success stories.

David’s first book – Smarter, Faster, Cheaper – is probably the book I most recommend to people who really want to dive in and learn how to build great content and develop the core of a successful social media strategy. I’ve given away several copies as gifts and lent my own copy out several times (still waiting to get it back from the latest friend I’ve lent it to). This book really delivers concrete actionable steps that can help you build a robust social media strategy based around rock solid content and execute it.  This book answers the “How” of social media.

Trust Agents (Amazon)

For the best summary of Trust Agents – check out my 23 Favorite Kindle Highlights from the book. Trust Agents is a lot like Smarter Faster Cheaper but with a business focus. Smarter Faster Cheaper is all about how to build and execute an effective social media strategy around you and your personal brand (a book for mediapreneurs as he calls it), Trust Agents focuses on doing it within the context of an existing corporation or business with a sales and customer service tint.


Extra Credit

These books don’t form the core of my thoughts on social media but I think each one really drills down on some of the foundations behind any successful social media strategy.

Never Eat Alone (Amazon)

Absolutely awesome book by Keith Ferrazi.  Never even mentions social media as this is a book about traditional networking, but this book redefines the entire concept. This book changed the way that I thought about networking and what it means – it’s not mashing your business card into as many hands as possible – it’s all about being a resource, helping other people become more successful, and giving more than you get. Turns out that is exactly how you succeed with social media.

Raving Fans (Amazon)

An oldie but a goodie. Written well before the time of social media this book is all about customer service. But the core message underlying the book should be the backbone of any social media plan. You have to care deeply about each one of your customers (or followers) and take the time to defy their expectations. This book is another quick read told through an easy to remember parable.

22 Immutable Laws of Marketing (Amazon)

Tim Ferriss called this one of his Top Five Must Read Books. Another one that you can get through in an hour or two. The core message here is that defining your own niche – or your own game as Trust Agents would say – is essential to any successful marketing strategy.

Linchpin (Amazon)

Seth Godin is widely regarded as one of the marketing geniuses of our time. Known for his pithiness, Godin’s book Linchpin can ironically ramble on at times.  I honestly wasn’t a huge fan of most of this book, but the single chapter titled “The Resistence” is worth the entire book and more. This chapter, riffing on the famous Steve Jobs line “Real Artists Ship” is all about overcoming your fears and objections and really putting yourself out there – an essential piece not only for social media success but for anyone who wants to achieve something big.


Bonus Blog Posts

Last but not least, I couldn’t help but include a few social media blog posts as well.

How to Build Great Content

1000 True Fans (by Wired founder Kevin Kelly)

How To Build a High Traffic Blog Without Killing Yourself

Three Minute Crash Course in Personal Branding

Giving is the core of any successful social media strategy.

Hope you enjoy this reading list and hit me up on Twitter!

23 Tips To Becoming A Trust Agent

Julien Smith is like a nerdy Tim Ferriss with tattoos and a bad attitude.  He’s one of my favorite bloggers. He’s also the author of the social media manifesto Trust Agents (along with a guy named Chris Brogan, who is ranked as one of the Top 3 most influential bloggers by Advertising Age).

Trust Agents is one of the most thought provoking and interesting books I have read on social media. Many social media books have the same core message (because it’s not that hard!) –give to others first and focus on creating great content.  Despite that, I found Trust Agents did a great job of really condensing the core of a successful social media strategy, which they boil down into six key pieces.

1. Write a content marketing blog about a passion of yours.

2. Build a small, powerful network.

3. Become the name brand of a specialty.

4. Master leverage and use it for good.

5. Sell by generating human trust.

6. Make an army to power your change.

Because Kindle Notes are awesome, I wanted to share all of my notes from Trust Agents (23 in total) with you. Please enjoy!

Attention is and will continue to be our scarcest resource. We believe that trust and the humanizing of business is where the action is.

Make those around you the rock stars.

Raise up the newcomers instead of sucking up to the industry’s top dogs.

Don’t ever sell to your audience. Instead, be their gatekeeper. Think of Oprah Winfrey. She gives and gives, constantly, and leverages that goodwill into bigger and bigger guests and giveaways. But does she ever try to sell her audience directly? No, Winfrey leverages her audience to provide visibility: to stars, to movies, to car companies. She protects her audience by guarding them from the bad stuff, and she lets the good stuff pass through, making her audience even happier as a result. Building any kind of following online is difficult enough. It requires solid leadership skills, the ability to create a sense of belonging, a gracious attitude, transparency about who you are, and empowering the community to feel important. It gets a lot harder when, to participate in a community, members are asked for money to sustain your business. In fact, it is practically impossible to foster a sense of community under these circumstances unless your channel is already very financially motivated (the “make money online” bloggers come to mind).

Don’t worry about driving attention. Instead, make your material more accessible and more shareable, then move on.

If you can delegate a task to someone else (or to a machine, for that matter) in order to save either time or costs, it is your duty to do so. Whether it’s a matter of opportunity or straight-up dollars, the result is the same: If you can save your own time, then you should. We see this as an attitude toward life, because this is pretty much the only time we have, so why waste it on something someone else can do? Business owners think this way, and so should you.

“A book is like a big, thick, impressive $25 business card.”

We refer to this as being Agent Zero: being in the center of a network and being able to spread ideas.

Creating tangible results by helping someone is a great way to become Agent Zero and make the best kinds of relationships. The simplest way to do this is to promote good work. You can write about people doing great things on your blogs, talk about these people on social networks, or go out of your way to introduce good people who might find mutual business benefits from meeting each other. Trust agents do this without fanfare and without lingering around to show that they were the catalysts. You can also share lots of the business opportunities that come your way, handing them out to people who might be able to execute them.

Social networking is not about getting attention for attention’s sake, but rather about being a part of the network, making other people aware that you are there—and that you’ll be there in the future, too.

Keeping in mind the notion of potential opportunities, it follows that any chance meeting can develop into a very fruitful relationship, so it becomes clear that giving up an opportunity to connect makes no sense. Having this mind-set, you will start to see opportunities in encounters as small as helping a neighbor carry groceries or heading to the garage sale down the street (though no one really ever finds anything at a garage sale). These opportunities are rarely financial, but that’s just the point. You aren’t building a network so that you can line your pockets, but rather because there are benefits of all kinds available to people who have a wide support structure of others they care about.

Link fervently. On your blog, you’ve built a platform to reach out to people. Use it to point to the people who are doing good work. Raise the boats when you can, meaning praise and point out the up-and-comers if you sincerely think they’re doing great work. They’ll grow into larger roles at some point, and helping them early isn’t a bad way to help both parties in a relationship.

When people ask Chris how he became successful in social media, his answer is always the same: “Be helpful.”

In addition to joining a group, creating one (and filling it with the smartest people you know) is the true path to influence online.

As Mike Grehan states in his article, “Getting a million dollars from one person is hard. However, getting one dollar from a million people is really not so difficult.” Taking small steps will help you reach your goal.

Trust is the most significant factor at the source of all of that, and understanding how businesses can rehumanize the Web is a view from only one lens. There could be another dozen books written about trust, people, and the Web—and they still wouldn’t cover it all. For all we know, that’s your next book to write.

By offering them concrete help in their time of need, you’re doing exactly what a trust agent does: You offer genuine, authentic assistance. People will see that and respond to it by opening up, by letting you in a bit more. In this way, helping others is probably one of the most effective ways to help yourself. By spreading ideas that help others, you get credit and people get the help they need. It’s win-win. It’s a welcome change from the scarcity mentality most people live with every day, isn’t it? And that’s one of the best things about the social Web: People are deeply interested in sharing with each other.

Feed the machine. The Web revolves around human contributions. Location-based platforms like Foursqaure seek to be fed information and pictures. Flickr wants to know where the picture of the bright yellow coffee shop was taken, down to a pushpin on a map. Amazon really does want to know what you thought of the Fight Club twentieth anniversary DVD.

Be helpful. Just for the sake of doing it, be helpful. It’s the act that keeps on giving. Since so many people are in it for themselves, this one idea is worth more than you’d imagine. Doing very simple things without the emphasis on any kind of quid pro quo makes it much more meaningful, and the ways you can do this are endless. Help others with a job search. Donate your time to causes that otherwise could not afford to hire you. Offer value for free that’s worth five times what you’d normally charge. Whatever the method, be helpful. 3. Make things. It’s okay to talk about things and report on new developments, but try to make things that others can use. You might not be a software developer or designer, but you are figuring things out, and you probably have some information others can use. Take the extra time to create the occasional e-book—not as a sales tool for your stuff, but because it’s nice to help and because you’re contributing to the larger body of work.

Connecting through sites like Twitter and Facebook isn’t enough, that building trust requires listening and delivering value, not simply using a new bullhorn to preach.

In a few days, compile a list of 10 bloggers writing about topics that relate to your space. Not sure where to start? Try, or try, or find just one and go through blogrolls until you find more. Now leave comments on all 10 blogs, but do not direct them back to your company or your product or your “stuff.” Instead, just engage them. Build relationships. Offer to connect via other methods, such as LinkedIn (remember, always with a personal message).

Start writing in a text file about the shape of what you’re offering. This relates to Your Game. How are you different? How do you stand out? What exactly can you do that will show to the world how you stand out? is a charity, only it’s a charity that focuses on microlending and the technology to track such transactions. It stands out from other charities because it focuses on the idea that money will help people find their own independence, and that through microtransactions, people can donate in a better way. How do you stand out? Try to answer this by explaining it in three full pages. Do not let yourself be vague.  Why these [] tasks? Because we want you to go back and really rethink how you use books in general, and you may as well start with this one. This strategy will become the differentiator between you and others who are out there racing through books. Reading blogs has become such a habit on the Web that we almost collect them now, like a score: “I read 500 RSS feeds, beat that.” But the point isn’t “collecting” information, it’s how it changes you—which is based on the actions you take about what you learn. Start by acting differently from now on. We put a lot of stuff in this book. Sometimes it stands out, like our sidebars. Other times, it’s between the lines. Did you absorb it? Or were you racing—and if so, why?

A Few Frames to Consider Adopting

As a trust agent, think about some of these frames when considering your work. These are based on the six lessons taught throughout the book, and they are a great way to advance your business and build better online relationships.

• How can I connect other people? If you’re at the elbow of every deal, using your Agent Zero mind-set, think often about ways you can connect people of value. Sometimes you can do this simply, such as mentioning out loud (e.g., on a blog) that @Ed is a good person to know. Other times, you can be purposeful and connect someone who has lost a job to prospective employers. Both benefit, and you strengthen your ties.

• Where’s the leverage point? When thinking about making moves, such as buying a new domain, changing jobs, writing a book, or whatever, ask yourself what you gain from the move. We both consider this book as an opportunity to speak with people outside our existing circle. It’s a way to leverage our experience into new places.

• Are they One of Us? When evaluating new products or services, ask whether the company has a presence in the space the product belongs in. For instance, would you rather buy video games made by lifetime gamers who keep a blog and who talk to their community or from an opaque shop whose web site shows you only how to buy more things? Find ways to help those inside your community.

• Is there a new game here? This is a powerful frame for entrepreneurial types. Trust agents who work on the Web have to perpetually keep their eyes open for new potential business opportunities. Attention is a powerful thing to have, and games often draw attention. As such, they are worthy of a trust agent’s consideration. Where’s the new game? Are there rules you could ignore? These are just a few to consider. You might develop new frames all your own as you keep your perspective tuned and adaptable.

Follow me on Twitter for more!

How Content Grabs Customer Attention

So many restaurants struggle to use social media because they are communicating the wrong thing to their customers. People don’t tune in to social media sites – like YouTube – to watch salesy advertising materials. Even in TV – the bastion of old world mass media marketing – DVR has given customers the freedom to simply zoom by ads without even noticing them.

To get customers attention it doesn’t work anymore to blast them over and over again with mass marketing messages. You have to get people to come to you. The way you do that is by providing them something interesting. You create CONTENT that your customers want to see. Content is something that needs to be one (or more) of three things (1) Educational (2) Interesting or (3) Entertaining – period. If you aren’t providing content that is one of these three things customers have already tuned you out.

When you start churning out interesting and relevant content to your core audience – they will come back over and over for more. You’re already doing this in your daily life whether you realize it or not. That blog you read every day (don’t you wish they updated more often?) or that YouTube video series you watch every week (Epic Meal Time anyone?) or even your favorite author. These people have already become a “Trusted Resource” to you. They provide consistent content you know and trust and enjoy consuming – and because of that you are much more likely to listen when they do happen to have a product or service offering – because you already know and trust them and know that they provide quality content.

You know what people do with content they love? They naturally share it with their friends. That’s why social media is worth of mouth on steroids – because it allows you to create real and relevant content that your customers want to see and want to share with their friends. That builds trust and loyalty and turns them into brand ambassadors and raving fans.

Three Minute Crash Course In Personal Branding

Controlling your own social media presence and your personal brand online is not an option anymore. Its 100% necessary. You don’t have to come off as an overbearing showboat bragging left and right about how awesome you are. You control the message. That’s the key. Craft it to what you want.

The alternative is to let the winds of fate decide your online persona. Good luck getting hired when the HR manager googles your name (every single time this WILL happen) and a MySpace page comes up belonging to some clown you don’t know talking about partying with strippers at 3am. How are they gonna know it’s not yours? Why take the risk when they can just move on to the next candidate who has a pristine blog, a great LinkedIn page and a large Twitter following with insightful posts and comments?

There are a couple basic things you need to nail down to round out your “digital personal brand.” Even if you choose to do absolutely nothing with these digital assets at the time being, squatting on them is better than letting someone run rampant with your good name.

  • Lockdown the domain. This is 100% essential and the first commandment of personal branding. Find a variation that works if someone already has the first spelling that comes to mind.
  • Setup a personal blog. Write on it once a month. You don’t have to be Hemmingway here just throw up a few posts every now and then. Write about something that interests you.
  • Get a Twitter account. I used to think Twitter was stupid. Twitter can be a real asset in the right hands. Twitter is extremely powerful at creating real and meaningful connections. I got my friend Kevin a JOB from a guy that I originally met through Twitter (he is now someone I regularly catch up with for lunch meetings etc). The key to using Twitter is understanding that there are real people on there and not just being a robot.
  • Spice up your LinkedIn page. Here is a great post from Guy Kawasaki about how he transformed his LinkedIn page. I pretty much ripped my entire LinkedIn page from that article. Make it moderately interesting to read. LinkedIn seems to index pretty highly on Google. Use this to your advantage.
  • Lockdown everything else just because you never know when you might need it. Quora, Tumblr, About.Me, whatever make sure if it has your name you own the space – you might want to use it at some point.
  • Use Klout. It is an algorithm that tells you have influential you are based on ten social media indicators. It’s a good gauge to see how you’re doing.

Spend 30 minutes a week on building your online social media presence and the dividends will pan out over time. You have nothing to lose and a big opportunity to improve your image and create a digital asset for yourself.