Chris Brogan and Julien Smith, authors of Trust Agents, have just released a new book called The Impact Equation, which offers some clear-headed thinking about how people can be heard above the din of the crowded media universe. We asked Chris three questions about it:

1. A lot of people in the business world seem to feel obligated to have a “social-media strategy,” and often their efforts come across as energetic but pointless, as though they were afraid they’d end up on the Betamax side of history if they didn’t tweet frequently. What are they doing wrong?

People were told that social media would solve their problems with regards to the declining effectiveness of traditional marketing, sales and service channels. But that’s like saying, “If I give you this telephone, you will start making tons of money.” It’s just not true.

The challenge for companies (of any size, and serving b2b or b2c markets) is to find a way to build sustainable, relationship-minded business processes that account for the new buying methods of an educated, mobile, personalization-minded buying market. Some of what online tools do well is address all of this. But that’s like saying a great pen will help you write better. It’s not about the tools. It’s about a choice to understand how to stand out as a provider of value above-and-beyond-the-sale to one’s customer base.

2. And I know the same is true with individuals: The fact that technology makes our voices easier to hear doesn’t mean that people will listen. So let’s say you’re approached by the author of a just-completed sci-fi novel, or an entrepreneur who has almost finished a great app, and they want to know, “How do I start building a base for my work?” What can you tell them? What should they do in the next 3 months?

Let’s say that you’ve got the most amazing new whatever, that sci fi book or that amazing app that lets me share photos with my pets. Bringing it out to the public is like getting a shiny new bike and showing up at the playground to find out that everyone also has a shiny new bike. It’s hard to get people’s attention. What we say about that in the Impact Equation is to look for Echo.

Echo is the idea that you help people see themselves in your idea/project/product/whatever. If I’m hoping to spend a few months finding buyers, I’ll want to find the kind of person who will recognize themselves in my work. I’ll post blog posts maybe so that people can find me via search. I’ll use social networks like Twitter and Google+ and search for people who use keywords that would appeal to the person I’m hoping to attract. I’ll learn about them and not instantly pounce on them with my offer. And I’ll write content that shows people how what I do will make their lives more interesting/useful/healthy or whatever it is I’m promising.

3. OK, this is like a Deep Tracks-for-authors question. Tell us about an idea in the book that you were excited about but that none of your readers seem to be picking up on (yet)…

The book suffers from having two authors widely known as online media types. People believe before reading it that it’s a book about how to get more out of Twitter or the like. Yes, we tend to paint with a digital brush more often than not, but we have lots of examples within that have nothing to do with a choice of technology, and often nothing at all to do with even marketing or promotion. A quarter of the book is about how to improve ideas. You can use ideas pretty much anywhere (I say with tongue firmly in cheek).

What we’ve dubbed The Attention War is raging. Whether it’s online or off, people’s ideas just aren’t spreading as far as they used to, and with that as a backdrop, we wrote a book we think will help you rectify that experience. Apply it to marketing, sales, service, or just your life. We think it’ll fit.

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