Book Review – The Impact Equation by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith


Rene Magritte: The Tune and Also the Words, 1964

Rene Magritte: The Tune and Also the Words, 1964 by Vilseskogen, on Flickr

Disclaimer: I have been a fan of these two guys for quite a few years now, and I loved their first book. So it may not come as a huge surprise that I am enjoying this one too,which they were kind enough to send me as an advance copy free of charge.

Let’s start with the first page. You know, the frontispiece, the one after the dedications and the table of contents. It says:

Ceci n’est pas un social networking book.

So what does this tell us? First of all, that these guys know their Belgian surrealists – that’s a twist on a very famous painting by René Magritte. They are signalling to us that they are smart, funny and cultured. If we are in on that secret, that means we are smart, funny and cultured, too! A good start. The statement is accurate, too – it’s not a book about social networking, although obviously said networks are an important tool in their arsenal.

I was more amused than illuminated by their attempt to quantify the social impact of a business, person or brand using an actual equation, where the variables make a cute mnemonic, no less:

C x (R + E + A + T + E)

C = Contrast
R = Reach
E = Exposure
A = Articulation
T = Trust
E = Echo

These are all interesting and useful concepts, and they are nicely broken up into sections: Ideas (which includes Contrast and Articulation), Platforms (which includes Reach and Exposure) and Network (Trust and Echo).

It all makes consummate sense – you need to start with a good idea (with high contrast and well articulated, so people will get excited about it), but you need a platform to share it with the world (reach a lot of people and get them exposed to the ideas), and most importantly, you need a network of people who care and will share it with their friends, because you have built trust and you echo, or resonate, with their lives and concerns.

They talk about matters as abstruse as bravery in life and as concrete as mind-mapping, whether in the form of those oval thingies with tails or whole storyboards. The book is chock-full of fascinating stories, from the Dollar Shave Club to Instagram, and analyses all of these businesses to see how they measure up in terms of the Impact Equation.

One could argue that anybody who has been around on the Net long enough (and has read Seth Godin, Clay Shirky, Chris Garrett, et al.) could have come up with these criteria for success, but Chris and Julien sat down and clarified them for us, and for this we should all be profoundly grateful. That they also peppered their book with examples and good advice as to what has worked well for them makes it even better and more useful – but I really think their main contribution has been to put into words what so many have been struggling to articulate.

Oh, and their book is just snicker-out-loud funny sometimes. “Welcome to the new tools, same as the old. Only better, because you actually know what to do with them. It’s almost like puberty all over again.” OK, I’m juvenile. Shoot me.

In conclusion, I enjoyed The Impact Equation, and I would recommend it to anyone who is looking to make a mark out there in The World.

P.S. It’s my 100th blog post! Yikes. How did that sneak up on me? Paaarty!

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