A shaman of the Internet

Mikal Belicove is on the cutting edge of social media. He's way out there, blogging, tweeting, Facebooking and generally having a great time playing around in cyberspace. And he makes a good living at it.

Belicove calls himself an "information-sharing junkie." But he could also be called a shaman of the Internet.

As he says: "The old paradigm was 'knowledge is power.' The new paradigm is 'sharing knowledge is power.' "

Belicove is also a "ghost blogger," a new form of ghost writer. He blogs anonymously for major corporations, writing daily news and tidbits to post on their websites to keep readers, or rather customers, engaged and interested in their products.

Working from his ocean-view Laguna Beach apartment, the low-key scribe also writes a column for Entrepreneur magazine, and consults for Fortune 500 companies trying to catch up in the digital age. In particular, he tries to help them tap into the 400 million or more users of Facebook, which has become the gold standard of social media.

"Facebook appeals to people and to programmers," Belicove said. "It's an open program. People use it. That's where everybody is, where everybody has gone. They are all gathering in this one location."

Why Facebook, when there are a number of other social media sites, like MySpace and LinkedIn?

"Facebook has usability dialed in. It's clean and simple," Belicove said. In addition, while MySpace, for instance, allows users to create their own "space" with music, photos and other postings, it is much more static than the dynamic, constantly changing environment of Facebook. LinkedIn is useful as a way to keep tabs on professional colleagues, but it isn't the place to visit with friends or meet new people and exchange everything from snapshots of the family dog or a beautiful sunset to a margarita recipe.

In short, Facebook is a fun place to hang out with friends and strangers, the proverbial water-cooler or watering hole of the Internet.

Capitalizing on his expertise, Belicove has co-authored "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Facebook" with Joe Kraynak, a freelance writer who has co-written many informative books on various topics in the "Idiot's Guide" and "For Dummies" series.

Like other "Complete Idiot's Guides," the book starts with the basics and is written in an easy-to-read format. The guide walks the neophyte through the basics of signing up, posting personal information — including what not to post — Facebook etiquette and more, such as how to use Facebook to promote a party or event. Then the book goes deeper, into the subject of how to create Facebook pages for business or personal use, including pages for artists or other creative types, and how to use the service for professional development, all for free.

For Belicove, Facebook is the perfect adjunct in a broad-based marketing plan which includes a web page, a blog, Twitter, and a PayPal account or some other online payment processing program. Using all these tools, with Facebook as the hub, one can market one's products, such as artwork, and actually sell them, and keep in touch with clients — all from the comfort of one's own computer.

A self-described workaholic who sits at his computer as much as 12 to 15 hours a day, Belicove, 44, earned his stripes by founding a dotcom company, The Outdoor Network, in 1997, which he sold in 2002. He describes it as "a portal for the outdoor/travel industries" that evolved into "the news source" for those industries.

"I was blogging before anyone else," he said. Those were the days of overnight millionaires and twenty-something moguls, and of course it couldn't last.

After the dotcom bubble burst, Belicove says, a "level of sanity" was introduced that has served the business community well.

"Now, no one gives you money just for an idea, you need a sound business plan," Belicove said. "There aren't as many people looking for a quick buck. Startups need to prove their business model, and people are not as wasteful. They make an honest go at it."

Belicove doesn't have much sympathy for companies that have fallen by the wayside due to inroads from Internet-based competitors, such as newspapers that have lost revenue to the free classified advertising offered by Craigslist. "Nothing can save a business owner who fails to recognize what's next," he said.

So, what's next in the ever-evolving environment of cyberspace?

This is something Belicove calls the "semantic web." That's a search engine that can give the user what he or she really wants, as opposed to Google or Yahoo, or even Bing, which pull up information and sites based on advertising or at random, which the searcher must then cull through.

"It's the evolution of the search," Belicove said. But this is a ways down the pike of the information superhighway.

If you'd like to meet this guru of social networking, Belicove will give a talk, "Facebook for Business and Pleasure," and sign copies of his new book from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday at Laguna Beach Books, 1200 S. Coast Hwy.

For more information about Belicove and his services, go to http://www.MikalBelicove.com or visit his Facebook page.

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