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101 of 105 people found the following review helpful
Groundswell is the best book on social media I've ever read, and it may be the best book ever written on the subject.

Here's why:

1. It's current. Books on social media by nature almost can't be current. Everything is blogged or twittered one day, forgotten the next. Yet this book has some staying power, and you can give it to your boss or your client feeling reassured that even if they don't get around to reading it for six months, it'll still be valuable when they do.

2. Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff write the book like authors, not analysts, even though there's plenty of number-crunching with meaty take-aways. The human stories that illustrate each point provide protagonists you can identify with.

3. If you're new to social media, you'll appreciate a lot of the how-to material. If you're a pro, you'll appreciate how to do it even better and some of the more advanced material in the book.

4. The technographics, discussed frequently on the Groundswell blog and in the analysts' presentations, are useful. I've already used these for planning client campaigns to at least check if I'm on the right track or inspire some new thinking. If you read the book, the technographics tool on the Groundswell site becomes even more intuitive, although the site has enough info to get value out of it. It's amazing how much Forrester's giving away.

5. You get breakdowns of return on investment metrics of an executive's corporate blog, ratings and reviews, and a community support forum, figures which are hard to find elsewhere and can provide good benchmarks for related scenarios you may encounter.

6. The book offers thoughtful answers to some of the more important questions. How can you tell if a new technology has staying power? Why do people participate with social media? How do you energize your customers? When should you use blogs, social networks, and other media technologies?

The one thing the book doesn't do enough of is describe why some campaigns go awry. They mention a Special K community on weight management that had a promising start but soon fizzled. Why?

I'm reminded of the chapter heading from Richard Farson's Management of the Absurd: "We learn not from our failures but from our successes - and the failures of others." Farson goes on, "While we may think we are motivated by hearing about the successes of others, believe it or not, little is more encouraging or energizing than learning about or witnessing another's failure, especially if it is an expert who is failing." I wish there were a few more failures to learn from along with the hits.

Outside of that though, this book's an outright success, one I'll be recommending to colleagues, clients, and anyone else who will listen.
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52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
It seems only natural to blog (see my blog at about a book like Groundswell, a book recently published by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff from Forrester Research. After all, the book is about the growing importance of social networking applications - blogs being a big part of that phenomenon.

Li and Bernoff define the Groundswell as a spontaneous movement of people using online tools to connect, take charge of their own experience and get what they need - from each other instead of from companies. The book looks at the nascent and growing power of informal communication networks using social networking tools - blogs especially, but also social networks and virtual worlds, wikis, online forums, ratings and reviews, tagging and rss feeds. If you've been online lately, you've used one or more of these tools and techniques. What Li and Bernoff are interested in is how these tools and techniques create a completely new dialog between:

* A company and its customers
* The employees within a company
* Customer to customer beyond the scope or control of a company
* Individuals with shared interests

All of this done on the fly, with little centralized control.

The book breaks out into a number of sections. Early in the book, the authors review why the groundswell is taking off and how to participate, and they identify the "tools" - blogs, wikis and so on - that drive the groundswell. Then they introduce the Social Technographic profile, which is meant to provide profiling on how a segment of the population is participating in the groundswell using these tools. Once this platform is built, the authors then look at how to:

* Listen to the groundswell - gain insights from what is written
* Talk to the groundswell - using blogs and communities
* Energize the groundswell - charging up your best online customers
* Embracing the groundswell - including customers as collaborators

Finally, the book looks at a couple of examples of firms that have plunged in head first to gain advantage interacting with these tools and working closely with customers and prospects through the groundswell.

What I like about this book

What's great about this book is that if you and your team know very little about the emerging set of online networking, collaboration and communication tools, the book provides an excellent primer early on, describing what each tool is, how it is used and its benefits. The book is full of excellent examples of firms that have used these tools to advance the interaction between themselves and their customers and prospects.

What I'm skeptical about

The book seems to approach everything from a perspective of "What can the groundswell do for my company?" As a blogger, I tend to think that the "groundswell" - if that's what we are to be called now - expects honest communication and open dialog. The Groundswell to me seems to be more about Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park in London, where anyone with an opinion can bring a soapbox and say what they want to say. If your message is interesting or vital, you'll draw a crowd and grow a network. Many people writing and listening in the "groundswell" are quick to distinguish between "honest" opinion and perspective and "marketing" or PR. I think Groundswell doesn't spend enough time making distinctions between these points. A poorly managed online presence will be quickly sniffed out - especially one where a firm intends to "use" the groundswell for a marketing advantage. It's important to "give" to the groundswell as much as you plan to "get" from it.

This book accurately portrays what any group - a commercial entity, a non-profit, even a government agency - could do leveraging the groundswell. The tools are the easy part - what's hard is opening up to the dialog. Can your organization bear the criticism and questions about its products and services, as well as bask in the positive glow of good feedback?

I was a little disappointed in the wrap up. The authors demonstrate throughout the book deep knowledge of the current state of the groundswell. But as industry analysts and forecasters of future trends, they spend disappointingly little time on the future of the groundswell. Given that almost all of these tools (blogs, wikis, tagging, RSS Feeds) are disaggregated services offered by very small companies or as open source or freeware, what is going to happen? Will we see a consolidation of these tools into some sort of "ERP" for the groundswell? Will I need to turn to del.ici.ous for tagging and Blogger for Blogging and PBWiki for my Wiki, or will these combine? What are larger firms to do that may have concerns about disaggregated, third party solutions run by very small firms that may not be able to demonstrate longevity or the ability to manage critical, sensitive communication links to customers? Given that the two authors make their living as industry analysts, I would have expected a much more detailed look at potential future scenarios.


This book is great if you are just starting out as a "newby" trying to understand how to join the online conversation. Whether you want to tag and aggregate or find interesting feeds or information, or want to actively contribute through ratings, feedback or by blogging, or create an entirely new social network, this book has great advice for you.
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37 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2009
I have read the original exceptional Groundswell book, and bought this book thinking that it might offer some additional insights on marketing strategies through social media.

Shame on me - I did not read the description very well for this book. It is simply an abridged version of the original book, with three of the chapters reprinted. There is nothing new other than a very brief introduction by one of the authors. I'm at a loss as to why this book was published at all.

I am giving the content of this book 5 stars because it deserves it. However, don't waste your money on this. Buy the full original book instead. You will get much, much more out of it.

You can find the original book here: Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
What Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff characterize as "the groundswell" is "a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies. If you're in a company, this is a challenge...[This trend] has created s permanent, long-lasting shift in the way the world works. This book exists to help companies deal with the trend, [begin italics] regardless of how the individual technology pieces change [end italics]."More specifically, Li and Bernoff respond to questions such as these:

What unique threats does the groundswell pose?
How to turn it to competitive advantage, "like a jujitsu master"?
What are its component technologies?
What is The Social Technologies Profile and what does it offer?
What is the four-step POST process for creating strategies?
What are the five primary objectives for a groundswell strategy?
How to create customers who are evangelists for you?
How to establish and support relationships between and among your customers?
How can the same trends that empower customers also empower employees?

Throughout their narrative, drawing upon a wealth of data accumulated by Forrester Research as well as their own studies, Li and Bernoff include a number of real-world examples - in the form of mini-case studies -- that demonstrate key points. They offer lessons to be learned from Mini USA, the American arm of BMW's Mini Cooper brand (how to listen through brand monitoring, Pages 89-93), Ernst & Young (how to communicate in social networks, Pages 104-106), Hewlett-Packard (how to communicate with customers through blogging, Pages 108-112), eBags (how to energize with customer ratings and reviews, Pages134-140), Constant Contact (how to energize by creating a community, Pages 140-145), the Lego Group (how to energize an existing community, Pages 145-147), and BearingPoint (how to use a wiki to reassure clients, Pages 165-168). Granted, not all of these lessons are directly relevant to a reader's own organization. However, they help to create a context for each key point as well as a frame of reference for what Li and Bernoff describe as a "permanent, long-lasting shift in the way the world works."

They conclude this brilliant book by offering some advice, not on what to do but on how to be: ever-mindful that the groundswell is about person-to-person activity, a good listener, patient, opportunistic, flexible, collaborative, and humble. Guided and informed by the information and counsel provided by Li and Bernoff, readers will be able to formulate and then execute strategies to achieve a competitive advantage. "You'll be able to build on your successes, both with customers and within your own company. And then, as the groundswell rises and becomes ubiquitous, you will be ready."

Those who share my high regard for this volume are urged to check out Rob Cross and Andrew Parker's The Hidden Power of Networks: Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations. Also Gary Hamel's The Future of Management (with Bill Breen) and Ram Charan's Leaders At All Levels as well as Enterprise Architecture as Strategy: Creating a Foundation for Business Execution co-authored by Jeanne Ross, Peter Weill, and David Robertson, Richard Ogle's Smart World: Breakthrough Creativity and the New Science of Ideas, and Global Brain co-authored by Satish Nambisan and Mohanbir Sawhney.
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32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on November 28, 2008
This book is great...if you're not from the Facebook generation. The first couple of chapters were almost snoozers for me. The only thing that really saved it was the real-life stories the authors included. The stories managed to hold my interest long enough for me to move on to the next chapters.

What I mainly gathered from this book--and you could gather this on your own if you don't live under a rock--is that media and marketing are moving more and more toward the consumer. That is, if you plan to reach your consumers, you'd better figure out how to operate in the new media world of Facebook, blogs, wikis, etc. And if you don't, your company could feasibly become stale in the next five to ten years.

I suppose what I liked best about the book is that it really acknowledges that power has shifted in the corporate world, and it seems to be shifting toward consumers. TV and radio ads no longer dominate our lives. Rather, Internet forums, blogs, and social networking sites are going to be the new wave of marketing. YouTube has taken the place of TV ads.

Overall, I found the book generally repetitive. I'm on the cusp of Generations X & Y, so I've grown up with computers and more recently, Internet access. None of this was much of a surprise to me, but it might be much more helpful to someone less familiar with today's Web 2.0.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on June 24, 2009
I ordered this book along with the first book "Groundswell" only to realize after looking through it that there is now new information in this book. It just is a copy of three chapters from "Groundswell."
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2009
I give the duo credit for a well written and researched book, but the points raised are extremely basic and the book offers few real solution on how to involve yourself or your company in social media.

They do a good job categorizing users of social media based on how they interact with it (for instance, if you are reading this review you are participating in the GROUNDSWELL as an observer - by writing the review I am a participant). At the same time, they include non-helpful phrases such as, "there is no correct way to interact with the groundswell." Well . . . there is, and many companies are doing it correctly (open a twitter account and follow JetBlue or Dunkin Donuts or check out some of the Berlitz commercials posted on YouTube).

I do work on the online media space and my knowledge of social media is above average. But this book should be classified as social media 101.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Have you seen Jurassic Park? If so, you might remember Dr. Malcolm's (Jeff Goldblum) diatribe about the dangers of doing something just because you can:

"I'll tell you the problem with the scientific power that you're using here: it didn't require any discipline to attain it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn't earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don't take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could and before you even knew what you had you patented it and packaged it and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you're selling it, you want to sell it!"

How does this quote relate in any way to Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff's book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies? Maybe it's just me, but I see a direct correlation.

Groundswell is about social computing (I, a non-analyst, prefer the term social media) and how it's shaping not only the personal lives of many individuals around the globe, but also the way companies do business. It's not that social media is anything new; I've been an active participant on numerous online forums for over 10 years now. I've made money, formed close friendships, gotten jobs and learned countless things--all through different social media applications.

Lately businesses have begun to tap into the groundswell--"a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other rather than from traditional institutions like corporations"--to enhance customer relations, build brand loyalty and, of course, make money. These days hardly a day goes by where some company or another isn't discussing their web 2.0 strategy and taking the plunge--in most cases, "because everyone else is doing it." Or the opposite--doing nothing for fear of opening up a giant can of worms that, once released, will run rampant and ruin the company's reputation or slash profits.

The thing is, as the book aptly points out--doing it just because others are doing it or because it's possible isn't reason enough to incorporate web 2.0 applications into a business strategy. Just as bringing carnivorous dinosaurs back into existence just because it was possible without thinking about the consequences wasn't the brightest of ideas, jumping on the social media bandwagon just because everyone's doing it isn't reason enough to do it. Obviously the consequences of starting a blog, establishing a presence on Facebook or randomly beginning Tweeting are nowhere near those of setting loose a bunch of killer dinosaurs; however, the underlying concept is the same: maybe you should think about it before you do it.

The beauty of Groundswell is that it lays out in explicit detail the RIGHT way to develop a social media strategy. Forget just randomly tossing around a few ideas in a conference room then rushing back to the computer to start blogging or start a Facebook page; Groundswell provides hard data about the ways people are using social media and shows you how to develop a strategy that taps into your specific customers' behaviors and needs. Bernoff and Li go a step further than telling stories about what other companies have done; they provide a tool businesses can use to assess their own customers' social media behaviors in order to develop a strategy that taps into those individuals' behaviors and needs.

And of course, in addition to the facts and figures and case studies, Li and Bernoff give a very comprehensive overview of the groundswell technologies and how and why to use them.

In short, Groundswell is by far the best and most comprehensive book I've read about social media and I honestly think it's a must-read for anyone with even a passing interest in web 2.0. Forget Good to Great or those other yawners that every company has employees read before the annual retreat/brainstorming session; Groundswell is much more interesting, informative and pivotal to the way companies will be doing business from here on out.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
In this very readable book Li and Bernoff draw from extensive research at Forrester to describe what they call the Groundswell: consumers using online tools to get more information from each other, and less from traditional institutions and businesses. They offer case studies showing how organizations have readjusted their thinking to take advantage of it.
Although the groundswell trend includes social networks and related technologies, the authors say, equally important is the change in consumer behavior. Listening to (and becoming involved in) the groundswell should help your organization find out what your brand stands for; understand how buzz is shifting; save research money; increase research responsiveness; find the sources of influence in your market; manage PR crises; and generate new product and marketing ideas.
Li and Bernoff caution that there is no single `right way' to engage with the groundswell. Depending on the objectives of your company, you'll choose among the following options: listening, talking, energizing, supporting, or embracing your audience.
The authors define six kinds of online consumer behaviors. Learning which types best define your audience (or clients, or communities, or target groups) is the first step in any strategy you take to reach them. The Creators are those who publish a blog or article online, maintain a web page, or upload videos at least monthly. Critics post comments on blogs or forums, post ratings or reviews, or edit wikis. Collectors save URLs and tags on a social-bookmarking service, vote for sites on a service like Digg, or use RSS feed aggregators. Joiners maintain profiles on a social networking site like MySpace. Spectators consume what the rest produce. Inactives--nonparticipants--still remain.
Nearly one in five of online consumers in the US--18 percent--are Creators. This means that a significant chunk of six of your target audience, customers, community, etc., are blogging, uploading video, and maintaining Web sites, and quite possibly discussing your company. One in four are Critics, and nearly half are Spectators.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on May 22, 2008
Having been in the online industry for almost 20 years, (that's not a typo, it's twenty), I've come across a lot of self-proclaimed pundits.

This is one of the few books out there that's fairly well packed with insight and common sense backed by real research. To be sure, there's some anecdotes filling up some pages, but unlike a lot of recent pundit press, there's way more ideas/facts/analysis then filler.

I'm not saying I wholly agree with everything. The technographics profile has a ton of value, yet at the same time, it's not the only lens things should be seen through. (Not that the authors suggest that mind you; just that this profile is very much applied to most things they look at.)

One thing I really like about the book is how they handle the Enterprise view of the world. In a lot of web conferences and meetings I attend, the digerati spend a lot of time talking to ourselves. Early adopters often forget there's a whole large crowd out there that have issues they've not considered. Li and Bernoff, on the other hand, work both in the Web point x world as well as the real world of traditional business.

To understand what's happening today in online computer mediated communications, the best way to "get it" is to actually participate. Use the social tools, the chat tools, the forum tools, and so on. And to get the high level view there's the seminal Cluetrain Manifesto, Wikinomics, Naked Conversations, anything by John Hagel and more. But if you can only get one book right now to get a sense of social media as it relates to consumers, enterprise, and so on, this is it.

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