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Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies Hardcover – March 25, 2008
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About the Author
- Publisher : Harvard Business Review Press; 1st edition (March 25, 2008)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 286 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1422125009
- ISBN-13 : 978-1422125007
- Item Weight : 15 ounces
- Dimensions : 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #1,502,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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The authors use the term "groundswell" to mean a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from companies. The technologies they refer to are the social technologies that I like to put into the category of web 2.0. Web 2.0 technologies enable many to many communication and conversation.
The authors believe as I do that this groundswell effect, or by any other name, is real, here to stay for awhile and transformative or disruptive; that all attempts to thwart its spread will likely fail; and while all attempts to foster a groundswell will not succeed, not using the web 2.0 technologies for consumer marketing is a failing strategy.
There are a lot of barriers to the diffusion of this type of marketing, not the least of which is letting go of the allusion of message control. The marketing arms of companies passionately attempt to control the brand message. These techniques turn that concept over and returns the "control" of the message over to customers.
Why should you have to relearn all you know about marketing? The authors' research clearly supports the trend. My research on the social impact of the web 2.0 technologies is inline with the conclusions of this book. Furthermore they assert, as examples, that:
"If you work for a media company, look out. Advertisers are shifting more and more of their money online. The groundswell is creating its own news sites (like <a href="[...]">Google News</a> or <a href="[...]">Digg</a>). The very idea of news is changing, as bloggers jostle with journalists for scoops. People take entertainment properties like TV shows and movies, rip them off the airwaves and DVDs, hack them, and repost new versions on <a href="[...]">YouTube</a> or <a href="[...]">Dailymotion</a>.
If you have a brand, you're under threat. Your customers have always had an idea about what your brand signifies, an idea that may vary from the image you are projecting. Now they're talking to each other about that idea. They are redefining for themselves the brand you spent millions of dollars, or hundreds of millions of dollars, creating.
If you are a retailer, your lock on distribution is over. People are not just buying online; they are buying from each other. They are comparing your prices with prices all over the Internet and telling each other where to get the best deal on sites like <a href="[...]">redflagdeals.com</a>. As Chris Anderson, author of <a href="[...]">The Long Tail</a> has pointed out, shelf space creates far less power when there's nearly infinite selection online.
If you are a financial services company, you no longer dominate flows of capital. Trading happens online, and consumers get financial advice from message boards on <a href="[...]">Yahoo! Finance</a> and the <a href="[...]">Motley Fool</a>. Companies like <a href="[...]">Prosper</a> allow consumers to get loans from each other, instead of from banks. <a href="[...]">PayPal</a> makes credit cards unnecessary for many transactions.
Business-to-business companies are, if anything, more vulnerable to these trends. Their customers have every reason to band together and rate the companies' services, to join groups like <a href="[...]">ITtoolbox</a> to share insights with each other, or to help each other out on <a href="[...]">LinkedIn Answers</a>.
Even inside companies, your employees are connecting on social networks, building ideas with online collaboration tools, and discussing the pros and cons of your policies and priorities.
The groundswell has changed the balance of power. Anybody can put up a site that connects people with people. If it's designed well, people will use it. They'll tell their friends to use it. They'll conduct commerce, or read the news, or start a popular movement, or make loans to each other, or whatever the site is designed to facilitate. And the store, or media outlet, or government, or bank that used to fill that role will find itself far less relevant. If you own that institution, the groundswell will eat up your profit margins, cut down your market share, and marginalize your sources of strength."
Web 2.0 technologies are being created at an incredible pace. What technologies will be part of a groundswell effect. As the authors point out, it's not the technology but the relationships. The authors suggest the following questions when evaluating a new technology:
* Does it enable people to connect with each other in a new way?
* Is it effortless to sign up for?
* Does it shift power from institutions to people?
* Does the community generate enough content to sustain itself?
* Is it an open platform that invites partnerships?
The groundswell has two ingredients - technology and people. To understand what types of people would play what roles in the groundswell, the authors introduce the <a href="[...]">social technographics profile</a>. It characterizes people by creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives. Once you know what the profile is for your customers, you can plan the appropriate social media approach.
If you're not involved in any groundswell activities, you may wonder, "Why do people participate/" The authors give several reasons why:
* Keeping up friendships
* Making new friends
* Paying it forward
* The altruistic impulse
* The prurient impulse
* The creative impulse
* The validation impulse
* The affinity impulse
Not only is it important that you know your customers' technographic profile, you have to have clear objectives before you start a program. The authors list five basic objectives for any groundswell program:
The authors provide ample evidence and examples of how to employ web 2.0 marketing. And, as a result, I highly recommend this book.
Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Harvard Business Press, 2008, 269p
<a href="[...]">Paul Schumann</a>
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.
On both these counts, Groundswell is impressive. First, it refers to the most active posters as "Creators". I love this. It treats people with dignity and respect and not as tools for the marketer to use.
It's also surprisingly restrained in how it talks about this shift of consumer power, which is definitely happening but not in the numbers most alarmist authors would have you believe.
Best of all, it gets through all the anecdotal evidence that the shift is happening (we know, that's why we bought the book!) and gets into the practical steps businesses can take to understand who is online and how to engage with them. The Technographics framework for segmenting your customers is a little under-developed, but the thinking behind it is sound enough that I could develop my own modified approach to understanding my client's customers (basically - Creators, Responders, Spectators).
Altogether, the best book I've read on social networking with one point taken off for using a Seth Godin testimonial on the back. Does any intelligent business leader care what Seth Godin thinks?
Top reviews from other countries
Answering any of these questions requires more than a technical understanding of how you use the services. It requires instead an understanding of what your organisational and communication objectives are, and then how these technologies may, or may not, help you achieve them.
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s Groundswell makes this point for commercial organisations. It sets out to help organisations answer the question of whether, and if so how, they should be making use of social computing – those tools which heavily rely on interactions between people, feedback and content generated by the public such as YouTube, Wikipedia, MySpace and blogs.
Unlike many books in this area – often called Web 2.0 – it, therefore, doesn’t set out to give you a detailed set of technical skills or clever tricks. Instead, it focuses more on the impact of technology, and in particular, how groundswells of opinion can be created, shaped or steered. It then provides a series of step-by-step processes for working out which technology can help with which of your objectives. Although the case studies the book is peppered with are nearly all from the commercial sector, the lessons are easily adaptable to the political arena, making it a handy guide for organisers, candidates or other interested parties to help see how their political needs may be assisted by technology.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the book sings the praises of the research work available from the authors’ employers – Forrester Research – and argues for analysing who your audience is, and what it might want to do online, by employing Forrester’s categories for internet users of creators (who upload videos, write blogs posts etc), critics (who comment on other people’s content, rate videos, etc), collectors (who tag comment, subscribe to feeds etc), joiners (who sign up to social networking sites etc), spectators (who read and watch but don’t take part) and the inactives (who do none of this).
Whether or not you use Forrester’s work, the point that you should work out who your audience is and how they are willing to use the internet is a good one. For example, party activists are more likely to be in the creator/critic end of the spectrum than members of the public reading about politics on the internet and so depending on your target audience (party activists or floating voters?) different opportunities and technologies offer themselves.
The authors’ approach is labelled POST: people, objectives, strategy, technology. Who are the people you want to communicate with, what are you trying to get out of the communications, how is that change going to come about and then – finally – what technologies might help? Listening to voters in order to get a better idea of what issues to campaign on may suggest polls and surveys and blog comments, whilst energizing members to get them to help out more may more suggest videos and emails.
Having identified the way technologies can help, the book then addresses the issue of how you get an organisation to change, suggesting a three-step approach that may well work well for bringing about change within a local party (or more widely in the party): take small steps that have big impact, have a vision and a plan, and build leaders into the plan.
At under 250 pages of main text, it is a light and easy read and a much better starting place for people thinking about how better to use the internet in their political activities than books that dive in with explanations of how to use the technology.
It is written by a couple authors from Forrester, so it will be little surprise that it is really strong on the strategy front. It successfully manages to link what we are seeing happening today on the Internet to strategies for succeeding in this space. The first part of the book provides us with an understanding of how to match solutions to an organisation's specific customer base. Users are categorised according to whether they are: creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, or inactives. This categorisation comes from Forrester's Social Technographics tool and you can find more information on the book's website  and even generate your own profile. The blog on the website is very good, by the way.
The authors then match technical solutions to an organisation's objectives: namely, listening, talking energizing, supporting and embracing their customers. Part 2 of the book is dedicated to stepping through each of these objectives providing worked through examples of how organisations have succeeded in each of these domains. As you might imagine, adopting the appropriate technique for your particular audience is absolutely key.
If you are interested in Innovation, chapters 8 and 9 have some useful insights on the role customers can play in the innovation process.
In a area that is frequently over-hyped, this book provides significant insight and examples that reinforce what following a successful strategy can do for you and your company. If you are about to embark on your first venture into this space, I would strongly suggest that you read this book first. Highly recommended.
The writing style is clear, accessible and no-nonsense. I won't win any literary prises, but for this sort of book you wouldn't want anything else. One minor niggle was the formula used as the beginning of many chapters: "Fred is a (whatever) and here's his story..." - it grated a bit by the sixth or seventh time they used this device.
But that aside I can't fault it. It helps clarify one's thinking about what the social media groundswell is, and how to recognise its various manifestations, and it then goes on to give so0lid, practical suggestions for how you can adapt to and adopt the groundswell positively in your organisation.
As a companion to this I'd also recommend "Here Comes Everybody" by Clay Shirky.