In today’s era of social media advancements, it’s tough to imagine a book about social technologies having much shelf life. With Groundswell, it’s a different story. Authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff went way beyond my expectations, taking an in-depth look beyond current technologies into the fundamental transformation that is taking place in how we all communicate and build relationships.

Relationship building versus tools is still a key difference that I feel a lot of folks diving into social media still have trouble wrapping their heads around. It’s easy to assume a presence on Facebook or YouTube is an immediate solution to fulfilling your “social media strategy” when in fact the decision to use these or whichever tools should be one of the last decisions made prior to implementing a social media plan.

Li and Bernoff start off by defining the “groundswell” as: A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.

By nature, humans like to share. Furthermore, we trust our friends and each other more than anything else. In order to properly market and connect with others, companies need to realize that becoming embedded in this communication process is what’s driving action.

Obviously the manner in which we share content and ideas online with one another has changed drastically in recent years. In Chapter 3 of their book, Li and Bernoff provide an excellent general breakdown on the types of groundswell activities U.S. consumers are participating in, ranging from watching online videos (29%) to running a blog (11%) to using Twitter (5%) {note: the online survey of 10,000 U.S. adults was conducted in Q2 2007, so you can imagine how those numbers have shifted in the past year}.

The same chapter identifies Forrester’s Social Technographics tool as a quick (and free!) way to assess an audience you may be looking to target. More importantly, the Social Technographics ladder breaks down groundswell participants based on whether they are creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators or inactives and provides an essential framework for thinking about your own target audience and how a particular online strategy may resonate with their level of online participation.

Audience identification obviously remains an essential first step in ensuring you’re talking with people who care and people who are willing to naturally help you achieve your marketing or community building goals.

Next: Groundswell Learnings Part 2 – Defining your objectives and strategy, choosing technologies and the “Groundswell Blend.”


Join the conversation! 8 Comments

  1. Hi Scott – you make some great points here. I think a lot of folk struggle to understand that social media is far more than a self promotion tool. It’s a great way to build relationships if it’s used properly.

  2. Cool that you’re sharing what you’re learning as you read. Groundswell is next on my reading list, so it’ll be good to go into with some nuggets you have/will share here already in my head.

    In terms of the challenge re: tools vs. relationships. Based on my experience and what others have shared with me, I believe most marketers struggle and/or are apprehensive with the concept of relationship building for three reasons:

    -You have to hear things about your brand that you may not want to hear.
    -Relationships take a lot of investment in the time and energy category.
    -Many marketers are on short leashes and need results next quarter. While there are some tangible ROI metrics with SM, relationships take time to develop and you can’t measure all the benefits in hard and fast ways to share with the CEO. How do you put a value on having 2,000 followers on Twitter like @comcastcares? Or on dispelling a rumor before it really has a chance to take off? With the pressure that’s put on most CMOs to report results today, relationships are a hard sell. It can take a few years to begin seeing some of the really great results and the average tenure of an American CMO is two years.

    I had actually planned on writing a blog post on client fears regarding social media and ways we can help ease them later this week, so look out for that.

  3. Groundswell is well researched and thought through and has the shelf life you talk about.

    I’ve been promoting the idea of using the same type of approach, to understand and categorise how brands might embrace social media. Some of my thoughts on this are here

  4. Thanks for stopping by Cath, David and Campbell. David, some great points, right on the button. It is time, it is money, it’s an investment. Relationships obviously don’t build overnight and it’s still a hard sell to get management to understand the long term benefits. I look forward to your post.

  5. This book sounds phenomenal. Thanks.

  6. […] Learnings – Part 2 In my previous post, I talked about how the authors of Groundswell put a great deal of emphasis around the importance […]

  7. […] and the great work they do in analyzing social media user demographics with my assessment of Groundswell Part 1 and Part 2. When I think about “bleeding edge” leaders with regard to social media […]

  8. It’s the first time i ran through your site and I found it very informative and interesting. thanks for sharing it.


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