Recently I read the book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. I know… a little late since it was published in 2008 but still worth the read three years later. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning how technology is changing business and business activities.
I’d started this post a couple of weeks ago but I took time to rewrite it as a follow on to Mark Evan’s post The Dangers of Social Media Ignorance. I believe that we, as social media engagers, need to find palatable (aka non-threatening) ways to explain social media to those who are still not convinced of its value.
I believe that Groundswell is a piece in that convincing puzzle. So this post offers a meager introduction to Groundswell as a way to make social media more accessible for businesses and individuals not yet engaged in nor convinced of social media’s value. I hope this post will tempt you to read Groundswell so you’ll either be tempted to explore social media or to share the book with your non-social media people.
The authors define 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.” A kind of reshuffling of the power cards. That’s the groundswell.
And how does this groundswell play out? Well, your customers talk about you online on social media sites – they create parodies of your commercials and post them on YouTube and they complain about your lack of customer service on Twitter. Social media can be a scary prospect when your customers can publish content and complain about you publicly. BUT, companies can use the groundswell to their advantage – take a potential negative (press that is) and turn it into advantage. Ignoring social media will NOT make it go away.
Businesses may shy away from social media from worry about the ROI (is there any?) or from the belief that they don’t have the time, skill or manpower to begin to engage. But many businesses only need to tweak their sales, marketing and development activities to enter the world of social media. In the table below (borrowed heavily from Li and Bernoff, p. 69) you can see how many typical business activities can be migrated to the web. For example, research moves from focus groups to Twitter and Facebook or a company blog. Or marketing becomes more of a dialogue than outbound communications.
Typical Business Activities & Online Alternatives
Traditional Business Activities
Matching Groundswell Activities How Things Are Different Online Research Listening Instead of focus groups and surveys, you monitor customer Marketing Talking You initiate and/or participate in conversations between your customers (not just outbound communications) Sales Energizing You find ways to help your customers sell to one another Support Supporting You assist your customers to support each other Development Embracing You help your customers work together to generate ideas to improve your products or services
The groundswell is here to stay. Businesses need to embrace and use it to their advantage. Perhaps a good place to start is by reading Groundswell. A second step might be to wade into blogging, Twitter or Facebook.
Have you or your company embraced the groundswell? Will you consider it? Leave me a comment and let me know what you’re thinking.