Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Review -- Groundswell

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies
Charlene Li

This is a fascinating book. Written in 2008, it holds up well, with only one small adjustment. (Read "Facebook" anywhere the book says "MySpace" and you get the idea.)

I'm having trouble finding the exact quote right now, but the thing that stuck with me that I used in a recent presentation at work and am paraphrasing here (and keep in mind this was written in 2008) - and it does assume a business audience - "The only way you don't care about this is is you are retiring in six months."

Yes, yes, but what is the "groundswell?" Groundswell is the notion that social technologies are changing the world. If you try to fight it, you will only hurt your brand, but if you embrace it, it can do wonders for you. Essentially your best customers will feel a sense of ownership, empowerment, and if you give them a way to act on it, they will market on your behalf, they will help with product research, they will keep you honest and accountable, and make you a better company. Unless that's not your intent, then they will bury you.

The book is twelve chapters in length, broken into three sections: Understanding the Groundswell, Tapping the Groundswell, The Groundswell Transforms. The hardbound copy I got from the library was 286 pages and a rather quick read.

Packed with many great examples, you will be able to imagine your own business adopting some of the tactics outlined in the book or avoiding some of the pitfalls experienced by some of the companies here. The examples are all over the board and in many cases, ones you probably will not have seen covered anywhere else. And despite their age, they will still carry well. (Ironically, the introduction starts with an article about Sony - it would be interesting to see a follow-up article now that Sony has alienated the hacking community and are forcing Sony to take its websites offline on an almost weekly basis. Groundswell does have an ongoing website that I've not checked out yet.)

If you have any sort of management/leadership role in a business of any size, I would highly recommend this book. You may want to see some new examples or your eyes may be opened up to potential within your organization you were not aware of.
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