‘Groundswell’ is the first book I’ve read about social media.
With the digital world moving so fast, it’s hard to imagine a book that would not be outdated by the time it hit the shelves. Besides, when it comes to social media, it’s so easy to build knowledge online. There’s so many great resources available through blogs, thought-leaders and the social media platforms themselves, that you can find everything you need at the touch of a button.
But Groundswell is different. It’s central premise is to ask the reader to stop thinking about the technology platform and to instead focus on the relationships being created through the technology. It reminds us that social media isn’t about ‘facebook’ or ‘twitter’, it’s about people connecting, people collaborating, people organising content, sharing content and generating content.
So by focusing on the relationships, the ideas in the book, and the examples and tools for building your own relationships read as fresh and current as anything that can be found online.
The authors of Groundswell, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, pose the reader four key questions:
1) PEOPLE: what are the people you want to engage with ready for? How will they engage?
2) OBJECTIVES: What are your goals? Listening (to understand), Talking (as an interaction), Energizing (driving word of mouth, i.e for sales), Supporting (helping each other) or Embracing.
3) STRATEGY: How do you want relationships with your people to change? How will you measure this.
4) Finally, the TECHNOLOGY: Only at this point do you decide on the right technology for your business.
It seems such a simple concept, but think how many times you’ve heard the ‘oh, we have to set up Facebook’, or ‘everyone’s on Facebook or twitter’.
The most valuable take-out from the book is that for someone who works across both internal and external audiences (i,e me!), this book explores application into engaging employees as well as the public. Amazingly too, this book was published the same year Yammer was launched (2008), yet the ideas about sharing knowledge, connecting and crowdsourcing ideas pre-empt what Yammer has realised for hundreds of businesses.
Li and Bernoff’s key message throughout the book is that we shouldn’t be overwhelmed by the Groundswell. Too many of us are daunted by the prospect of the social media revolution. We’re feeling further and further behind every time another ‘next-big-thing’ – Pinterest or Instagram for example – becomes something new we feel we have to learn about. Li and Bernoff are asking us to take a step back, stop focusing on the technology, and learn about what’s happening within the technology. They say the Groundswell is here to stay, so we need to ride the wave:
“Conversation will evolve continously. Even as the technologies change, the basic conversational nature of those technologies will remain central. If you learn to talk, listen and respond, you’ll master [it].”
And what’s so scary about that?