Book review: Groundswell…winning in a world transformed by social technologies

Groundswell – winning in a world transformed by social technologies

‘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With the digital world moving so fast, it’s hard to imagine a book that would not be outdated by the time it hit the shelves.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?

Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies
Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Published by Harvard Business Press 


Celebrities and the power of Twitter

Brian McFadden and Delta Goodrem

My favourite news story of the week down under, concerns our ex-Westlife friend Brian McFadden.
Brian’s actually been something of a favourite over here in recent years – he’s dating the nation’s sweetheart Delta Goodrem, has had his singles top the Australian charts (yes, really), and is even a host on Australia’s Got Talent.

But finally, sense has prevailed and the Australians are seeing Brian in a more realistic light. His latest single ‘Just the way you are (drunk at the bar)’ has caused huge controversy when listeners to the song suggested the lyrics were encouraging date rape.

In his typical classy style, Brian tried to defend himself on twitter. Unable to see a way out and in a series of cringeworthy tweets he announced that he didn’t want his song played on the radio and he would instead donate all proceeds to charity.

Putting the lyrics of song aside (because I couldn’t face putting myself through a listen), it’s not the first time Brian’s taken to twitter to defend himself. Last year, he let a feud with his ex-wife spill onto his tweets, and he has also stated he doesn’t want ‘ugly followers’ to his twitter site.

Time and time again, Brian actually creates the news story himself by engaging in a debate which should otherwise have been managed through a timely and considered press statement. Not ad-hoc, reactive and rash thought-streams.

Twitter seems to have opened a channel of communication to celebrities, where before a publicist, a manager or an agent would stand between them and the general public. In some respects, it is quite refreshing to hear a personal view, rather than the same rehearsed spin from a press office. But, when reputations begin to be damaged and sales start to fall, these people will find they have the same responsibilities to their job as the rest of us and will have to face up to their employers as their careers start to fall apart.

Celebrities need to realise the power of twitter, but also the responsibility that comes with using it as a tool to communicate. Brian McFadden may be hitting the news this week, but he is just one of many celebrities and sporting stars who have found out the hard way that whilst twitter might help raise a profile, in the wrong hands it can potentially ruin it too.