The Book Corner - Review

Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies

By Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff
Harvard Business School Press, 2008

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5 stars: Stop what you're doing and read this book!Written by two analysts at Forrester Research, Groundswell offers descriptions of social media, examples of effective application, and a step-by-step approach to the development and implementation of a successful social media strategy. But what is the “groundswell” and why should you care about it? According to the authors, the groundswell is “a trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.” The groundswell is important to business-to-consumer and business-to-business companies because it provides Internet users (i.e., your customers) the power to collaborate, talk, and change the way we do business. If you question this shift in power, just go online to Wikipedia, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and LinkedIn to see how many people are active in this groundswell.

This book provides a roadmap through the landmines and opportunities offered by today’s changing social interface. The authors provide a four-step planning process, the POST method, as the foundation for groundswell thinking. POST asks the following questions, which are critical to developing an effective social media plan.

  • People: What are your customers ready for?
  • Objectives: What are your goals?
  • Strategy: How do you want relationships with your customers to change?
  • Technology: What applications should you build?

Groundswell guides you step by step through the POST process, providing examples, case studies, and tools to analyze your business and determine what best fits your needs, as well as those of your customers. In Chapter 11, the book also discusses how you can use these tools inside your company to listen to, talk with, energize, support, and ultimately embrace your employees.

As with all strategy deployment, the authors stress the importance of top-level involvement and long-term commitment. Furthermore, this strategy is best implemented in stages by starting small and building on successes. The authors warn that you will make mistakes along the way. The key lesson is to be honest and to learn to embrace the groundswell because it is happening with or without you. By joining the groundswell, you have the potential to transform your business, enhance your knowledge, and build stronger relationships with both customers and employees.

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