Book Review: Groundswell

groundswell.jpgAccompanied by the level of detail you’d expect from two Forrester analysts, Groundswell lays out case after case of strategies, rationales and insight that show either the groundswell in action or how a yet to be tapped community can be moved to create that groundswell.

The authors begin by laying out why it’s important to know what the groundswell is capable of. After all it’s often made up of customers or employees, two groups that are infinitely more valuable to a business’ success than whomever is occupying the CMO chair this week. These groups have the tools – in the form of message boards, blogs, social networks and more – to influence others either positively or negatively based on their experiences with your brand, product or staff.

From there Bernoff and Li go into tactics to turn existing groundswells to the advantage of the company, and that’s the central tenet of the rest of the book. After explaining what the groundswell can do for or to your business they then provide strategies, advice and tactics on how to know what’s being said, contribute to the conversation in a meaningful manner and energize the people who live in the groundswell.

Each chapter takes a slightly different tack on this, which makes it easy for brand marketers or others to find the section of the most relevance to what they need to accomplish and see what others have done by way of case studies and benefit from the authors’ thinking along these specific lines.

While much of the research that goes into the thinking that drives Groundswell is only alluded to or conveyed via quotes from others at Forrester, Bernoff and Li (and the firm as a whole) also use their Social Technographics Profile as a central – and publicly available – resource. That tool allows you to see, based on Forrester research, whether a particular demographic is filled more with Creators, Critics, Collectors or any of the other distinct groups the firm has identified. This tool informs the vast majority of the book so it’s good to familiarize yourself with the labels it uses and the data behind it in order to get the most out of the book itself.

Groundswell is one of those books that should be included in every corporate communications professional’s Christmas stocking. There may be marketing people out there who still think online engagement with consumers or other groups isn’t worth it but they won’t feel that way after reading the book. Instead they’ll likely be scared into some sort of action.

And that’s why Groundswell also needs to be read by the people lower down the ladder. When someone comes to them saying the company needs to create a Facebook application “NOW!” they need to be able to keep the analytical mindset exemplified by Li and Bernoff and ask simple but hard questions like “But is that where are customers are?” Doing so – and having the data to back up their questions – will save a lot of wasted time and money.

Groundswell is recommended without qualification.

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