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Review Groundswell

Book Review: Groundswell – Final Overview

When I decided to review Groundswell, by Charlene Li and John Bernoff, for my Social Media Marketing course, I did so knowing that some of the content and thinking might be out-of-date.  The last update to the book was in 2011 and since then we’ve seen several key social media sites and networks rise to the top and other networks fade into the background.

Part Three – The Key Groundswell Lessons for Companies & The Future

In the last section of the book, the authors focus on the internal and external transformations that happen with “embracing the groundswell”, and how to go about them effectively. “Letting go” of telling consumers what they should hear about their brand, Unilever’s Dove Campaign for Real Beauty was a huge success because of a mental shift – a different way of thinking on how to market their products.

In some cases a crisis like the one Dell faced with consumers hating the  customer service and being very vocal about it on blogs, forced the company to accept the groundswell. The key lesson here was listen first, then act – do it right from the start and get executive support.  Being authentic and truly listening to customer complaints turned Dell’s PR nightmare around.

The book continues with examples of tapping into an internal groundswell – employees that work with you, associates etc. A smart move as companies can talk with employees, energize them and support them internally.

The next section speaks to the five stages of social maturity – dormant; testing stage; coordinating stage; scaling and optimizing stage and finally empowering stage. The authors are pointing out – it takes time to do social media right.

Finally, the authors look forward to what the groundswell will be like in the future – in 2015. They give one piece of advice that I think is still a struggle for some companies – be authentic. Deception is not the way to go.

They note that companies that don’t embrace the groundswell will look dated, and will fall behind. Product development will speed up – we see it happening already with the likes of Apple and Samsung battling for who will have the next buzz-worthy phone (although Apple still seems to win the attention of many with their new releases).

Overall Summary

Written for marketers and CEOs who needed to understand why the marketing world was experiencing a shift in power – from brands holding control over what their story was to people defining who they were – this book provides a great overview of key thinking needed when delving into the world of social media.

Understanding the Groundswell – the different type of people who are using social media tools and networks, and how to communicate and learn from them for your own benefit, are the key topics covered in this book. Much of the content is still a good refresher for marketers, PR, social media and digital communicators today.

The book contains the basics that in today’s time we sometimes gloss over in our day-to-day work, without giving much thought to why we do what we do.  It also looks at the psychology of people of the “Groundswell” and why they communicate with others.

While the case studies are numerous, lengthy and in some cases very dry reading, they do offer examples of social media activities in real world situations.

For somebody who is just learning about social media, without the aid of a course and instructor, it’s a worthwhile book to read, knowing that much has evolved in terms of technology.

Word-of-mouth was the goal of marketers in the past – like Farah Fawcett’s shampoo commercial that stated, “And you’ll tell your friends, and they’ll tell their friends…”.  Now, word-of-mouth is amplified, instant and everywhere with social media. Anybody can get in on the conversation. It’s how to use it to your advantage that makes you as a brand move ahead.

Overall rating: 3.0/5

Purchase Groundswell on Amazon.ca, $9.99

What social media books do you recommend people learning about it read, and why?