I never thought that a book could present in such an intelligent way what digital and social media is all about. My information sources so far have been blogs, articles and empirical practice. The reason is that technology changes so fast that I figured any knowledge contained in a book would soon be obsolete. Groundswell, however, was a pleasant surprise. Li and Bernoff managed to write a book that will be relevant in years to come. Why? Because they focused on people and relationships, not technologies.
As they very well put it, “technology is just an enabler.” With its help, people fulfill their needs – which pretty much remain the same – through new means of communication. The issue in question is how communication professionals can benefit from this dynamic online society. Moreover, how can they protect their clients?
This brings me to the next point I want to make about the book. As I noted, Li and Bernoff managed to successfully convey what social and digital media is about. But most importantly, they proposed a comprehensive strategy to effectively navigate through – what else – the groundswell!
First of all, the POST acronym (people, objectives, strategy, technology) encompasses the ultimate essence of any digital communication strategy. If you haven’t answered the POST, then you shouldn’t join the groundswell. Of course, in this schema, people come first. As in any marketing or PR campaign, you need to know who your audience is. Technology, on the other hand, comes last. I’m sure many are still doing it vice versa.
But the book doesn’t stop there. By presenting the five groundswell objectives, it basically covers everything a digital strategy can pursue online. Listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing. Which one to pursue depends on what the organization wants to achieve. However, I believe that the first two are the most basic and essential objectives, without which you cannot move on to the next ones.
Although I am not new to social and digital media, there were parts in the book that made me say wow! One of those wow moments was when I read the part about the “Social Technographics Profile.” That was indeed an eye-opener for me. Until now, I always thought of audience analysis based primarily on demographic characteristics. Even Facebook, the quintessential social network, uses demographics to target ads to users. So when I read about this new – to me – concept of creating a social technographic profile, I paid closer attention. As it turns out, how people behave online, and what groundswell activities they are involved in, is of great importance for the digital communication strategist. For instance, if your clients are classified as “inactive,” meaning they don’t participate in the groundswell, then should you bother with an online presence and strategy? Moreover, the social technographic profile highlights the need to treat your audience differently, based on their online behavior.
On a different note, the book concentrates primarily on how businesses can benefit from the groundswell. However, the insights can also be applied for other types of organizations. Non-profits and government organizations have a lot to learn from the Groundswell. The underlying factor that connects everything is the word of mouth. People trust more their friends and their peers than they trust governments, businesses and faceless organizations. Well good news everyone! Word of mouth is much easier today with digital and social media! Or is it?
When Li and Bernoff say “create a viral video” – every word of mouth strategist’s dream – as a talking-with-the-groundswell tactic, they make it sound easier that it actually is. Well, it’s not easy. Many videos that go viral, after all, were not intended to go viral. Nevertheless, there are some factors that can help. A fun presentation of such factors is this video: TED Talks-Kevin Allocca: Why videos go viral.
All in all the “Groundswell” convincingly explains that social media is mostly about engaging with real people, interacting with them, and forging relationships. This is what all social media savvies insist on. Here, for example, is a blob-post with a list of tips on how to grow relationships online. The blog-post starts with these words: “Most of the time, social media seems like a numbers game—all about who can get the most followers and how fast. But, in truth, it’s not the numbers that convert; it’s the relationships.” However, there are still those who don’t get it. I’m going to make sure that I do!