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Groundswell, Expanded and Revised Edition: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies Paperback – May 24 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; Expanded and Revised Edition edition (May 24 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1422161986
  • ISBN-13: 978-1422161982
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14 x 21 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #180,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


“If you haven’t read the book, I would highly recommend you buy a personal copy and read it to get a comprehensive understanding of how our world is being transformed by social technologies and how you can take advantage of it.” - Business 2 Community

About the Author

Charlene Li is an independent thought leader and founder of the Altimeter Group. Josh Bernoff is a vice president at Forrester Research and one of their most senior and most frequently quoted research analysts. He created the Technographics segmentation, a classification of consumers according to how they approach technology.

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Groundswell is defined as the social media momentum that has swept over us of recent. With almost a billion people using Facebook alone, social technologies have allowed people to connect in ways never before. This has had dramatic effects on the way businesses operate.

It goes without saying that it is fundamental you go where your customers are, meaning it's important to participate in social media, since that is where people are but also because there is an expectation to be there. There shouldn't be debate if you should participating, but how you should participate. This can be nightmarish for departments like IR, HR and IT since control is threatened. And from a brand standpoint, this loss of control also effects marketing communications since the groundswell now has a big say in what brands mean.

Given that participation is a must for most companies, just how you participate is important. Li and Bernoff rely on Forrester's Social Technographics Profile to map out how segments of people use social media (Creators, Listeners, Joiners, Critics, etc). Companies should understand what their customers do online and cater to that. If you're target tends to be into creating content like blogs, YouTube videos, it's vital to be in that space by not only creating your content for their consumption, but also to listen and respond to the content they create. And once you're there, it's essential to be authentic, because, unlike traditional advertising, the people have a voice and can call bullcrap with ease.

The longer a company waits to get involved; the longer they wait to use social media to energize its customers, the harder it will be to enter with credibility. The people are there already talking about you, wanting to interact, so do what it takes to go to them and listen and create with them.
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By maureen dunbar on Dec 8 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great Read! Amazing insight for everyone that has a business or is thinking of starting a business. Social Media is necessary... get on it with Groundswell!
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Format: Paperback
A good high level summary of social networks with lots of statistics. Could use more insight on how to attack them those networks. Lots of good lists.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 60 reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
All hype; buy a real book on social media, not this one March 7 2013
By Dr. Companys - Published on
Format: Paperback
First, the positive: The authors list many of the social media technologies available at the time of publication and provide decent statistics on social media usage. The problem is you could get the same statistics and more for free by reading a Pew report.

There's plenty not to like in this book:

First, the authors appear to have groundswell tourette syndrome. Just as Rudy Giuliani can't get through a sentence without mentioning 9/11, the authors can barely go through a chapter without mentioning the word "groundswell." It's as though the authors took a bunch of verbs, added them to the word groundswell, and voila, a book was born.

All the chapter titles treat the groundswell as some sort of mysterious, independent force that companies must harness through mystical Jiu jitsu. (And yes, I am quoting, they compare themselves to sensei and say they are teaching you social media Jiu jitsu.)

Second, the authors mention Digg and General Motors as two key examples of how companies can harness the groundswell. They say Kevin Rose of Digg clearly "gets it" about the Net. Yes, Rose got it so much that he ultimately had to sell the company for $500,000. Another key example in the book comes from GM, a company that almost died until the government stepped in to bail it out.

If you like hype, you will love this book. You will learn that "the groundswell comes from the collision of three forces: people, economics, and technology." That's shocking because nothing else in society results from the confluence of people, economics, and technology. And the authors note that you'll learn little about managing the groundswell from learning about the technology because the groundswell is a force to be mastered, as I said, much like Jiu jitsu. Other interesting tidbits are "this new class of software is so different that O'Reilly has dubbed it Web 2.0." Yeah, because calling something by a hyped-up moniker shows how revolutionary it is. As for Wikipedia, the authors say that "the masses determine what's on it." They make no mention of the gatekeepers who control editorial content. Also, the authors tell you that "the groundswell has changed the balance of power," and to harness it, you must learn great strategies like these: Learn about blogging by reading blogs and starting one! Learn about social networking by opening an account! The authors note that Amazon reviews or Twitter followers are another great example of the groundswell, but they don't tell you that companies often manipulate reviews or buy followers.

None of this is meant as a "dig" at Digg or at the authors. It's just that the world is more complicated than they lay it out to be. Rather than hype, the reader would benefit from some real evidence-based insights on social media. Sadly, you won't find that here. Take it from me, as a member of the groundswell, don't buy this book and keep looking.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
It's ok. Nov. 7 2014
By Eddie B. - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I had to read this for college. It was a good book for me though as I am in the web development business and it is important for me to understand some of the social media concepts out there.

This book I have to say, however, feels very watered down for casual readers. I've been in the web business almost 10 years now, and I have to say that this is not the greatest book for someone that already has technical knowledge. It has many bare bone basic concepts about social media sites and feels like a "how to" guide for corporate head-honchos. The author of this text makes up a lot of their own terminology and key-concepts behind social media including the term "groundswell". Many of its concepts revolve around social media technology such as Twitter and Facebook. Social media can go out of fashion as quickly as it gained popularity. I wouldn't recommend a corporate business do everything this book says, although it has some good advice for those who are clueless about implementing their business in social media.

This is an interesting read, but I'm not too crazy about it nor it's concepts. I have to question, how have the authors gained some of the knowledge they have and who are they to really set the standards for social media? It's a decent book and not many others out there are like it, but I think someone can write something better out there. Average book in general. Take what you can from it but don't believe everything it says in my professional opinion. 3/5
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great book for numerous reasons Feb. 5 2013
By M. Law - Published on
Format: Paperback
Groundswell is a hit for a number of reasons:
(1) It's current: Although published in 2011, the book is very up-to-date. This is good and bad, as very quickly it will become outdated.

(2) It's helpful: Instead of just listing advice for readers, like the groundswell itself, the book tries to relate to the reader. It gives plenty of case studies and real-life stories, and readers find themselves connecting with the authors.

(3) It's readable: It is written in such a readable fashion that anyone, tech-savvy or not, can enjoy it. While giving details of the groundswell concept, it also gives a basic overview of social media; none of the concepts are complicated or overbearing.

(4) It's about relationships: The book, while seemingly data driven and technology-focused, is really about relationships. "Never forget that the groundswell is about person-to-person activity" (280). Groundswell is about wielding our social media revolution to build and sustain relationships. Doing this requires patience, commitment and the right attitude.

Overall, it is an easy read, but it will train your mind to think differently about social media.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Timeless book on social media June 3 2011
By Sharad Gupta - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Groundswell is an excellent read for anyone involved in the social media strategy and implementation. The book lays out a consumer segmentation model (social technographics ladder) that can be used to segment and understand the consumers of the social media. A company needs to understand the existing and evolving social technographics profile of consumers to choose appropriate social media and engagement strategies (listening, talking, energizing, helping, embracing). The book also proposes a four-step process for developing a social media marketing strategy - People, Objectives, Strategy, and Technology (called POST). The book has many case studies and insightful analysis of the power of social media. Although the social media technologies will continue to evolve rapidly, one must understand the bigger picture and the business use cases (in areas of customer research, marketing, sales, customer support, and new product development) in order to leverage the immense power of social media.
Groundswell was well done! Sept. 17 2013
By Rachel - Published on
Format: Paperback
"Groundswell" by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff is a BusinessWeek Bestseller depicting the need for companies to understand and take advantage of this ever-changing trend called groundswell. Groundswell is "A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations" (9 Bernoff and Li). The authors aim to create an understanding for this trend intended for the purpose of businesses, small companies or even someone with just a blog website. Not only do the authors think it is imperative for one to fully use the benefits of groundswell, but also know all aspects of the groundswell in order for it to avoid having a detrimental impact for one's company as well.

Right from the beginning of the book, the authors tie the reader in with a captivating example of groundswell, exemplifying that the groundswell is something one cannot control. Li and Bernoff use the company, Digg, to show how the Internet population is so powerful that one must not fight the groundswell, but rather become a part of it. In fact, one of the most impactful lines of the book and quite humorous by nature showing the power of the Internet is when Digg member, Grant Robertson states, "You can't take something off the Internet. That's like trying to take pee out of a swimming pool" (5). Robertson couldn't be more correct with his opinion that the Internet is the one thing even the best marketers, managers or CEO's of a company cannot regulate. Instead, they must succumb to this trend and gain from its usage. By using real examples of the effects of groundswell throughout the book, the authors continuously convey to the reader different examples and solutions to the problems. More importantly, it puts a realistic perspective on the effects of groundswell.

The layout of the book is very comprehensible for a reader. By dividing the chapters into the author's main ideas composed of three parts, the reader can then follow their thought process and clearly define a resolution to an issue their company might be experiencing. One argument the author's explain in their second chapter is how the groundswell should not be represented as a negative feature. By handling the groundswell effectively, one can prosper. Chapter 3 goes on to explain that participants of the groundswell are all different. For example, when discussing three different participants of the adult fans of Lego, the authors explain how each one has a separate role in the online network, "Eric is creating, Joe is reacting, and Linda is reading" (40). I agree with the author's reaction to this observance by saying that one must recognize these differences and respond to each participant's interaction differently. Part one of the book concludes with why people would partake in groundswell. In particular, Li and Bernoff state one of the reasons that people participate is in need of validation declaring, "People put themselves out there, and the community reassures them about their place in the world" (62). As a college student, it's hard not to agree with that statement while our generation is wrapped around the idea of "favoriting" or "liking" each other's posts on Facebook or other forms of social media. Validation of oneself is a huge concept, and while I only presumed insecure adolescents used it, the authors point out that even bloggers want to be seen as "knowledgeable experts" and receive validation. Basically, part one of the book clearly defines groundswell, which is something every online user is a part of in some way shape or form, whether realizing it or not.

The authors then continue to the second part of the book, which primarily focuses on how a business or even a blogger can be a part of the groundswell. To show that companies need a why for getting involved with groundswell, the authors discuss one of their clients, Charlie. Charlie saw that Sears was using an effective online community, but did not have a clear why for the reasons their company should get involved. Narratives, like the example used with Charlie, throughout "Groundswell" kept me engaged despite the redundancy of some of the author's points. However, what I found particularly interesting was the author's perception of branding. Li and Bernoff state the customers are the ones who brand the company's image. I would have to disagree with this statement because although the online community does have a very strong involvement with the brand, they're not the ones providing the products or services. Even if the managers take into consideration the products and services a consumer is interested in, ultimately it is the member of the company that makes the final decision. Still, the authors make valid points in explaining specific types of media such as blogging and twitter. If a company is looking to learn about a specific subject matter, the books layout makes it easy to find and to be able to implement the strategy suggested.

After the authors have depicted what groundswell is and how to become involved, the last part of the book goes into the changes a company would experience after the many implications a company would make in correspondence with groundswell. Again, the use of a narrative in the beginning of the section sets up the basis for the upcoming part. While reading this third part of the book, I could clearly see the author's interpretation of groundswell and how he had successfully made sense of the term, groundswell, which was foreign to me prior to reading the book. The structure: defining groundswell, ways to strategically use groundswell, and effects of groundswell, tied together nicely in this last section.

For a reader who is not as familiar with companies' social media and is looking to gain insight for their own beginner endeavors, "Groundswell" portrayal of this online world is close to exceptional. To reiterate, the use of real stories were not only intriguing, but also provided a tangible example to exemplify the author's points. Besides having narratives, the book also included diagrams and pictures which made a visual learner, like myself, able to understand the concepts in a deeper sense. For most of the book, it provided provocative questions about social media that I had never thought of before. The answers were always simple, and made sense. But companies as well as individuals need a wake up call provided to you in "Groundswell" to help understand this social trend more effectively. "Groundswell" was not structured like a boring textbook, spitting facts and figures. Instead, it seemed as if the authors were speaking directly to you the entire time, grabbing your attention, and making you think twice about your own involvement with the social trend. I would definitely recommend "Groundswell" if you are looking for an interesting and captivating book about the online social world and its relationship to companies. I would give this book a 4 out of a 5 because the case studies and easy-to-read components make it a standout amongst other business related books.