The book Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (2008) by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff is a case study-based book that discusses social media, networks, and applications as they relate to business. The book outlines three trends that have created this new “era” of social applications: people’s desire to connect, new interactive technologies, and online economics. Groundswell encourages people, and companies, to concentrate on relationships, not technologies as technologies are ever changing.
I learned a lot from this book. For instance, one in three Americans read blogs. Wikis (which is Hawaiian for “quick”) support multiple contributors who share the responsibility of creating and maintaining content. The wiki I am most familiar with is of course Wikipedia. As Groundswell mentions, Wikis are hard to get going. Though wikis many not be the right approach for my client, I think checking out the current Wikipedia page for one’s company is very important. Currently, there is no Wikipedia page for my client, Plan B Technologies so I definitely recommend my client make one. There is one for Johns Hopkins (my employer) and all of its divisions. Also, Groundswell recommends checking out tags on Delicious. I did not find any tags for my client but I did for Johns Hopkins.
I enjoyed the explanation of Naver, the largest search engine in South Korea. I often google questions (for instance, “how did my indoor cat get fleas?”) and wind up on Yahoo! Answers. I have yet to be a contributor on the site, but I have contributed reviews to Yelp.com and made reviews on ebay, amazon, and other sites. I guess this puts me in the Critics category. And starting this blog makes me a Creator!
One powerful message from Groundswell is: your brand is what your customers say it is. This is why it is important to listen. Listening can be done by creating an RSS feed to monitor social networking pages and stay connected. Research and understanding customers is extremely important. As is talking to and energizing customers. Creating a plan that has room to grow is essential. As mentioned before, technology is always changing so a plan needs room to grow and adapt.
Customers can be used to generate new product and marketing ideas for free. I enjoy the term “crowdsourcing” – asking the groundswell to provide you with ideas. Creating a community to engage with customers and deliver messages seems like a promising tool for many companies. For instance YouTube videos allow people to interact rather than ads that “shout” at them, as the book puts it.
I think my client needs to jump into the world of social networking. The first step would be to actually use and update its Facebook page and Twitter account. I read the e-book version of Groundswell and it had a disclaimer that I am not sure exists in the print version. The disclaimer said the book was written before Twitter got popular yet the authors were able to make an accurate prediction that twitter would be very popular. My client’s lack of tweets and Facebook page maintenance needs to change. That is step one.
Step two is starting a blog. Of course, this is a multi-step process. As Groundswell suggests, my client needs to listen to the “blogosphere” first. The particular goals for my client’s blog should be: new products, events, and IT solutions. Groundswell suggests writing 5-10 posts before going live. I agree with this. At work, we have a blog which is managed by my colleague. When we were setting it up, we got some advice from our social media savvy webmaster. He suggested making some “evergreen content” that we could post at any time. I would bring this suggestion to my client as well. Additionally, having a marketing plan so people can find the blog is key. Blogs are a great way to develop a dialogue with customers. Groundswell emphasizes the importance of being honest and personable. Learning to talk, listen and respond will help my client as technologies change and as they take on new platforms.
Finally, I’ll close out my first blog post on a personal note . The chapter that discussed CarePages, a specialized blogging system for patients at Massachusetts General Hospital, hit home. Recently, a friend’s mom was diagnosed with an untreatable cancer that left her with just a few weeks to live. My friend and his dad set up a page similar to CarePages through CaringBridge.org. I had never heard of such a site before but was soon checking this one each day and subscribed to email updates so I could make sure I knew the latest about my friend’s mom. I know the page helped them tremendously through such a hard time but it also helped me. Seeing the love and support flowing in from all over proved to be a great support system. Though my friend’s mom was too sick to have visitors during her last couple months, CaringBridge.org was an alternative way for all of us to communicate with her. One I am sure we all appreciated.