Thursday, November 20, 2008

Book Review: Groundswell - Published 2008 by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Nicholas Kinports (follow him on Twitter @ADMAVEN) has worked in the interactive technology world for over 15 years. He is the Digital Strategy Lead and founder of Chicago-based digital marketing firm lonelybrand, where he directs the creation and execution of digital marketing programs that generate measurable signups, conversions and sales.

Groundswell: A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.

Earlier this year the blog community was abuzz with the impending release of Groundswell - the "how to" book for all things social media. Promising a system of planning and executing social media campaigns and tying them to measurable results, expectations were high.

Fast forward six months - has the Groundswell lived up to its promise?

Fundamentally, I enjoyed the book because it helps solidify social media as a valid and usable marketing/advertising strategy. The most useful portions of the book are the case studies detailing the trials and tribulations of various large companies attempting to enter the social media space (or being run over by it). Don't expect formal case study material - references are lacking and the studies themselves read as narratives as opposed to true analysis, however you may find some similarities between your experiences in social media and the foibles of those put under the microscope.

Authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff are veterans of Forrester Research, Inc. and it shows. They consistently lace the text with drivers to their website and blog, which is nice the first time but gets very old very fast. Additionally, the entire Groundswell strategy hinges on research, which although important, is certainly not the best solution for social media execution in every scenario.

Functionally, Groundswell delivers a very basic understanding of what social media is and how to use it in some very specific situations. In terms of providing a framework for planning, measuring, and executing a social media campaign Li and Bernoff simply suggest that through proper research and understanding of the target audience your strategy will usually succeed; a simplistic view of a very complicated process in my opinion.

In addition, Groundswell does not provide a true tool or metric for comparing campaigns against competitor initiatives, nor does it provide a quantifiable method for execution. The reader is simply told that each client is so unqiue you must make a significant investment in research up front or risk missing the mark and getting steamrolled by masses of dissatisfied or unconvinced customers.

If you are completely new to social media or need a good understanding of what a properly executed social media campaign looks like, this book may assist you in that endeavor. Take care to not get lost in the process of research, research, and more research.
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