A Groundswell Review: Old But On-Point

Note: This review is adapted from an article I wrote on LinkedIn on November 4, 2016, which was in turn adapted from a review I wrote for Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies on my Goodreads.com account.

I checked this book out from the library when I saw it on a list of books about “social media marketing.”

In my quest to learn everything about the subject, I had consulted books by Guy Kawasaki and Gary Vaynerchuck. This was something very different.

Written in 2008, my second edition of Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff was released in the slightly-less ancient age of 2011.

Although Groundswell is admittedly a little dated, it does provide much insightful advice regarding social media marketing.

This book was plainly written as a guidebook for executives in established corporations who are trying to navigate the brave new world of social media.

It provides several case studies regarding the issue. Li and Bernoff are a decidedly more technical in their approach to understanding social media.

Thankfully, they avoid the common mistake of focusing on the particulars of the internet and technology.

It is foolish to spend close to two years writing a book about a field which changes every two minutes. Messrs. Li and Bernoff are not foolish.

It was nonetheless rather jarring to hear the book refer to things such as MySpace as significant factors in the realm of social media.

It was even more incredible to find that YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook were hardly mentioned at all. Regardless, I’ll hardly fault the book for failing to predict the future.

Groundswell has two main strengths.

First, they manage to present their findings, research, data, case studies, and advice in a manner that is easy to understand and accessible to everyone, from the average person to a C-Suite executive.

It’s largely free of corporate-speak and industry jargon that might have hindered a lesser book.

The book’s other big strength is that although the future of social media was made of Playdough when this book was written (and still largely is now), Li and Bernoff do manage to give mountains of good advice regarding what is still a very new subject.

It’s good to know that there’s someone from the old school of doing business who “gets it.”

For example, they perceptively note near the end of the book that it would be foolish to force everyone in a company to be part of social media. It would not only be ineffective, but might backfire.

It’s smarter instead to empower people who are already engaged in social media and let them do their thing.

This and other good pointers, combined with interesting case studies, make Groundswell a book that should be read by all corporate executives at big companies that are still trying to tell Retweets from Likes.

Any that are still having trouble with that are going to be desperately in need of help. Luckily for them, Li and Bernoff have written a book in their language.

Image courtesy of netchange.co

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