Groundswell: it’s all about attitude rather than technology

August 30, 2008 at 9:32 am | Posted in book reviews | Leave a comment

‘Groundswell’ by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff is a thoughtful and clearly written book that is as much about attitude as it is about technology. It benefits greatly from the backing of Forrester Research which has provided the hard data illustrating the changing behaviour of online consumers and their growing use of web 2.0 technologies. Although much of this data is from the US, there are also some useful comparison tables profiling European and Far Eastern consumers by age, geography, political affiliation etc.

The book begins with a useful review of a range of web 2.0 tools that includes separate sections on how to use them, how they can help to build customer relationships and also how they may threaten established ways of doing business. It then moves onto the thorny topic of evaluation – how can you assess which of these tools are right for your company, and what should the timescales for introducing them be? Is the kudos associated with being at the ‘bleeding edge’ of a new tool worth the increased risk of failure, or is it better to wait and learn from the mistakes of others?

Next the authors introduce their customer profiling categories which they rather dauntingly term ‘social technographics’. Do you know which of your customers are ‘creators’, ‘critics’, ‘collectors’, ‘joiners’, ‘spectators’ or ‘inactives’? Clearly if most of them come into the final category (yes – the authors do acknowledge that there are still significant numbers of people who are not prepared to engage online) then your new social media strategy is going to be rather wasted…but understanding the profile of your customers allows you to develop appropriate strategies. If a high percentage of them are critics, then have you thought through how you will respond to negative comments they make on your blog posts? And how will you encourage the creators to contribute the sort of content that the spectators will want to read?

The remainder of the book focuses a chapter on each of 5 specific objectives that ‘early adopter’ case studies of the Groundswell are pursing:

  • Listening (or ‘research’ in old money)
  • Talking (customer communications)
  • Energising (sales)
  • Supporting (customer support)
  • Embracing (collaborative development)

The examples are bang up to date, and additional value comes from the sections in how the new policies will change the organisation once implemented, and also the ROI calculations to help convince the sceptics. The final chapter demonstrates how the Groundswell principles can be applied within organisations as a necessary precursor to effective external application.

In summary, the Groundswell is about attitude rather than technology. Social strategies can flourish only in a culture of openness where criticism is tolerated and responded to in a proactive manner, change is regarded as an opportunity rather than a threat, and senior managers actively support new initiatives. The book is less clear on how progression can be made within the many organisations that do not meet these criteria…and the end notes would give the text more weight if they were integrated within the chapters, but these are minor gripes. If your role involves implementing or teaching marketing strategy, or if you are an entrepreneur developing your own business, then you should read this book and open your mind to the fundamental changes that it recommends.


Our next Punch Above Your Weight workshop…

August 18, 2008 at 8:34 pm | Posted in online marketing workshop | Leave a comment

…for small businesses who wish to stand out from the crowd by implementing the latest online marketing tools and techniques takes place on 10th October at The Hub, near Liverpool Street Station, London. You can book your place at

Gifted Amateurs lead the way with Cloud Computing

August 17, 2008 at 6:22 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Recent articles in Business Week (‘How Cloud Computing is Changing the World’ by Rachael King), and the Financial Times (‘Back to Bust?’ by Richard Waters) chime with the experiences of the ‘Gifted Amateurs’ attending our Punch Above Your Weight workshops. These entrepreneurs are growing their businesses with limited time, expertise and available budget by drawing upon new web-based technologies such as the Google Docs, blogs and emerging social networks. They are circumventing the need for increasingly complex IT systems as their businesses grow by continuing to rely upon cost-effective Web 2.0 tools and their own networking skills.

Business Week notes how tapping into web-based applications represents a significant change in the way that businesses obtain software and computing power. It draws upon the example of a $11 billion electronics manufacturing company called Sanmina-SCI which is using Google Apps for email, document sharing and diary planning. Merrill Lynch suggests that such ‘cloud computing’ will expand into a global market of $95 billion over the next 5 years.

The Financial Times describes the example of 2nd Wind Exercise Equipment which has saved over $200,000 by switching its email system from Microsoft Exchange to Google’s Gmail. In a worsening economic climate, cost savings like these are not to be sneezed at for those companies prepared to take a chance with Cloud Computing. The risks, of course, concern the reliability and security of cloud-based systems. As Broadstuff shows  there have been a number of high profile ‘out-ages’ already this year by providers such as Amazon S3, Google Docs, MobileMe and Twitter.

The above examples show that proactive companies are dipping their toes cautiously into the Cloud – using it mainly for non-essential applications at the moment, but with a view to extending their commitments if their experience is positive. For the new business ventures of our Gifted Amateurs, the trade off between the cost savings of Cloud Computing and the occasional reliability glitch is definitely worth it.

Book Review: Web 2.0: A Strategy Guide, by Amy Shuen

August 11, 2008 at 8:12 pm | Posted in book reviews | 1 Comment
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This timely book contains a number of interesting contemporary case studies of such luminaries as Flickr, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google. These examples illustrate how Web 2.0 permits the early enthusiasm that exploded with the dotcom bubble to be finally realised, now that network effects are established, capital costs have reduced, high speed broadband access dominates, user engagement is welcomed and the ‘long tail’ has been made accessible.


The explanations of Web 2.0 principles are easy to follow, and each chapter includes a list of practical questions that proactive businesses should be addressing if they are considering whether to venture into what are still largely uncharted waters. For example, an excellent question that Amy Shuen poses to Marketing Managers is “can you identify the 1-3% ‘active uploaders’ in your customer community and then engage them as evangelists for your business?” Clear warnings are also contained within the text for those businesses that fail to see the relevance of Web 2.0, or who regard it as a threat rather than an opportunity.


The real value of this book is provided in the end notes which highlight established books and articles about strategy that have ‘stood the test of time’, and also where traditional academic frameworks have been usefully updated with Web 2.0 thinking. (For example, see the discussion of Michael Porter’s SIX forces and Clayton Christensen’s disruptive innovation.) Pointers are also made towards new research that is now emerging from around the world that directly investigates the business implications of a Web 2.0 world.        

Overall this is a well written and thought-provoking book, although a few more European examples would have been welcome J

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