I almost don't want to tell you about this book.
I laughed. I dog-eared a ridiculous number of pages. I found cause to clamor for a notebook to jot, nay, furiously scribble down an idea. I'm already retelling the stories.
It's almost too good to share.
I should back up...
In general, I think good marketers come from two basic camps. Statistics and experience. Or, how we can model and measure likely success vs. how we can learn from what's worked and hasn't worked in the past. Heady or intuitive.
Groundswell author's Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff are from Forrester Research. So, it was no surprise that they could write analytics well. Could lay out an infinitely logical and actionable model for how to do social media with your customer audience.
What was a surprise is what amazing storytellers they are and how willing they were to bluntly - sometimes harshly - tell it like it is.
Li and Bernoff start of by setting aside particular technologies and diving deep into the ways social media has changed us. Increasingly, they argue, we get what we need (news, reviews, shopping, etc.) from other people rather than from traditional institutions (like business or media).
Then, they systematically answer the questions a lot of digital immigrants ask in the meetings we've all sat in (over and over and over again):
- How does it work?
- Why do people spend their time on this?
- How is this going to impact - threaten / totally screw up / help - my business?
But, the best part is the back 2/3s of the book where Li and Bernoff dig into various strategies to tap into the groundswell with stories about the success and failure of brands brave enough to give it a try.
Some of them are parts of the story I never knew. Like the Mini marketing that we hold up all the time as so savvy and talky and in-the-tent started by listening to the (later named) groundswell online. Or how the awkwardness of the internal conversation become part of the impetus of P&G's broadly cited Beingagirl.com
And some reveal surprising results. Like how Blendtec's funny 'will it blend' videos (crunching up iPods and other odd things) popped sales of the absurdly expensive kitchen device 20%. Or just how much of Ernst & Young's recruiting is powered by Facebook.
And some were simply inspiring. Like the oft-told story of Best Buy's Blue Shirt Nation (btw - next time I talk about my home agency, let's remember - it's not self serving, I'm just an Orange Shirt) or the all-too-human ways execs at Avenue A / Razorfish connect with employees.
Every story is accompanied by the business plan behind it. Why it worked. What the ROI was. How to know if it's right for your audience.
You can probably guess which parts I dog-eared.