I have just finished reading Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research.

This is one of the ‘essential reading’ books for the Social Media module so I thought I’d write a brief review for anyone who hasn’t read it yet.

Li and Bernoff’s definition of the groundswell is: “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.” Basically they are referring to the ways in which people use social media to engage, discuss and find out information.

For anyone struggling to come to terms with the relevance of social media in our modern society, businessess and professions, this book provides a layman’s overview of why it is so important and how it can be embraced. 

Groundswell does not overwhelm or confuse the reader with masses of techno-jargon. Although it is predominantly written to aid businesses in understanding the groundswell and enable them to engage well with their customers, it uses case-studies of many big name companies as well as numerous personal interviews to give examples of how they each have interacted with the groundswell. These examples show successful and unsuccessful attempts at interaction depending on the approach taken.

The use of large company names such as Mini, Lego, Dell and Dove give us all something to relate to but more importantly Li and Bernoff effectively tell the stories of each company’s individual experience by giving us an insight into their personal ambitions, fears, mistakes and conquests. This makes for an entertaining read regardless of your interest or understanding of social media.

Groundswell’s initiative is to teach people different strategies to successfully interact with the groundswell. These include: Listening, talking, energising, supporting and embracing.

These strategies ultimately give the reader a greater understanding of the thoughts and incentives of the people using social media and how by understanding those, we can tap in to what they are saying they want from us and respond effectively and make social media work to our advantage. Things happen and spread rapidly in the social media landscape whether they are positive or negative. This book provides essential advice on how to react to these happenings and what to do next.

In addition to all of this there are many demographics and other statistics provided in the book to promote understanding of how different people use social media in different ways depending on age, circumstances and interests.

Groundswell is a worthy read and I now feel much more familiarised with social media, its audience and its pros and cons.

Lisa Toner


3 Responses

  1. Hi Lisa,

    This is an interesting review – I’m glad to see you have read one of the set texts already. Some people might question why I’ve put this book on the list – when it has got absolutely nothing to say about journalism directly. But you’re right – it’s all about engaging with social media on the level of marketing and business… and that’s an essential part of being a modern reporter.

    Next: SUPERMEDIA by Charlie Beckett. Anyone read this one yet??


  2. Thanks for your comment James. I was pleasantly surprised with the book and the way it was written. I think the authors have made the subject interesting and promoted it’s relevance.
    There must be a few people reading Suoermedia because all the library copies are out so many of us are waiting for notification of some being availiable.


  3. I got Supermedia but ive not read it yet. Good review though, may read Groundswell first

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