I just read the book Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. It is a must-read for business-minded people who are leery of the social media landscape. What is the groundswell? Well, out there in “social mediaville” your customers are talking about you. They are sharing stories, thoughts, and opinions about you, your product, or your company on Facebook, Twitter, and many more. You are no longer in control of the message. But, do not panic. Instead, learn how to use the groundswell to your advantage.
The Groundswell authors provide useful tools and a powerful argument for entering the social media landscape. I have a client, a new small business, that is reluctant to use social media platforms. They tiptoed in, but I am encouraging them to take the plunge and immerse themselves. Therefore, I am writing this blog post to highlight some of the ways my client, and maybe your small business, can benefit from the groundswell.
Think it through
In this new chaotic landscape, your company is no longer in charge of the conversation. The days of one-way communication are behind us. First and foremost, to be successful, you must have a well-thought out strategic plan. For me (and my client), the prevailing theme and salient issue emanating from the book is: think it through. First, clarify your objectives. To accomplish this, the Groundswell authors developed a 4-step planning process with an easy-to-remember acronym: “POST“: Let me summarize:
People: Who is your target audience? Are they creators, conversationalists, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, or inactives (please click here or see Forrester’s chart below for more detail)? How can you tap into your audience and use their skills to your advantage? The authors designed a free Social Technographics Profile tool to help businesses examine their audience. Check it out!
Objectives: What are your goals? Do you want to listen to, talk with, energize, support or embrace your audience?
Strategy: Envision a new relationship with your customers. What type of interaction do you want? Ponder what could go wrong? Think it through.
The Groundswell authors repeatedly stress how business owners must think through the 4-step planning process. My client is currently at this stage. They must build awareness by starting a two-way conversation. They need people talking about their product to create buzz. In other words, they need their target audience (investors) connecting with others to fuel the groundswell.
How to create awareness?
In my opinion, my client needs to set up a blog in order to create awareness. Blogs that are authored by executives and guest bloggers—such as business partners, customers, ambassadors, and other respected people—create trust, produce visibility, initiate conversations, and according to the authors “generate significant ROI” (return on investment). Further, a story or conversation that gains traction on a blog can quickly make its way upstream to the mainstream media.
An effective blog, like Bill Marriott’s of Marriott International, requires strategic thinking. And, according to the authors of Groundswell, one must start with the P and O in “POST“. In other words, who do you want to reach and what are your objectives? The authors provide ten suggestions to get started, I have condensed them to five for my client. Please allow me to summarize:
- Listen to the blogosphere. Monitor your industry and competitors.
- Develop a blog plan and an editorial policy.
- Craft a plan to market your blog. Use press releases, emails, and SEO.
- Blogging is a lot more than just writing. Rehearse at first. Moderate comments.
- Be honest (even when things go wrong). Be authentic.
Other ways to talk with the groundswell
But, since the likelihood of a video going viral is rare, I think a social media strategy that includes talking to the audience through blogging or microblogging, posting on Facebook, and tweeting on Twitter will energize the groundswell. Social media platforms allow people to have a “voice.” Better yet, these platforms encourage a two-way conversation. I believe my client can create synergy by initiating conversations about their product and the desperate need for it. Further, my client is soliciting an ambassador corps and I plan to propose inviting this group to join an open community to foster ideas through collaboration.
Does your social media plan measure up?
In order for my client or your business to determine if a social media campaign is successful, we must measure the audience. A communications professional recommended several Web analytic companies that collect, measure, and analyze the following: audience data, traffic to a site, level of engagement and more. One is Quantcast, they offer free audience reports to advertisers. Another option is the firm Compete. But, since my client is a small business on a serious budget, I will recommend using Google Analytics, a free and popular service.
Disappointed in Groundswell
Although I enjoyed reading the book and learned a lot, I feel as though it was geared to large businesses and I wish the authors had dedicated more space to small business owners. My client is a small business on a limited budget, so a majority of the advice and examples provided were not relevant or feasible.
I believe my client will benefit most from talking with the groundswell – for now! That said, I drew valuable information from the chapters that focused on listening, energizing, supporting, and embracing the groundswell. I look forward to watching my client learn to use the groundswell to their advantage.