You may be at risk.  Have you or someone you know experienced any of the following symptoms…

  • Have you developed an uncontrollable curiosity in things like blogs, Twitter and YouTube?
  • Do you dread the question, what is your company’s online strategy in the Web 2.0 era?
  • Have you asked your child casually about Facebook, then listened intently to his response hoping he would tell you in detail all its inner-workings?

If so, you may have what authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff refer to as “groundswell approach-avoidance syndrome” …but fear not, there is hope for you!  The book Groundswell takes the approach that the key to prevailing in this situation is to first understand the groundswell and then use its power to your advantage.

The groundswell is a “social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other instead of from traditional institutions like corporations.”

How has the groundswell become so powerful?

The groundswell comes from the collision of three forces – people, technology and economies, which are explained below:

1.      People have an innate desire to connect and to draw strength from each other

2.      New interactive technologies have made this easier, faster and cheaper.

3.      Online economies are driven by “Traffic equals Money”!

So when members of the groundswell decide to pull together for better or worse, they create an extremely strong movement because of the advanced collaboration tools now available.

What is the key to mastering the groundswell?

First, “Know your objective” and second, “Concentrate on relationships, not the technologies”.

Remember, the basis of the groundswell is person-to-person activity.  If your objective is to learn more about your consumers, a blog is an effective tool to be using.  If your goal is to stimulate conversation, consider posting a video.  If your objective is to energize your consumers, using technology such as ratings and reviews can help.  This also stimulates word-of-mouth marketing.

Word-of-mouth marketing is a force to be reckoned with.  Think of it this way.  What do you trust most? Recommendations from friends, Online reviews from strangers or Ads?  Oftentimes it’s a combination of all these that influence your decision, however when you can get your groundswell members talking to and supporting themselves, that’s when you’ve attained the Holy Grail!

So what’s the best way to help garner support?

The best way to encourage your customers to help each other, thereby thriving in the groundswell is, interestingly enough, by letting go of control.  The authors of groundswell offer the following suggestions:

  • Listen to your customers and let them lead you
  • Start with small steps
  • Build in a reputation system
  • Your most enthusiastic customers are out there already, so let’s find them!

“The moment you open your doors to your community, here’s what will happen…nothing.”

  • Plan to drive traffic to your community/website through advertising or Search Engine Optimization.

Whether you have accepted it or not, the groundswell is upon us.  Knowing this, you have two options.  You can wait and see if this spells fortune or disaster for your company. Or, you can go out there and start listening to your customers, to other people in your company and to those creating the technology – that’s groundswell thinking.  You’ll have nothing to fear, because you’ll be prepared.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 26, 2009 and is filed under Social Media in Marketing.

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