My Groundswell Review

I’m on a winning streak here. Last month I responded to Charlene Li’s offer for a free copy of the Groundswell book for blog reviewers.  Of course there were only 100 copies available, but I saw the post as soon as it came out and responded. A few weeks later I got an e-mail saying I was going to get a free copy. Well, last week it arrived. I was excited. Then, yesterday, I got an e-mail from the organizers of the webinar “Online Communities Create Customer Evangelists and Citizen Marketers”, saying that I had been selected to receive a free copy of the book “Citizen Marketer” by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba. I’m looking forward to a free copy of that arriving as well. So, I have a lot of reading to do over the next few weeks.

GroundswellGroundswell Chapter 1 Review

I started reading Groundswell this week and so far it’s brilliant. It’s a very good read and the authors do a very good job of making the case for why every marketing manager needs to pay attention to the evolving Web 2.0 space. In the first chapter they review the newly created Internet landscape with an example from May 2007 involving a blog post with the encryption key for DVDs (Hollywood’s version of the Holy Grail). As the blog post with the code became more and more prominent on Digg, company leaders received a cease and desist order from AACS LA.

The problem for Digg was of course, they were not the ones who published the code. Someone else had done that. Digg was involved in the suit because its members where voting the blog post to higher visibility and spreading the news of the encryption key to a wider audience.

The first chapter of Groundswell details the events of that day and points to some lessons everyone learned from it. After pulling the story down, Digg reversed course only a day later – stating that they would go down fighting rather than give in to some corporate lawyer. Quite a risk for a start up company. And of course AACS LA woke up to a new force: power of the people in the Web 2.0 world. Instantaneous. Overnight. Light Speed. All describe how the news spread.

Things happen fast on the Internet. “Cool stuff” spreads fast and so does “uncool stuff”.  Brands can be tarnished overnight. Products can also rise overnight. And the perplexing element is that all this is guided by an “invisible” power distributed across people in all corners of the world. The drip drip drip turns into a tide and lifts or sinks boats. Not only that it’s hard to figure out what caused the drip drip drip in the first place or how anyone could ever control the drip drip drip. No wonder marketing managers would rather not deal with such a poorly understood force.

I’ve only read the first chapter of the book and it contains a few other examples similar to the Digg one. It also offers insights on how companies have embraced this invisible force to their advantage. It’s not all doom and gloom out there. In fact even massive companies are starting to channel the power inherent in social media. The authors cite the blog Fast Lane from Bob Lutz, Vice Chairman of GM. The message being that if a brand as powerful as GM can embrace social media and use it to its advantage then there is no reason why any other company couldn’t do the same. The first step is to embrace the new landscape!

Other than this I don’t really have much personal thoughts on the book. I’ll be reading through the book over the weekend and will put my thoughts down as I go along. Stay tuned.

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