Groundswell Book Review

I have been waiting patiently for the publication of Groundswell since last Spring when we first talked to Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff about including some work MotiveQuest had done for MINI USA.

Being a skeptic and a bit of a know-it-all, I approach business books with a grain of salt. What could Josh and Charlene possibly tell me that I don’t already know? Well, a lot. I am humbled by the display of knowledge, experience and examples (not to mention writing and editing) on display in this book.

My foundation in social computing goes back to the Cluetrain Manifesto (Happy 10th Birthday Cluetrain!) which is heavy on philosophy – and light on action and examples. Groundswell is the long awaited how-to manual for the post-Cluetrain world. I like this book so much I went out and bought 60 copies to share with clients and friends. I think anyone working in advertising, marketing or consulting that has responsibility for social media should read this book.

I talk to agencies and clients every day, and there is little disagreement that the social computing revolution has fundamentally changed business. Everyone agrees that social computing has upset the communications apple cart, and thrown power back to the people. The big question, however, remains. What the heck do we do now? Read Groundswell.

I got a better understanding of the whole range of things companies can/should do under the heading of social media. I work mostly on the listening side of the equation (Listen, Talk, Energize, Support, Embrace) and Groundswell helped me better understand the other parts of the social media landscape. It will also help me articulate to clients and prospects why Listening is the first step, and help them make sense of it all.

What I liked best? They tell stories. Stories with real people – and for me this has the most impact. Groundswell on social computing is like Walt Mossberg on computers. They make it real, accessible and actionable for people facing real challenges.

It is all too easy to get sucked in by siren song of technology and widgets in the social computing revolution – but Groundswell wisely avoid this trap and focuses on the “social” aspect instead of the “computing” aspect. This is what makes Groundswell compelling – it’s not about the technology, but about the people.

I give it a 9/10 for relevance, usefulness and readability!

<shameless plug begin> MotiveQuest does Online Anthropology – we collect all the online conversations about a topic, and then study and analyze them to build a model of how that community works. This includes the underlying motivations and drivers as well as competitive and category dynamics. To see an example of our work in action – please go straight to page 89 for Groundswell. <shameless plug end>



6 Responses to Groundswell Book Review

  1. Josh Bernoff says:

    Thanks, Tom! I noticed your review because I’m listening, too.

    Our fervent hope is that people don’t just read this, they get up and do something about it.

    Let us know about your own adventures — we love to listen.

  2. […] a couple of weeks ago in my review I said that Groundswell is the how-to book for marketers wishing to play in a post-cluetrain world […]

  3. Agreed. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was additive to all the good info/perspective that has been published in various Forrester reports on the topic. I recommended the book yesterday at AdAge’s breakfast bites gathering about social media.

    A lot of good examples in there, but I love the Loblaw stuff – just brilliant.

  4. […] . Read more about the phenomenology of social technology at the Groundswell blog, or any of these other great blogs. Technorati Tags: branding, charlene li, forrester research, groundswell, interview, […]

  5. rick clancy says:

    As one of those profiled a bit (right in the intro of all places!), I concur with the great reveiw and the point about how Josh and Charlene told stories about real people. I especially enjoyed the second half of the book where this approach really kicked into gear.

    In any event, depending on how my blog ( and Sony’s social media efforts go, we’ll see if I make it into the sequel.

  6. […] & Smoked TurkeySocial Media Measurement & ROIAbout Me – TO’BFred does “Fix You” by ColdplayGroundswell Book ReviewJOIN the CONVERSATION: Book ReviewViral Marketing is StupidI Get Questions […]

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