Groundswell book cover

Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, top researchers at Forrester Research, are clearly on a winner with their forthcoming book on social media, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies

On the Groundswell blog you can read the Table of Contents and download a fifteen page excerpt.

The promise the book’s promotion on Amazon makes to companies is that, from reading the book, they will learn how to:

  • Evaluate new social technologies as they emerge
  • Determine how different groups of consumers are participating in social technology arenas
  • Apply a four-step process for formulating your future strategy
  • Build social technologies into your business including monitoring your brand value, talking with the groundswell through marketing and PR campaigns, and energizing your best customers to recruit their peers

The reviews I’ve read so far on blogs have all been congratulatory. And on the Social Media Today site, of which I am a member, Jerry Bowles declared the authors Bloggers of the Week.

B.L.Ochman has a glowing review. She is unequivocally enthusiastic:

Get out your magic marker and your sticky notes, and go sit in a corner and read this book. It’s not only the most lucid explanation of how social media has changed the world; it’s a fun read. Buy a copy for all of your clients.

Jacob Morgan is also very positive about the book and recommends it. He emphasizes its value for company executives and others interested in taking action on social media:

If you are company executive or just some guy looking to get involved in social media, this book is really going to open your eyes. In fact this book should be required reading for any company seeking to dive into the social media pool…seriously.

David Berkowitz is another fan, with just one quibble. The fan bit is up front:”…is the best book on social media I’ve ever read, and it may be the best book ever written on the subject.” The quibble is: “…it doesn’t dive deep enough into what goes wrong and how some campaigns could have been better.”

With my interest in the international scene, especially in the Asia Pacific, I’m wondering how much coverage the book gives to developments outside North America. The blurb on the Groundswell blog says:

Groundswell is based on hard consumer data and experience with dozens of companies, large and small, from Procter & Gamble to Ernst & Young to a tiny but wildly successful winery in South Africa.

From the list of case studies, the winery is evidently Stormhoek, which many of us have heard about from the inimitable Hugh MacLeod. With that exception, France’s Credit Mutuel and maybe a few more that I can’t readily discern, the list of case studies or “examples” used seems to be dominated by the North American scene. If the authors’ employer, Forrester, were simply a North American company, that would no doubt be quite understandable. But what the company’s website declares as its “worldwide presence” includes, as well as the United States and Canada, the following locations:

Australia, Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom

However, it appears that for a number of those the local presence is a sales office. The research centers are confined to North America and Europe.


My concern about how clearly applicable or not the arguments in the book are going to be in the wider world are perhaps not well founded. But I was a tad concerned by the following statement in the excerpt:

Technology, the second force driving the groundswell, has changed everything as far as people’s social interactions are concerned. For one thing, nearly everyone’s online – in 2006, that meant 73 percent of Americans and 64 percent of Europeans, for example. (Excerpt, p. 10)

“Nearly everyone”? Ahem, it’s not a lot more than 16% in China (growing certainly and the percentages for Beijing and Shanghai are higher, but still not as high as for North America, although approaching the European).

Yes, in the resources for reviewers, there are some tables which include consumer data from a wider group of countries including Japan and South Korea. What I looked for in vain so far is evidence of involvement at the corporate level in some of these “other” countries.

It may be that the data is not there, or not accessible. Perhaps the book spells that out.

And in general it may be that there is more global referencing in the book than is evident from what I’ve read so far. But as the book is not released till April 21 and then allowing a couple of weeks at least for Amazon to deliver it across the ocean (these days they seem to ship to Australia via Europe, if the last couple of deliveries are anything to go by), I guess I will just have to wait another month or so to find out.

Perhaps too there were review copies sent to bloggers outside North America and I just haven’t picked up on the reviews. If you know of any, I trust you will leave a comment here.

In the meantime, I am sure the book will sell like hotcakes, especially in North America.

(Update April 5: I’m really impressed with the response to this post by the folks at Forrester – as well as the thoughtful comment from co-author Josh Bernoff, I’ve had constructive communications from others at Forrester, via email, and a review copy of the book is being sent – that for me says kudos to Forrester and Harvard Business Press, because in the past some other authors have been told their publishers will not ship review copies outside the US.)

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Des Walsh is an executive coach. He helps business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide deal effectively with the feeling of being left behind or overwhelmed, or both, about social media – especially LinkedIn - and how to engage safely and effectively with social media to help grow their business. Connect with Des on LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter. And to stay in the loop, get Des’s weekly Social Business Bites (select snippets of his "best of the week" online finds).