For my learning pleasure, Stephanie L. Cion of WELLalarm, treated me to a social networking seminar hosted by MIT Enterprise Forum to promote the social media guide book, Groundswell, a book by two Forrester Research analysts, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. I knew what I'd be exposed to in terms of socialness, but what I didn't know was what to wear, and ended up the only girl in the room in pink velour, surrounded by a sea of black suited banker types. After a while, a few more girls in colors trickled in. In the end, I was mistaken for a member of the media, so the outfit was perfect. I do, however, need a snazzier pant or pencil skirt suit, which means only one thing: shopping excuse.
About Groundswell the Book, and Socialness
Why did I go to hear what two research analysts had to say about social networking? I went because the authors are research analysts. For a minute of my life, I worked in the Research Department of the Food network, and it was fascinatingly wonderful. Through focus groups and other methods, you could very nearly get the answers to why a program was flailing (Al Roker's food show was the main program in question at the time...it was discovered that people responded negatively to the silliest hand gesture he did...and when he ate chocolate).
Josh Bernoff was giving the Groundswell presentation for the MIT Enterprise Forum event. He brought to light to a few considerations for social networking:
- Social networking has opened a whole new arena of types of focus groups and involvement. Voluntary focus groups, unpaid focus groups, fun focus groups, anything focus groups. All because people want to participate and be heard from the comfort of their own homes. Or mobile devices. He showed a case study where one man who had voluntarily posted thousands of posts in a Dell support forum did it because he liked to hear people say "Thank you." Others do it because they like to be trend setters. Some do it because they like to feel powerful. Whatever the motivation, people are speaking online and they are being listened to - by each other (ie normal people) and by the companies making the products they are chatting about. If you get the book, look for the example of why CBS brought back Jericho (angry fans sent them thousands of pounds of nuts), and whether or not that was a successful decision.
- Beyond focus groups, however, is relationship management. Those of you who participate in social networking know that your relationships with your people is crucial. You want to reply to them, give them new information to respond to about yourself (albeit carefully), show them cool links, and dazzle them with your energy.
- Brand management. Whether you want to get involved with social networking or not, your customers may do it for you - in a good light or bad. So it's best to be familiar with the tools they are using, so that if you need to hire someone to fix damage, or continue to spin good vibes, you will be able to make a more informed decision about a social investment. Josh kicked off his presentation with the Comcast video posted at YouTube, created by a fluent social networking guy, when his Comcast service man came to fix his cable, needed to call Comcast for some reason, was put on hold for one hour, and fell asleep during that time. This video got millions of views. No such thing as bad publicity? As Josh pointed out, this video is the first video that comes up in YouTube for a search for "comcast." It was added to YouTube a year ago. As of this writing (5/16/08), the video ranks on page 1 in Google, #9.
For another example of social networking gone bad, read Groundswell to find out what the authors discovered about a cease and desist letter regarding a photo posted online of Barbara Streisand's house.
Should you buy the book, Groundswell? Yes. I am. I don't buy many business books. But Groundswell will have charts and case studies. And it's from research analysts. They only consider cold hard facts! Which are really very fun. It will open my mind to knew ways to use social networking to promote my business or pieces of my business. And by "pieces" of my business, I mean anything from a sexy silk sleep mask, to website design, to social networking services and strategy. My strategy is not to force brand and messages down people's news feeds (Facebook term), but to let anyone know who is interested. If interested, they will contact. Or purchase a product. The end. That is how social networking works.