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May 19, 2008
7 questions with Josh Bernoff
I met Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff last year in Boston on book business.
Josh told me he was writing his first book, "Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies" (co-authored with Charlene Li) about social media (or social technologies, as Forrester calls it).
Now available, Groundswell is a great primer for those ready to use social media for their business. It's packed with research, advice and case studies.
We asked Josh a few questions about creating a groundswell for your business:
What's a groundswell, and is it something I need to ask my doctor about?
The groundswell is a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things that they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations. We think the social trend is the important part since that's a steady, powerful change, while the technology can churn rapidly. You should only ask your doctor if you're hearing these voices in your head even when your computer is off.
The number one mistake companies make in planning their social media strategies is:
Concentrating on the technology first. If you decide on the objectives you want to accomplish, you may get where you're going. If you say "let's start a blog" or "let's start a community" you may be calling me 6 months from now saying "I got this off the ground, now how is this supposed to be helping me?" This is actually a lot more common problem than technology problems or authenticity issues, which get all the discussion.
What's the secret ingredient at companies that understand the value of two-way communication with customers and why is that ingredient so hard to replicate at other companies?
Most managers say they want to hear from customers. They don't. They like the idea of a mass of consumers but individually, customers are quirky. Most companies keep them at arm's length with phone systems and call centers and focus groups. Why are you stuck on the other side of that one-way glass? Dell is an example of a company that now gets it. Michael Dell talks in terms of 100 million customer touches per year. When you think of those touches as an asset, you've changed your thinking. For your company to attain that thinking, it helps to build a social application. It will slowly and inexorably change your attitudes to be more customer-centric, especially at is succeeds and spreads to other applications. It takes years, but it works.
Is a there a predominant group or department inside organizations that own most social media strategies, or is it all over the map, dependent upon the industry?
It is all over the map. It's often PR, advertising, or somewhere else in marketing. Sometimes it's started by technology people or agencies. It's not the industry or department that matters, it's who's passionate enough to get past all those internal obstacles.
What's the most fascinating piece of data you discovered in researching the book?
There are so many. The fact that at Procter & Gamble, a community (beinggirl.com) is four times as effective per dollar spent as ordinary advertising. The fact that one guy, who goes by the handle "Predator," probably saved Dell at least $1 million by answering technical questions in its community forum. Or the amazing concept that 41% of online Koreans are in social networks. If people like data, they can profile their own customers at groundswell.forrester.com.
Awhile back, a well-known blogger considered calling his book "Blog or Die." (Calmer heads prevailed.) Have any companies died from lack of, or improper use of blogging?
Deaths are rare. Much more common are boring, laundered corporate blogs that nobody wants to read. They just reinforce the idea you are that faceless corporation that we always suspected. What ends up dying is the blog, not the company.
What's your favorite metric to measure the ROI of social media?
The whole point is, it depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If you have a goal of sales or generating leads, then for lord's sake measure sales or leads. If you're generating awareness, do a pre- and post-survey. But page views and the number of friends your app has on Facebook are worth nothing unless you've tied them back to existing measures of business success.
Interested in a free copy of Josh's book? Go to the Society for Word of Mouth (registration is free) and add a comment expressing your interest to this forum post. Deadline for the book giveaway is Friday, May 23 at 5 pm CDT. We'll give 5 copies away (to be drawn randomly).
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Great interview Jackie! Your readers may also be interested in listening to my podcast interview with Charlene Li, Josh's co-author. The podcast can be found at http://tinyurl.com/59qxhn
Great post and certainly a book I'll be checking out.
I think it's fair to say that social media isn't so much a tool to be used but rather a mindset / culture that needs to be adopted by an organisation.
Having said that, having the data, case studies et al to 'prove' its worth will go a long way to helping engender the support it needs throughout an organisation.
"Most managers say they want to hear from customers. They don't. They like the idea of a mass of consumers but individually, customers are quirky."
Oh so very true. Because as much as we market, analyze, segment, de-segment, re-segment, and categorize, clients are no more or no less than their own entity. You can never assume that one client is any more like a half-dozen other clients, just because they come from the same industry, or background, or market.
I just read this book and blogged about it (http://mizzinformation.blogspot.com/2008/06/what-do-jurassic-park-and-groundswell.html). Hopefully I don't come across as an ass-kissing stalker when I say that I think the book is a must-read.