Thursday, February 23, 2012

week6r- Managing the Groundswell:Transforming Innovation into Action

Managing the Groundswell:
Transforming Innovation into Action

Chapters 9 & 10 of the book, Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, (Li, Charlene; Bernoff, Josh; Vook), demonstrate what a powerful tool social media can be. This is true for consumers and vendors alike, when the groundswell of social media is used properly to communicate. I emphasize this word- communicate- because the forms and meanings of it are evolving with changing technology. Let’s examine what communicate actually means. Merriam Webster Online defines it as "to convey knowledge of or information about : make known."  This is vastly different from what is happening in the groundswell. The aforementioned book describes the groundswell as, “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.” (p. 9)

Confronted with this brave new world in which customers truly do have a voice, whether or not businesses like it, is a daunting task. Businesses face having to learn a new way of communicating with their customers that supports their objectives, while at the same time actually listening to what the customers are saying. These chapters highlight several recent books that emphasize this point, including Eric von Hippel's book, Democratizing Innovation (available online, free of charge by clicking on the link).

Pictured: An example of's advertising
To illustrate how necessary interactive communication is- not only to succeed in the groundswell, but also to survive- several examples of businesses who have successfully navigated this brave new world of social media are presented. The first such example is, a company that provides data and communications management platforms that enable its customers to run there sales and marketing operations more efficiently and effectively. Sounds important? Yes, indeed it is. The daunting task faced was that because they sell a service, not a static product, their customers expect real-time solutions. The challenge was to find a way to gather the information, analyze it, and adapt to their customers needs in as close to real-time as possible. 

They faced this challenge by launching Idea Exchange (explained in the video above) and asked customers for their input on their- the customer's- development priorities. This application was so successful, bought the company that developed it. As Steve Fisher, the company's VP in charge of the platform puts it,“We can help diminish the political pushing and make it [about] the quality of the ideas.....[the new process is a] real debate about real ideas. You want to surface those and get rid of the crap.” (p.186)

Another example given, and one that is close to my heart, is that of the giant Canadian grocery chain Loblaw's. I lived in the Toronto area for over a decade and I loved Loblaw's, mainly because of their President's Choice brand products. My favorite was their Chocolate Fudge Crackle ice cream! I shopped at Loblaw's when they launched the President's Choice product line. I can tell you first hand that when Loblaw's VP of e-commerce, Jim Osborne described how much the grocery chain does to solicit feedback and improve their President's Choice line, he is speaking the truth. This is definitely not just the usual hype companies make because it sounds good.

In Chapter 10, we see a more recent explosion in the groundswell in action: Twitter. I must admit I only recently joined  Twitter , and solely for the purpose of learning more about it. The thought of adding yet another layer to the constant chatter of this brave new world of Social Media doesn't particularly appeal to me. Having said that, I think  Twitter  will turn out to be a valuable commodity to the marketplace because of the way it facilitates almost instantaneous communication with those businesses who choose to 'tweet", and their customers.
Table 10-1 Illustrates the demographic profile of Twitter users. From: Li, C and Bernoff, J:
Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Media. (2011)

From the demographics outlined in Table 10-1, we can see that regular users of  Twitter  tend to be adults with higher incomes who agree with the statement "I often tell friends about products that interest me." This could be a gold mine or a mine field for businesses, depending on how well they rise to this new challenge.

Some businesses, like McDonald's, are already ahead of the curve with  Twitter  McDonald's  has been very proactive and has even dedicated a headcount of employees whose sole function is managing customer relations on  Twitter . Once such customer is Fadra Nally, a North Carolina mother who works from home and takes her toddler son to the local  McDonald's  on a fairly regular basis. Ms. Nally, a professional writer and blogger, contacted  McDonald's  by  Twitter  to complain that her son got a "girl toy" in his Happy Meal when he was expecting an action figure. This "tweet" was picked up almost immediately by  McDonald's  customer satisfaction team who communicated with Ms. Nally and rectified the situation. The value of the good will  McDonald's  creates with this level of customer service, not to mention the accolades the company received in Ms. Nally's blog (pictured, above-left), is hard to quantify in dollars terms. Suffice it to say that millions in advertising doesn't buy that kind of customer loyalty.

These examples demonstrate how Social Media is changing the world as we know it in many different ways. With this evolution comes new challenges for virtually everyone, from businesses who  must be willing to relinquish control, to people who must learn new ways to communicate in order to stay "in the loop", as we have discussed here today. It does go beyond this as well- with political changes, power shifts, economics, and the list goes on...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

week5o- Navigating the Muddy Waters Between Breaking News and Social Chatter

Navigating the Muddy Waters Between 
Breaking News and Social Chatter

Above: Whitney Houston, date unknown from
Below: Images of 'tweets' announcing Houston's death taken from
The headline reads: Twitter Breaks News of Whitney Houston Death 27 Minutes Before PressThe story goes on to describe how the first "tweet" announcing Houston's death was initially thought to have come from Twitter user 'Big Chorizo @chilimasgrande'. However the piece continues by pointing out the the actual first "tweet" reporting the iconic singer's death actually came from 'Aha Dior M.@AjaDiorNavy' on Twitter some 15 minutes earlier, just 20 minutes after efforts to revive Houston ceased and she was pronounced dead. The Associated Press released

Friday, February 10, 2012

week4r- Groundswell: A Modern-Day Field of Dreams?

Groundswell: A Modern-Day Field of Dreams?

When I starting using the Internet in 1993, it was a tool for quick communication. After a few years applications were added allowing users to send documents, which was a welcome alternative to “snail mail”. By the late 1990’s the Internet had exploded with all sorts of new applications, evolving into the “Information Super-highway” it is today. At first, the thought of reconnecting with long lost friends, keeping up with the folks and events in my hometown, being up to date of the news and events around the world, and being able to look up just about anything, anywhere was appealing to be sure. It didn't take long for the novelty to wear off, and once-purposeful rides on the Information Super-Highway to become a meandering waste of time.

In hindsight, I can see I had unwittingly become part of the so-called “Goundswell”. It was like driving around in a car, with nowhere in particular to go. The book, Groundswell defines the term as, “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations” (p. 9). It goes on to outline that this phenomenon is happening now because of the convergence of people, technology, and economics. Now that I am part of the groundswell, it is time for me to learn how to navigate my way through the increasingly complex network of pages, posts, blogs, podcasts, virtual rooms, and websites.

Downton Abbey, Season 1, Episode 7, Carson the Butler waits for a call on the new telephone

Perhaps the most important insight I've gained so far from the readings is that in order to master the groundswell, one must "concentrate on the relationships, not the technologies" (p.17). This is reassuring, as my reservations about embracing social technology are rooted in my concern about how living in the virtual world can erode one's ability to relate to the real world. I imagine in the early twentieth century there were similar concerns with the arrival of an odd-looking, newfangled device called the telephone. It too quickly became a fixture in homes and businesses alike, and it fundamentally changed the way people communicated and related to each other. As the book outlines, "In the groundswell, relationships are everything. The way people connect with each other—the community that is created—determines how the power shifts." (p18).

From: Li, Charlene and Bernoff, Josh. 2012. Groundswell, p. 43
The groundswell is as much a complex sociological phenomenon as it is a technological revolution. As with other new disciplines, there is a growing body of theoretical constructs and evidence-based research to help us understand the phenomenon and tap into its full potential. The major difference between other disciplines that have evolved and groundswell is that, at least for the time being, the groundswell remains largely driven, constructed, and directed by anyone who cares to participate. (See Figure 1) It is the 21st century version of the Proletariat rising up and claiming their voice, their proverbial seats at the table. In this uprising, the Bourgeoisie are quickly learning that their traditional business and communication strategies- more often than not- are ineffectual. 

So, how do businesses tap into this brave new world? The short answer is that they must be willing to let go of their conventional wisdom, stop talking at consumers, and start listening to the groundswell. They must be willing to hear things they may not like or agree with, and respond on the people's terms. They must be willing not only to learn new ways of relating to their target audiences, but also to learn from their mistakes and evolve.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Censorship on the 'net

Photo uploaded from
So Google is following suit with Twitter in suppressing free speech in favor of Corporate profit. You can read about it in this PCMagazine article I saw when I was catching up on the news this evening. I am not comfortable with this at all- especially considering that my power to protest by boycotting Google products is severely limited by the fact that I am required to use Google products in order to meet the requirements of my courses at school. I am not sure what to do about it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


February 1, 2012

Image downloaded from:
Blogging is new to me, both reading and writing. I have tried many times over the last decade to understand what all the fuss was about- with ‘surfing the net’ in general, and blogging in particular. I must say I still don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Neanderthal resisting the ‘Technology Era’. On the contrary, I am very adept in surfing the ‘net for information, research, communication; I even buy my textbooks digitally. But I just don’t understand what is so compelling that people are developing repetitive strain injuries from typing and texting, becoming addicted to the internet to the point of neglecting their children, or feel inspired to abandon all discretion and judgment in order to share their deepest, darkest secrets on the internet. That is what intrigued me about taking this class- I want to understand it better to see if there is something there for me, if I have just missed the point.

Today I feel like I am all over the map. It is the third week of school and I am just developing a “groove” for myself with my classes. If you looked at my schedule, you’d see the proverbial dog’s breakfast: a collection of classes that are only connected by the fact that they are the last remaining items to be completed so I can graduate, degree in hand, at the end of this semester and proceed to graduate school. (My graduate school aspirations are another part of the mix that I will surely revisit in future postings.)

So, I feel at a loss as to where to start as I embark on my new adventure into the ‘Blogosphere’. What do people blog about, anyway? Is there some kind of protocol or ‘Blog Etiquette’, for lack of a better term? When I Googled the term “Blog Etiquette” the search bar gave me a number of suggestions to narrow it down, including craft, reposting, kids, students, photos, specific years, linking, and comments. I decided to stick with just the simple term, and Voila! In a mere 0.30 seconds it came up with a list of possibilities- 85.5 million, to be exact! (Google, 2012) I might add that it was one of the few times when the results pages were not loaded up with ‘sponsored links’, not a single one in fact.

As I started going through the list, I had to think about, “what clues should I look for to know which one to choose?” I noticed that I gravitated towards those that sounded like legitimate businesses, and steered clear of the ones whose names sounded like they were more of the amateur or home-grown variety. This is important, because if I am to launch a successful blog someday, I must pay attention to the ‘hooks’ and what I call the ‘billboards’- the notices that you might scan, but not click. So I guess you could say that a professional sounding web address, like (Nelson, 2009) and (Babb, 2002) were  hooks, while (Turk, Date unknown) and (Loren, 2011) were billboards

In the end, I went with the PCAdvisor website, not only because it is sponsored by a reputable magazine, but also because it had the most comprehensive, well written, and logically presented advice. At the conclusion of this exercise I have gained some insights into what a potential audience might look for, as well as what to avoid; and I have gathered some useful information to help me successfully navigate the blogosphere in the future. All in all, well worth the time and effort!

Works Cited

Babb, P. (2002, June 7). Blog etiquette: Top 10 dos & don'ts. Retrieved February 1, 2012, from PCAdvisor Expert Advice You Can Trust:
Google. (2012, February 1). Search Results. Google.
Loren, R. (2011, January 11). Guest Blogging Etiquette 101. Retrieved February 2012, 2012, from Fiction Groupie:
Nelson, M. (2009, August 8). 5 Blogging Etiquette Tips for Beginning Bloggers. Retrieved February 1, 2012, from Blogging Basics 101- What Do You Want To Know?:
Turk, L. (Date unknown). Blog Etiquette or Blogtiquette. Retrieved February 1, 2012, from Tip Junkie: