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September 5, 2008 Vol. 1, Issue 8


Can Twitter, Facebook, wikis, blogs, and other social technologies really add value to an enterprise? The key is understanding the opportunity that these tools represent, write two vice presidents at Forrester Research.

Social technologies have exploded in popularity in recent years, creating a movement that technology watchers have dubbed “Web 2.0.” According to Charlene Li and Josh Berfnoff of Forrester Research, the convergence of people, economics, and technology has created a groundswell that represents “an important, irreversible, complete different way for people to relate to companies and to each other.” In their new book groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies, Li and Bernoff identify strategies for taking advantage of new opportunities to interact with customers, employees, and the public through social technologies.

groundswell offers a primer on the basics of social technologies, including blogs, wikis, social networking sites, tags, RSS, and widgets, as well as a framework for evaluating the utility of these tools for a given purpose. It is filled with both case studies of successful applications of these technologies as well as hard data on user profiles. Perhaps its most valuable contribution is what Bernoff and Li call “a social technographic ladder,” a typology that segments users into six levels of activity:

Creators are likely to publish a blog, upload a video they created, or post articles that they’ve written.

Critics are likely to post ratings of products or services, comment on blogs, or contribute to online forums.

Collectors are likely to use RSS feeds, add tags to web pages or photos, or “vote” for a web site.

Joiners are likely to have a profile on a social networking site such as myspace or Facebook.

Spectators are likely to read blogs, watch user-created videos, or read online forums or reviews.

Inactives are unlikely to do any of the above.

While groundswell is aimed primarily at a for-profit audience, it is a useful reference for anyone who wants to understand the current landscape of social technologies and their potential applications in a professional setting.


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