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April 16, 2008

Working with your fans

by Josh Bernoff

Since we've been talking about Groundswell we've developed a base of fans and followers. Just like the fans of your brand they are a creative and powerful force. And also just like the fans of your brand, they make you ask yourself what you really stand for.

Socialtnt_2On Friday, we noticed that one of those fans, Chris Lynn from SocialTNT, had created a blog post and a quiz called "Discover your Groundswell Social Technographics Profile."

Our first reaction was delight. But your fans don't always do things the way you expect. I have to say, this quiz is terrific -- Chris really does seem to have gotten inside the different categories that make up Social Technographics in a very clever way. But of course, it's not identical to the way we do things. In particular, we have a precise set of questions that define Social Technographics -- his are more whimsical. And we determined, after scrutinizing masses of global data, that this is not a segmentation -- people fit into more than one category. Chris, in contrast, gives you a badge for the category you fit into best (although he shows your other tendencies on his charts, too).

Chris is doing a great thing by spreading the word about Social Technographics with these badges – but he’s also building on and modifying our intellectual property. That’s the challenge: how comfortable are we at Forrester with this? There is always the possibility that Chris' quiz will confuse people who may think he's affiliated with us. But after some thought, we realized that we need to embrace Chris and his ideas, since that is, after all, what we say in the book. Your brand belongs to your customers.  He and the rest of our fans are a lot more likely to generate interest for us than to create confusion.

There are limits. Technographics is a trademark of Forrester Research and the content of Groundswell is our intellectual property. We are not giving blanket permission for people to take our intellectual property and do whatever they want with it. Yet ultimately we want to respect and celebrate instances when our fans are energized to make our brands their own.

We’re going through the same tough soul-searching that all companies will need to do. It’s a journey that will take time and experience, and we expect to make mistakes along the way. But we’ll get there, with the help and patience of our fans. And if we can take this journey, you can, too.

In the meantime, take his quiz. It will make you think.


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Dan Smith

Aloha Josh,
Chris' quiz is indeed fun.
I ordered Groundswell on Sunday and I am looking forward to reading it this week. I believe that as long as your work is acknowledged, you should be happy. Admittedly, I approach social media from an academic perspective in which being cited in other publications, popular or academic or on-line is a good thing.
So you may trademark Social Technographics but the social science concepts behind the categories cannot be your intellectual property.
Debate about your concepts and measurement techniques can only improve your business. I think that you know that.
Enjoy the ride.
P.S. I had "creator" as the highest category on the quiz, a rating that I would say is only partially valid.

Chris Lynn

Hi Josh:

I'm glad you guys enjoyed the quiz. In order to explain the idea of the Technographic profiles, I really wanted to come up with something that was both fun and educational. I hope the social media marketing community finds value in it.

Also, thanks for sharing your transformation. As I tell my clients and readers: Sometimes it's hard letting go, but you have to trust the Internet community. Call me naive, but I feel the majority of the web community is intelligent enough to distinguish a sanctioned work from an unsanctioned work. The question then comes back to one of intellectual property and fair use.

True, Technographics is a Forrester trademark, and yes the content presented in the book is copyrighted, but the ideas are not. The great thing about living in the US is that we can debate and discuss ideas.

Before the concept of POST was described and named in Groundswell, teachers, professors and practitioners have been discussing similar theories of building a strategy. In PR, we call it a PR plan. The same can be said for Technographics. We've always been taught to listen and know our audiences, and good marketers do that. What I enjoyed was the way you guys described it.

Think about Ford and the Black Mustang Club calendar. Does Ford own all the photos that someone takes of their car? Does one entity own discussion around an idea? Even if the idea is your product, trying to stifle discussion is similar to trying to stop the "groundswell."

I'd love to hear what you and Charlene think. It would also be great if the community on the whole discussed this idea: When does enthusiasm become infringement? And when is it a good time to try and stop it? If you do try and stop it, how will it affect your brand? Will the actions you take send a message that contradicts your brand image or messaging?



Josh Bernoff

Great points, Chris. I can't wait to see how the community reacts to this.

And I'm looking forward to helping Forrester to become a part of the community, just as we are helping our clients to do.

Eric Wilbanks

Intellectual property.

Challenge: Name one idea in the history of mankind that does not owe it's very origins to somoene other than the supposed author. How's that for "property" disputes?

Maybe it would be helpful if we stopped thinking of ourselves as intellectual creators...and instead realized that we are merely creatively rearranging the thoughts and ideas of those before us--who did the same thing with the knowledge they inherited.

Just a thought...but certainly not altogether original. :-)

Graham Hill


My copy of Groundswell arrived from the USA this morning. I am looking forward to reading it.

I am pleased that you are taking an adult approach to Chris' quiz. Having taken the quiz, I find it hard to believe that a serious customer of Forrester would confuse it with your original work.

Putting Forrester's commercial goals to one side, isn't Chris' reworking of the Social Technographics ideas (with appropriate attribution) partly what the Groundswell is all about? In particular, isn't it what Chapter 7 - Energising the Groundswell is all about?

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

Account Deleted

I think you guys made the right decision. The new world requires us to give away a lot for free (i.e., information) in order to sell the really valuable stuff (i.e., insight). But it's not clear the line is really all that clear when one becomes the other. Please continue to blog about this issue and whether you decide to draw the line in a different spot in the future (and why, of course).

BTW: I took the quiz (I'm a creator). It was dead on - my family does miss me.

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