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May 23, 2008

Help me get your boss to understand social technology

by Josh Bernoff

Do you ever get the impression that all of us "social media" types are just talking to each other? That we are reinforcing each others' ideas and supporting each other, but that we keep talking to the other insiders?

That the rest of the world looks at us as if we have three heads?

Groundswell_insiders Take a look at this diagram, which I guess was inspired by the graphic on the cover of the book.

The inner circle is us. The insiders, the people who know about this stuff. We talk a lot to each other. We Twitter. We blog. We build communities and start companies. We (that is, you) have bought thousands of copies of Groundswell and raised it to within the top 300 books on Amazon. Thank you.

I know many of you like the book from the dozens of blog posts and hundreds of tweets I read. If I read nothing but Twitter I would think Groundswell was bigger than Indiana Jones.

Outside this circle, in the larger circle, are general business managers. Most of them have heard of Facebook and Web 2.0, but they don't pay that much attention to it. They don't have a way to understand its relevance for them. Despite our most diligent efforts most of them have never heard of Groundswell.

Looking at these two circles, I have seen that I need your help, and you need mine. So let's work together.

Here's why you need my help. You can't get funding until the people in the outer circle begin to believe. That includes your boss, your CMO, your CFO, and your CEO. It includes the other managers you work with and your agencies and partners, too. Life would be a lot easier if they understood.

Groundswell is designed for these people. If they would read it, they would understand. And as much as I love it when people like Mike Walsh say they will buy hundreds of copies, I really think they should buy the book for themselves.

And that's why I need your help. I'm not asking you to buy a copy for all the managers you know (although I wouldn't complain). I'm asking for your ideas on how to reach these folks. How can I energize the insiders to help spread the word?

Think carefully. Because we're already twittering and blogging and Facebooking and using all the tools we use . . . and we are reaching each other. This is great. But how do we reach them? How do we reach the managers who aren't using social technology?

Somewhere in the collection of very creative people reading this -- in your collective brains -- is an idea of how we can make general businesspeople aware of Groundswell and raise their consciousness, not just about the book, but about the phenomenon of the groundswell. Sure that would be good for me. But it would make your lives a whole lot easier, too.

Think about it a little. Comment here, or, even better, please join the discussion we've set up. If you join me you become a Groundswell insider. All I need are your ideas.

Thanks. I know we can do this, but I need your help.


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Trisha Jackson

I am absolutely having this issue right now as I read over my own performance review. I've been coined "The Focus Group of 1" (which, by the way, lead to a great blog title idea) because of the ideas/tools I present that will help promote our products and services. In fact, I've also been accused of not looking at things from the "consumerist perspective" when in reality, my work is compeltely centered around it - just in the online environment. I'll join the discussion to provide my insight on how to reach our executives.


Great idea - guys bringing both sides together IS the important issue of 2008-09

Debra Felske

I have noticed the same trend. I tell my clients how to improve their business through social networking and I get a blank stare. I still feel word of mouth to these non-internet types is the best method, and I continue to show new sites, ideas and strategies in my monthly newsletter, which is usually the only internet contact my clients have. I got a great comment from a client who lost my number and looked it up on the net. She was amazed at how easy it was to find me because of my youtube, facebook, squidoo etc. She is in real estate so I think she got the message.


I've been reading the Cluetrain Manifesto this week- and I quoted the answer to your question on my blog this week-


Its imperative that we start reaching out verbally - to spread the importance of SM in our daily business activities.

Benito Castro

Results, results and results. And using the same language, but introducing them in a different order wich give them good results.

From Sevilla (Spain)

Adele Mcalear

Reach business managers through traditional channels: business magazines, newspapers, TV and radio; networking orgain, trade and marketing associations that focus on other tactics. You can also reach them through the back door; those mid-level managers who have influence with execs, like product, brand and customer service managers. You need to go to where these people spend their time, and work it from their perspective. Out of the echo chamber and into their worlds.

Beth Lambert

To get the attention from a higher up you need to offer a value proposition outside of social media.

Social Media should be presented as something that maybe a productive extension to a current online marketing success story.

Prove that your social media strategy can indeed affect the bottom line, extend current efforts, be cost effective, easy enough to implement.

I recommend delivering competitors and partner examples. An of course, case studies are always good.


Posted a reply in the discussion. But a reiteration here:

The first step is getting business leaders to play around with the media. Forget all the pitches about how great and wonderful social media is. If your audience has no personal experience with any of these tools, they'll never get it.

Simple step: get the laggards to get LinkedIn, to Digg, to Twitter on their own until they get the feel.

If the feel isn't there, nothing else is. Hope that helps.


Marketing - Marketing Marketing. Like IBM's and P&G's outside innovation tools. Pick a pain point or some other benefit and market it. Social Media /ERP /CRM is all an expense until you can justify the the return. One thorny problem solved via an extended socialnetwork, one big customer deal. One more efficiant metood of communication - whatever it takes to demontrate that return.

Jason Preston

One of the best ideas I've seen is at the back of Seth Godin's book "The Dip."

It's a page with a bunch of lines on it, and it asks you to write down the name of someone who needs to read this book, then give it to them. Then you are supposed to ask them to write down the name of someone THEY know needs to read the book, and give it to THAT person.

Just having some organized way of handing the book around isn't necessarily going to generate SALES, but it will definitely increase AWARENESS if even a few people follow the instructions.

Dana Theus

Great post. I hit a similar wall today, wrote a blog post about it and when I came here to get the link to the Technographics profile tool found your post!

I think one of the issues is simple usability (as I blogged about). But there are other issues, too, not the least of which is the difference between a generic social network media tool that you tailor to your own needs and network (such as Facebook and LinkedIn) and an already applied (i.e., tailored-to-their-job/life-need) social network community. There aren't too many of the latter developed and in general use for the business community. I'm trying to develop one, and it's not so easy when you're trying to bring value to folks that don't have existing Social Network experience. I'll go to the discussion group too, but wanted to comment here as well.

Thanks for your good work and open discussion of this stuff.

My blog post is here: http://m-2-m.typepad.com/m2m/2008/05/unusability-the-social-webs-dirty-little-secret.html)


Phil makes a good point...getting people to go hands on in terms of the tools is right on and as a WOM/Social Media navigator, one I'll integrate.

I'll add this: it's a perception of risk. Part of it is financial, but that comes w/ROI, which we all know isn't quite there yet...and may never be given that social is a qualitative experience.

The big factor is to persuade (or help execs reach it on their own) that the bigger risk is NOT testing out social media as a business obective.

Inch by inch, it's a cinch.


thank yo

Deb Orton

I may be a little late to this (discussion) party, but I thought I'd weigh in. No doubt I'm late, because I may be one of those Business Managers who is dabbling in Social Media and knows it has potential, but still struggles with the world of what is already known and proven.

I recently attended a local meeting on this topic, and spent most of my time listening to the frustration about how to reach executives and decision-makers. I finally spoke up to offer a perspective:
1) no matter how much things change, they always stay the same...meaning...approach senior managers with a problem AND a solution.

2) Understand their problems and their vision. Present the case in the context of both.

3) Get senior managers engaged with the medium by spending time to get them set up with tools. I am now monitoring blogs because we pulled together a workshop where the outcome was not only the imperative to participate, but an easy method to do so.

Simplistic view, from a pragmatic business manager.

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