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July 10, 2008

Groundswell is a bestseller. Thank you. And a few reflections.

by Josh Bernoff

Bw_bestsellers Thank you for buying so many copies of Groundswell.

According to the July 3 issue of Business Week, we were a bestseller in the previous week. Number 15 out of 15 spots, but hey, we made the list -- most business books don't get close to that, especially with the staying power of books like "The Four-Hour Work Week" making it harder to climb up those charts.

We've been in the top 20 on Amazon's business books list and the top ten on 800-CEO-READ, which does corporate bulk orders, but this is the first bestseller recognition in a mainstream publication.

I'm reflecting a little on how we got here.

First of all, the speaking schedule has been brutal. When you write a book, you spend a lot of time alone. But despite all the wonderful online techniques, there's no substitute for shoe leather and airline miles -- people want to hear about it. It got to the point where I began to think that every businessperson in America must have heard Charlene and me speak. But at every new engagement, there were 20 or 100 or 700 new faces and most of them had never seen these ideas before. Generating word of mouth is hard work.

Groundswell_insiders_2 What I learned from talking to all of you is that first, there is a huge curiosity about Groundswell phenomena and business. Businesspeople really want to know how all this stuff works, who's doing it, which consumers are participating, and how. Concrete examples and statistics are wonderful things to talk about. It lets all the air out of the balloon (bubble?) and gives people something they can hold onto.

Sometimes I worry what will happen when we speak to a more Web 2.0-savvy audience, like the OMMA Social event I did last month. But even there, providing examples of real business value and a roadmap for strategy opened some eyes. For the insiders, it helps to have frameworks to work from and examples in appropriate business context.

So here are some takeaways from four solid months of talking about the book (and a little success).

  1. Here's what people remember: Stories. Statistics. Frameworks. Make sure you have them. And tell them with flair.
  2. The groundswell is about people. When you talk about this, make sure you talk about people -- both ordinary consumers and businesspeople. People can relate to this.
  3. Everybody takes away something different. Charlene spoke Supernova recently and the person who wrote it up for Knowledge@Wharton wrote about our Mini USA brand monitoring example. Other people end up talking about Procter & Gamble's beinggirl.com or Dell's Flaming Notebook blog post or the POST method. The lesson is that you should have a lot of stuff they can hang onto because you never know what will catch an individual's imagination.

All of your support has been wonderful. I like to hear stories about people who bought one for everyone in your department, or all your clients. I'd love to stay on the bestseller list. I'm not going to tell you to buy more copies. What I really want is this:

  • Tell your boss.
  • Tell your friends.
  • Tell your boss' friends and your friends' bosses.

That's how the groundswell discussion will go mainstream.

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Comments

John Gillett

There's no doubt that word-of-mouth is the most effective form of marketing on the planet -- it is also the most difficult to accomplish.

You're right on about including people in any presentation -- every audience loves a great story, and they are eager to share those stories with colleagues...

Becky Carroll

Glad to hear it has been so successful. I am using it as the textbook for my class at UCSD Extension, Marketing via New Media. The students love it!

There ya go: another 30 copies each quarter.

Mark Cahill

I bought this book as it is highly relevant to my MBA Thesis "To what extent online social networks have changed Business to Consumer marketing". Groundswell has a solid framework to enable the understanding and utilisation of Social networks and social media, which is backed up by data and Case studies. I have bought (and read) about 20 books on this topic and this by far the best. I am going to Digg, Twitter and del.icio.us this book

Ron Towns

Thanks for the post Josh. Wow this book sounds phenomenal - can't wait to pick up a copy. If you guys were into this book I would highly suggest reading John Assaraf and Murray Smith's new book, "The Answer".. its about how to grow any business while taking advantage of natural laws, quantum physics, and proven procesees by entrerpreneurs... www.readtheanswer.com/index.php?RTA=web2

Nick Stamoulis

Congratulations! We remember reading this blog before it was even launched. Looking forward to picking up a copy ourselves. Great to hear it has been such a success!

renny gleeson

Loved it. And the best for me was that you didn't just make a book that reflected the past, you made one that offers an actionable plan for the future. Nice work!

Phil Baumann

I hope the Groundswell doesn't go Mainstream. Really I do.

I hope instead: the Mainstream goes Groundswell.

Mary Lorenz

It doesn't surprise me that the book is doing so well. Not only is it full of great ideas, it's entirely engaging. My boss initially bought the book for herself, another copywriter and me, but we all liked it so much we suggested our VP of marketing have the entire department read it - and he took us up on our suggestion immediately.

Diane Baron

Josh, as I said this past week...I first heard about the book on NPR. I ran out and got it, and as you know it inspired me. I was very concerned that our organization would just go out and create blogs and communities without regard for what we were trying to accomplish -- you know -- this is the answer, now what is the question! Your presentation to us really helped our team think about first what we want to do, and then second, how do we go about doing it. I think that you may have the first business cult book and following!!! Bravo.

Teoh Yi Chie

I'm reading this great book at the moment. This book's really personal because I can safely say that I'm part of the groundswell, and I like the business part of it. It's very relevant but I wonder how it will hold up in the future.

David Coronado

I selected this book to review for a graduate course on online advocacy and social media. I'm glad I did and highly recommend it to all of my colleagues.

Maureen O'Reilly

Congratulations to LiBernoff. Just spent the day reading Groundswell in order to give a report back to my healthcare leadership course co-students. Stories and examples were really illuminating, and I appreciated that, in contrast to all the wince-inducing "business books" available at your local airport gift shop, failure wasn't an off-limit topic. I did find myself floundering, though, at the repeated use of phrases and acronyms, like "skunk work", "ROI", "widgets". I had to keep paging back to find the definitions or contextual uses to keep myself on track. So here's my Groundswellian, altruistic, and psychic-income-producing suggestion: some sort of guide at the end of the book [pre-Notes?] to techno-, business and other terms with which your readers may not be savvy. If you're wiki, it may make the 8th printing!

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