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May 17, 2011

The Fifth (!) Annual Forrester Groundswell Awards, and a look back

by Josh Bernoff

We had this idea in 2007 that we could surface the best, most interesting, most effective social applications with an awards program. At the time, I never realized just what a fascinating variety of programs we'd encounter. So we kept doing it.

The purpose of this post is two-fold -- to officially announce and open up the site for entries to the 2011 awards, and to celebrate some of the most amazing entries of the last five years.

First the facts. Entries for the 2011 Forrester Groundswell Awards are open here (or just click above on the Awards tab.) If you want to win, start by reading the rules here. The most important thing to remember is that your entry is public -- the text of your entry is available for everyone to see and vote on -- and that the judges here at Forrester Research are far more impressed by results than sizzle. So be sure you include the facts and numbers that prove your application accomplished a business goal. Remember that you can include a link to any additional information you want, anywhere on the Web.

The entry deadline is August 3. Fair warning: don't bother appealing for an extension. Get your entry ready and in before then. And if you're a vendor or agency, avoid one embarassment: be sure your client is ok with your submitting the work you did for them before you turn it in.

There are four divisions -- for Business-To-Consumer applications North America, for B2C applications globally, for Business-To-Business applications, and for management applications. Within the divisions are categories classified by business objectives. You can see all the categories on the left nav of the awards entry page. Choose your category by your objective, but be aware we sometimes reclassify entries to put them into the category where they are most likely to win.

We'll be announcing most of the winners at three Forrester events: the Content & Collaboration Forum in Boston (Management Division), the Consumer Forum in Chicago (B2C NA division), and the Marketing & Strategy Forum EMEA in London (B2C International Division).

Enough with the facts. Here are some of the most startling, interesting, and innovative winners in the last five years:

Aveo graphic In 2007 Weber Shandwick's cool promotion to tell college students about the Chevy Aveo won in the Talking category. They recruited teams at seven colleges campuses to live inside an Aveo vehicle for five days, blogging, streaming, Facebooking, and YouTubing their experiences and leaving the car only to go to class and to the bathroom. Competing on the attention they got, the contestants generated connections with a million fellow students and built 217 million impressions overall. Does your social application generate thsi much excitement from your actual customers?

Hersheys_bliss 2008 was our first year for candidates posting their entries online. We received over 150. Perhaps the most fun application of that year was House Party's promotion for Hershey's Bliss chocolates, which won the Energizing award. Hershey signed up 10,000 people to give parties in their houses, reaching 129,000 people through the parties, and, through the connections on the associated site, 7 million more. We love the way this application used real-world interactions -- parties -- and enhanced them with online traffic. Another great practice -- they tested attitudes with a survey and proved the promotion was effective in changing people's preferences. House Party continues to generate successes, most notably with its Windows 7 parties, which won an international award in 2010.

2009 marked Mediasite the debut of the B2B division. B2B social applications rarely get the attention that B2C campaigns do, but quietly, B2B companies are embracing communities and other social tools to connect their customers, many of which have a natural affinity for each other. Mediasite, a Web streaming company, won in the B2B Energizing category with a video-laden application that extended the reach of its annual customer event through interviews, streaming, Twitter, and a virtual trade show. We featured this impressive application in Empowered, since it shows so well the power of amplifying the voices of B2B customers.

Giffgaff In 2010, we broke out international entries from North America. We were delighted to learn about GiffGaff, a mobile operator in the UK that lets its own customers design its mobile services, an application that won in the Embracing category. GiffGaff has no stores, no phones, and no call center -- just low-cost service and a user base that spreads the word on its behalf.

Looking back on these applications, what stands out most is how they respect, embrace, and energize customers. These are companies that recognize that it's about what your customers say, not what you say -- the true message of social computing.

I can't wait to see what you'll be sending in for the 2011 awards. Let fly!

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