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Groundswell Plus: Please Write a Plus-Sized Book about Today’s Social Media Opportunities

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Beyond Li & Bernoff’s Groundswell03282014-book_gs_lrg

Groundswell was published by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff in 2008 (Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing). I’ve used it a couple times to frame this new opportunity and give social media marketing students a sense of the possibilities of communication beyond liking a snarky comment, link or photo on Facebook. I’ll use the text again but I’m also prowling about for newer texts.

Groundswell is a grandfatherly text by today’s standards. Published (counting fingers: 9-10-11-12) more than five years ago and much has changed. I like the book for the authors’ optimism about building and maintaining communities. And that is precisely where it is starting to wear thin. It turns out building communities is a much more complicated endeavor that works best when flesh and blood people talk with flesh and blood people. The social media piece is a nice and useful add-on, but students need to see a larger picture.

I’ve got other texts that give details about best practices and content strategy. We’ll certainly discuss the disciplines of editorial calendars and fine-tuning their understanding of their audience and tightly defining what their audiences need/want. And, as always, we’ll write and share and write and share and learn what works for ourselves.

Groundswell is firmly focused on taking full advantage of business opportunities. That’s why I first started reading it and it may be why I end up with something else next time. My students tend to be a devoted bunch: they attend this Christian college and their writing (most are English students with a professional writing focus, plus a few journalism and business majors) bubbles up from deep theological streams. Many will say they have no interest in business right up to the point where they realize they actually have to pay off their school loans. That realization attenuates their post-college work vision. One my teaching goals is to help students start to see just how much those deep theological streams can pour through the world of work with all sorts of happy results (an income comes to mind, but also making a difference in real life).

What I’d really like is a Groundswell Plus. I’d like a version of Groundswell that paints a larger picture of the community-building opportunities. Perhaps Groundswell Plus tells stories from the Arab Spring (for instance) or Ai Weiwei and points readers toward organizing for social change. Maybe this plus-sized version of Groundswell could point readers toward unearthing social problems (along with business opportunities) that might respond to collaborative energies.

Because in the end, students want to give themselves to things that matter.

Just like the rest of us.

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2 Responses

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  1. […] like how in Groundswell, Li and Bernoff put people ahead of technology. They like to ask, “Who do you want to make […]

  2. […] I’m done with Groundswell. […]


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