Making the Most of the Social Media Groundswell

What’s this term “Groundswell” all about? It’s about people getting what they need from each other through social technologies. I recently had the opportunity to hear Charlene Li, co-author of the book Groundswell..Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies speak at the American Society of Association Executives convention.

Of course, after I heard her speak, I had to buy her book to learn more about this “groundswell” which is taking us over by storm. If you are reading this, you are getting it—you are learning what the groundswell is all about—you are reading a blog—a means of gathering news and information from nontraditional sources. As defined in her book, the Groundswell is “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.”

Basically Li reminded her audience, “The power shift has happened. There is no going back to the old ways.” Her book defines us on a collision course that involves people, technology and economics.

While we are hearing a lot about Facebook and Twitter these days, Li said at this time next year there will be a whole new slew of social media platforms we haven’t heard of today…Who ever thought we’d be tweeting each other? But yet I’ve fallen victim to being caught up in social media like everyone else.

When you venture into this realm, Li says, think about the relationships you want to build. She listed four points to establishing a social media strategy: learn, dialog, help, innovate. There’s a lot of noise out there. The key is for you to listen first and learn and then engage. After you are done listening and learning you will know what to say. Not everyone gets it right the first time, including Walmart that she says finally found success in a check-out blog written by their buyers. “Fail fast, fail smart. It’s okay to fail. It’s all about learning to help those you engage with meet their needs and goals,” she says.

“President Obama made a power shift happen in the November election by using social technology to reach people so they felt empowered. He gave up control but gained so much more by creating a movement,” Li said. “So seek ways to build your vision long term…find something passionate and intimate to build a sense of loyalty with who you are trying to reach.” There’s a lot of noise out there, it’s up to you to figure out how to make sure your signal is heard.

She advised association executives to listen and learn how to turn their organization into a learning organization so members could be more closely connected to each other. Focus on relationships in technologies. Start small, start now. Measure the right things. Prepare to let go of control. What can you really control anyway?  Start listening and learning from people. Find the revolutionaries. The change agents. Are you one of our change agents?

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