Perspectives on Connected Innovation and Collaboration

Don Smith’s Sabbatical Insights

Interview with Josh Bernoff of Groundswell

with 4 comments

photoGroundswell is my playbook for understanding social media and how it integrates with people and business. In it, co-Author Josh Bernoff, provides frameworks for understanding social media and best practices from proven exercises, like Best Buy’s Blue Shirt Nation. Groundswell defines the POST method, introduces the concept of technographics, and outlines the varying levels of social media complexity, from listening to co-creation. Groundswell transformed my perspectives on social media and inspired me to move ahead in my sabbatical quest. I am a big fan of Josh’s. When I found out that I had a chance to meet him, I was charmed.

On March 18th, I had the delight of lunching with Josh and his colleague Jocelyn Walters, both of Forrester Research. We met at the Cambridge Legal Sea Foods and shared stories and insights collected from our professional and personal experiences. Here is a snapshot of the insights I collected from our conversation.

We talked a bit about social media analytics. I asked Josh what the key indicators or metrics are for managing on-line communities or sentiment flows, like Twitter. Josh was straightforward. He commented that social media analytics only tell part of the story, that off-line research is still required to validate new methods. Josh also added, that when using social media analytics, two things are highly usable – trends and inflections (spikes). When listening to a sentiment flow over time, one should be able to parse out trends from conversations. Spikes or inflection points require action. During a spike, something materially changes to the conversation and requires attention. Was there a product recall or significant event of similar nature? Spikes should trigger response.

I asked Josh using a baseball metaphor, “What inning is social media in?” He commented “It’s early.”

I also asked Josh about how an organization with a diverse brand portfolio could work across silos. Josh commented that “it’s all about best practices.” And that simple, portable frameworks allow for custom tailored applications per  brand. Finally, Josh added that social media isn’t for every brand. You need audience scale or the right mix of technographics.

Josh warned against offering health professionals “widgets” to add to their professional websites. Something about “You’re nuts if you think that will work.”

We talked about the effect of time. What happens to Mom when her kids grow up? If Mom joins a community when her child is 6 months, does she move on to a new community during the toddler years? Pre-school years? We agreed that social media, specifically branded communities,  have not done a good enough job of addressing time factors in their design and utility. How should a brand plan for such consumers movements in and out of communities over a lifetime? People change. More research is required.

Classic Josh – “Social media investment is growing. My phone won’t stop ringing. Different industry groups by the week.”

Finally, we chatted about Twitter and Twitter search. Josh gave me a live demo using certain branded kewords. Very cool. It led to this video, my first Flip Mino recording.


Written by Donald Smith

March 25, 2009 at 10:00 pm

4 Responses

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  1. I like the point of adding a time dimension to online social communities. In another sense, technology advances over time. Fanncy tools now may become part of everyday life 10 years later. The dmographics of people who have an email account 15 years ago are difinitely not the same as that of now days. So it would be critical to identify who are our consumers of certain brand, and to build/locate the online communities, at the curent time, which can represent our consumers.

    Wenyi Wang

    March 27, 2009 at 2:06 pm

  2. Interesting stuff, good interview. Can you add some additional context to Josh’s comment @ “widgets” – “Josh warned against offering health professionals “widgets” to add to their professional websites. Something about “You’re nuts if you think that will work.””

    Christopher Keohane

    April 9, 2009 at 7:14 am

    • We talked about a widget being a web app that would reside on a helth pro’s blog or website, but display messaging or tools from the content provider. Think of Google friend connect or even your average branded Facebook app.

      Donald Smith

      April 9, 2009 at 2:19 pm

  3. Hi Don:

    We have decided to answer your question, “…how (can) an organization with a diverse brand portfolio work across silos?” during the Zanby Demo at MIMA summit. Roosevelt Room, 2:15 pm.


    Chris Dykstra

    October 4, 2009 at 11:15 pm

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