Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Revisiting the groundswell

At the weekend I was flicking through my copy of groundswell by the folks over at Forrester Research.

They define the groundswell as:
A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.

They include some great examples of how social technology has shifted the balance of power and how individuals and companies are managing (and failing) to harness this force.  Nonetheless awareness of these groundswell events remains limited. Your average person on the street is unlikely to be able to tell you about the 'Streisand effect', who Harriet Klausner is,  and would think that the 'flaming laptop incident' is just a new indie band.

However I think this may be beginning to change.  These groundswell events are becoming increasingly mainstream.  In part it is because of the ubiquitous nature of social media, but also because of shifting expectations where we want answers on tap 24/7.

When the horse-meat scandal broke in the UK, pushing out a statement through Facebook formed part of Tesco's natural response.  Over 3,000 likes, 500 shares and 1,300 comments only scratches the surface as an indication of reach of this one message alone. Subsequent messages and discussion were rife all over social media.

The fact is social media events have become mainstream.  8 million people watched Felix Baumgartner's jump live via YouTube.  Twitter has become one of the most immediate forms of news dissemination and indeed whole pieces in mainstream media have been based on single tweets whilst reporters wait for additional information and official reports.  In these cases opinions can sometimes be formed much earlier and based on much more limited information.

It is important for brands to understand how technology is changing the way we form opinions and discuss brands. Now more than ever it seems it is important to get it right, and when you don't, rectify it quickly. Thinking that conversation on the Internet and through social media can be entirely controlled is naïve, however so is thinking that it can't be influenced.

Dan Siddle
Research Innovation Specialist

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