Next on my reading list is “Groundswell” by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff.  The book introduces the concept of the groundswell.  The writers come up with some elaborate definitions, which I applaud.  But for my simple mind, I’ll just say that the concept talks about how the programs become popular not because of themselves but because of the people that choose to use it.  It is about the community that builds up and around the various tools that the internet provides that is the groundswell.

That makes sense.  People are the driving force behind popularity.  Popularity is what makes something useful.  Popularity can be measured within the community that is targeted.  Niche communities can drive a site if everyone sees that site as a meeting ground.  The greatest program in the world can exist, but if no one wants to use it for whatever reasons, then it doesn’t have any use in the social world.

The social components that make these things useful build from understanding the community.  Communities can range in their characteristics within and without.  Generalizations can be made about groups of people.  What separates fans of one page from another?  Does that difference reflect a specific aspect of that group?  Can we measure or define that aspect?  These are the questions that were posed early on in “Groundswell,” and the answer was very interesting.

The discovery was understanding that different groups breakdown differently.  A=A so what? The breakdown was the fascinating part.  Li and Bernoff’s research dissecting the internet communities into Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, and Inactives.  They labeled this the Social Technographics ladder and from that they could build profiles about communities.  Being able to understand a community in regards to how they choose to interact within themselves shows an insight into how to target that community.  If a group prefers to interact amongst itself as joiners, then the marketing should be aimed at that.  Knowing where the majority sits is a great tool.  This is another part of a simple concept, targeting your audience.  If dog lovers prefer to upload pictures of their mutts, then target creators.  If your targeting audience likes to read forums and rate posts, then target critics.  Each community has a preference.  Preferences are not all-encompassing, but it does show a place to aim.