Posted by: emilyhowardprincipato | September 29, 2009

Response #2 – The Groundswell

So, I have been reading Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff and I think it is one of the best books out there that I have read on social media and social technologies.  It’s not a 101 but it’s also easy to understand and you don’t have to be super tech savvy to get into it.  I am very much a charts/statistics type person, which is another reason why I probably like this book.

One specific thing that I thought was an important take-away from this book was the Social Technographics ladder.  They break each group of consumers into categories of how they act/react in the social media space:

  • The bottom of the ladder are “inactives”, which are people who don’t do anything with social media. 
  • Next step up – “spectators”.  They just also referred to sometimes as stalkers.  These are important because they are reading social media content, just not joining.
  • “Joiners” are next.  They set up profiles, listen and participate in these sites.
  • “Collectors”.  They use RSS feeds and tag certain information and keep them organized.
  • “Critics” are the next step up.  They comment on blogs and forums, edit wikis and post feedback on products.  They are important for consumer related companies.
  • Finally, at the top of the ladder are the “creators”.  We would not be very far in the groundswell without them.  They are the ones who actually create content.  They publish blogs, write articles/stories, upload photos and videos.

I was very impressed with this breakout of how people participate in the groundswell.  Each group couldn’t function without each other because you need creators to produce the content, critics to judge the content, collectors to organize the content, joiners to participate and spectators to read the content.  All of these different people work together collectively to create the groundswell – and make it successful.

Forrester then analyzed the percentage of U.S. adults that are in every group.  33% were classified as spectators and 52% were classified as inactives, respectively.  This shows that more people need to be more involved in the groundswell – and social media in general.

This breakout of different groups is important when implementing a social media campaign.  For example, if a CEO pushes back on the company using Twitter because they heard that 80% of their target audience hasn’t “tweeted” in 30 days, you can explain that they are a group of spectators.  Just because they aren’t creating content or sharing it, doesn’t mean they aren’t listening.



  1. I don’t know If I said it already but …Hey good stuff…keep up the good work! 🙂 I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks,)

    A definite great read….

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