I took my kids to the beach recently and I was helping my daughter learn how to ride the surf. She was trying to fight the waves and I explained to her that she will never win. The waves are stronger than she is. However, if you work with the wave, you can use the power of the wave to push you to shore (translation: you can body surf). She picked it up much quicker than I expected and she was off and running.
As I sat back on my towel and watched her riding waves, it reminded me of one of my favorite books, The Groundswell, by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. This is an excellent book and is highly recommended on my reading list. In the book, they give several examples of where people have tried to fight the Internet and lost. A great example in the beginning of the book is how a photographer decided to document the entire California coast and put it on-line. Singer Barbara Streisand insisted the photos of her house be removed. The resulting publicity caused people to copy the photos and post them all over the web. She had the opposite effect and there was nothing she could do about it. This has become well-known as the “Streisand effect“.
Rather than fight a force that is greater than you. The logical approach is to leverage the force to have the outcome you are looking for. Utilize the power of the Internet to drive the goal or objective that you are trying to reach. One of the powerful lessons from Groundswell is understanding the players in your web community so that you can tap into each one of them appropriately. There are six different groups that you should consider:
- Creators – Authors and publishers of blogs, web pages and articles.
- Critics – Those who rate, comment and review content.
- Collectors – Those who use RSS feeds, add tags to web pages and vote for sites.
- Joiners – Those who maintain a profile and visit social networking sites.
- Spectators – Those who read blogs, watch videos, and listen to podcasts.
- Inactives – Those who do none of the above
The groups are listed in terms of involvement from most involved to least involved. Once you understand who is in each of these groups, you can tap into those who can help you the most.
As I have said in my other blogs. These conversations are happening right now – with or without you. Your customers are on forums, blogs and chat-rooms discussing your products. They are giving each other tips on how best to use them. They are both complaining about your lack of functionality, and also championing your best new features. You should be listening to the conversations. Better yet, you should be participating in the conversations. The waves are crashing on the beach. The water is warm. You simply need to jump in and join the conversation.
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