12 Smart Things about “Empowered” by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler

I finished reading the book Empowered by Forrester Research's Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler a few weeks ago, maybe longer, and I've been meaning to blog about it. At the time, it was information overload, and it was a bit hard to totally separate it from Bernoff's previous work Groundswell and Charlene Li's tome Open Leadership released earlier this year.

Then I returned to my old habit of writing book reports. I keep a journal with write-ups on every book I've read, going back a number of years. Some books get a paragraph, some get pages. For Empowered, I had a big repository of notes, or at least highlights… on my Kindle. If you go to kindle.amazon.com, you can review your highlights, along with the most popular highlights from other readers (see the popular picks from Empowered here).

Reviewing the highlights made me appreciate the book far more. Okay, I had a few bones to pick with it. For instance, there were those moments of Forresterspeak. My favorite example of this is the "effort-value evaluation" or "EVE," which is really just a cost-benefit analysis, but Forrester analysts never met an acronym they couldn't rename.

Ultimately though, it proved to be a valuable read, both the first time and in review. Here are some takeaways, culled from my own Kindle highlights, not whatever hoi polloi thought.

1. Empowering employees is critical. "To succeed with empowered customers, you must empower your employees to solve customer problems."

2. Business models are changing. "Companies that made their money from having better information than their customers are now out of luck."

3. Employees can be empowered in the same way customers are thanks to four technologies:
– "Smart mobile devices extend connected experiences everywhere, independent of location"
– Video has increased the depth of the "media experience" online
– Cloud computing allows any device to tap into the Internet's computing power and network
– "Social technology has exploded—more than ever, people can influence and draw power from their peers.

4. There's a four-step process for delivering 'groundswell' programs going by the acronym "IDEA": "identify mass influencers, deliver groundswell customer service, empower customers with mobile information, and amplify the voice of your fans." "Find the people who love you, and boost the impact they have on their peers."

5. Focus on customers above all else. "The closer you get to making customers more empowered and happier, the easier it will be to justify your project."

6. Consumers are vocal, and their influence adds up. They create 256 billion impressions talking about products and services in social networks. In blogs, forums, and review sites, consumers generate 1.64 billion posts and over 250 billion impressions (60% from discussion forums, ratings, and reviews), adding up to over half a trillion impressions in the US. "People receive roughly one-fourth as many impressions from each other as they do from online advertisers. Which ones do you think they pay attention to?"

7. You have to pay attention to people who influence others online. "Make no mistake: mass influencers are a channel. You can let them say whatever they want… and then react. Or you can work proactively to get them sharing messages in line with your strategy."

8. Young adults are especially influential in social networks and share disproportionately. They're 12% of the online population but account for 30% of influence impressions in social networks, and create 16% of influence posts in blogs, forums, and reviews.
9. A sale is just the beginning with today's marketing funnel. After the fact you can make customers feel good about doing business with you and generate advocacy. "Influence begins after the sale."
10. Influential consumers are mobile. "Mass Connectors and Mass Mavens are almost twice as likely to use the mobile Web as other consumers. Conversely, when we look at mobile Web users, they are far more likely to have influence. They’re an attractive and influential group of consumers, from nearly every perspective."

11. Fan base cultivation is like brand building – it's a long-term process that never ends.

12. "Customer service is marketing." 'Nuff said.

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