Chances are if you’re reading this, you read Groundswell.  That book changed the way people think about social media, and Empowered, the sequel to Groundswell, will do the same.  While the earlier book was all about how consumers and brands connect in social channels, the new one is about how organizations must change to accommodate, retain and get the most from empowered consumers and employees. 

Today, many people seem to think social media has matured.  With Facebook drawing more than 500 million people and Twitter broadcasting 2 billion tweets per month, it seems as if we’ve arrived at the destination promised by Groundswell.  Social behaviors are ubiquitous—even a majority of seniors (65+) now consume social content according to the latest Forrester Social Technographics data. So, is social media done evolving and we can now return to "business as usual"? 

No, and that’s what makes Empowered so powerful—it presents the next phase in social media evolution, a phase that is going to be disruptive and painful to those companies and employees that are not prepared.  The changes social media have thus far brought to the enterprise have been relatively easy to accommodate, but the changes that are coming will not be. 

The attitudes toward social media in 2010 remind me quite a lot of attitudes toward the Web in 2000. By that year, most companies had already launched version 1.0 of their Web sites, usually accompanied by PR that announced the organization had embraced the digital age.  But in reality, not much had changed within the enterprise—those early sites consisted of static pages that provided little information and told consumers to pick up a phone or send a physical letter if they wanted to apply for a job, get service or complete a purchase. 

Despite the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, it quickly became apparent that some organizations were creating tremendous competitive advantage by doing things differently on their Web sites, and doing things differently on the Web meant doing things differently within the enterprise.  Soon the digital era transformed virtually every aspect of business—how people applied for jobs, the skills that companies sought, the level of investment in IT, the way customers were serviced and how products were marketed and sold.  In the years that followed, organizations changed (or were forced to change) budgets, corporate structure, job responsibilities, IP management, legal policies, communication standards and corporate missions.

We are entering yet another era of profound change, and Empowered welcomes you to the next evolution.  Our new world is one where empowered consumers have greater clout and empowered employees are being given (or taking) more authority.  The book shares one story after another to help define the ways in which the corporate world is changing:  The blogger whose bad service experience forced changes in the way customers are serviced; the trainer who revolutionized the corporate training program using a $150 video camera and YouTube; and the professional sports organization that altered the rules of the game based on the insights derived from the fan community.

The message of the book is summed up well by authors Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler in the opening chapter of Empowered:

“When we published Groundswell in 2008, the challenge was creating strategies for connecting with customers in social environments like Facebook or blogs. As more and more companies do this, the challenge has shifted. The problem is not just connecting with empowered customers, it’s what this engagement does to corporations. It’s a management challenge. Because these technology projects are grassroots solutions conceived by HEROes (Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives), not top-down management initiatives, they require a transformation in the way companies operate.”

Empowered is a fun, engaging and enlightening book. A couple months from now, you’ll see many dog-eared copies on the desks of marketers!