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On Groundswell

October 21, 2009

I’ve been wondering if my mom should create some kind of online strategy for the tailoring business she started out of our home when I was 2 years-old.  When she started the business, she was the only tailor in town.  The shop grew quickly–when I turned 7, she relocated to a storefront closer to the 270 outerbelt which circumscribes Columbus.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve noticed the hanging racks grow fuller and fuller, sagging under the weight of all that business!

Despite the fact that she hasn’t spent a dime on advertising in the past few years (except for sponsor ads in local high school newspapers and athletic team posters), she continues to get new customers thanks to excellent ratings on Angie’s list, which goes to show how well the groundswell works even when you aren’t doing a thing to feed it.  I wanted to use my Google Adsense ad to advertise her shop, but then realized she didn’t have a website.   In an ideal world where my mother wasn’t a total luddite (she can’t even turn on the computer) and was comfortable using English, she would, at the very least, have a website that listed her prices.  Her customers are always interested to know what exactly she’s doing to their clothing and what’s in style, and it might be interesting to have a blog that documents the tailoring process or gives my mom’s 2 cents on the latest fashions.   Unfortunately, this will never happen.  She’s too busy to write, especially in a non-native language.

On a totally different note, I’d be interested to learn more about how one can “talk” with the groundswell to affect behavioral change.  It’s a question we grapple with in the field of Education–how do we get busy, lower socio-economic-status parents to read to their children?  How do we motivate kids to become lifelong learners?  How do we teach kids the importance of civic engagement?   So far in the reading, we’ve seen large institutions react to groundswell chatter, and we’ve seen people change their brand loyalties, as in the Mini example and the Tampax example.  These things, to me, seem like things that people already want to do.

The book is on the whole a quick, pleasant read, and the social technographics profile seems like a useful way to break down user demographics.  I thought the case was an especially brilliant (though somewhat questionable) strategy for reaching their target audience, though, having looked at the site, it’s a lot more instructional than the book described it to be.  Everything on the site is about menstruation or something equally embarrassing for an adolescent girl except for a few articles about being “boy crazy.”   I wonder if this model (putting together “information” and other things girls want to know) would be an effective model for education as well, or if it simply dilutes the point too much.

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