In late 2011 I published a book, called Grouped, about how the web is being rebuilt around people, and how this will dramatically change marketing. The goal of the book is to give people a foundational understanding of social behavior, and how it applies to the future of business.
The book is an introduction to the patterns behind our social behavior. Humans are social creatures, and an understanding of social behavior on the web will soon be required knowledge for almost all businesses. The book is a guide for the exciting new world that we’re collectively creating. I’ve attempted to write a book that will give you, in a matter of hours, all the basic information you need to rethink your business.
The book has an average rating of 4.5 stars on Amazon.
Below is an excerpt from the Introduction. You can also read Chapter 2 in full here.
Four shifts that are changing marketing and advertising
The world around us is changing rapidly. With the invention and rise of the web, we’re seeing the largest increase in the amount of information accessible to us since the printing press was invented over 550 years ago. This is truly a revolutionary time, and it will test much of what we have accepted as fact for hundreds of years. There are four massive shifts that are shaping this new world.
The first shift is the rise in accessible information. The accessibility of information is increasing exponentially and is not going to stop within our lifetime. A single query into a search engine produces millions of results. People are adding information to Wikipedia faster than we can read it. Every single day, hundreds of millions of people post billions of distinct pieces of content online. All of this information is digital, and can be analyzed for patterns.
The second shift is a major change in the structure of the web. It’s moving away from being built around content, and is being rebuilt around people. This is correlated with a major change in how people spend their time on the web. They’re spending less time interacting with content, and more time communicating with other people.
The third shift is that for the first time, we can accurately map and measure social interaction. Many of our theories can now be quantitatively tested. This is incredibly exciting for researchers, but it will also transform how we think about marketing and advertising. Many things that were previously hard to measure, for example, word of mouth marketing, can now be analyzed and understood. We can now start to measure how people really influence other people, and it will change how we do business.
The fourth shift is the dramatic increase in our understanding of how we make decisions. In the past decade, we have learned more about the workings of the brain than in all the time before that. Many of our theories about rational thought have turned out to be false, and we have greatly underestimated the power of our nonconscious brain.
If we want to be successful in this new age of exponentially increasing information and a web built around people, we will need to understand social behavior. We will need to understand how people are connected, how they interact, and how they are influenced by different people in their lives. We will also need to understand how people make decisions, and how the different parts of their brain and their biases drive their behavior.
This book is a beginning
Each year, many thousands of research studies are carried out on social behavior. This book is not a comprehensive account of all these studies, which would take up thousands of pages, and would never be read by busy professionals. This book is a synthesis of key studies in related fields, summarized into actionable patterns. The goal of this book is to give people a foundational understanding of social behavior, and how it applies to the future of business.
The academic reader may at times feel that I have oversimplified, overgeneralized, and talked about causality when we may be dealing with correlation. But this simplification is necessary to make research actionable to business. In this case, I believe that perfect is the enemy of good. People who are busy creating products and building companies don’t have time to read full research papers, never mind try to synthesize them to find the larger patterns. But to be successful in reorienting their businesses around people, they need an actionable summary of this data—a foundation around which they can build a strategy. If you are that busy professional, this book is your foundation. It’s the beginning, not the end.
The web is undergoing a fundamental change. It is moving away from its current structure of documents and pages linked together, and towards a new structure that is built around people. This is a profound change that will affect how we create business strategy, design, marketing, and advertising. The reason for this shift is simple. For tens of thousands of years we’ve been social animals. The web, which is only 20 years old, is simply catching up with offline life.
From travel to news to commerce, smart businesses are reorienting their efforts around people–around the social behavior of their customers and potential customers. In order to be successful, businesses will need to understand how people are connected, how their social network influences them, how the people closest to them influence them the most, and how it’s more important for marketers to focus on small, connected groups of friends rather than looking for overly influential individuals.
This book pulls together the latest research from leading universities and technology companies to describe how people are connected, and how ideas and brand messages spread through social networks. It shows readers how to rebuild their business around social behavior, and create products that people tell their friends about.