Book Review: Grouped by Paul Adams

I had the pleasure of meeting Paul Adams at a marketing conference earlier this year, where he gave a stirring lecture on the social web. Within a few minutes, the crowd was mesmerized and his talk was the highlight of the day. He delivered a clear message that there was promise for marketers in social, and to be successful, there were some key principles to adhere to. Ever since then, I’ve been thinking about how to create content and experience that really means something to the people we’re trying to reach.

Adams expands on his thinking in Grouped. His approach is thoughtful and purposeful leaving the reader with a framework of how to approach social marketing. Unlike a lot of other self-styled experts in the field, Adams grounds his ideas in research, not 140 character sound bites or meaningless industry jargon. The content gets to the point quickly — beginning with how the internet itself is shifting from content to relationships to the basis of relationships. Adams then builds his case for how how only close friends truly have an impact on our decision making process, while weaker relationships can broaden our horizons of information. He goes on to debunk a number of myths about influencers, instead suggests ideas get spread through a combination of “innovative” and “follower” hubs. This is an important distinction to make because spreading of ideas isn’t merely a one-step process. It is a combination of art and science that requires more than people with large followings. The last parts of the book go deep on the impacts our own physiology and environment have with respect to our information-processing and thus decision making abilities. (hint: we do a lot of unconscious processing). At the end, he wraps up permission marketing and how it is the gateway to creating trust, credibility and ultimately loyalty.

Some books are quick reads if they’re well-written and make you want to keep flipping pages. Grouped had a slightly different effect on me. I anticipated reading each chapter, but the more I read, the more I found myself pausing and thinking about what relationships I had, why I had them and how my own network influences my decisions. I would say I got as much out of reading the book as I did with the self-reflection one goes through when applying the thinking. And that’s where the beauty lies in Adams’ writing; by creating content that is compelling and relevant to the reader, he’s practicing what he preaches. His writing is clear and concise — just as he is in person —  making concepts easy to digest. He also couples theory with quick tips from his work at Facebook, making his points are more credible and practical. At the end of each chapter, he includes a summary and a further reading section that act as informal footnotes that encourage the reader to dive deeper.

Whenever I’m reading a book I really like, I often slow down towards the end, to savor each page before reaching the end. Grouped was no different, with one exception — It made me want to go out and apply his thinking at work. It’s at a level where most practioners of social media can grasp conceptually and has relevance for strategists looking to make social the core of their company’s offerings. Highly recommended.

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