Last week, Judith David a Senior Strategist and Social Specialist (#awesome title) from Google presented Google + my Electronic Communities course. The focus of the course is developing a social presence and strategy for companies, rather than just individuals. Google + is only 9 months old and there aren’t that many case studies and best practices in place. Judith’s presentation provided students with a “how to” create a  Google + business page, but also demonstrated how brands are using it effectively such as Dell, Intel, New York Times, and Dallas Cowboys. Effective use at a minimum means that brands are engaging in conversations with their community.

As new technologies enter the marketplace, such as Google+, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (2011) provide a great framework through the groundswell technology test. When evaluating a new technology, ask yourself the following:

  • Does it enable people to connect with each other in new ways
  • Is it effortless to sign up for?
  • Does it shift the power from institutions to people?
  • Does the community generate enough content to sustain itself?
  • Is it an open platform that invites partnerships? 

This framework works especially well when you actually try out the technology in question. Students studying online communities in my class, complete an assignment called technology try out.  Students apply the framework and document their uses of various tools. Check out the actual assignment.

Generally, I ask students to apply the groundswell technology test with two technologies they they’ve never used. Sometimes students select social media properties that have been around for a while, like twitter. Other times they select tools that are pretty cutting edge.

For example, everyone is talking about Pinterest with it’s 10.5 million users. Ok, everyone in the social media world. Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder of Vaynermedia,  repeatedly mentioned Pinterest in his talk at NYU Stern, where he filled the room. Also, there was a great talk on Pinterest during NYC Social Media Week by Helen Todd, Co-founder and CEO of Sociality Squared. Helen, presented the platform, but also discussed many of the points raised in the groundswell technology test

One of my students created a Pinterest board based around the class topics. By the way, Pinterest is an online pin board where you can organize and share collections of visual content, mostly images. You can follow your friends and re-pin images posted by others.

I was absolutely amazed by the Pinterest board my student created. The product of the assignment had an unintended consequence, it was a direct reflection back to me about how she saw the class (at least from a visual viewpoint).  As the person who designed the class, I couldn’t have put together a more representative Pinterest board.

A Pinterest Board created by NYU Stern student taking the undergraduate Electronic Communities course.

At the end of Helen’s talk on Pinterest I asked her if she’s seen any great examples for use in education. I know I found one!


Li, C. and Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston: Harvard Business Press.

How Pinterest is becoming the next big thing in social media for business.

Professor of Social