Must-Read Book: Grouped by Paul Adams


It’s not very often that you fall for the aesthetic of book before you’ve read a word of it, but Grouped by Paul Adams was one of those books. 

In 2010, the grip of social media was beginning to take hold on communications in Ireland. I had just started a training business focused on developing core skills like press release writing, planning a PR campaign and how to deal with the media. We got repeated requests from our customers to do social media events. It was new and everybody was trying to get a handle on it. 

I put on my thinking cap and came up with an introductory 2-hour course called ‘Social Media Unspun.” We booked Damien Mulley to deliver the session and send an email our to our customers.

It was huge – depressingly huge. The first day we ran it,  we had over 260 paying customers from every walk of Irish life including a young entrepreneur called Paddy Cosgrove. Who knew? In the days beforehand, the event the bookings kept coming. We made a massive profit and at the end of the day I was slumped in the corner – more than a little depressed. 

One of my team couldn’t fathom why I was so downbeat after such a great day. “You should be delighted,” she said. “Wasn’t today one of the biggest events we ever ran?”

I explained my downbeat mood. “What you saw today was like the Klondike Gold Rush. No one here understands Twitter, Facebook, or Youtube and they’re coming to us for answers. I’m depressed because today wasn’t the start of a process for us, it’s the end of it. Anyone who came today and figured out social media will never darken our door again. We need to build a platform of our own, and show people how to use that – it would be a much better model.” 

Guess what? I was right. The crowd to subsequent events got smaller but it took a few years for them to die out. We decided to focus on smaller training days and we brought trainers in from around the world and we focused on building up the MediaHQ platform. 

One of those trainers was Katie Moffatt and it was she who first introduced me to Grouped. She brought it to one of the events and it piqued my curiosity immediately when she arrived into the room with it under her arm. It was the naive, almost rubbish cover design that is a cross between a textbook and a cult manifesto. On opening it, I was easily hooked on the font, the layout and the style. 

The book’s author, Wicklow native, Paul Adams is a very impressive person. After graduating from the National College of Art and Design he studied a Master’s in Science at my Alma Mater, the University of Limerick. He has worked as a design engineer at Dyson. He helped created Google + and redesigned Facebook. For the last six years he has been head of product at Intercom – the phenomenally successful Irish customer service platform. 

Grouped is based on Adams time in Facebook and works because of how devastatingly simple the message. It is clearly outlined in the subtitle of the book. “How small groups of friends are the key to influence on the social web.” It’s important to remember that this book was written in 2010 and most of what it professes has become more, not less true over time. 

It starts by looking at how the web was becoming social back in 2010. Back then it was prescient, but now it looks like the recording of a significant time in internet history. It then sets out a devastatingly simple maps for how we connect socially looking at things like:

  • How we connect in groups.
  • How relationships influence us.
  • Myths about people who are deemed influential.
  • How our Brain influences and biases us.

Grouped should be on the shelf of every serious communicator. I use it as a clarity touchstone. Whenever I need to declutter my thinking on a social media problem I read it. Adams Yoda-like tone always throws light on whatever problem I have. Well worth a read.


At MediaHQ, we are passionate about helping people maximise their media coverage. We have the contact details of every journalist, media outlet, producer and editor. If you’d like a demo on how to use the platform, email Gaye Gleeson on [email protected] or request your demo here.