The Groundswell Inside Your Company

So you have connected to your customers, but the question now is: are you connected with your employees? What about them? You can connect with employees internally, to create new ways for your employees to work together and connect with each other.

In the end, internal groundswell is about the relationships with employees not technology.

In chapter twelve of Groundswell, the authors speak of the opportunities that internal communities can bring to a company. They did so with a real life example of an internal groundswell; the Blue Shirt Nation aka the community page for Best Buy. Best buy created this community to get insight into what is actually going on, on a day to day basis at the store. Here, employees participated and share on the online community. This kind of internal community gave employees the ability to find what they needed for others, as well as gave management the opportunity to resolve issues in just a few days rather than months. Li and Bernoff (2001) displayed more benefits of internal communities in the objectives discussed before:

  • Listening: Employees can swiftly bring problems to your attention and thus with this can turn feedback rapidly into problem solving.
  • Talking: Companies can post policy changes and updates for employees to read.
  • Energizing: Employees can spread positivity and advise to other employees, which can impact a large amount of workers in many stores around the world.
  • Supporting: Employees can support each other and companies can support employees. Companies can also look here to promote from within.
  • Embracing: Can be a place to find great talent and ideas from employees.

Wondering a little more about Blue Shirt Nation? Here is an interview with the creators:

Employees are assets, when you use them they will show you just how valuable they are. In an internal groundswell, here are tips that Li and Bernoff (2011) said you will need to nurture the groundswell power of your employees:

  • Promote a listening culture from the top down: Requires a high level of trust because employees have more on the line if they participate; thus it is crucial for managements active participation and allowance of opinions in order for it to be successful.
  • Ease and encourage participation with incentives: Make your application easy to use and appealing to use; accommodations are key to getting everyone involved.
  • Empower the rebels in your organization: The energized few can drive many; with guidelines and rules in place these people can ensure the success of the application.

Culture is key. Culture is a thriving force. Internal groundswells, like communities, wikis or idea exchanges can lead to a better relationship and culture with employees. The benefits are grand; if you connect externally with customers why wouldn’t you internal connect with your own?


Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA, United States of America: Harvard Business Review Press.


Energize the Base: Encourage, Embrace And Energize the Groundswell.

Energizing the base. What is that? Think of it as a political rally. Gathering all your supporters and getting them all rattled up and excited to spread the word about how the product you are selling: you. When you energize people and get them to share what you are all about, it creates a powerful and free marketing tool to sell your brand. Word of mouth is a powerful and honest asset, which Li and Bernoff (2011) stated has the following benefits:

  1. It is believable: it cannot be faked and are more creditable than other forms of marketing, with consumers believing it over everything else.
  2. It is self-reinforcing: with multiple referrals the creditability increases.
  3. It is self-spreading: it is almost costless for companies but the reach can be massive.

If we look back at the social technographics ladder, the effects of word of mouth energizing can trickle down pretty much the whole ladder to reach all kinds of customers. By having creators write about your product or by having critics review it, then having spectators view; it creates a world-win of energy about your product (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Energize Through Ratings and Reviews

Use your customers. Get critics and creators to influence the spectators into your product. Of course there will be negative reviews. BUT they can also add value to your company. Having negative reviews makes positive reviews seem more believable and creditable. They can also reveal a flaw in your product you did not know you had and can fix it. Here are the facts: 96% of customers use reviews to help them make purchases and of those highly reviewed products were bought 49% more often (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Word of mouth and more specifically, reviews are fairly cheap compared to other forms of advertising. Many times the ROI can easily double your investment, spend a little now to receive a lifetime of future income.

Reviews generate more purchases.

Energize Through Communities

Create a home for your customers. A community creates referrals and referrals create a lifetime revenue stream; that is what a community can do for you. Of course starting or joining a community will cost a buck now, but the future return from the massive reach of word of mouth is endless. Like previously mentioned, Sephora has a community page where people share beauty tips and share what products they are using. Those other users, critics, creators and spectators are all seeing this and are like “Oh I need that too.” And there you have it, that lifetime ROI.

So you want to energize your customers? Li and Bernoff (2011), applied 5 techniques in order to do so:

  1. Figure out if you want to energize
  2. Check the social technographics profile of your customers
  3. Ask yourself: “what is my customers problem?”
  4. Pick a strategy that fits your customers’ social technographics profile and problems
  5. DO NOT start unless you can stick around for the long term

Encourage your customers. Energize your customers. Embrace your customers.

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA, United States of America: Harvard Business Review Press.

Twitter Tapping Into the Groundswell

Twitter. It is one of the easiest yet powerful social media tools out there right now. The reach is massive and the message can be clear; well has to be clear because you only have 140 characters. Yet, if we look back at the Social Technographics Profile, these tweetsters are going to be creators of content 3X more, going to be critics 2X more and will join 2X more as well (Li & Bernoff, 2011). So what does this mean for marketers and business? That your company needs to connect on Twitter.


In chapter 10 of the novel Groundswell, the authors state that Twitter can pack richness into such tiny updates that caused a ripple effect of interactions; retweets rejoice. Thus, here are the described key elements that make Twitter, well Twitter:

  • Followers: Not friends, followers. This can be anyone allowing connections to be made easy and fast.
  • Hashtags and searches: You can easily search a business or key words and find a timeline of everything that users have been saying about that topic in real time. twitter-word-bird
  • Mentions and retweets: Mentions is an easy way to reply to someone by mentioning another user in your tweet. While retweeting is a tool that allows you to pretty much copy someone else’s tweet to your own page, sharing their message.
  • Links: You can share links to websites rather than trying to fit what needs to be said in 140 characters.
  • Lists: Can create a list of people you follow and share that list with people.
  • Apps and tools: Feeds are open so other tools can connect.

Just like any other marketing strategy or social media website, companies must know their objective before hand (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Here are Li and Bernoff (2011) said to use each of the 5 groundswell objectives:

  • Listen to Twitter: Monitor tweets about your company, find the trends that are regarding your company and products and find influential tweetsters who are talking about your company.
  • Talk to Twitter: Get your message “picked up and repeated by others” by tweeting yourself and replying to others, this will show users you are and are invested in that relationship (Li & Bernoff, 2011).
  • Energize with Twitter: Will want to find users who like your product and amp up that users voice. Also, responding/retweeting fans will energize these users as well as content they will want to respond and retweet.
  • Support with Twitter: Twitter can let companies know about any problems their customers have, thus they have to power to fix these problems and answer questions to provide support.
  • Embrace with Twitter: This includes collaboration with customers on Twitter on business operations; including them in the process.

A company who uses Twitter very well is Starbucks; their @mystarbucks idea allows for customers to share ideas of what they want to see (embracing), voice concerns (listening), as well as be able to respond to customers (support) and share content that their follows want to know (talking). Li and Bernoff (2011), listed advice to companies using Twitter:

  • Lock up your handle: Make sure users know your account is real and others with your name are not
  • Listen to what people are saying before you start posting
  • Be ready to support people
  • Follow fans who love you company, it will give these users something to talk about
  • Be ready to use Twitter in a crisis as an information channel
  • Respond to users, retweet users, and add links – get actively involved
  • Twitter needs to be someones job, even if not a full time position
  • Check with legal and regulatory staff to ensure everything on this public platform is appropriate to publish
  • Make your page worth following – keep the interest going

Tweet away tweetsters!


Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA, United States of America: Harvard Business Review Press.

Support the groundswell; create a community

Do you have the desire for psychic income. Or do you even know what it is? I sure did not before reading chapter 8 of the book Groundswell. But the desire for this is vast; the way the authors use is it, they are pretty much saying people want to help others out of the goodness of their own heart. For the feeling belonging to a community. People want to help each other and people trust other people over companies. So how do companies soak up this desire for psychic income?

In a previous blog post I brought up the POST method, for why companies should be joining the groundswell. The O, stood for objectives; this is where a business picks their reason for entering the groundswell. They laid out five types of objectives, one of which was supporting (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

“The purpose is to create a supportive environment for customers to support one another, rather than just the company itself”

There are three aspects that need to be examined when trying the help the groundswell support itself.

  1. What problem you will solve with this support activity: Why will people participate?
  2. How will you participate in it: Support needs activity. Li and Bernoff said that, “activity creates content, which drives traffic and links” (2011).
  3. Create or join: Is there an existing community or do you need to create your own?

When needing to create your own community for support, Li and Bernoff offered up some suggestions:

  • Start small, but plan for a larger presence
  • Reach out to your most active customers
  • Plan to drive traffic to your community
  • Build a reputation system
  • let your customers lead you


Sephora created their own online community called Beauty Talk. It is a specific branch of their website that allowed customers to exchange tips, discuss products and give reviews and feedback between themselves. Sephora experts aka employees also offer up tips and tricks, as well as post how to tutorials. From personal experience, this page has saved me from buying products and has lured me into buying products. Being able to review products before spending that kind of money for makeup really allowed for me to feel connected to the brand a bit more.


Starbucks created an online community called My Starbucks Idea. This allows customers to share ideas, see other people’s idea and discuss ideas regarding what they want to see at Starbucks. Starbucks has added their customers in their development process.

Having this support, connects customers and connects customers with the brand. It does more than save companies money in terms of spending only thousands instead of millions helping customers yourself. It generates value and trust, which turns into profits (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA, United States of America: Harvard Business Review Press.

To SHOUT or to Talk? A Groundswell Perspective.

Picking an objective that best matches your company can make or break your strategy in terms of the groundswell. Those objectives are: listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing. This blog post will go further into the objective of talking. Talking in the groundswell is regarded to participating and creating two-way conversation that your customers have with each other, not just directly between a company and customer.

Would you rather have someone shout at you or talk to you? 

Traditional marketing, mass advertising via commercials for example,is shouting at consumers repeatedly; not talking. That kind of advertising is about reach and frequency which brings attention to the brand but that may not equal turning those consumers into buyers. With this traditional marketing, it may get consumers into the funnel but not through the marketing funnel (Li & Bernoff, 2011).


There needs to be activities in the middle of the funnel to pull consumers through to buyers; while shouting may attract consumers into the funnel it it does not work in the funnel. That is where the idea of talking comes in. Lets throw some facts out there: 73% of surveyed online consumers said they trusted recommendations from friends and more than half trusted other online reviews, while their trust in ads plummeted (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Conversations are what get those consumers to be buyers.

Techniques for talking with the groundswell

1. Post a viral video: Create a video online that catches people’s attention and let them share it. A company wants to keep their objectives in mind to get people’s attention but also decide what do with that attention once received. The point of this is to direct people to a specific social network (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Here is an example of a video Apple put out to display their service of Apple Music. It went viral and resulted in a serge of downloads for that specific song and also created so much buzz, that Apple released follow up videos due to such great success (Reisinger, 2016).

2. Engage in social networks: by engaging in conversations, by answering questions for example, it draws people down the funnel further. It allows for a company to spread their message their way, in a way that goes “beyond awareness” and encourages interaction and engagement (Li & Bernoff, 2011). It goes back to the social technographics profile and where your customers are, and they are on one kind of social network or another.

3. Join the blogosphere: this creates interaction with other blog users, by generating traffic and responsiveness with customers and other blog users. With this personal feel, it creates trust in consumers minds.

4.Create a community: a community is a place where interaction occurs between company and its consumers and the consumers themselves; by having this engagement it creates value and trust by adding a more personal touch. Like the facts stated earlier, this interaction from reviews of others is trusted more than ads. An example is Sephora’s Beauty Talk community where consumers can share tips, advice and reviews on products other consumers are interested in.

Talking is more effective than shouting, who would have ever guessed right?

“Celebrate – Inspire – Embolden”

Global Women of Vision, it is where that slogan arose from. A place to celebrate, inspire and embolden women in the city. This event gets the conversation started on extraordinary women and the extraordinary things women can achieve. Every year, a certain amount of women are awards for their excellence and achievements.

This relates to the objective of talking because this event engages people on social media by tweeting with them. This event, interacts with people around the city and the country. What is wonderful about this, is that it allows for the sharing of empowering stories to empower the future women of the community. Talking starts a conversation. A conversation starts a thought. A thought creates an action. And actions create a movement. Talking has the power to buy a product or sell a service sure, but it also has the power to do so much more.


Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA, United States of America: Harvard Business Review Press.

Reisinger, D. (2016). Here’s the latest Taylor Swift Apple Music ad to go viral. Fortune. Retrieved from:

Tap into the Groundswell

Chapter four of the novel Groundswell brings up a point that businesses and people face daily: that when it comes to groundswell companies know they have to be there but they do not know why they do. In order to answer that why, companies can apply a four step planning process called the POST method; this method allows you to start your plan and is the foundation of groundswell. Here is a introduction of the POST method:

P.O.S.T stands for: People, Objectives, Strategy and Technology 

People: Here is where businesses need to answer “what are your customers ready for?” It is key to asses how your customers or potential customers will engage with your groundswell. This section of the process sets out who your target market is and who you would appeal too. In order to accomplish this step, the social technographics profile needs to be applied.

Objectives: Here is where businesses need to answer “what are your goals?” If you have clear or cloudy objectives, it will make or break the strategy. The most important aspect is to have a specific goal when entering the groundswell. Bernoff and Li stated that here is where a business picks their reason for entering the groundswell. They laid out five types of objectives:

  • Listening: using the groundswell to better understand your customers by doing research, customer insights purposes.
  • Talking: using the groundswell to spread certain messages to customers about your own company, marketing and controlling the message of your firm is the purpose with the help of two way conversations rather than just one way.
  • Energizing: using the groundswell to get your most positive customers to support your company by word of mouth, selling by customers selling to each other is the purpose.
  • Supporting: using the groundswell to support your customers with tools to help other customers, the purpose here is to create a supportive environment for customers for each other.
  • Embracing: using the groundswell to integrate your customers into your business processes, this can be done by implementing their suggestions into product design or services.

Strategy: Here is where businesses answer “how do you want relationships with your customers to change? Do you want them to become more engaged?” Planning for changes in the future and being able to measure strategy will be easier to do when these questions are answered. Bernoff and Li have suggestions in regards to strategy, no matter what objectives a business is following:

  • Create a plan that is realistic in size but also has room to grow in the future: do not jump into a full scale operation right away, start small and grow.
  • Think of the negatives of the potential strategy: think about the changes it will bring.
  • Put someone of importance in charge of the strategy: the responsibility of this should be a duty of a high member of the business.
  • Be careful in deciding your technology: choose agency partners carefully to ensure they represent you in a way that reflects your strategy.

Technology: Here is where businesses answer: “what applications should you build?” Need to decide what technologies will best represent your company and reflect your customers, objectives and strategy.

Groundswell is an unstoppable force, POST method can help decide why groundswell is right for your company. “There is no one right way to engage with groundswell” just that it is important to do so in order to move forward (Bernoff & Li, 2011).

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA, United States of America: Harvard Business Review Press.

Open Your Ears to the Groundswell

In the words of Ricardo Guimaraes, “brands belong to customers not companies” and therefore in is in those companies best interest to listen and integrate opinions in order to survive (Li & Bernoff, 2011). What does that mean, when they say companies need to listen? It is trying to capture the consumers behaviour, listening in on what they think about your company and learn from that; that is essentially listening to the groundswell or listening to the people. Well companies listen by using market research or surveys, that might not always be the best way. This is due to only having a limited amount of people who partake in those activities. 

Two Listening Strategies 

Companies are better off to look elsewhere for help gathering opinions due to the sheer volume of information out there. For example, if you are a travel company there are so many websites for consumer feedback: TripAdvisor,, not to mention social media sites on top of that. These professional tools offer two basic ways to listen:

  1. Set up your own private community: which is a large and continuous focus group 
  2. Begin brand monitoring: summary reports on what is happening in terms of consumer feedback 

Why Listening is Important 

The real power is in listening; yet it is sill one of the most essentially “neglected skill in business” (Li & Bernoff, 2011). 

real power is in listening

Here are the six reasons why an organization needs to start listening:

  1. Find out what your brands stands for: a company may know their message they are trying to get across, but what is actually being absorbed by consumers? 
  2. Understand how buzz is shifting: if they keep listening they will start to understand change rather than just have a baseline that it is occurring.
  3. Save research money; increase research responsiveness: attracts a higher interaction level, by answering the question why? Which is not able to be answered on once in a blue moon surveys. 
  4. Find the sources of influence in your market: find out who is talking about you with the most influence, in order to cultivate them.
  5. Manage PR crises: brand monitoring can ensure a problem, such as a negative online post, does not get out of hand before a company has a chance to respond to it. Time is money after all. 
  6. Generate new product and marketing ideas: integrate ideas from the consumer base, for the cheap price of FREE. 

While listening is a key business essential, acting on those findings is crucial.

smm_bg2.png What companies do with that information is what can set them apart from another company or result in a negative aftermath. Action can include talking back to the consumers. That relationship is a key aspect of ensuring success from the groundswell. 

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA, United States of America: Harvard Business Review Press.

The Social Technographics Profile

What Does That Even Mean?

Social makes reference to the activities that people do with other people

Technographics  makes reference to Forrester Research’s tool for observing customers technology behaviours 

Profile refers to just that, a profile comparing two groups of people 

The main goal of this tool is the group people based on what they do within the groundswell activities that they join in on. In essence, it is a participation tool. Before going further, Li and Bernoff (2011) made it clear that “people aren’t alike and won’t respond in the same way” meaning if you treat everyone the same your ultimately fate will be failure. Interactions between the people who create, react or just read make the internet what it is and businesses and even people need to realize that there are levels of people on the internet. 

“A strategy that treats everyone alike will spell failure-people aren’t alike and won’t respond in the same way.” 

Climbing the Social Technographics Ladder 

Forrester Research classifies consumers on a ladder to represent how at each step up they get more involved  in groundswell than the previous step. 


Creators: publish/upload content at least once a month

Conversationalists: participate in frequent dialogue with other users

Critics: react to other content by posting comments 

Collectors: save and collect content 

Joiners: maintain profiles on sites 

Spectators: Consume what other users produce by reading and/or watching 

Inactives: non-participants 

Applying the Ladder to a Target Market 

While knowing these classifications is great, Li and Bernoff say the real power is using these in a business strategy in order appeal to your target market or your direct customer base. Knowing your customers if key to an successful business. 

If I were to look at a specific target market, such as the car industry in regards to the Forrester tool below, we can see what classification may best fit our goals and thus be implemented in our strategy. 


Here it is easy to see that the majority of young adults in Canada are joiners and spectators. Meaning, that they participate and maintain profiles on social media sites mostly to view content on those sites. Thus, going forward we know that a large consumer base is online where we need to be. Next, if I was the media manager at a dealership I would know that these consumers are most likely going to watch but not react. Thus, a video, image or post must be attention grabbing to make these consumers go to the next step and get active within the brand.

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA, United States of America: Harvard Business Review Press.

Social Media or Be Defeated

Social media has become a massive part of my everyday life, whether I like or want to admit it or not, almost as essential as eating and drinking water. The saddest part is, it is not just one social media application but multiple; pretty much just rereading or rewatching the same thing over and over and OVER again. Yet, everyday I do it and cannot imagine a world where I did not.

Social media has become one of the largest and most talked about areas of business and pleasure. In the article Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of Social Media by Kaplan and Haenlein, it speaks about how it is an area where many businesses are focusing their attention on. The main point in the article that interested me was the how to be social aspect, more specifically being encouraged to be interesting and unprofessional. I found this is to be of interest for me due to the fact it seems like the complete opposite from what you learn in school or in action in the workplace. I have always been taught to be on your best behaviour, to act professional at all times and to make sure to act a certain way.

“Users are people like you”

Here it states that “users are people like you,”and that these people would rather it be an honest and humble response or post filled with some mistakes than a robotic, boring, dull, fake, mechanic, lifeless, or computerized post (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). As a consumer I am in accordance with this article. If I see a post that enlightens me via emotion, I will be WAY more inclined to buy or use a certain product or service rather than an post that is typical advertising of “why your products is better than anyone else’s” (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). This is where doing social media right becomes crucial for a businesses ultimate success or failure; whether or not the can communicate with their customers properly or not, or even if they decide to participate or not.

Social media now a days seems to be something companies have no choice in anymore; they have to join. With over 50% of the market belonging to mobile social media and 75% of internet users clicking on social media sites, it seems like companies have to social media or fear being a bust due to being irrelevant (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010).

From past experience I have found a new company to buy from or hair stylist to go to based solely on their social media account. Their Instagram pages made it more appealing to shop their than anywhere else, which leads into the articles point of being interesting. These companies found out what I wanted to see and hear, found out what was of value to be and developed that content aimed to please me. Which, of course they did so. At times it even seems that when a business you “like” on Facebook shares a video that you also like, that connection brings interest to that company regardless if it is directly related. Social media is a great advertising tool for businesses, but using it as a community or connecting tool creates comfort in buying from that business. More so than a traditional ad might.

Going forward as a consumer, the connection I feel towards certain social media posts will certainly be more influential on my behaviour, wether they are funny videos or company ads. On the other hand, going forward as a business student I will focus more on the connectivity with users rather than the most professional and predictable route of doing business.


Some final thoughts on the future of social media in business, is that the reliance on social media will only grow and that companies, new and old, must use media to survive.

Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Business Horizons , 53 (1), 59-58.