The Groundswell inside your Company

Getting into the twelfth chapter of this book, the emphasis has now shifted towards getting your employees in the groundswell. Employees can be one of the most valuable assets to your company and they should all hold the one goal of aiding in your companies success.

Employees are connecting through internal social networks, collaborating on wikis, and contributing to idea exchanges” (Li & Bernoff, 2011)   

internal social networks : Blue Shirt Nation at Best Buy was created to listen to what employees had to say and for them to help each other. Referring back to chapter 4, Blue Shirt Nation achieved all five objectives of listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing. An in depth interview with the masterminds behind this innovation can be watched below!

collaborating on wikis: The CEO of Razorfish, one of the biggest interactive agencies, made a blog post unrelated to his work, but it allowed employees to be connected with their leader. It created an internal intranet site where employees can share ideas, skills, or blog about anything.  It allows an opportunity to see what people are concerned about, encourage participation and listening and acts as a virtual management tool.

contributing to idea exchange: To induce innovation, Rex Lee from Bell Canada designed “ID-ah”, a platform where anyone in their company could suggest an idea and have employees vote on it. Not only was it used to generate ideas, but to change attitudes by creating a more invested workforce where employees can feel like their work and opinions matter.


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In order to nurture the groundswell power of your employees, you need to ensure that you:

  • promote a listening culture from the top down
    • Management needs to be open to the idea of listening to their employees and have a high level of trust. Opinions need to be encouraged, not punished.
  • ease and encourage participate with incentives
    • Depending on what your applications target is (ex: listening, collaboration), the level of participation is reliant on this. To encourage participation, you need to accommodate your application to be attractive to those who are usually Inactive’s,
  • find & empower the rebels in your organization
    • Opportunity cost needs to be the main objective. The potential to allow enthusiastic employees get on board should act as a driving force. This being said – mistakes happen! Be prepared to fail, but to direct energy productively so you can help and learn from mistakes. Don’t forget to set up some guidelines and ground rules in advance √

In this chapter we have summarized how culture is the key for an internal groundswell. Nothing can be forced upon your employees, so it helps having your top management involved to get the ball rolling. To relate the topics discussed in this chapter to the HR industry, this sector of an organization can have a huge impact on the overall culture of the company.  From the moment the employee is hired and while conducting interviews, they need to be embraced with the idea of what your organization can provide them and let them know their voice can be heard. And of course, this culture is hugely influenced by top management. This is an ongoing and continuous process that needs to be reinforced to existing and prospective employees.

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



Energizing the Groundswell

The third level of groundswell thinking refers to energizing. 

The first example given in this chapter refers to a company called eBags, an online store that sold a customer a laptop bag. After the customer faced failure from a key zipper on his bag, eBags had replaced it the next day. Energizing was done by listening to the review the customer had left on their website, contacted him, and then focused on improving the design so this would not happen again. eBags had found an enthusiast customer and turned him into a word of mouth customer who now relays his experience with his bag to whomever is the lucky guest that sits next to him on a plane.

eBags was able to attain his : attention√ loyalty√ and word of mouth

“Energizing the base is a powerful way to use the groundswell to boost your business” (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Word of mouth proves effective as it is more believable as the idea stems from a real customer. Moreover, hearing it from more than one person allows it to be self-reinforcing. This idea ties in with how it is self-spreading, meaning word of mouth will create more word of mouth when a product is worth using.


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In order to truly connect with your passionate and enthusiastic customers and make it easy for them to spread the word about your product, there are 3 techniques: 

  • Ratings & Reviews
  • Create a Community
  • Participate & energize in online communities

The idea or ratings and reviews hold many benefits to it. Based on ratings, it is easier to find the ROI of ratings and reviews at a site. Even though negative reviews may scare off a company, they are what make the positive reviews even more believable as most people tend to leave positive reviews. Reviews also help with suppliers as they are able to tell what is selling and what is not. As well, the company is able to rectify any problems that happen when they see a bad review.

“About 96% of customers use online reviews to help them make a purchase” (Li & Bernoff, 2011)

The most obvious example  I can think of a company using reviews is Amazon. They have the most efficient ratings and reviews section in my opinion due to the fact that you are able to quickly look at the products rating in a average rating out of 5, or go more in detail. For a customer who is just browsing and wants a general idea, this is effective and gives the option to look more in depth afterwards by actually being able to read these reviews. For example:


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There are 5 steps for applying the techniques of energizing to any organizations:

  1. Figure out if you want to energize the groundswell – this approach does not work for everyone as you need to ensure your customers are enthusiastic about your products; you cannot assume they want to.
  2. Check the social technographics of your customers – check how active your customers are in participating in the groundswell.
  3. “What’s my customers problem?” – relating back to eBags, the problem by stem from travelling in general, not just luggages.
  4. Pick a strategy that fits your customers’ social technographics profile and problems – utilizing ratings, reviews, critics, or communities are all dependant on your audience.
  5. Don’t start unless you can stick around for the long haul – Creating a community is a commitment that requires a long term perspective. Constant adjustments allows your company to grow and makes it more rewarding.

Overall, although energizing is a risky move that requires an organization to truly examine its customer base, the payoffs it can provide can really benefit an organization. By measuring the different dynamics of all your customers, this approach requires finding out what works best for your company. To relate this to the HR industry, almost any function can benefit from energizing. It is a good tool to solicit feedback as to what is working and what isn’t. From this, you are able to make changes that suit your customers needs and relay this information back to your team. For example, when the HR team is conducting exit interviews, they are energizing their staff by asking what they thought of the company and what they can improve on. By listening to stakeholders and utilizing word of mouth techniques, the HR team can figure out solutions that suit the needs of their clientele and can continuously mold this as they adapt to needs.

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

Tapping the Groundswell with Twitter

“But when it comes to twitter, you need to know that once your company starts to connect, people will expect the company to listen and respond, not just broadcast” (Li & Bernoff, 2011). 


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What makes Twitter so different from the rest? Well:

  • Followers : Quickly allows connections to be established, either from a pre established status, such as a celebrity, or simply posting interesting content.
  • Hashtages & Searches:  Using the pound/hash sign, companies and individuals can unitize this tool to search for trending topics.
  • Mentions & Retweets: allows the spreading of ideas or a communication to develop using the “@” sign.
  • Links: Using links to websites and attaching a short blurb attached to it, companies can use this to tweet new offers and contents.
  • Lists: You are able to see the list others have made of influential people to follow.
  • Apps & Tools: Ex:  TweekDeck, an application used to collect mentions and searches


Looking at the Social Technographics profile of tweeters, we can see statistics given to these highly socially connected group of individuals.


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Objectives of Twitter:

Twitter is quite versatile as opposed to its competitors. McDonalds used Twitter for both for talking and supporting. It can be used for each of the 5 groundswell objectives by (1) listening, because you are able to look at trends and identify if any influential individuals are talking about the brand. Next, (2) talking, has been utilized by Dell (@DellOutlet) which gives out sales on PC’s. Energizing (3) on twitter is focused on responding and retweeting by finding people who like your service or products. Dunkin’ Donuts does this often by responding to their fans and utilizes active marketing managing. Many companies and individuals who are influential are (4) supporting twitter by answering and responding to those who have questions or complaints, such as AT&T (@ATT). In the previous chapter, the concept of (5) embracing was examined. This can be done on Twitter, and has been done, by several companies. Starbucks using the account @mystarbucksideas to promote and drive individuals to use the ideas of their community.

Utilizing Twitter is a great strategy for almost any business as it is so simple to use and once an objective and strategy has been set, it is a powerful tool. Some advice to use even beyond Twitter strategies include:

  1. Locking up your handle (become verified)
  2. Listening first
  3. Be ready to support people
  4. Follow others
  5. Be ready for a crisis
  6. Respond, retweet, and link
  7. Staff it – twitter needs to be somebody’s job and IN their job description
  8. Check with legal and regulatory staff
  9. Don’t waste your following

With my profession, it would be useful to be able to work for a company that utilizes a tool that I have been familiar with since 2009. When it first came out, I did not realize the potential for it, but now that it has been growing, it is a great tool for businesses and individuals to utilize to reach out to a large number of people. The simplicity in its design makes it easy for any organization to adapt. For the HR realm, it could even serve useful to find retain and attract a potential talent pool by posting ads and job hiring links followed by a link to submit your resume and check out the companies website. Many organizations already due this, such as the one here posted for a social restaurant in the states. 



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

Chapter 8 – Helping the Groundswell Support Itself

Traditional support = 

  • views supporting customers as a burden
  • upon purchase, the company doesn’t want to hear from you
  • direct inquires to outsourced services

Groundswell support =

  • support comes from each other
  • Ex: Dell
    • answers questions with support forums using several members of the community
    • people participate simply for gratitude

Forums provide a great way for a community to get involved. Not only does this help the consumer, but also call centres will be receiving a lot less calls this way. Not only do people use support forums to help with whatever inquires they may have or look for answers,  a “fan phenomena” develops when people share the same passion. In May 2007, people took this passion for the TV show Jericho to send $50,000 to the producers of the show, supporting this television series by creating a loyal and passionate community. An example of one of the community forums that was created for this show can be found here. 


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Necessary components to create a successful wiki:

  1. People – individuals with a common interest in contributing
  2. Content – develop more than just a discussion forum.
    1. Ex: eBay had it rules for buying and selling
  3. Patience & Policy – need to ensure rules are grounded in order to upkeep integrity

Throughout the chapter, several case studies are examined of different organizations and how they approach what applications will work best for them. It is important that an company examine three things when looking into the how the groundswell will support itself:

  1. What problem will you solve
    1. if you are creating a wiki, forum, or other community support, ask yourself ” why will people participate?”
  2. How will you participate
    1. be active with the participants, an example can again be referred to the Jericho television show and how the producers got involved.
  3. Whether you should create a support community or join an existing one
    1. A company having their own posts creates more attention, however, if an existing community is present, consider joining, sponsoring, or developing some relationship with it.

If the choice is to go forward with the third step, there are a few suggestions on what to do next:

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

It is important in any organization to analyze the different dynamics that impact which route they should pursue. In the HR field, they play a key role in defining the policies for wikis and they need to ensure no unwanted content is being given and filter out unnecessary information. They are also in charge of the content they want to be seen, so it is important that they stay education on any content that may breach this.

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Massachusetts: Harvard School Business Publishing.

Chapter 6: Talking with the Groundswell

“No matter what your company does, whom it sells to, or what parts of the world you do business in, people are blogging about your product” (Li & Bernoff, 2011). 


Marketing departments in every organization weigh heavily in attempts to speak with their customers. Two of the main methods used are:

Advertising: Thrives on repetition through reach and frequency.

Public relations: Exposures in free media

A traditional marketing method can best be illustrated through the marketing funnel. Consumers are driven by activities (ex: advertising) into awareness, continuing through the funnel to end up as buyers.the_traditional_marketing_funnel

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However, just using these methods isn’t enough. Once consumers reach the middle of the funnel, the shouting method will not be as effective. What is going to get customers engaged is conversation. Through Facebook, blogs, etc., a companies social media presence becomes influential to not only existing customers, but whoever else reads it as well. The most common and effective ways to talk to the groundswell are through:

  1. Post a viral video 
    1. Best for punching through the noise
    2. A brilliant idea is required
      1. An example of one of Blendtec’s viral videos can be found here
  2. Engage in social networks and user-generated content sites
    1. Solves word of mouth problems (clothes, movies, TV shows)
    2. Key is to be there and respond to your what your customers are saying
  3. Join the blogsosphere
    1. Useful when multiple sets of customers exist/ have complex products
    2. Blogs can help with consideration of complex options
    3. Often get posted on mainstream media
  4. Create a community 
    1. A long term commitment
    2. Useful for when customers or dependant on each other – not on you.

In order to create a successful blog, we can refer back to a refresher to use given in chapter 4 regarding the POST process. The desire to actually want to engage with your customers will take away the “shoving down your throat” feeling you might give off otherwise. Knowing who you want to reach out too (people) and what you tend to accomplish (objectives) are the building blocks towards reaching this goal. Implementing the strategy and using the approaite technogloy is what remains to reach your goals.

In the HR industry, the best approach they can do is align themselves with the marketing department to achieve whatever the end goal is. For example, if the organizations purpose is to promote awareness of a new product, the HR team can hire the right candidates to execute this through marketing. While educating the marketing team of what exactly they are aiming to accomplish, they can decide of either of the four options above is the most appropriate for what they are trying to achieve.

This chapter focused on shifting the shouting method into a more conversational method that is much more engaging. This is a continuous cycle that involves people, comments, and feedback and will constantly be evolving.

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


Strategies for Tapping the Groundswell

In chapter 4, Li & Bernoff describe a four-step planning process that helps business executives get the jumpstart they need to form a groundswell mindset to assemble a plan. Many businesses know and have intentions of being actively involved in the groundswell, but lack the direction to move forth with this. This process is known as POST, an acronym that stands for people, objectives, strategy, and technology (Li &Bernoff, 2011).

social media

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People – Utilizing social technographics, this can provide information from a majority of a target market and the behaviors they pursue. It is critical to assess how your customers will be engaging with you, and using a technographic is a useful way to find this. Otherwise, you are left to guess what your audience might like. Unfortunately I do not have the prior blog post highlighting technographics, but here is an example of a social technographic:


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Objectives – Clearly defining goals can be categorized into five main objectives: listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing.

  • Listening: create a better understanding of your consumer base.
  • Talking: spread messages about your company.
  • Energizing: utilizing word of mouth, use your consumers to your advantage by having them spread the good word about your brand.
  • Supporting: Help your customers support each other.
  • Embracing: Using the help of your customers, take into consideration their input to help design your products.

In relation to my own career path, the objective of listening would be in my best interest. In order to create a successful revenue-generating platform, listening to your consumers would allow you to create content that aligns to what your audience wants. Using these customer insights can allow marketing and development to utilize actual thoughts and ideas from an external stakeholder.

Strategy – Taking into consideration all stakeholders involved, this stage in the process determines how you want your plan to roll out. Some questions that can be asked in this stage involve “How do you want relationships with your customers to change?” “Do you want customers to help carry messages to others in your market?” (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Answering these questions are vital in the decision making process and can help determine a criteria for success. Regardless of what you are pursuing, the same suggestions can apply:

  • Start small – Do not rush yourself or your brand. Create a rough draft of where you want to be and how will you build upon your potential success.
  • Weigh the consequences – Before the plan is complete, potential issues need to be addressed such as how it will change your traditional methods an how it will change your cost structure.
  • Find the right leader – Find the most suitable candidate and whoever ends up in charge needs to report back to the CEO on how the organization is transforming.
  • Select the appropriate technology & agency partners – align yourself with partners who understand your goals and objectives and ensure they have short and long term plans.

Technology – The final step is deciding which application would best suit your needs based on people, objectives and strategies. This can only be done after everything is completed so you can build an engaging blog, wiki, mobile application, or social network profile.

Relating the information found in this chapter to the Human Resource industry and my future career path in this realm, the ideology of listening to target markets and relaying back this information to other departments (marketing, management) can create the building blocks needed to run a successful organization. Once goals and strategies are mutually agreed upon, choosing a technology application that best suits the organizations mission to align with its consumers is the final step to allow this process to unfold.


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





Engaging with the groundswell: Transforming your Company

Shifting your organization to one that is led by the groundswell sounds like a simple enough plan. However, this is usually not the case. A company needs to undergo a mental shift that requires a well designed plan to make this transformation a reality. Chapter 12 focuses on how companies can work with their customers in terms of groundswell thinking. There are three steps for the transformation (Li & Bernoff, 2011):

  1. Take it step by step – A mental shift will require time and practice
  2. Each step leads in a natural progression to the next step – A plan and vision is needed. Communicating within the organization will create talk and the embrace of new ideas. 
  3. Executive support – In order to get your ideas to flourish, communicating your plan to upper management effectively is crucial.

One example of a company that is described in the text is Unilever. They are the parent of well known brands such as Axe, Lipton, and Vaseline. They have demonstrated themselves as leaders in brand marketing by taking big risks and executing them at the right time. Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty in 2004 aimed at going against industry beauty standards and it caused a radical outreach. Unilever had “measurable success metrics that were tied to key marketing goals” (Li & Bernoff, 2011).This example stood out to me as a I can recall watching this ad when I was in elementary. During this time, it was not common to see viral ads come out exposing what media defined as “beautiful”. Watching this at a young age changed my perception of the media and I can still remember the ad vividly. They utilized the three steps by proving to upper management that lower cost alternatives can make an impact and changed their marketing focus.



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There are five steps to ensure a company has the best chance of succeeding:

  1. Start small
  2. Educate executives
  3. Get the right people to run your strategy
  4. Get your agency and technology partners in sync
  5. Plan for the next step and for the long term

To align this method to the HR industry, these concepts need to be understood and how it relates the success of the organization. The human resource department needs to closely align themselves with the marketing department and decide what exactly they want to change. The vision and plan needs to be considered and approved by all departments in the organization. By doing this, communication is used effectively as there is constant feedback as to what plans can be finalized by upper management. Once the approval by executives is accomplished, this philosophy can be spread throughout the organization to utilize a groundswell mindset.

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


Listening to the Groundswell

“To begin with, you won’t hear from everybody; you’ll only hear from people willing to talk. So listening to the groundswell comes with a huge caveat-you’ll gain new insights, but don’t assume that the people you hear from are representative” (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

The focus of chapter 5 is centralized around the idea of listening to customers and the potential advantages and disadvantages.The importance of brand is also emphasized, showcasing how this concept is ultimately up to your customers and how they define it. The whole concept of listening is labeled as market research. This is a strategic way of mapping trends to find out what is most appealing to your audience. Although costly, methods such as surveys, allows you to hear thousands of consumers for different amounts of time. Finally, focus groups allow natural responses to come about as a group of individuals are given whatever is thrown at them. This serves useful to give honest opinions and to listen to negative and positive responses. 

 Two listening strategies that prove to be vital include:

  • Setting up your own private community 
    • Similar to a continuously running focus group, openly available for listening
  • Begin brand monitoring
    • Summary reports from companies that listen to blogs, discussions forums, Twitter, etc.



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Whether choosing a private company or brand monitoring, there are six reasons the Groundswell gives proving why listening is seen as the most essential neglected skill:

  1. Find out what your brand stands for
  2. Understand how buzz is shifting
  3. Save research money;increase research responsivenss
  4. Find the sources of influence in your market
  5. Manage PR crisis
  6. Generate new product and marketing ideas

Given all the tools and resources available, noticeable changes are likely to begin in a given organization. It will impact how decisions are made, create instant availability of information, and creates a two way conversation of listening to the groundswell and then reiterating this through traditional media. “Your job becomes to communicate what you’ve learn – to turned insight into change” (Li & Bernoff, 2011). In the context of the Human Resource Management, this quote heavily aligns with the industry as a whole. The ideology of listening and communicating back to team members serves as a tactic to reach organizational goals. As the HR team works closely with management, listening to consumers feedback (negative and feedback) in a variety of methods can fully engage an organization to a successful platform.

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


Users of the world, unite!

Kaplan and Haenlein write an interesting article related to social media and the impacts it has towards the population both online and offline. Describing it as a “revolutionary new trend” that companies need to take advantage off, the increasing popularity of utilizing social media as a means of creating a platform for yourself has its benefits and downfalls (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010).

Creation of a personal webpage is the root of how individuals want to be perceived. Media research and social processes both go hand in hand when defining the two elements of social media. How you present yourself to the online and offline world is rooted back to these two elements as your presence and self-disclosure reveals aspirations, goals, dislikes, etc. This gives power to an individual or a company to reveal to the public what exactly their intentions are and how they intend to get there. Utilizing social media creates an outreach to whichever audience you intend to be your target market. It is relatively low cost, time efficient, and you can sell and create your own content. However, there are risks involved in this act. Companies, for example, may have individuals who have had bad experiences with their services. It is out of the companies control to manage the virtual complaints the individual puts out onto the web. As well, staff members may write negatively about the company, creating an image of an unappealing organization to work for.

After graduation, I intend on utilizing my degree in Human Resource Management in the service industry. Creating an online presence for myself can aid as a potential hiring tool if I can create an appealing image. After reading the article, it became even more evident of how prominent social media is becoming. Relating back to previous assignments we have done regarding YouTube and LinkedIn, the way you portray yourself online can create major opportunities. In the article, “you are not a part of the cyberspace no more” was used in terms of describing your lack of relevance if you do not use Facebook or YouTube (Kaplan & Haenlein, 2010). I found this point interesting as your Facebook is one of the first things individuals would look you up on. For this reason, I believe the statement holds truth to it as you now need to rely outside the cyberspace to portray yourself in a way that will stand out. When it becomes time to apply for jobs in my industry, I think utilizing both online and offline methods would benefit me the most. For example, handing out resumes both in person and online, and attending networking events and then following up on social media.


Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and oppertunites of Social Media. Business Horizons , 53, 59-68.