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