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.