Helping the Groundswell Support Itself

Hello everyone,

Another day, another groundswell discussion. Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (available for purchase here) had us look at the POST method – for tapping into the groundswell, and building a groundswell strategy that supports company objectives, and we looked at some of the five specific objectives. We’ve expanded on listening and talking in some of my other blog posts – get your refresher course by clicking the hyperlink over the respective words). And we’ve made it this far together (hopefully) so let’s keep trucking and look at supporting.

Discovering your objectives is the heart of the POST process – your reason to enter the groundswell. And you may discover your primary goals and objective is supporting – having an objective to use groundswell activity to help your customers support each other. Enabling customers to support each other can free up time and money for your company, build a loyal community, and even generate new solutions to issues (free of charge!). The groundswell can become a fantastic support system, both for individuals and organizations.

Ah customer support, it’s the best of times, it’s the worst of times. We’ve all been there, the dreaded customer support line whether in-store, over-the-phone, and online. The support you receive can make or break your loyalty, your attitude, or even your day! Share some of the best/worst/memorable support moments down below in the comments. But companies do worry about supporting their customer, clients, and members. And they spend thousands, millions, TRILLIONS (okay..maybe not that much) in support services. These costs have driven the shift to offering support services online. And through the magic of the groundswell fairies it has evolved into people supporting each other.

One man, Jeff Stenksi, roughly saved Dell over one-million dollars in support calls by dedicating a lot of hours to answering technical questions on Dell’s support forum (Bernoff & Li, 2011). That’s the groundswell benefiting Dell. A few more tech-savvy people like Jeff? And Dell has saved huge amounts of time and money. The groundswell can provide the power of thousands for support, generating much more than a single support representative ever could.

Now if I didn’t blog about the Groundswell so much, you bet your bottom dollar I’d be blogging about television. Survivor, Big Brother, Dr.Phil, Walking Dead, it’s beyond casual watching. I’m on all the blogs, Jeff Probst Q&A boards, recaps, forums, etc. All these discussions don’t tame my passion, they energize it.(shoutout to my main survivor commenters!) And they get me more excited, delving further into fan theories and sharing them among family and friends. These fans can generate ‘buzz’ whether it’s for Sunday night zombie shows or the Apple iPhone. 

Bernoff & Li (2011) remind us to examine three things prior to using the groundswell to achieve support objectives.

  • What problem is your support activity trying to solve? Using support tools such as forums, wikis, etc become more powerful when it taps into the problems/topics people tend to talk about the most.
  • Can you participate? Creating support in the groundswell is good, but it needs your participation, management, and monitor to succeed. Active work to drive traffic and attention to your groundswell support system is critical to sustain the community. Participating in conversations, through answers or generating new content may also be critical in the beginning before the groundswell slowly  can take over to create a self-running support community.
  • Why build if you can join? Is there an existing community for your consumers? Maybe you can join it, sponsor it or form a relationship.

Here at NAIT, the Facebook page ‘TBH Nait’ has created an informal student-driven community. Daily frustrations, questions, problems, or experiences are posted anonymously, allowing commenters that usually consist of NAIT students. While yes, some posts can be ‘trolling’ or immature, some posts of support under comments of students feeling pressured also shows me the positive of the online community. Knowing your fellow students share the elevator frustrations, or are feeling the pressure of finals help many keep motivation going. Recently, the NAIT Nugget newspaper made the TBH Nait its cover story. This shows NAIT acknowledging this community they did not create themselves, and that story garnered attention,traffic, and new followers (along with their new support) back to the Facebook page.

support1Source: TBH NAIT-Facebook. Retrieved from here

Using the groundswell as an advantage is everywhere people!

What communities are you a part of? Do you use them for support, knowledge, ideas? Are you a tad obsessed with scrolling through Yahoo! Answers like I am? Let me know down in the comments!

Thanks people!




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

Featured Image: Business support. Retrieved from here.


Talking with the Groundswell

Hello everyone,

Last week we went through the major process identified in Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (available for purchase here). Remember the POST process and its objectives? (It’s been a long week and I forgive you, review it here). Well we already looked at the objective listening (previous blog here), and now we’re looking at talking. This tactic uses the groundswell to spread messages online. Marketing has been largely aimed with talking at their market, talking to the groundswell is aimed at talking with, by creating and encouraging two-way discussion.

The figure at the top of the screen shows a traditional marketing funnel. A funnel that herds consumers down a path from awareness to purchase and loyalty (Bernoff & Li, 2011). However, the authors note that the groundswell is changing this traditional process. A shift in consumerism has marketers no longer dictating the paths of consumers. People are learning from each other, through the groundswell. Online reviews, instant word-of-mouth, discussion forums, etc. all influence users in the middle of the marketing funnel and can drastically alter outcomes.

Authors Bernoff and Li (2011) outline the four most common methods for talking with the groundswell.

  1. Post a viral video
    Organizations can pursue online videos for a variety of goals. To boost sales, build relationships, etc. The goal should be to create a conversation through a video, and use it as a mechanism to link people to social networks, blogs, etc. to allow further interaction with customers.
  2. Engage in social networks & user-generated content sites
    Ah yes, social networks, we’re all on them aren’t we? One? Two? Five? And we’ve seen the expansion of business presence over social media. Many companies have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn as a tool to talk with the groundswell. Use the Social Technographics Profile to see where your customers are. If they are joiners social networks are a likely a good communication tool.
    Remember the  example we did for the Canadian tech company hiring young talent? (You can refresh your memory here.) Our target market was joiners. Creating conversation about job postings over social networks can reach a wide market. Encouraging job-related questions and responding to encourage two-way conversation can attract the talent you may be searching for.
  3. Join the blogosphere
    Blogging. (Glasbergen, 2006). Retrieved from here.

    Now I know you all probably assume I went through years of training at the Global Blog Institute to create a blog like this but the truth is, the task of creating and managing a blog is not as daunting as you may think. Blogs can be used to increase awareness of your organization, update consumers frequently, listen through comments, and stimulate discussion (Bernoff & Li, 2011). Because blogging is personal, no one should be forced to blog, instead, it should be someone who wants to engage in dialogue. Authors suggest prior to starting a blog, consider the P and of the POST Method (found in my last weeks blog here). Your people and objectives – if you know whom you want to reach and exactly what you want to accomplish, it’s far more likely to succeed (Bernoff & Li, 2011).

  4. Create a community 
    If you are interested in creating an online community, look to see whether your market really is a community or has the potential to be one (Bernoff & Li, 2011). Then look to see what communities are already out there for your market. What would your competition be? And do not create a community if you cannot support it through maintenance, new content, new features, etc.

A shift from traditional marketing to talking with a groundswell in like the transition from shouting to pleasant conversation. The bombardment of television ads have been replaced with online review forums. It creates dialogue and two way conversation through comments and feedback that organizations can listen to, and hopefully be proactive with. Here’s what authors noted about talking to the groundswell.
“Even as technologies change, the basic conversational nature of those technologies will remain central. If you learn to talk, listen, and respond, you’ll master the middle of the funnel” (Bernoff & Li, 2011, 126)

So where do companies reach you the most online? Where do you wish they reached you? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!



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

Featured Image: Marketing Funnel.  Retrieved from here


Tapping the Groundswell – P.O.S.T Process


We are back inside Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (available for purchase here – as a side note, I must have been talking about this book too much online, ads for the book are swarming my Facebook! I already own it advertisers!). Anyway, we are looking at tapping into the groundswell, and building a groundswell strategy that supports company objectives. To do this, the authors have outlined a four-step process: the P.O.S.T method.

Before we break it down, this method tackles a common error among companies. That is, going about a groundswell strategy backwards. Backwards you say! But it is common. Organizations know they should be involved in the groundswell, the just don’t know whySo they start by thinking about technology first. ‘Let’s start social networking’,’Let’s build a blog’,’Let’s launch a viral campaign’, etc. They focus on the technology, but not what objectives they want to accomplish through the technology. And whether those objectives are aligned with overall objectives of the company. the POST method is supposed to be a foundation for you, a framework to assemble an appropriate groundswell plan. So let’s break it down.

P – People – It’s important to look at how your customers will engage based on what they are already doing. What are your customers ready for? You cannot successfully build a social strategy if you do not know the capabilities of your audience (Bernoff, 2007). Using tools like the Social Technographic Profile (see my previous blog here for more information) can help you gain knowledge of your audience. When we discussed it last, I related it as a recruiter of a Canadian technological company, and this was our technographic breakdown.

Social Technographic Profile - Forrester, 2015
Social Technographic Profile – Forrester, 2015

Our profile shows our target markets are largely joiners and spectators. And interestingly, when compared with other markets, this market had the highest percentage of creators (which may be ideal candidates), and the lowest percentage of inactives. Assessing this, it means a) a large percentage of our market could ideally be reached online, and b) their groups (joiners, creators) allow us to create potential platforms to reach them. With joiners, social networks may be ideal. With creators, online innovative communities may be ideal. But again, don’t focus on the technology until later. This is our first step and gives us our base knowledge moving forward.

O – Objectives – This is the heart of the process. It’s your why – your reason to enter the groundswell. Once you understand how your audience is interacting, you want to understand what you want to achieve from them. What are your goals from interacting with your audience? Li & Bernoff have identified five primary objectives that companies pursue in the groundswell, and we’ll break those down too.

Listening – focuses on hearing what people are saying about your company online. The organizational objective is to listen to the online community, learn from what they are saying, and develop customer insight and research from listening. A company could monitor blogs and tags, or create discussion forums to monitor customer conversations.
Talking – this tactic uses the groundswell to spread messages online. Participating in and stimulating two-way conversations between you and the customers and between customers themselves. A company could create videos, blogs, social networks, etc. to stimulate talking among the groundswell community.
Energizing – focuses on energizing enthusiastic customers to create buzz around your product/service, or organization. A loyal customers word of mouth can create value equal to marketing efforts. Have you ever witnessed an Apple vs. Android user debate? I have, and it can get pretty heated. Yet it shows the passion these users have, and willingly share via word of mouth, or via online through posts, comments, reviews, etc. This obviously works well for companies that know they have loyal brand enthusiasts to energize.
Supporting – having an objective to use groundswell activity to help your customers support each other. Enabling customers to support each other can free up time and money for your company, build a loyal community, and even generate new solutions to issues (free of charge!). Building online support communities/forums can further accomplish this objective.
Embracing – Helping your customers work with each other to create ideas useful for your business to grow. This objective may be difficult as it requires being prepared to listen and take perhaps unintended actions and commit to acknowledging the innovative online community.
(Bernoff & Li, 2011)

If we continue on as a recruiter for the technological company what would our objectives be? It could be to create an employer preferred brand in Canada. Or establish leading position in terms of engagement online for recruiting. These objectives could be established through talking – creating two-way conversations online between you and applicants or potential applicants.

HCL Technologies was a company I stumbled across doing research for social media and recruitment. This company launched a campaign over Twitter and conducted a complete end-to-end recruitment process all captured by the hashtag #CoolestInterviewEver. It allowed hiring to become a two-way conversation over a social platform. Total engagement equaled 250 000 users from around 60 countries, lasted 15 days, and 5 candidates were shortlisted via Twitter interviews (#CoolestInterviewEver…, 2014). HCL noted the total cost of the initiative was equal to what was spent recruiting one full time employee, and resulted in HCL having a strengthened employer brand (and also more Twitter followers than any other IT Service organization in the world). You can download the full case study here, and see below for their ad and let me know what you think of this whole thing in the comments!

Source: #CoolestInterviewEver via YouTube (2014)

S – Strategy – Now you need to create a plan based on your objectives. Shifting strategy thinking from “Let’s start a blog” to move towards real question as to how customers will be impacted, how relationships will change, and how will online engagement grow, can help define aspects of your strategy to aid in long-term success. Bernoff and Li (2011)share some general advice for creating strategies:
– Start small with room to grow – companies that try and map out entire strategies over a long-term period will find their planning may be obsolete by the time it’s finished. With rapid changes in technology, or shifting consumer demands, creating a strategy with room for flexibility is key. Create ‘stepping stones’ of strategy, how you can measure it, and how you can build on that success next.
– Think through consequences of strategy – think about how the groundswell will change the way your business runs. How can it impact different functions?What resources will be needed to be put into place to support strategy? Look at not only consequences for yourself, but of any partners, suppliers, etc. that may be affected. Make sure all issues are addressed before the plan is put into implementation.
(Bernoff & Li, 2011).

If we wanted to strengthen online engagement in terms of recruiting, we need to consider what will change in the organization.Will additional training be needed for recruitment staff to learn new technologies? Job descriptions of recruiters may need to be modified for that. Will we need the same number of recruitment staff in-house? Can application/resume screenings be completed solely online? What software and IT capabilities would we need for that? All things need to be thoroughly considered to take full advantage of a groundswell strategy.

T – Technology – Here we are! We made it (hopefully, thanks for sticking through with me). Now you can finally decide which technologies align with your audience (people), your objectives, and your strategy. What technology is appropriate for you can vary greatly, from blogs, social networks, to wikis, and idea communities. What is important to note is because companies usually don’t develop these social applications themselves, its important that your choice in technological partner is based off a partner that has past experience,and understands both your company brand and your social groundswell objectives. As a recruiter, I’d want to pick technology such as social networks, which takes advantage of our large joiner market and our objectives to engage people in talking and becoming a preferred employer brand. Stimulating two-way conversations with applicants can attract top talent and extend reach beyond geographical borders.

So there it is! A full rundown of the POST process. Again, thanks for sticking with me through this long-winded post. Hopefully it helped provide a framework for companies looking for the why and how to tap in and create a groundswell strategy. Share your thoughts in the comments section!



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

Bernoff, J. (2007, December 11). The POST Method: A systematic approach to social strategy. Retrieved from here

#CoolestInterviewEver – Forrester Groundswell Award Submission. (2014). Retrieved from here

Featured Image – Analyzing the POST process. Retrieved from