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 https://theesocialexperiment.files.wordpress.com/2015/03/post-method-for-social-media-strategy-31.gif


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