Connecting with the Groundswell and Transforming Your Company

Hello everyone!

Now I’m sure those of you following along are expecting a review of the next chapter ‘talking with the groundswell’ of Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (available for purchase here). But I like to live a little crazy, so we’re jumping ahead and looking at a chapter focusing on how connecting with the groundswell can transform your company. A little random? Maybe, but what’s life without a little randomness?

Are you familiar with Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty videos? I’d be surprised if you weren’t. The viral videos have exploded in popularity. The first video, titled ‘Evolution’ was distributed across sites like YouTube and drove double the amount of traffic to their website than the 30-second SuperBowl ad. That SuperBowl ad, by the way, cost Dove $2.5 million dollars. Distributing the ‘Evolution’ video cost the company nothing, and earned them advertisement’s highest awards in Cannes (Benoff & Li, 2011).

Source: Dove Evolution. Retrieved from here

But for a large company where traditional grand messages and marketing plans are meticulously planned and coordinated over months, how did they transform into a company that embraces the groundswell? Authors Bernoff and Li note ways companies can connect with the groundswell and transform a company. Become a company with its finger on what pulse of what consumers want, and become better listeners. Listening you say? Didn’t your previous article talk about listening? Why yes it did, and it’s available here. See, it’s all connected.

There are three essential elements to transforming a company from traditional marketing and customer support to one that is led by, and engages with the groundswell to achieve objectives.

1. Take it step by step – shifting a company culture mentally to embrace and engage with the groundswell can take time. You want to create a mini-groundswell within the company and use opportunities to adjust concepts and perceptions of people to how things should work. (Bernoff & Li, 2011). Letting go of some control isn’t an easy win for companies halted by tradition. Look for shortcomings in current programs and apply groundswell thinking to solve problems,displaying the impacts of small successes can gain support for a groundswell initiative.

2. Lead in a natural progression – Stepping-stones of transformation should lead to more steps,and companies should have visions and plans for how these steps interact and build into an overall strategy of groundswell thinking. Have a vision of the kind of conversation you want with your customers, what message to convey to those who want to interact. Launch internal blogs, social networks etc. to demonstrate benefits and develop plans and visions on how it can integrate with consumers and outside parties.

3. Have executive support – One person only has so much political power within an organization. But ideas and changes that have top support are able to gain larger support for change. Build leaders into the plan for transformation, and educate the executives (Bernoff & Li, 2011). Tools such as the Social Technographics Profile (there’s a blog about that too! Located here) and research can demonstrate that the consumer base is eager to engage and sell upper management on groundswell thinking. Sharing a vision with persuasive and planning skills can help get top management support. And since they usually control funding and change processes, you want them on your side.

So are you a groundswell thinking champion? You could be the right person to run a groundswell strategy initiative. Passion for relationships with customers can be a first-step catalyst to start transforming. Customers can now organize in the groundswell, and having your company embrace the change can lead to the breakdown of once siloed functions and result in integrated approaches for marketing and customer communication.

Are we at a time where the transformation to embrace the groundswell is almost inevitable? Can ignoring it become too much of a risk as technology and communication of the groundswell increases daily? I want to hear your thoughts!




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

Featured Image: Digital transformation…(February 24, 2015). Retrieved from here