getting groundswell inside your company

final postCreating an internal groundswell in your company might be a scary concept. Letting go of control, having your employees speaking their minds, and removing silos  can create a level of uncertainty that most executives avoid.  But the groundswell isn’t scary.  Who knows best the day to day operations of your company? The employees!  It’s not the executives or mangers; it’s the employees down in the trenches dealing with customers and completing critical processes.  They are the ones creating the data that gets rolled up to a point on a quarterly executive update.  The best way to tap into all of that knowledge is to provide a forum for them to share it.

An internal groundswell can be set up easily and with minimal costs. It needs to be organic at its core; having a ridged system with too many rules will not encourage employee participation.  There are three main types of internal groundswells; internal social networks, wiki’s, and idea exchanges.

Internal social networks are intended to create and foster open communication in a company. It’s a way for employees from all departments and locations to connect and talk about what they do and why they are great at it.  You can create profiles that speak to the skillsets and interests and this enables people to search for a fellow employee that can help them with a specific problem.  Think if you needed to know who was a master at Excel or PowerPoint for a big demo you needed to do, how great it would be to find out there were five people that could help you!

Wiki’s are a great way to share information within a company. Updating Wiki content is easier and faster than traditional methods.  Information on projects and pitfalls can be quickly exchanged and the tools and learnings can be carried forward much faster than traditional methods.  Idea exchanges allow for innovation to occur.  Someone can post an idea or thought and others can build on it instantly. You can see what issues other areas are having and create champions to help solve some of your shared issues.

This internal groundswell allows the executives to learn about their employees by listening and talking to them. How would you feel if the CEO read your blog and commented on it?  They energize employees by creating a collaborative work environment and a place to be heard.

Ericsson is a great example of using internal groundswell. They have what is called Ideaboxes that allow employees to submit an idea and have it voted on (Morgan, 2015).  If the idea receives enough votes by fellow employees it goes onto the next phase (Morgan, 2015).

Works Cited

Bernoff, J., & Li, C. (2011). groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review.

Morgan, J. (2015, June 8). Five examples of companies with internal innovation programs. Retrieved from Huffington Post:


ROI for Social Media

There are financial benefits to social media, and while they there is investment to create a social media presence it can cover by the cost savings resulting from it. As always, in order to maximize the ROI for social media expenditures you need to have a plan and some level of understanding of your social technographic profile is for your target audience.

  1. Forums can reduce the amount of support phone calls or emails (Bernoff & Li, 2011)
    1. By having a Q&A site, Discussion Forum or Wiki’s you can allow customers to self-serve. This means they can find the answers to the questions without having to utilize the call centre or email support group (Bernoff & Li, 2011).
    2. In order to estimate this ROI you need to determine a few financial figures:
      1. Start-up and on-going costs – this is what those forums are costing you to support (Bernoff & Li, 2011).
      2. Calculate the potential benefits – be realistic in your estimating. Assuming 50% of you calls will be reduced is way too high. Look at the amount of people contributing and being reached by the forum, and then assume maybe 1-5% of those will be able to find their answers. Take that number and slice out one third, this is the potential volume of saved phone calls. Multiple the number by the cost per call to reach a dollar value (Bernoff & Li, 2011).
      3. The difference between these two is your potential ROI. You can also compare year to year support calls and see if a reduction has occurred.
  2. Measure the reach of social media campaigns in relation to new customer sign ups (LePage, 2017).
    1. Using analytic tools, you can determine the amount of new customers generated from you social media campaigns. As social media marketing is a much lower cost than traditional marketing your company is getting a better return on those products and offerings because they cost you less money to sell (LePage, 2017).
    2. With the total new customers via social media you can then determine the profit based on traditional sales versus social media.
  3. Set social media goals and use analytics to gauge your success (Gotter, 2016)
    1. Set realistic goals and how far you want to reach with social media. If you plan on have 200K new followers a year put a $ on what that is worth. If 5% of those buy your product and that is worth $28, then your ROI is $280,000. If your ongoing costs are less than that it’s an easy sell to the executive board.

There are many analytics tools out there to help make this process easier and can break down your ROI by social media platform, that way you can make the best decisions when you make your next social media decision.


Works Cited

Bernoff, J., & Li, C. (2011). groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review.

Gotter, A. (2016, June 23). 5 Tools to measure Social Media ROI. Retrieved from Social Media Examiner:

LePage, E. (2017, March 30). A Comprehensive Guide to Social Media ROI. Retrieved from Hootsuite:

Energizing the groundswell

Creating a social media platform for your company is a no-brainer. It’s a must in today’s electronic world.  We talked about communicating with and helping the groundswell support itself in previous blogs, but today we introduce the concept of energizing your customers.  Energizing is more than just replying to a customer inquiry or posting helpful tips to your followers, it is having those people send your companies message out to the social media world.  Spreading your message, products and reputation for free!  You can utilize companies to energize the groundswell for you, but that will cost money and you won’t know if it’s been money well spent until months later.

To help you energize follow these five simple steps:

  1. Ask yourself if you want to energize?
    1. Make sure energizing your product makes sense. Do you have strong brand recognition, loyalty, or uniqueness? Something that is easily substituted might not benefit from this approach.
  2. Ensure you know your social technographic profile!
    1. Are your customers even online? Do you have enough of a following on social media to energize them and extend their reach?
  3. What do your customers need?
    1. Do you need to sell them on a product, offer advice, or create a community to generate loyalty?
  4. Pick the best approach based on #2 and 3.
    1. Make sure whatever platform and approach you use will accomplish what you found in step 2 and 3.
  5. Be committed!
    1. This isn’t going to be quick. You won’t be able to make one Tweet or Facebook post and then you’re done. Make sure you allocate resources and time to follow this through and ensure you maximize your ROI.

Following these five steps will get you successfully on your way to energizing your customers. Remember to do the leg work ahead of time and know where you want to go with your social media business plan.

Works Cited

Bernoff, J., & Li, C. (2011). groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review.

twitter – how it can help you

Twitter at its simplest form is an electronic bulletin board with 140 characters of information that you may or may not be interested in. You can follow people or companies; you can add a hashtag (#) and start a trending topic on twitter that others will join into and add the # to it.  This allows for people to search for all tweets that have that #.  Like all social media platforms it requires the usual pre-work.

You need to:

  • Have a plan – where do you want twitter to take you and your company
  • Monitoring – you have to listen and respond to the tweets that are being put out involving not only your company but your industry and employees. A bad tweet concerning a high ranking executive can affect the bottom line
  • Be ready to change – you may start by sharing information about your company and then depending on where your customers want to go you could be directing traffic to your wiki, blogs or experts in your industry. This helps to support the groundswell as discussed in a previous blog

Why twitter works is a pretty simple question to answer. It is free, quick to set up, and easy to use! This is what I like to call the trifecta of groundswell excellency.  It can be used from a computer, tablet or smart phone.  One of the best parts about twitter is that really smart people like to use it and share their knowledge with the twittersphere.   This means there may be someone out there already sharing valuable information about your company or products for free and you can benefit from it.

Use twitter to listen to your customers. Connect with them 140 characters at a time.  You can connect them to: other people, help, advice and information with a simple retweet or link.  A simple tweet can direct them to your other existing social media sites; like blogs, forums and Q&A.

A great example of smart corporate tweeting is WestJet’s April Fool’s Day joke on rebranding. It was entertaining, witty, and followed a corporate tradition of contributing to this day.  They used a #mostcanadian and garnered 660 retweets, 215 comments and 935 likes.  This lead to follow up tweets advertising their flight sales all for pennies compared to big budget advertising through TV and print ads.


Bernoff, J., & Li, C. (2011). groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

groundswell can support itself… with some help

Psychic income… sounds weird doesn’t it? It seems like it’s not real, but it is and it is happening in the groundswell every day.  The groundswell has demonstrated that people like to turn to other people for advice, help, product reviews, opinions and random bits of information.  Support forums, wikis, and question & answer sites are all places in the groundswell that produce psychic income.

Forums can be used to help lessen the load of customer service centres by having a place where people can post their questions or search out answers. Wikis act as a place to store mass amounts of information about a company and your products. Question and answer sites allow for questions to be asked and answered by anyone. The best thing about these options is that some or all of the content is supplied by existing customers or subject matter experts for free.  Your company should still monitor the information to ensure that customers are not being giving faulty advice or that a false impression of your company is being put forth.

These groundswell activities will not remove the need for customer service. They will take human effort to monitor and contribute and don’t forget about the initial startup costs to actually create these sites.  In all, helping the groundswell grow and support itself will make sense for most companies.  Once you have created them you need to get your customers to use them.  This plays back into knowing the social technographic profile of your target audience.  It is also good to check and see if what you want to create doesn’t already exist.  If it does, join it and save yourself the startup costs.

Like any activity in social media marketing you need to have a plan. Make sure whatever you create is scalable so you can grow as needed.  You need to get people to your site and continue to build the reputation of the system.  Pay close attention to what your customers are saying and have them direct where the forum will go.

A great example of a wiki is catawiki. This started as a site for cataloging comic book collections for collectors (catawiki).  The wiki was published in the Dutch language it quickly expanded to other languages and products and has been offering online auctions since 2011 (wikipedia).  Catawiki monitors the auctions and ensures a high level of quality (catawiki).  The example shows how you need to have scalability in your product and let your customers lead you to where they want to go with it.

Creating, contributing and monitoring these communities is a great way to help the groundswell grow and continue to support itself.

Works Cited

(n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2017, from wikipedia:

(n.d.). Retrieved March 24, 2017, from catawiki:

Bernoff, J., & Li, C. (2011). groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Hello? groundswell can you hear me?

The traditional marketing funnel is no longer the be all end all of marketing. Yelling at your customers to try and herd them down the path of purchase not as affective as it once was.  The groundswell is dictating more and more what customers see and hear.  Sure a big ad campaign may grab the attention of a potential customer but once they start their research, and believe me they will hit up Google, they can see what others are saying about not only the product but you as an organization.  Sure you may have a superior product, but some questionable business dealings or allegations on social media sites could lead the potential customer away.

This is why it is important to talk to the groundswell as an organization. You need to have a presence so that you can at least contribute to what is being said about you and respond.  That means if you post a video, blog, or photo you need to monitor the activities with it.  Respond to comments, engage feedback and keep an open communication in the groundswell.  There are some easy ways to start the conversation: post a viral video, use social networks and user-content sites, blog, and create a community (Bernoff & Li, 2011).

So which one should you use to start the conversation? You need to decide what your communication problem is. If you need to get in front of your audience because they are unaware of you then a viral video is the best approach for you (Bernoff & Li, 2011).  Creating a smart viral video can create a fast spreading message and attract customers to your websites and other groundswell Medias.  If you have a word of mouth problem then social networks and user content make the most sense (Bernoff & Li, 2011).  You can engage the consumer on their turf and have two-way conversations, reaching more and more as they can see your responses. Maybe you are trying to relay complex information or have such a widespread product offering that you need to cater the information to the audience, blogs will be your answer (Bernoff & Li, 2011).  You can adjust your message and the blogger to fill each audience need and be able to address numerous topics with your blogs.  You can use all 4 of these conversation starters or start off with one and see where it takes you.  Whatever you do make sure you have plan and once you plant the conversation seed take care of it.  You need to spend more time watering the seed and making sure it has light to grow then you did planting it.  As always, consistency pays off in the groundswell.  Here is a quick and easy list of social media mistakes to refresh your memory.

Works Cited

Bernoff, J., & Li, C. (2011). groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

tap into the groundswell

When you want to tap into the groundswell you need to have a plan. You can’t pick a technology and try and morph your message into its constraints.  You need to figure out what your objectives are!  Many people are quick to rush into groundswell and start tweeting, posting or blogging without a real understanding of where they want the groundswell to take them.

The POST method is a simple way to plan how to tap into the groundswell. POST stands for people, objectives, strategy, and technology (Bernoff & Li, 2011).  Notice how the technology comes last, this means figure out the first three and then selecting the technology to use will be infinitely easier.

  • People – what are your customers, employees, and business partners ready for (Bernoff & Li, 2011)? You can use the Social Technologies Profile that I described here to help you define this.
  • Objectives – you need to figure out what you want to accomplish, how you are going to use the groundswell to meet your business goals.
  • Strategy – how will you meet your objectives? Will you have customers provide valuable marketing data or engage new customers by carrying your message to them? Do you want employees across divisions to share knowledge and best practices to gain larger corporate efficiencies? The main idea to pin down is how you want your relationships with those using the groundswell to change (Bernoff & Li, 2011).
  • Technology – finally once you have figured out the first three you can pick the technology(s) that will work best for you. You may not use all formats or maybe you will. Just make sure you are using the technology that meets your needs.

My main reference book, groundswell, provides five business objectives that you can pursue in the groundswell. Listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing (Bernoff & Li, 2011).  These are directly linked to business functions that already exist in your business like research, marketing, sales, support and development (Bernoff & Li, 2011).  Linking groundswell objectives to business functions is an easy way to get executive buy-in because you are speaking their language and relating it to things they are already comfortable with.

Now you may make some mistakes. Don’t worry! You can usually recover from them.  Make sure you are monitoring your groundswell activities.  Are customers and employees using them as you expected? Maybe you need to revisit your people, objectives and strategy to ensure you picked the right technology or maybe you need to revamp your approach.  You need to have the right people working on this, ones that believe in the power of the groundswell and who can stay on top of the changing technology and consumer trends.  Once you are in, you are in! You can’t quit, you must keep a consistent presence in the groundswell.  This will help to ensure you can stay current and provide the rich content your customers, employees and business partners want.

Works Cited

Bernoff, J., & Li, C. (2011). groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

Changing your company

The groundswell isn’t new. How you engage in it and what can your company gain from it is.  Many fear the unknown.  Stepping away from the tried and tested normal marketing strategies is hard.  They are proven, they make money, and the most important aspect of them is that the executives understand them.

Groundswell is not something that all executives know or understand. It can be scary! You have to give up control of parts of your brand and image.  For companies that have spent millions to build this and protect it, the thought of giving up even a fraction of control is lunacy.  But to those brave few that have taken the groundswell at face value and really embraced have proven it’s not so scary.  In chapter 11 we learned about Dell and Unilever (Bernoff & Li, 2011).  Unilever had a proactive approach and strategic plans to embrace groundswell and have it act as a change agent for them (Bernoff & Li, 2011).  They benefitted greatly and their Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty reached customers in a new and exciting way utilizing one of the groundswell technologies, YouTube (Bernoff & Li, 2011).

On the other hand we had a cautionary tale of Dell. They did not have a plan or proactive approach.  Theirs was a reactive one.  While they may have taken longer to get engaged, they did so with humility and honesty about the current state of customer feedback (Bernoff & Li, 2011).  This leap into the groundswell was rewarded by customers; finally feeling their voice is being heard.

So how can you transform your company? What’s a blog post without a few simple steps!

  1. Start Small – it’s going to take time, so take small steps and focus your fight where it’s needed.
  2. Get the executives on board – this may take some time, you’re going to need to prove why they need to embrace this. They will need to see the benefits, and probably more than once. So have patience and be consistent.
  3. Build a team – ensure that you have the right people at the helm of your groundswell and make sure any business partners are on board as well.
  4. Have a plan – make sure you know where you want to go and what you want to do. If you’re going to start blogging, plan your topics out. Have a flow to them. Listen to the feedback to help build new topics. Be consistent in your posting and responding to comments. (Bernoff & Li, 2011)

By engaging in groundswell you can shift your company from reactive to proactive. You can be responding to your customers in real-time and mitigate potential issues before they get blown out of proportion.

Works Cited

Bernoff, J., & Li, C. (2011). groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press.

The art of the Listen

The groundswell is a vast fountain of opportunity just waiting to be tapped into. One of the key requirements though is something many don’t like to do.  It could be because they think they already know.  It could be perhaps that they don’t want to know.  But whatever the reason, the know or not know, the information is out there just waiting to enlighten.  Ahh the Grinch, a classic tale about a misunderstood loner that everyone assumed had nothing to say.  It just took one person to reach out and listen and my how things changed.   A company listening to the groundswell, I mean really listening is just like what Cindy Lou Who did.  Think of the Grinch as your angry former customer, you could continue to not listen and not have him as a customer, or you could listen and change.  That’s right, I am suggesting you, yes you big giant company, listen to us little guys for a change.  What could happen?

Well you could gain yourself a new customer or win back over a former one. You could get ahead of a potential disaster.  I read in the paper this morning about a class action lawsuit against ATCO Gas (Global News, 2017).  It is alleged that a lack of safety measures caused a house explosion during the relit program (Global News, 2017).  As an employee at another natural gas distributor I would want to get ahead of this one.  Often distributors are confused with one another and while I don’t feel we need to weigh in on this, I do believe we need to monitor the groundswell to ensure our company isn’t getting dragged into it.

The groundswell book offers some great insight into how you can listen. It seems so simple, but it is something a lot of companies are not doing.  I know my company has customer surveys that they do each year.  The ask questions aligned with our required reporting to the Alberta Utility Commission (AUC) so we can be in compliance.  As I have mentioned before, our customers wanted eBill, so we listened and we changed.  The benefits of that listening are still in their infancy, but so far we have made over 4,000 people happy.

There are two ways you can start listening: 1. Set up your own private community, and 2. Brand monitoring (Li & Bernoff, 2011).  The first can be a costly and if you are a small organization, this may not be the way to go.  The second is something that can be done rather easily.  There are many websites and search engines that can provide you with who is talking about you and what they are saying.  By listening you can generate data.  Data can turn into information and information is valuable.  Your company can use this information to do a number of things: change a product feature, recommend a new product line, get ahead of a PR nightmare, or simply thank your customers for a positive review.

So I have said before to get involved. Now I am telling you to LISTEN! With both ears, as I tell my children to do.

Works Cited

Global News. (2017, February 10). Global News. Retrieved February 11, 2017, from Lawsuit filed against Atco in connection to explosion in Fort McMurray wildfire aftermath:

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell. Boston: Harvard Business Review .

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