How Connecting with the Groundswell Transforms your Company

This week’s reading outlines with how organizations can master three key elements of groundswell thinking to transform how their companies work with customers. The fundamental basis is to keep the customer at the center of your organization and so far we have learned some of the ways and methods to tap into our customer base and listen to our customers. An organization goes through a mental shift – we realize our customers’ needs and wants and want to become a part of it. This leads to transformation – to start with a few key employees and then making it into an organization-wide movement. There are three essential elements to this transformation: First is that it’s important to incorporate groundswell thinking step by step into your organization, a mental shift takes time and practice as well as building shared success. You will gain more support for groundswell thinking if you can show a series of successes that have impact. Second, each step along the way to build the movement leads to a natural progression. It is important to have a vision and a plan, ideally the vision of the kind of conversation you want with your customers. Third, you have to execute support by building leaders into the plan. You have to sell someone in upper management on groundswell thinking if you want your efforts and ideas to become a reality in the organization.

If you are reading this, you could be the person to start your company on the path to benefiting from the groundswell. Here’s what you should do to make sure you and your company have the best chance at succeeding.

  • First, start small. The change will take time so pick your plans strategically.
  • Second, educate your executives. A great place to start is to launch internal blogs, social networks, and show them the technologies to demonstrate the benefits for your company.
  • Third, get the right people to run your strategy. Pick the person who has the most passion about starting a relationship with your customers.
  • Fourth, get your agency and technology partners in sync. If they don’t understand the groundswell, get them to invest the time and resources, or change agencies.
  • Lastly, plan for the next step and for the long term. You want to know where this going to take the company.

In the industry, accountants must improve customer service skills or risk losing clients. Usually this has nothing to do with their lack of knowledge or professional service. It is mainly due to the lack of ability to communicate effectively on a personal basis and understand the needs of clients. Firms need both entrepreneurship and management to be successful. Entrepreneurship takes place by influencing how the elements of groundswell can transform your company and management can craft a plan. In return, firms reduce risk, increase innovation and learning, and provide clients with a new kind of accounting service.


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


Listening to Groundswell

This week’s reading is on listening to the groundswell. Consumers are leaving clues about their opinions, positive and negative, on a daily or hourly basis. A basic strategy to listen is to do a google search, listening is potentially the most neglected skill in business. In the era of groundswell, listening is easy and you will only hear from people willing to talk about:

  • Blogging about store experience, selection, their favourite products
  • Discussing pros and cons of products features, your prices, and your customer support.
  • Rating your products and services o yelp and trip advisor

Your brand is whatever your customers say it is. In the groundswell where they communicate with each other, they decide because brands belong to customers, not companies. I thought this was an interesting statement because the company is a tool to create value for the brand but it ultimately influenced by the experience of the customer.

The depth of listening to the customers is called market research, and companies pay a lot of money for research sources.  Syndicated research is a valuable tool for mapping trends, but it can’t tell you what people are thinking. To gain real insight, you’re better off working with vendors that provide professional tools. There are two basic ways to do this:

  1. Set up your own private community: It is like a continuously running, huge, engaged focus group – a natural interaction in a setting where you can listen in. Communispace is a supplier of private communities that has set up hundreds of private communities for its clients. It is a listening machine that generates insight.
  2. Begin brand monitoring: Hire a company to listen to the internet: blogs, discussion forums, twitter, and everything else on your behalf.

To profit from listening, you need a plan to act on what you learn. There are many reasons why to start listening to your customers. You will find out what your brand stands for, understand how buzz is shifting, save research money and increase research responsiveness, find the sources of influence in your market and to generate new products and marketing ideas. The social technographics profile of your customer is a great way to start listening as it is most effective if your customers are in the groundswell to begin with. The number of critics and creators in your customer base can also help you to determine which path to take: brand monitoring or starting a private community instead.

As you get smarter by listening to the groundswell, you should prepare for some of the ways it will change your organization. It’s likely to change the power and structure in your organization. Marketing and research departments will become more central to how decisions are made. Second, the instant availability of information from customers, the results should be integrated into corporate decision making. A third way is that the ability to measure and quantify customer concerns becomes more accurate, it’s hard to deny that it has been overlooked.

While listening is an important part of a conversation, every conversation includes talking as well. Listeners feel the need to respond by talking within the groundswell by publishing blogs, contributing to user-generated content sites, and setting up communities. If you’re listening now, expect to be talking soon.


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

The Social Technographics Profile

The Social Technographics Profile is a tool that allows people in business to examine and then create strategies based on the groundswell tendencies of any group of people, anywhere. It’s similar to demographics and psychographics but focuses on technology behaviours with a purpose to concentrate on the relationships, not the technologies. This profile is designed to allow you to compare any two groups of people, its core is a way to group people based on the groundswell activities in which they participate. If that group happens to be your customers or followers, you can use their Social Technographics Profile to build an appropriate social strategy.

The featured image includes the following groups in the Social Technographics Profile: The creators, conversationalists, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, and inactives. In the case of groundswell, the key is to reach the creators and critics. For creators and conversationalists, critics are essential to maintain online interaction.

Unfortunately, the Forrester Tool was not available but it is still possible to make a reasonable estimate of the social activity your customer or follower base. A custom survey can be asked to find out what technologies they use. The primary target for this activity is 18-25 year olds in Canada.

The final question asks why people participate in groundswell. There are many possible answers which include their emotional motivation and what they get out of it. According to the textbook, some reasons for participation include to keep up friendships, make new friends, succumbing to social pressure from existing friends, paying it forward, and other various impulses (Li & Bernoff, 2011). The biggest challenge isn’t whether you are mastering the technology or delighting your followers, its whether you’re accomplishing a business goal and how you will measure that success. To get there you will need not only the data shown in this chapter but also a clear strategy for groundswell thinking.


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