Strategies for Tapping the Groundswell

This week’s reading summarizes the strategy for tapping the groundswell. Companies want to know how to get themselves to become a part of the social networking space but they’re nervous about moving forward. It is a problem so common that there is a name for it: groundswell approach-avoidance syndrome. There’s a cure for this syndrome, and it is to ask yourself what are your customers ready for and then plan your objectives. Most start with thinking about the technology aspect but technology is shifting so rapidly you must work backwards and then you can start planning.

The four-step planning process POST will help you build your groundswell strategy. POST translates to people, objectives, strategy, and technology and is a foundation of groundswell thinking (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

  • People: What are your customers ready for? The Social Technographics Profile is designed to answer this question, it is important to assess how your customers will engage based on what they are already doing.
  • Objectives: What are your goals? The clarity of your objectives will make or break your strategy.
  • Strategy: How do you want relationships with your customers to change? By answering this question, you can plan for the desired changes and figure out how to measure them once is strategy is implemented.
  • Technology: What applications should you build?

Creating and implementing a strategy is challenging because there are few precedents and role models to follow. It is important to be aware of the challenges and be prepared to fix them. Many sources of failure relate to the four elements of the POST process – failures in assessing people’s tendencies, a weak definition of objectives, failure to think through strategy, and poor technology implementation. When problems arise go back to POST. Diagnosing how a social initiative is failing is the first step to fixing the problem. Each company must adopt the tactics that are right for its customers and its way of doing business and adapt as the technologies change.

There are five primary objectives that companies successfully pursue in the groundswell. You should select the one that best matches the objectives of your company as a whole:

  1. Listening
  2. Talking
  3. Energizing
  4. Supporting
  5. Embracing

These objectives are already linked to familiar business functions within your company, except that they can also focus on the engagement with customers and include more communication – especially communication between customers. Your strategy should be designed from the start to focus on a primary objective, and it is progress toward that objective that you should measure, which in return will help you be able to measure the return on your groundswell investment.

In applications for business, the people side is even more important because the people you engage with have a parallel role within their companies. In business-to-business settings, picking an objective first is still the best practice. You can listen to, talk energize, support, or embrace your business customers – business people – just as you would consumers.


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


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