The Groundswell Inside Your Company

In the first ten chapters and blog posts, we talked about how you can connect your customers with the groundswell, and now we consider the employees – a natural constituency for social connections. Your employees having something in common. They work for you, and they have a common goal: your company’s success (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Internal communication can be hindered by the size of the company and information typically flows down the management ladder. Getting insights back up to management and encouraging collaboration among people in the workplace is harder. Many employees are connecting on internal social networks, collaborating on wikis, and contributing to idea exchanges. These ideas, whether coming from management or self-made, tap into the power of the groundswell of ideas among the people who know best how your business runs.

The internal groundswell is all about creating new ways for people to connect and work together, it’s about relationships and not technology. To nurture the groundswell power of your employees: promote listening cultures from the top down, ease and encourage participation with incentives, and find and empower the rebels in your organization.

Internal social applications demand a high level of trust because employees have more at stake when they participate as they usually possess information that has not made been aware to the public such as trade secrets. Unlike external social networks, the participants can’t be anonymous and only works when the culture permits it. Management needs to understand their role and listen to openly contributed opinions. Without management’s active participation, the efforts will fail because there is no substitute for management involvement. Rather than thinking about the things that could go wrong, think about the opportunity cost of not creating enthusiastic employees and be ready to fail.

Social networks can help spark employee communication but no matter what you’re after, in the internal groundswell, the secret to thriving is culture. It is about managing and changing how an organization works. The technologies used to initiate this communication need to involve the active participation of top management, and the participation of your employees to gain the benefits.


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





Energizing the Groundswell

Energizing can be referred to the power that word of mouth has on your customers and their contacts who may also become future customers to your company. This spread of brand benefits has no cost to your company, word of mouth is a powerful amplifier of brand marketing that achieves results no media campaign can achieve. It succeeds because:

  • It’s believable – Testimonials and comments are more credible than any media source. I frequently read customer reviews when purchasing products online that I haven’t tried before which helps me determine if it is worth the purchase.
  • It’s self-reinforcing – Hearing it from one person is intriguing, but hearing it from many people must make it true. Many good reviews help me make the decision to purchase and try the product myself.
  • It’s self-spreading – If a product is worth using, its word of mouth generates more word of mouth that is exponential. If good reviews lead me to purchase and I enjoy the product and its benefits, I will recommend it to friends and family, thereby sharing my experience.

Word of mouth is the most honest form of marketing, building upon people’s natural desire to share their experiences with family, friends, and colleagues (Li & Bernoff, 2011). As mentioned in my previous posts, listening to the groundswell generates insights and talking to the groundswell is effective, but marketers must not end there. Energizing the groundswell means tapping into the power of word of mouth by connecting with, and turning on, your most committed customers.

Referring back to the Social Technographics Profile of your potential customers and participants of the groundswell, creators are only part of the story. Critics and spectators commenting on blogs or post ratings and reviews, as well as read the blogs, and watch the videos. If you could encourage the creators to write about your brand or product, the people lower down on the ladder will start hearing it and could result in a lot of impact, people believe other people more than media.

The value of an energized customer depends on how much of your business comes from word of mouth, and is based on which customers come to your based on your reputation and referrals, and how much comes from advertising. Another measure of the value of word of mouth is that you can actually buy it by paying a company to hire volunteers to evaluate your product. Generally, customers self-select because they like your products and they keep talking about those products for years which is why it’s worth to energize them. According to the groundswell, there are three basic techniques for connecting with your brand’s enthusiasts:

  1. Tap into customers’ enthusiasm with ratings and reviews
  2. Create a community to energize your customers
  3. Participate in and energize online communities of your brand enthusiasts

There are many benefits to ratings and reviews, which are both highly measurable. Reviews increase the buy rate, as most customers including myself use online reviews to help them make purchases. Research shows that about 80% of reviews are positive, but negative reviews are also essential to the credibility of the site as only positive reviews just don’t seem believable. Ratings and reviews can also help suppliers, it provides a report telling them not only what is selling but what people think of those products.

Depending on what your customer base is like and how you hope to change your relationship with those customers, there are many good ways to energize. You must consider the propensities of your customer base first, then design strategies and choose technologies that match the relationships they already have and provide ways for customers to extend those relationships. Doing this with skill results in your customers to sell to each other. Energizing is both more powerful and riskier than listening and talking because now you’re dealing with people who are going to talk about your brand. There are five steps for applying the techniques of energizing your own organization:

  1. Figure out if you want to energize the groundswell
  2. Check the social technographics profile of your customers
  3. Ask yourself, “what is my customers problem?”
  4. Pick a strategy that fits your customers’ social technographics profile and problems
  5. Don’t start unless you can stick around for the long haul

In energizing the groundswell, you’ll find out that not all your customers are equal. To summarize this chapter, we talked about energizing the base which includes your most enthusiastic customers. The message for any company is to listen and whenever possible, to give customers what they desire most. Energizing the most enthusiastic customers often ends up embracing them, turning those customers into an integral part of the company’s product and processes.


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

Tapping the Groundswell with Twitter

This chapter begins with the story of a mother who used Twitter to tweet a message directed to McDonalds about her child, who is a superhero fan, receiving a girl toy from a local McDonalds. The company listens to Twitter and uses it to talk to customers. A member from the company customer satisfaction department responded to the Twitter mention and contacted the woman who then received a handwritten note, a dessert coupon, and the toy the child wanted. This story is an example of company’s who use social media to respond to their customers and create solutions. I personally had a bad experience at a well-known retail store I shop at frequently and mentioned the company name in a tweet and a someone from the company from customer care personally contacted me to hear more about my story after I mentioned that I would not return to the store. Although I probably won’t return to that store location, as a customer I felt that my concern was acknowledged even though I was just one of thousands of followers online.

Twitter is an online news and social networking service where users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”, limited to 140 characters. It’s free and open, connects people, and allows registered users to update from anywhere. As a result, it’s rapidly become a key part of the groundswell – driving, reporting on, and extending activity in everything from blogs to social networks (Li & Bernoff, 2011). There are a few elements of Twitter:

  • Followers: Anyone can follow anyone else, it only allows connections to form quickly.
  • Hashtags and searches: All Twitter updates are public, which makes them searchable. Hashtags are terms designed to mark a tweet as referring to a topic and are indicated by the pound or hash sign (#). Searches on hashtags are more precise since the person who included the hashtag in his or her tweet intended it to be searchable. Hashtags are not only limited to Twitter. On Instagram, a mobile photo-sharing application and service, users can share pictures and videos with hashtags that link to similar photos and experiences shares by other users who used the same hashtag. For example, uploading a picture of your cat and including the hashtag #catsofinstagram leads to a large collection of other cat pictures and videos from public profiles of other users.
  • Mentions and tweets: Using the “at” (@) symbol along with the user’s Twitter handle provides an easy way to reply to or reference another Twitter user within a tweet.
  • Links: Tweets can include links to websites. You can share an article or anything else on the web along with a note recommending it.
  • Lists: You can create lists of people you follow and share it.
  • Apps and tools: A tool called TweetDeck is an application for collecting your mentions and searches into columns. CoTweet is a tool that evaluates the influence of Twitter users.

Despite the small amount of users actively tweeting, approximately 7% of adults in the United States, these users have a significant level of importance because they’re among the most influential people. According to the Social Technographics Profile of Tweeters, they are more likely to be creators and conversionalists. Around 10% of all the influence spread in social networks comes from Twitter, and more than 70% of Twitter users say they often tell friends about products that interest them.

Twitter can serve many objectives. When your company starts to connect, people will expect the company to listen and respond and not just broadcast. You still need a primary objective and to be ready for the expectations of your customers. The groundswell suggests five reasons for how to use Twitter:

  1. Listening to Twitter: Listening is essential, if you don’t, then you won’t know what you’re getting in to. Finding staff to watch comments is challenging, but someone should be looking at trends and identifying whether some influential individuals are talking about the brand. There are many listening tools and companies that can help with monitoring tweets and identifying overall sentiment.
  2. Talking to Twitter: Think about what you can offer that might get picked up and repeated by others. A company’s presence will demand responses to service questions, not just tweeting news. The first case of McDonalds is an example of a company that talks to Twitter.
  3. Energizing with Twitter: The key to energizing is listening first, which then enables you to find the people you want to energize. Energizing on Twitter means responding to fans and retweeting them, as well as giving them content to retweet to their own followers.
  4. Supporting with Twitter: More companies are using Twitter to do support. If you create a Twitter account for your company, people will expect you to respond when they tweet their questions and problems to you.
  5. Embracing with Twitter: Embracing the groundswell – collaborating with your own customers on products or marketing strategies is the most challenging of the objectives. Companies find ways to embrace their tweeting customers, such as using Twitter to drive people to surveys. The best way to embrace with Twitter is to engage in dialogue. Developing a following can embrace their ideas.

Twitter will only be effective if you choose a clear objective and develop a strategy to make progress toward that objective. Twitter is the visible face of the company in the groundswell, and the following strategies are also good advice for your social strategy in general:

  • Lock up your handle: “Verified accounts” are prominent brands and individuals that help ensure that people know those handles belong to the real company.
  • Listen first: Know what people are tweeting about you before you start posting.
  • Be ready to support people: You need a procedure to identify users who need help and hand them off to your customer service or technical support group.
  • Follow others: Allows people to send a direct message, a best practice for providing support where people need to share personal information with you.
  • Be ready for a crisis: Form a plan to allow your PR people to turn the Twitter handle into an information channel.
  • Respond, retweet, and link

Accounting Today is an account I recently followed which is an independent news and information resource for tax and accounting professionals (Accounting Today, 2017). Other accounting firms can use Twitter to promote services. Having a blog for your practice is a great way to educate clients and prospects about your services. Twitter is a great tool for sharing relevant and valuable content with your clients and prospects. After you publish each article, you can tweet each new article from your blog and then engage your followers in discussions around the article.


Accounting Today. (2017). Accounting Today. Retrieved from Twitter:

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