How Connecting with Groundswell can Transform a Company.


For my blog this week, I would like to talk about how groundswell can transform a company, and I would also give advise on how to properly engage and connect with your customers using groundswell. According to Li and Bernoff (2011), transforming a company takes time and requires incremental changes to allow people to adjust. They also gave three essential elements for this transformation:

  1. Take small step at a time that have a big impact. “A mental shift takes time and practice and requires building a repertoire of shared successes” (p. 217
  2. Have a vision and a plan. Having a vision and a plan can keep the company through rough phases. It gives you something to focus on.
  3.  Build leaders into the plan. Have senior executives to support your plan in order for it to move forward and be implemented.

Bernoff and Li, in their book, gave two case studies about two companies that transformed their companies through groundswell. In this blog, I would be focusing more on Dell.

Dell is a tech company that manufactures and sell products such as laptop, desktops, and software. Dell have an in-home service where  technician can come to customers home to fix their Dell products. Unfortunately, this program was unsuccessful due to the high complaints that consumer has about the service. When Dell realized that people have been complaining in the internet, Dell decided to hire people to read blogs online to see what consumers did and did not like.Dell listened to groundswell and started acting based on what they heard. By doing this, they were able to transform how customers viewed them.

Implementing and listening goes hand in hand. Dell used feedback from customers to provide service that will ultimately add value to their brand. Bernoff and Li (2012) provided 5 steps to prepare an organization for a transformation:

  1. Start Small – Changes will take time, and you only have limited power so choose your battles wisely.
  2. Educate Your Executives – Paint the picture, use research to persuade senior executives that what you are suggesting is proven, and will ultimately transform the company for the good.
  3. Get the right people to run your strategy –Do not pick someone because they are a senior executive, or because they have the time to do it. Pick some one who is passionate about the customers.
  4. Get your partners in sync – Get your partners to invest time and resources to technology. If they don’t, let them go.  They might be slowing you down.
  5. Planning for the next step and for the long term –  Always check your progress to see that whatever you are doing is going somewhere. The purpose of a transformation is to keep a long-term success.


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



Listening to the Groundswell.




In this week’s blog, I would like to share a little tip on how to listen to what people are saying about your brand!

Some marketers spend millions or even hundreds of millions, of dollars on advertising alone. They put a lot of emphasis on making the brand well known, some even say that the brand are theirs. According to Li and Bernoff (2011), this is all bs. “Your brand is whatever your customer say it is. And in the groundswell where they communicate with each other, they decide” (p. 78).

To reiterate, the brand does not belong to the company. It belongs to the consumers. Sounds weird, right? Here is one explanation I found: Guimaraes stated (as cited in Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 79), “The value of the brand belongs to the market, and not to the company. The company in this sense is a tool to create value for the brand… Brand in the sense – it lives outside the company, not in the company.”

To get on with the topic. You are probably wondering on what do I mean by listening.

To some companies, listening means doing a very costly market research. Market research is very good at finding answers to a specific set of questions because it’s very easy to put together a focus group, do a survey, and get some answers. A downside to this is that you only get a specific answer to a very generalize question. eg. “how well is our product selling? You know those types of questions, there is really no insight into it.

“Market research…is just not so effective at generating insights” (p. 79). This is where groundswell comes in. Consumers who are involved in the groundswell are doing all the talking. They are constantly blogging about their experience, they’re discussing on forums, and they’re rating product and services. All you really have to do is listen. Before you start listening, let me give you a little bit of warning.

1. Since only a select handful of people are blogging, do not assume that they represent the majority.

2. There is so much information on the web, and it’s very hard to track which one really gives insights.

Lucky you, who stumbled upon this blog because I would be giving away two strategies on how to solve this problem. Here are they:

  1. Set up a private community – A community allows people to share their experiences about a certain product or service where no other market research could. A community is made up of many consumers; therefore, each one could relate to each other making it easier to share to each other. “A private community is like a continuously running, huge, engaged focus group – a natural integration in a setting where you can listen in” (p. 82).
  2. Begin brand monitoring – Hire a company to listen for you. In this way you’ll save time on looking for internet blogs, twitter, forums, etc…

If you listen very carefully to what consumers are saying about your brand, then, you would be able to have a better idea on what your customer wants and needs. Ultimately, this will lead you to have a competitive advantage among your competitors.

One last tip, listening is good but acting on what you heard is the way to go.

Oh. You think setting up a private community, and hiring a third party company is expensive? Here is an interesting YouTube video I found that shows the cost of not listening:



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


Social Technographic Profile


For my blog this week, I would like to talk about the importance of using social technographic profile. According to Bernoff and Li (2011), social technographic profile are tools that allow “people in business to examine and then create strategies based on the groundswell tendencies of any group of people, anywhere” (p. 41). It is a way to group people based on activities they participate in, and it helps businesses to segregate potential customers into groupings.

The figure below classifies consumers according to their involvement, and their level of participation in the groundswell:



We can use this ladder and apply it to different variables using the free Forester Social Technographic Tool. For example, on figure 3.1 below, 26% of Canadian men from 25-34 years old are Creators; 43% are critics; 27% are collectors, and so on. Playing around with the Forester tool, I noticed that among the groups, Spectators has the highest percentage no matter what profile I choose. I believe this is because it does not take much to just browse around the web than to create something – think of how many people, and how many hours they spent from scrolling down Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc..

We can also use this tool to examine how each groups are represented;therefore, making it easier for the firm’s marketing department to figure out a way that would appeal to each group.

Figure 3.1


Using a medium-market accounting firm, for example. Individuals and business owners who are looking for financial services are the key target market of these accounting firms. The age range could be as low as 18 years old to as high as 80 years old. Since there is a wide gap on the age range, I would use the median which is 45-54 years old, in Canada, and without a specific gender. Instead of focusing a strategy to appeal to creators, it is better to focus the marketing effort towards spectators and joiners because they participate more on these specific groups at this age range. These can save a company from placing emphasis on the wrong strategy.

figure 3.2

Forrester 2

Before I finish this blog, I just wanted share with everyone a very nice point made by  Bernoff and Li (2011), which is the answer to why people participate in groundswell. They gave many answers, and all of them are right. I would only give an example of the ones that sounds unfamiliar. Here are they:

  1. Keeping up with friends 
  2. Making new friends
  3. Succumbing to social pressure from existing friends
  4. Paying it forward
  5. The altruistic impulse –  People that wants to contribute, eg. Wikipedia
  6. The prurient impulse – I cannot think of an example, but this is define as having or encouraging an excessive interest in sexual matters.
  7. The creative impulse –  People who likes artsy stuff and wants to share it with the world, eg. Flickr, YouTube, etc…
  8. The validation impulse – People who ask questions on forums such as Yahoo!
  9. The affinity impulse – Forums where people can discuss common interest such as sports, foods, etc…


Forrester Research. (2016). Social technological profile tool. Retrieved from

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