Expose the Groundswell Inside of Your Company

In short, throughout the textbook Groundswell, we have looked at what exactly the groundswell is, how to join the groundswell, why you should join the groundswell and how to be successful in the groundswell. To bring this semester to a close we are now looking at the groundswell within a company. Of course most of this discussion focused solely on our how we interact with our company’s current and potential customers. Up until this point a huge component has been missing. That component that I am referring to is a company’s employees. Companies strive to hire employees who care about their success as much as the top CEO does and that is why if the common goal among all employees is not the company’s success you have some major adjustments to make. However that being said, if an employee’s goal isn’t the company overall success that doesn’t mean that they want them to fail, it just simply means that they just see work as a nothing more than a paycheck. If this is the case for your company, it is time to act now.

Most often than not, the problem isn’t caused by a lack of effort by management but rather a lack of communication with employees. The textbook highlights the example of Blue Shirt Nation that Best Buy has implemented as a way to allow for communication among all Best Buy employees. It has proven to be a very effective way to not only empower employees within the company but also as a way to provide front line insight to the top management. What makes Blue Shirt Nation so effective is its ability to accomplish all five objectives of listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing. “That’s the power and speed of the groundswell within companies–the ability for people to find what they need from each other.” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 237) By enabling your employees and letting them know “hey we are here and we are listening to you”, it helps to motivate the employees to want success as much as you do. They want to know what they are doing every day makes a difference within the company and that’s what setting up an open communication where employees can talk and be heard does.

Another great example of empowering employees is what CEO of Razorfish was able to do by realizing the potential in direct communication with employees. Razorfish uses an internal intranet site to connect all of their employees together which gives them a space to not only stay connected with one another but to also share their ideas and skills openly. “The key here is that in creating a collaboration tool, the company had also created a communication channel.” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 240) CEO Clark Kokich there is a lot to be gained by this type of communication and he is aware of the easy approach it creates of staying up-to-date within the company’s day to day operations.

There is a lot that to be learnt by these two great companies but ultimately these opportunities were created by taking a chance and seeing the potential within it rather than focusing on what could go wrong. What stood out to me was the fact that neither company was focused on the monetary value behind implementing a strategy for communication because they knew that the cost would be worth the reward. One thing is for certain, they were right.

References

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press .

 

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Energizing the Groundswell

It is safe to say that no matter what area of business you are directly or indirectly engaged with you are aware of how powerful  “word of mouth” is. It is a huge driving force when it comes to generating sales and revenue for small and large businesses alike. Within the groundswell the word of mouth strategy is essentially the ability to energize your customers and motivate them to share their reviews about your services or products with other potential customers. It is such an important part of a successful business that the main focus of chapter 7 of the textbook groundswell is all about energizing the groundswell. “…word of mouth is a powerful amplifier of brand marketing, achieving results no media campaign can achieve.” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 130) There are three points that the authors Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff point out about what makes word of mouth so successful which simply put is the fact that word of mouth is believable, its self-reinforcing and it’s self-spreading. (Li & Bernoff, 2011) A great example of a business that has been successful with energizing their customers is eBags. His approach to energizing his customers is to keep them satisfied. He does this by creating a space where customers can openly share reviews about the products which they have purchased; this is a great way for the SVP of marketing for eBags, Peter Cobb to listen to what they have to say. Of course he loves to read the positive reviews that customers have to share but it is actually through the negative reviews that Peter learns the most. By listening to what the customer is unsatisfied about, he can then act on it and bring upon change if necessary. It is quite evident that customers appreciate this level of effort from the company because it means that their opinion matters. Of course it may seem impossible to act on every single negative review but if Peter is able to see the trends of a particular problem and find a solution he has most likely just changed an unsatisfied customer to an energized customer. This was the case of a manufacturing problem that occurred with the design of one of the eBag brands called the International Traveler. By being an active member in the groundswell and listening to what customers were unpleased about in their reviews Peter was able to go directly to the manufacturer and fix the problem, essentially turning out to be a hero for the customers who were unpleased with the product. (Li & Bernoff, 2011) When customers see that a company is willing to go through this type of distance to listen to them it energizes them, they become willing to share these types of experiences with others and this is where the effort Peter made greatly pays off.

As Li and Bernoff pointed out throughout this chapter, energizing is much more powerful and riskier than then the listening and talking techniques. Before you embark on this new technique of energizing make sure that you are ready. Often companies feel confident with their ability to deal with their customer’s problems but in reality they do not know enough about their customers in the first place. “If you want to energize your customers, you must prepare for a new way of thinking.” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 148) Below is a list of five steps which must be taken before implementing this new energizing technique to your company.

  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 customer’s 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 (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pp. 148-149)

Following these five steps will help to ensure that energizing the groundswell is the right fit for your company. Although energizing customers has proved to be very successful companies this is not the case for all. Think it through and be willing to put in the work because most often than not you will find if done correctly, energizing the groundswell may pay huge dividends for you and your company.

References

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press .

Tweets Are Being Heard Within The Groundswell

Since the enormous  splash that social media has created within our society in the last five to ten years one thing is certain: if people are not satisfied they will no longer go unheard. With countless of social media outlets to let your voice be heard such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forums, etc. it is no wonder why companies such as AT&T have twenty one staff members working 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day covering both the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages. (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 206) Companies such as AT&T have realized the endless opportunities that are available to them by getting involved within the groundswell. Of course as with any strategy taken within the groundswell, the company must be able to identify what goals they want to achieve before they jump into the deep end so to speak. As mentioned in Chapter 10: tapping the groundswell with twitter of the textbook groundswell, @McDonalds  is a great example of a company that has figured out what platforms such as Twitter can offer their company and they have paved the way to success by utilizing all that Twitter has to offer. McDonalds can play both ends of the game. Not only do they play great defense by being proactive while dealing with challenging situations such as in the case of the Shrek souvenir glasses recall when McDonalds was able to point their 75,000 followers to the right place for information which helped to mitigate the risk of a potential tarnished reputation and deal with the matter in a professional way. (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 197) However, it is their offensive strategy which makes them the company they are in the Twitter world. By utilizing their twitter handle to tweet about promotions they have found a way to keep their followers Lovin’ It.

Of course at this point we know how important the five groundswell objectives are within the groundswell but as Li & Bernoff point out to us in this chapter those five groundswell objectives can be applied while engaging with the Twitter world. First off the company must be listening to what Twitter has to say to them. As I mentioned previously customers are no longer silenced. When they are unhappy with you, you will hear about it; so listen to what they have to say, you can learn from it. Secondly you must talk to twitter. What good is listening if you do not intend on speaking out? Share what others will want to share, this will ensure that you are heard. Thirdly you must energize with twitter. This is where you ensure that all of your effort is being maximized. Make sure you are reaching out to the people that you want to reach out to otherwise it is simply just wasted energy. Next you must be supporting with twitter. This means that you are willing to act on what you have heard. If customers are having problems with your products or service make sure that you are there to support them or they will no longer be there. And lastly, your company must embrace twitter. (Li & Bernoff, 2011) Maximize your efforts by doing all that you can do, leave no stone unturned because this is what will set you apart from your competitors.

Now that you have finished reading about the hype of twitter, check it out for yourself! You can find me at @arcticfinancing

Happy Tweeting! 🙂

References

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press .

Supporting the Groundswell

Throughout the textbook groundswell written by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff we have not only learnt how much time and energy must be spent within the groundswell to make it the experience for your company worth it but how that time and energy spent much be effectively utilized in order to be successful. In saying that, it shouldn’t be hard to see the several advantages that can be gained from allowing an open communication channel for your customers to interact with one another. By allowing your customers to engage with each other and share knowledge and information regarding a particular product or service greatly helps to lessen the load put on your company’s traditional support which in turn helps to reduce the cost associated with this type of support. This type of open communication as outlined by Li & Bernoff can be in the form of blogs, such as the CarePages, forums or even wikis. (Li & Bernoff, 2011)

Of course as with developing and implementing any type of a new strategy the company must put in the time to ensure that the new implementation is the right one for the company. As we all know by now, it is simply not about adapting the strategies of other successful companies but rather finding what types of strategies are best suited for your company and ultimately which strategies best help your company reach their goals. “Before you start, you should examine three things: what problem will you solve, how will you participate, and whether you should create a support community or join an existing one. (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 171) By answering these three questions it helps the company get a better understanding about what it is they are trying to achieve and how they can set out to achieve it. Once your company has gone ahead and creating a support community or tapped into an existing one it is vital that you as a company are present within it. Think of it as an opportunity to learn and grow. If you are not listening to what those participants in the support community have to say that why put the time into creating the communication with them. “This dialogue-especially with your most active customers-inevitably draws them into your development process. You end up collaborating with your customers to create better products. That’s taking the power of psychic income and building it into your business.” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 176)

Within my work experience that I have been exposed to this summer working with the GNWT at Student Financial Assistance I have been able to gain important knowledge which I could bring forward to the department. This past week was the deadline for post-secondary students to submit their applications to receive financial assistance when they head to school in the fall. Of course, as you can imagine with the extreme popularity of procrastinating this is the day we receive the most applications throughout the entire summer; over 500 applications to be exact. We have a relatively short staff within our division so we need everyone involved in order to get done what we need to get done, however with constant e-mails and calls coming into the office with students asking question after question makes it hard to do what we need to do. That’s where the open communication in the shape of a forum really gains popularity for me. If we were able to incorporate some type of support forum for students to post their questions online and allow for others to answer their inquiries it could potentially help to eliminate the high volume of phone calls that our office receives. It would also help to increase the timeliness that students would receive a response to their question due to the fact that with such a short staff we are often struggling to reply to student’s questions as quickly as we would hope too. “So take the plunge. Let your customers support each other. But you’d better be prepared for how this will change the way you do business.” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 176) Supporting the groundswell helps the groundswell continue to grow, so make sure you are putting in the effort to evolve otherwise you will simply stand still.

References

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press .

 

Talk the Talk When You’re In the Groundswell

Commercials simply just aren’t cutting it anymore like the way they used to when it comes to marketing. Unless you are advertising during the Super Bowl, no one is interested. People have become so exhausted of having to sit through commercials that someone was actually smart enough to create a way of profiting from giving individuals the freedom of “commercial-free” services. As Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff point out in the textbook groundswell, television commercials is not a form of talking, it is shouting. This type of advertising thrives on repetition, so the more time and the more individuals a company can shout out through this stream of advertising, the better. (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 101) Unfortunately people no longer want to be shouted through this type of advertising. With how quickly technology continues to develop within the past 5 to 10 years social technologies have really revved up the need that consumers have for conversations instead of simply being shouted at. Consumers want the opportunity to build a relationship with the company and/or the product that they are marketing. They want to be able to see it work, hear what their peers have to say about it and they want to be able to ask questions. Allowing for this type of communication to take place has proven to be quite beneficial for many companies as Li & Bernoff have discussed. The pair introduced four techniques when it comes to talking with the groundswell which can be very rewarding:

  1. Post a viral video.
  2. Engage in the social networks and user-generated content sites.
  3. Join the blogosphere.
  4. Create a community. (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 103)

These four techniques have become revolutionary when it comes to marketing; however, it is important to remember that branding on social media may not be for everyone.  Of course with anything in life, just because you have heard of someone else’s success doesn’t mean it can simply be mimicked.Of course these are four techniques that Li & Bernoff have provided to help talk to the groundswell but it is important to note that these are not the only ways that communication can exist between the groundswell. The more innovative a company can be when developing ways to market themselves the better. Blendtec’s “Will It Blend” videos are a perfect example of this. From simply posting a video into the social network the company was able to create that community for a relationship between themselves and their potential customers. The key to succeeding in social networks is to help people spread your message and to measure the result. (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 106) I think what sticks out the most to me after reading Chapter 6: talking with the groundswell, is the importance of being original and being true to your company. Never stop looking for ways to communicate with your customers and always be willing to listen to what they have to say because it is the customers who drive the success of your company and if you can get your customers to speak well for you, you will be success in the groundswell.

 

References

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press .

POST -It makes a difference.

As the saying goes, one must listen before they act. But more importantly, especially in the case of companies learning how to succeed in the groundswell, one must understand why they are doing something before they do it.  Throughout the textbook groundswell, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff frequently talk about the mistakes many companies make when it comes to the groundswell. The problem arises because companies know that they must be active within the groundswell but they don’t know why. These companies wait to see how other competitors are engaging and then decide that they must do the same if they do not want to be left behind. In other words, companies know that they need to get involved, but they don’t know why. This problem has been coined the groundswell approach-avoidance syndrome. (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 66) If you believe you or your co-worker(s) may have caught the disease, well don’t sweat it too much, luckily there is a cure and it’s much simple than one would think. Using a four-step planning process known as POST, an acronym which stands for people, objectives, strategy and technology, has become the most effective way to build a groundswell strategy. (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 67)

The POST method is not limited to use by just companies that struggle with the groundswell, but rather any company that wants to strengthen their understanding of their objectives. “The clarity of your objectives will make or break your strategy. Success depends on a beacon to go toward – a reason to enter the groundswell.” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 68) That being said, I will now explore the POST method when it comes to the company which I identified in Activity 1: Student Financial Assistance (SFA).

Looking at the first acronym of POST, we analyze the people. We get the best understanding of the customers of the company by looking at the Social Technographics Profile as described in Blog #3. I have previously identified SFA’s target market to include potential, current and past post-secondary students and that the majority of the target audience would fall into the 18-25 age groups, however could also include mature students who range from 25 to 35 as well. This age range would be considered tech-savvy although that does not mean that each client behavior should be branched together. As the authors identified, “you may build a whole social networking strategy only to find that your customers are more likely to write reviews than join social networks. (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 67) This point is what makes the first step in the POST method the most important. If SFA were to fail to properly identify the “people” with whom they are targeting they will be unsuccessful in throughout the rest of the progression. With the knowledge that is currently available to me with regards to my chosen company as identified in activity #1 it could be determined that the Social Technographics Profile for the people who are connected with Student Financial Assistance given their demographics could be categorized as spectators, joiners and critics with regards to the Social Technographics ladder.

Next we move on to the objectives within the POST method. The objectives are another word for our company’s goals. It is so important that a company clearly identifies what they want to achieve and express this through the objectives they create. Li & Bernoff identify five objectives that can be pursued within the groundswell which are quite simple but very effective. These five objectives are listening, talking energizing, supporting and embracing. Some believe these objectives don’t meet all the needs of the company, but in reality each of these five objectives can have a powerful impact. (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 69) If Student Financial Assistance can properly incorporate each of these objectives they can expect good things to come. It can also be noted that each objective go hand-in-hand with one another, if you can correctly incorporate the objective of listening to their clients then they will be better off when it comes to their client’s needs. Once they have listened to what their clients have to say they can engage and talk with them to help stimulate meaningful conversations which can result in the marketing of their product. If clients know that there is open communication it provides a good relationship among the clients and the company. In turn, this creates the needed energy and helps to motivate enthusiastic clients who enjoy engaging with the company rather than feeling like it is a chore to do so. Lastly the two objectives of supporting and embracing is all about enabling your clients the ability to support and work with one another for the benefit of both the company as well as the clients. If the clients who use Student Financial Assistance are willing to express how they enjoy engaging with Student Financial Assistance then the company can be assured that they are doing a good job engaging with the groundswell.

Moving along in the POST method we come to developing the strategy for Student Financial Assistance moving forward. You will see a similarity among implementing the previous five objectives as this is what will make up the strategy for the company. This strategy ultimately speaks to how you want the relationships with your customer to develop. No matter which strategy your company decides to implement it is important to realize this strategy is never permanent. This brings us to the last step of the POST method which stands for technology. One of the main reasons why a strategy is never permanent is because technology is always changing. A company needs to use the previous three steps of the POST method to determine which application best fits with your strategy. Based on the Social Technographics Profile of our clients Student Financial Assistance has determined that the best applications for the company to engage in are Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to be the most effective.

Lastly, after putting Student Financial Assistance through the POST method and see how they can use this to develop and grow their presence in the groundswell, I will leave you with the wise words of Li & Bernoff:  “Each company must adopt the tactics that are right for its customers and its way of doing business and adapt as the technologies change. Copying others doesn’t work because your company, your customers, and your goals are not the same as anybody else’s. So it’s time to engage with the groundswell. Your company will be better for it.” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 75)

 

References

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press .

 

 

Connect with the Groundswell, Transform Your Company.

Within the business industry, regardless of the many different business strategies that a company may choose to implement, there is one measurement of success that trumps all others: profit. As we know, money speaks; and it speaks loud. So whether you are an industry leading company such as Apple or if you are a company who has had their fair share of ups and downs such as Blackberry Limited, previously known as Research in Motion (RIM), your ultimate goal is to create as much profit as possible.

Of course there are several different methods to go about doing this, many of which go hand in hand with one another. An example of these various methods could include providing excellent customer service, leading to high levels of customer retention. Another could be by providing innovated and top quality products or simply by being able to sell products at the lowest price such as Wal-Mart. However it is important to note that simply doing whatever it is that makes your company successful year in and year out more often than not, will not always be enough to keep them at the top. Companies such as Blackberry Limited or General Motors have had their fair share of success but they have also experienced many failures. Contrary to what many think, a company is never “too big to fail”. Companies must constantly evaluate and be willing to transform their business strategy (if necessary) to ensure that the full profit potential is being reached.

In the textbook we are introduced to Dell, a company which learnt that success can be reached even after shaking the hands of failure first. The case study explains Dell’s rocky entry into the groundswell. “Dell had a direct sales model which took advantage of low costs, flexible products, and easy ordering to drive its growth and profitability.” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 223) However as time went on, Dell failed to evaluate an restructure any potential threats to the company’s profits and customer satisfaction began to decline. Dell was not listening to the customers’ dissatisfaction with the company ad because of that nothing was being done to fix this problem. Yes, Dell is just one company from a long list of companies who experienced similar failure stories due to lack of a business transformation, however what makes Dell such a good case study isn’t their failure but rather their birth of their social strategy. Relating this back into the work industry it is important to realize that there are bound to be problems but that in order to fix those problems you must be willing to listen before you act and then act on what you see. It’s important to know that everything is constantly changing and if you are not changing with it you will get left behind. Be willing to accept change when it is needed and be willing to hear what your customers are saying to you because after all, without them you cannot succeed. I will leave you with five steps that Li and Bernoff provide on how your company can create the best chance of succeeding:
-First, start small.
-Second, educate your executives.
-Third, get the right people to run your strategy.
-Fourth, get your agency and technology partners in sync.
-Fifth, plan for the next step and for the long term. (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 230)

 

References
Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press .