Strategies for tapping the groundswell


Do you feel the need to be involved in the groundswell? You are sure that your company has to be there but you don’t really know why? Or, are you nervous about moving forward? If the answers to these question were all “yes” then you should be aware of your “groundswell approach-avoidance syndrome”. Feeling unconvinced? Check out the symptoms for this problem:

  • Obsessive interest in the blogosphere and online doings
  • Checking the megablogs multiple times per day and feeling helpless
  • Getting nervous about answering superior’s questions about the company online strategy
  • Experiencing anxiety coming from participating/not dilemma


Do not worry…every illness has causes and treatments. Let’s explore it all:

Problem: Owners/managers are doing it all backwards, because they start at thinking about technology. Why is that wrong? Because chasing technology is almost impossible.

Cure: the solution to this syndrome is using the POST planning process, which is considered the basis of groundswell thinking.


POST: this systematic framework allows firms to assemble their plans by asking questions that triggers some analysis.

People: this step focuses on finding out what your customers are already involved in or ready to participate in.  One of the tools used at this step is the social technographics profiles that I have talked about in a previous blog. Furthermore, companies must assess customer’s preferred ways of engaging and communicating.

Objective: this is about the goals and vision of using groundswell to communicate with customers. Find out what are you goals of talking to with the groundswell. Different users have different goals. One could be for marketing purposes or increasing sales.  Or did you even think of using it internally? For example, to help your employees perform more efficiently working as teams.

Strategy: this step is done by questioning how you would want relationships with customer to change. Thus, figure out what are you looking for in those relationships. Do you want them to become more engaged with you company?

Technology: once you decide on all 3 previous elements (people, objectives and strategy) it is time to select the suitable technologies and application that you should build. For example, does wiki, blogs, or social networks fit in your strategy and aid you with achieving your objective?

Still unsure about picking an objective to pursue in the groundswell? Here are five primary objectives that companies should choose from depending on which one best matches the overall objective of the company:

  1. Listening: use groundswell as a tool of research to understand you customers.
  2. Talking: use groundswell as a marketing tool to help spread awareness about your company or product/service.
  3. Energizing: use groundswell to obtain the power of word of mouth that could be achieved by reaching out to your most enthusiastic customers.
  4. Supporting: use groundswell as means of allowing customers to support each other.
  5. Embracing: use groundswell to better integrate the customers’ expectations and demand into the business process.

Here is a table to explain how these objectives are linked to the specific functions in a company:


So now that we understand the usage of groundswell in a business-to-consumer process, how about the business-to-business aspect?

Although it seems harder for business-to-business companies to improve in pursuing the groundswell because only very few applications are designed for business-to-business purposes. However, businesses should keep in mind that the other business that they are trying to target are formed out of people too! In other words, those people that you are aiming to engage with are ones with a parallel role within their companies- such as, salespeople, IT professional and buyers. Thus, even in this case the key element for companies would still be picking a clear objective.
Okay, so now that we have an objective, how do we form a strategy?

If you are at a stage where you have acquired the right focus “relationships”  and well aware of the POST process, then here are some advises that would help with forming a strategy;

  • It is okay to create a small plan to start with but make sure it has room to grow and build on.
  • Make sure to consider the consequences of your strategy and any issues that may arise from adopting one, before the plan is complete.
  • Place the right person to be in charge of it, such as an executive who reports on the transformation to the CEO.
  • Be careful in selecting your technology and agency partners. Look for people who have experience and understand your own brand.

So following the provided steps and advice can guarantee you success?

Not if you are not aware of the challenges and things that could go wrong. The most common failures relate to the POST process, as companies fail to asses people’s tendencies, define their objectives, underestimate thinking through a strategy, and implementing poor technology. Since the groundswell is not under our control, things will go wrong.  To fix them up, visit POST process again and diagnose the reasons of failing.

One might think “Can we just avoid the whole groundswell thing”?

Unfortunately, we cannot ignore this trend or stop it. You may choose to engage slowly or fast, but you still have to move forward in order to stay in the competition. With that said, keep in mind that there is no right way of engaging with the groundswell. As each company should select the tactics that best suits their customers, product, and practices.


WordPress. (2013, March 6). Step planning process. [Diagram]. Retrieved from:

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. massachusetts, boston, united states of america: forrester research, inc.

Social Media strategy by Forrester. 5 goals for social are: listening, talking, energize, support and embracing. [Image]. Retrieved from:


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