Energizing the Groundswell Inside Your Company

So much focus is put on tapping into the groundswell on the customer side of things.  I touched on it in one of my previous blogs actually, you should check it out! However, what is often ignored or overlooked is the groundswell within your company! It seems only natural for management to develop ways for employees to interact with each other.  For one, they work for you.  They have at least one thing in common.  Also, they have a common goal: your company’s success.  So I guess they have at least two things in common! Those two similarities are often enough to generate conversations in the workplace.  With this thing called the Internet, companies are coming up with ways to transform these workplace relationships into company-wide relationships.  However, “the bigger a company is, the more of a problem internal communication becomes[..]getting insights back up to management and encouraging collaboration among people throughout the enterprise is harder (Li & Bernoff, groundswell, 2011).

An example of a company that has had success with these “internal social networks” is Best Buy.  They called it “Blue Shirt Nation” and through it, upper management gained insight on what worked in the community, and what didn’t work.  It enabled employees to help each other, it made them feel like an important part of a huge retail chain.  Another key ingredient to the Blue Shirt’s success is the level of management involvement.  “The fact that a VP references an employee blog post in the course of everyday business discussions speaks louder and truer than any mandates or exhortations to use the technologies” (Li & Bernoff, groundswell, 2011)

This video gives us a little more insight on how Blue Shirt Nation has evolved, what’s changed, and just what it’s done for the company.  It’s an interview regarding Blue Shirt Nation with the two bright individuals who founded it.  It’s definitely worth watching if you want to learn a little more about it.

The amount of success that this program generated really changed my way of thinking in regards to maintaining a supportive workplace atmosphere from an upper management perspective.  It’s more than just ensuring everyone gets along, it’s giving the employees a voice, and allowing them to genuinely feel that they can make a difference.  The stigma surrounding retail jobs is that the employees aren’t cared for, and their actions on an individual level do not shape the future of the company.  Best Buy created Blue Shirt Nation which showed that they care what their employees think, and that they can make a difference.  Like I mentioned, employee blog posts are referenced in business discussions.  Being a sales associate and knowing that your opinions don’t go unnoticed is an empowering feeling.  These sorts of programs energize the internal groundswell, and in the internal groundswell, “the secret to thriving is culture” (Li & Bernoff, groundswell, 2011, p. 248).

If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know I plan to work in the financial services industry.  I’m not sure how many companies have a system like Blue Shirt Nation, but I think it would be wise for financial services firms to go down that road, too.  For example, the sales representatives could have the ability to post blogs or something like a diary to a company website.  This could include any tips they have for increasing sales, or changes that could be made to the company.  The sales reps could discuss the tips that they post, which would build workplace relationships, thus creating a strong work culture.


Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell. In C. Li, & J. Bernoff, groundswell (p. 234). Boston: Harvard Business Review.

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell. In C. Li, & J. Bernoff, groundswell (p. 245). Boston: Harvard Business Review.


Energizing the Groundswell

Energizing the groundswell is a marketer’s dream.  It’s free advertising.  It connects your company with your most loyal customers.  It turns them into viral marketers “[…] spreading brand benefits to [their] contacts without any cost to the company.  Individually, no consumer can achieve the reach of mass media.  But word of mouth is a powerful amplifier of brand marketing, achieving results no media campaign can achieve” (Li & Bernoff, 2011).  I think that word of mouth marketing is extremely important because everyone will take their friend’s word on a product or service before they listen to a company’s marketing.  It convinces a potential customer through legitimate experiences, rather than what the marketing campaign will have you believe the product will do. Word of mouth succeeds because “it’s believable, self-reinforcing, and self-spreading” (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Companies try to determine the value of customers who spread positive experiences about them.  These customers are called “promoters”.  Two prominent software programs that allow companies to get a better understanding of their customers’ worth are Kissmetrics and Google Analytics.  There’s also a calculation you can do.  To calculate NPS “Customers answer on a scale from 0 to 10.  Subtract the detractors (those who answered 0 to 6) from the promoters (those who answered 9 or 10), and you get a Net Promoter Score” (Li & Bernoff, 2011).  A successful recommendation can double that customer’s ROI.

There are three basic techniques for connecting with your brand enthusiasts, but I will focus on two of them, because they are the techniques that Franklin Templeton, a financial services company, utilizes:

  1. Create a community to energize your customers
  2. Participate in and energize online communities of your brand enthusiasts (Li & Bernoff, groundswell, 2011)

I discussed in a previous blog how Franklin Templeton has a presence on social media which allows them to interact with their customers, and spread financial knowledge.  They also post blogs frequently on their website.  This exchange of knowledge energizes the groundswell, and in an industry such as financial services, referrals and word of mouth marketing go a long way.  People are worried about being scammed, and they are concerned about their retirement funds.  Word of mouth goes a long way in assuring them that they are in good hands.

I used my textbook “groundswell” to help explain the power of word of mouth marketing, but I also found a video which goes into further detail.  The main ideas conveyed in the video were first put forward by WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association), and they state that the most effective word of mouth marketing follows five principles: credible, respectful, social, measurable, and repeatable.  I’m not going to go bother explaining them, because the video does a much better job of it than I ever could.  Seriously, check out the video.  It’s definitely worth three minutes of your time!



Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell. In C. Li, & J. Bernoff, groundswell (p. 130). Boston: Harvard Business Review.

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). groundswell. In C. Li, & J. Bernoff, groundswell (p. 132). Boston: Harvard Business Review.




POST: The Foundation of Groundswell Thinking

POST is the foundation for tapping into your customer’s potential.  It is the framework that has to be assembled before developing social media strategies, for example.  I touched on it in this article, Franklin Templeton Investments utilizes the proper technology to convey their strategy and objectives to people, not just their customers.  There are five primary objectives that companies successfully pursue in the groundswell (listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing) (groundswell, 2011), and Franklin Templeton accomplishes one of those objectives.  They energize their customers by empowering them with financial knowledge.  Through their blog posts and videos, their customers’ word of mouth is empowered because they have a deeper understanding of what Franklin Templeton does, and they have more knowledge about the financial world in general.  This objective can be achieved because they follow the POST method.

POST Method – Blending New & TraditionalMediaCreative Solutions & Innovations| www.creative-si.com | 404.325.7031Post Meth...

(Spector, 2013)


This image succinctly summarizes the POST process.  It is worth mentioning how it states that objectives must be SMART, because effective objectives lead to an effective strategy.  It is important.

People is the first step in the POST method.  This step can be completed by answering the question “what are your customers ready for?” As I discussed in one of my previous blogs, Social Technographics Profiles “[…]allow people in business to examine and then create strategies based on the groundswell tendencies of any group of people, anywhere”, so by creating these strategies, companies are able to answer that question.

Objectives are the goals of the organization.  Five of the most powerful objectives that companies pursue in the groundswell were identified in the first paragraph, and they can make or break the strategy of the firm.   I believe that this step is the foundation of the strategy step, because the strategy is the execution of your objectives.

Strategy: This is the step where you decide how you want to shape your relationships with your customers.  It allows you to plan for the desired changes, and it also allows you to measure the changes once the strategy is in place.  This step is tied very closely with the previous step, because your objectives include how tap into the groundswell.

Technology is the final step of POST.  It is the medium in which you tap into the groundswell.  For Franklin Templeton, it was Youtube, Facebook, and their website.  They decided that this was the technology that their customers were ready for, and they used that technology to carry out their groundswell strategy.  Franklin Templeton had to be careful when picking which mediums to use because not every target market will react the same to those mediums.  They determined that their target is a mix of joiners and spectators.  Joiners are “[…] people who have a profile on different social networking sites and visit them with some regularity (Antwerp, 2010)”, and spectators are “[…] people who read online information, list to podcasts, and watch videos but do not participate” (Antwerp, 2010).  Because their target market are joiners, they are able to utilize multiple social media outlets, and because they can also be spectators, they can be successful with blog postings, videos, and general posts.



Antwerp, G. V. (2010, August 3). Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, and Inactives. Retrieved from George Van Antwerp: https://georgevanantwerp.com/2010/08/03/creators-critics-collectors-joiners-spectators-and-inactives/

groundswell. (2011). In C. Li, & J. Bernoff, groundswell (pp. 67-69). Boston: Harvard Business Review.

Spector, D. (2013, June 19). Creating a marketing communications plan. Retrieved from Slideshare: https://www.slideshare.net/specvic/creating-a-marketing-communications-plan


Connecting With The Groundswell

Engaging with the groundswell causes an organization to go through a complete mental shift.  It transforms the company from being profit-oriented, for example, to customer-oriented.  You may think that every business is customer-oriented, but taking a deep look at departmental priorities, marketing, and customer service policies show that they may be more geared towards profits.  My past experiences have shown me that product maintenance policies are only in effect until the product may show signs of deteriorating.  I bought a laptop in highschool, and the live service package from the company’s website was only in effect for a year after my purchase.  The warranty lasted just as long.  I’ve also gone through plenty of cellphones, which have broken shortly after the warranty has ended.  A customer-oriented approach would see these services extended to when there is a higher potential for the product to need repair.

It’s not easy to transition to being customer oriented.  It’s important to take it step by step, and be patient.  The stepping-stones established at the beginning of the transition should lead into a natural progression into the next step.  Having managers who can plan effectively, and can also have a good understanding of where the company should be headed is vital.  They also need to be fully bought-in to the transition, to ensure that the ideas will catch on (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 217).

The following five steps ensure your company will have the best chance of succeeding with the transition, and the previous process that I explained must be used as a foundation to these steps: 1. Start small 2. Educate your executives 3. Get the right people to run your strategy 4. Get your agency and tech partners in sync 5. Plan for the next step and for the long term (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 230).

This video is the culmination of a cultural change in Dove.  Dove “[embraced] the power of the groundswell and [energized] consumers to make their own contributions” (Li & Bernoff, 2011).  Dove embraced Youtube as a low-cost marketing platform because they embraced the groundswell.

Another company that has embraced the groundswell in this way is Franklin Templeton.  I talked about them in one of my previous blogs, I liked how they utilize Youtube to empower people with financial knowledge, when they could be using that platform to promote their services.


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


The Power of Listening

Companies are always trying to fix issues with their products and services.  They may pump millions into R&D, try to promote new products that may not actually satisfy a need, or change existing products that actually aren’t the issue.  One practical solution to many company problems is to listen to customers.  Many people believe that companies don’t listen to their customers, but “[…] marketers paid Nielsen over $4.8 billion in 2009 for information about which products were selling in stores […] companies pay for syndicated research sources like Nielsen […] because they all want answers to similar questions” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pp. 79-80).  One easy, free way for companies to listen to customers’ (dis)satisfaction is to check out crowdsourcing websites such as Yelp.  However, a major downside to using Yelp for example is that the reviews that customers post are often very polarizing, they can be very negative, or very positive.  It wouldn’t represent all of the company’s customers.  In the Information Age that we live in, there are mountains of info that companies can gather regarding their products, but therein lies the issue: it is not acquiring the information that gives a competitive advantage, because that is a simple task, however it is transforming the information into meaningful data and applying it to the company that creates success.

Agencies such as Communispace are hired by companies help integrate the power of their consumers to foster innovation in their business.  This video briefly explains how Communispace uses “private communities” to provide a service.  Listening to customers is a way of fostering good business that has been around since the dawn of time, however with the advent of the Internet, and our ability to greater utilize the Internet over the past decade or so, it’s not as much of a competitive advantage as much as it is a requirement to compete.  Customers realize how valuable this information is, and over that same time frame, they have started to feel the desire to put a price on their information.

Since pretty much everybody is at least somewhat active on social media, it has become easier for agencies to track individual consumer desires and market to them accordingly.  Communispace conducted a survey that found “while 68 percent of consumers say it is “OK” for financial services companies to use information from their customers for personalized marketing, 79 percent say it is “not OK” for financial services companies to track their online behavior or to buy their demographic data for targeting purposes” (PR Newswire, 2015).  As previously mentioned, people are realizing that their personal information is valuable.  70% of people surveyed by Communispace would sell pertinent information to brands, so although it is easier to extract customer information than before, it is also more costly.




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

PR Newswire. (2015, April 22). New Communispace Report: Consumers Tell Financial Brands They Want to Be Courted For Their Data. Retrieved from PR Newswire: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-communispace-report-consumers-tell-financial-brands-they-want-to-be-courted-for-their-data-300069633.html


Social Technographics Profiles

The social technographics profile is designed “to allow people in business to examine and then create strategies based on the groundswell tendencies of any group of people, anywhere” (Li & Bernoff, 2011).  This system profiles consumers, both men and women, into various classifications.  An emerging segment is Alpha Moms, which “…are comfortable with technology, interested in parenting, and have above-average incomes” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 47).  The age groups for these classifications vary greatly, it is not just younger groups that participate.  “…at a 10 percent penetration, there are still millions of people over fifty blogging and maintaining Web sites” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 53).  People participate in the groundswell due to a need to connect.  They participate to maintain friendships, make new friends, and give in to altruistic, prurient, creative, and validation impulses (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 61).

Facebook is an example of a company that utilizes social technographics profiles to successfully market products to their users.  Joiners, spectators, critics, and all other classifications (except for the inactives) are marketed to based on their search preferences.  Facebook gathers information including what they post about, what they search up, and where they live in order to market products that they believe the end user will have an interest in.  Facebook’s marketing, and therefore their revenues as well, are beneficiaries of the social technographics profile because “…it is a way to group people based on the groundswell activities in which they participate” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 41).  I have described how Facebook markets to their users, but the picture I have included in this blog shows how vast their customer base is, and how much time they spend on Facebook.  This time spent translates to a higher click through rate on the advertisements.

I have always been fascinated by how Facebook can consistently advertise products that I am interested in to me.  I always believed that it was just some algorithm that they used to determine my interests.  However I now have a deeper understanding of it, specifically in regards to my discovery of the social technographics profile.  It was interesting to read into the various classifications of the social technographics profile and see which one I fit into.  I believe I am a spectator, since I don’t post much but I am constantly reading what other people post.



(Superior IT Services, 2017)




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

Superior IT Services. (2017, February 5). HOW FACEBOOK MARKETING HELPS YOUR BUSINESS? Retrieved from Superior IT Services: http://www.superioritservices.in/facebook-marketing.html


Social Media Integration in the Financial World

Franklin Templeton Investments is an investment management firm that utilizes various forms of social media to create a competitive advantage.  Their money managers blog frequently regarding investment strategies.  Franklin Templeton’s Facebook page shares insights, investment facts, and stimulates community conversation, and their Youtube channel does the same.  These social media outlets aren’t “media rich”, but I don’t think rich social media platforms are necessary to promote investment services.

I always see their Facebook page popup in my newsfeed, and I have seen them in Youtube ads, but I didn’t know they posted blogs on their website.  I think this is a great way to promote financial literacy, and considering that they have posted 11 blogs since the middle of January, there seems to be a steady stream of information.  One issue that can arise from this, however, is the blogs directing negative attention towards the firm.  An example of this was at Microsoft, where their technology evangelist did the exact opposite of what he was supposed to, and constantly bashed Microsoft’s products.  I think that the solution for this to be to have a member of management review blogs before they are published, not to censor the blogs, but rather to ensure they align with the company’s objectives.

Franklin Templeton’s Youtube channel also offers investment tips.  For example, this video discusses Canada’s equity market, and why there may be worthwhile investments to be found.  Franklin Templeton offering these tips and insights supports their vision and values statement, specifically “…we achieve this mission by offering high quality investment solutions…” (Franklin Templeton Investments, 2017).  Ensuring activity alignment is crucial because it reduces ambiguity that can arise from different messages across different platforms.

It is interesting to see how companies that do not have a lot of differentiation between them compete to attract customers.  It’s obvious that Franklin Templeton uses social media to get their name out, when thinking of a financial service company that is active on social media they were the first to come to my mind, so obviously they are doing something right in that regard.  In this industry it’s easy to promote your services by saying “we will provide better advice than the other firms” but I like how Franklin Templeton takes an active stance on sharing tips and insight on how to make better invest your money.  I think that adopting that strategy is a great way to be deemed as trustworthy by potential clients.



Franklin Templeton Investments. (2017, February 3). Corporate Mission. Retrieved from Franklin Templeton Investments: https://www.franklintempleton.ca/en-ca/public/company/corporate-mission