Monday, September 1, 2014

How I Interpreted Groundswell

In my social media class, I am reading the book Groundswell by Josh Bernhoff and Charlene Li. It is written to teach organizations how to survive the groundswell. The groundswell is, “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations (Bernhoff and Li, 2008, p. 9).
Part one of this book simply takes you through what the groundswell is and the technologies of it. Part two is where everything gets more interesting. The chapters that most stood out to me were Chapter 4 and Chapter 7.
Chapter 4 opens up by teaching me something I had never thought about before. When people want to step into the groundswell, they have to teach themselves how to do this; they cannot just jump into it. Charlie, one of the authors’ clients, sounds very confused when he calls them.
This part gets me confused because if Charlie has the most advanced website at the point in time that he calls them, (as they say he does) how is he not active and thriving in the groundswell? I guess this could be because his website is successful but he could be doing more with it? When targeting your audience you must target the right audience. Charlie probably needed to choose a broader audience and more than one way of reaching them.
Chapter 4 also explains that there are five main objectives that companies should follow in the groundswell. They include listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing. Energizing was the one that most caught my eye and got me thinking.

Chapter 7 in Groundswell is all about energizing the groundswell. I did not have a guess as to what this meant. Can you guess what it had to do with?
That’s right – energizing customers through the groundswell. This can be done by “energizing the base.” It is important to listen to your customers and go the extra mile for them. Anyone can listen, but not everyone chooses to act upon what they hear; that is the key to proving you care. If you do this for some of your most enthusiastic customers, they are going to tell other customers about it. You can do this in numerous ways.

One example that I thought of when reading this is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge fundraising campaign was absolutely brilliant. It started off with a few videos and in each video someone calls out more people which created a spread to such a large amount of people. It energized the base to do the challenge and each challenge created more and more publicity.

There is a video that a young man made about the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge that also helps with the publicity and success of the challenge.
Although this young man may not have planned to be a marketer with his video, he was just that. Everyone who watches this video rethinks how they feel about the challenge that has become so recently popular. The video touches almost everyone that watches it.
Without even knowing it, this young man energized the base and was probably accountable for many of the donations that flooded into the ALS Association. He energized everyone who watched the video to donate and do the challenge which then spread by word of mouth.

In this situation, the man may not have energized the most enthusiastic people but rather the most sensitive, empathetic or sympathetic people. This can still be his base of customers (or supporters) because the video encourages them to become the most enthusiastic group.

Groundswell explains that the base group will want something in return. In this situation, people will receive the good feeling of either giving a donation or knowing that they are spreading word about something that is important to someone. I think this is more valuable than receiving anything else in return. Based on the audience that the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge attracts, they would probably agree with me.

The most important message that Groundswell tries to get across multiple times in this book is to concentrate on relationships more than technologies of the groundswell. People are what give you business, not the technologies you are advertising to them through. Those help, but in the end the relationships that you have with your customers are more important.

I worked at a restaurant this summer and every single day, I saw a different “regular.” This was the label that we gave to the people that came in on a regular basis. These were the customers who brought in the most money and made the place what it is today.

The regulars who I created a stronger relationship with left me with better tips and provided better conversation. This good conversation and profit was because of the servers and bartenders who know how important it is to the business to build these lasting relationships with our customers. The technologies upon which we reach them at only secure this bond even more. It is up to us to create them before we can secure them. This is how I interpreted the importance of the groundswell thus far.


  1. Great post, Alex!
    I also found interest in chapter seven of Groundswell and chose to discuss it in my blog too. I also had never heard of "energizing customers," but when you think about it, it makes perfect sense. People rely on each others for information because I think it is easier to trust another person's opinion rather than a companies. I really liked your example of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge energizing other people. It does not directly seem like it is energizing because it is not a traditional situation. However, people calling out others is creating more awareness that ALS foundations may have not been able to convey in the past.

  2. Thank you, Mariah. I'm very glad you agree with me.

  3. Alex,

    I really enjoyed this post because I felt myself saying "yes! it thought that too" while I was reading it.
    I liked how you focused on energizing and the importance of relationships in your post because before I read this book I was under the impression that once a website is started or a Twitter page then everything takes care of itself because big names should just attract followers right? Groundswell opened my eyes though because it is about having a relationship with the followers not just having a bunch of them.
    Your bit about energizing too stuck out to me because at first I did not know what energizing meant either until I got through the chapter and I think your ALS example really hit the nail on the head so to speak about getting everyone involved and people being excited to be a part of it.
    Great post Alex! :)