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Review Groundswell

Book Review: Groundswell Chapters 6 to 10

Reading further into Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, I delved into the subject of tapping into the Groundswell – the “social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.”

Getting past the definition, it’s essentially tapping into the public to achieve your marketing objectives. My previous post on Chapters 1 through 5 gave an overview of what the authors were trying to relate to marketers and CEOs who were scratching their heads about this new fangled thing called social media that emerged in about 2007, the original year this book was published.

Chapters 6 to 10 delved deeper into how to talk, energize, and embrace the Groundswell, as well as help support itself and tap into it via Twitter.

Talking with Groundswell Differs From Traditional Marketing

This chapter delved into how marketers have to readjust the way they communicate with consumers. The authors use advertising and PR as two examples of how the old way of of doing marketing is not working. This may have been the case with PR – which Bernoff and Li say just blasts out press releases with the hopes of getting coverage.

I would argue now, almost seven years later, that PR professionals have managed to transform their roles to be what they’ve always done well – i.e. storytelling – and engaging with the public to build awareness, interest, advocacy etc.  How times have changed!

The authors go further into discussing how conversations are the new way of doing marketing – word-of-mouth is king!  Here’s a quote from Chapter Six that illustrates the shift:

Once people are aware of your product, a new dynamic kicks in: people learning from each other. Social technologies have revved up that word-of-mouth dynamic, increasing the influence of regular people while diluting the value of traditional marketing. When we surveyed online consumers in 2010, 7 percent said they trusted recommendations from friends and acquaintances, and more than half trusted online reviews from strangers. At the same time, trust in ads continued to plummet.

The techniques the book offers to talk with the groundswell are pretty simple but just as effective today as they were four years ago: posting a viral video (which every brand still seems to want to do – case in point TD Canada Trust’s recent #TDThanksYou video campaign saying thank-you to its customers); engaging in social networks and user-generated content sites (Facebook, Twitter etc.); blogging and creating a community.

The authors provide good tips on when to create a video (and what kind of expectations to have), when to engage in social networks (e.g. if consumers love your brand), and if you should be blogging (tips on how to do this effectively).

This chapter, while including some old content, still has some sage advice for any  marketer whose CEO/CMO has decided to finally get on the social media bandwagon and who needs a good starting point.

Energizing the Groundswell

I’ll give you a brief overview: this chapter is all about tapping into people who are excited about your brand/service and already talking about it. It’s about tapping into the word-of-mouth that is already happening.

The authors point out the value of having customers – and more importantly Creators –  talking positively about your brand and service. It’s word-of-mouth, which as noted in the quote above, is extremely powerful for marketing your product/service successfully.

Techniques that the authors recommend are: using ratings and reviews; creating a community and participating and energizing online communities of brand enthusiasts.

This is all good, but now we have additional ways of energizing the “Groundswell” including influencers, advocates, bloggers and others as third-party brand supporters, sharing the news with others.

The best tip the authors provide in this chapter is to consider “energizing” the Groundswell as part of a long-term social media plan. Once you start,  you can’t stop.

Support Communities

Chapter Eight speaks to supporting communities – this section, unfortunately is dry reading. It could be because the chapter starts with a case study and the details about support communities are interwoven in the content. Essentially, the chapter speaks to how some organizations and companies that spend the time and money to create support communities (e.g. a hospital community page for patients and their families) are offering a great opportunity and positive environment for people to share tips, support etc.

The chapter continues to speak to wikis and Q & A forums – while this is something that works for some brands and companies, most these days focus their precious marketing dollars and cents on platforms where most people are communicating.  ROI is always at stake and wikis, online communities and forums are difficult to measure for success.

The authors do point out that forums and wikis are a great source for listening and research. You may not need to be actively maintaining it, but tapping into one provides invaluable information about what people are saying about your brand, your products and your competitors.

Embracing the Groundswell aka Crowdsourcing

This is all about product development and tapping into customers as a source of inspiration. Giving them what they want!

In this chapter, Li and Bernoff speak to the power of being nimble and quick when innovating – embracing the Groundswell helps you be on the leading edge. After all, customers tell brands what they don’t like about them all the time. And they come up with innovative ideas as well.

One of the case studies is for Loblaws, and how it uses customer reviews for improvement. The company was using user reviews and ratings via Baazarvoice to support their President’s Choice products with “PC rated by you”. They made changes to products based on customer feedback on their website.  The company created the positive perception that it was a grocery store that listened to their customers.

Groundswell and Twitter

This chapter is all about the power of Twitter and how brands need to listen, engage and respond. It starts with how McDonalds uses it to respond to customers and how it takes a bad situation (a kid getting a girl’s toy in his boy’s Happy Meal) and how it makes it a winning success (with his mom tweeting AND blogging positively about it).

This chapter delves into some of the key things about Twitter (the nitty gritty technical details of mentions and RT’s), and shares out the many ways you can use it: listening, talking, energizing, embracing and supporting via Twitter.

And of course, there’s that most important tip – be ready for a crisis. Ever since social media came on the scene as part of the marketing mix, we’ve seen many a poorly chosen tweet leak out from CEOs to junior social media coordinators by mistake or just because of plain stupidity.


I realize this is a super long post – so I will summarize briefly my thoughts on these chapters. Lots of great content, tips and thinking about how to get talking via social media tools. Case studies could be briefer but they do illustrate various aspects of what the authors were trying to say. So the best thing to do is read between the lines if you are pressed for time and need a crash course in social media!

Check my blog in the next few days as I wrap up with my final post of this book review with an overview of Groundswell: Part Three – the Groundswell Tranformation