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Tapping The Groundswell Inside Your Company

So far in my blog, I have talked about social media by taking the consumer side. Despite the fact that building external social networks is vital to the growth of companies, nurturing the internal groundswell should also be a top agenda for firms. As a result, it is necessary for companies to think about the impact of social strategy on their internal users—employees. After all, they are the people who run the social tools to coordinate the external customer-oriented efforts.

In some senses, building internal social networks is more important for companies. There are several reasons.

First, your employees are the primary users of any newly implemented networking systems. Employees provide feedback to help companies fine tune the applications before making them available to external parties.

Second, most of your employees have become frontline workers by using technologies to connect with customers. Getting them participated into the groundswell inside the company will help prepare your employees for external groundswell in the future through educating them the power and speed of groundswell.

Third, this approach to management emphasizes the empowerment of workers to make decisions. With internal groundswell applications, employees can express their thoughts to colleagues and management directly and openly. Not only does this helps break down internal communication silos but also encourage collaboration among people throughout the company.

Best Buy put these insights at work and created an online community for its employees called Blue Shirt Nation. The community starts with listening to what employees had to say, moving gradually to support the business functions, and generating ideas as well as exploring great talent.

communicate

However, businesses must notice that the elements of cultivating internal groundswell are different from the external one. In building social networks within the enterprise, having management supports is a must.  And the supports I mean here include not only the money and authority given but also their personal involvement. Management need to model the way by using these social networking tools to talk with their subordinates to show that they are actively listening from them. The CEO of Razorfish, Clark Kokich, led his company through an acquisition without causing chaos because he used blogs and wiki to keep his employees informed. As a result, his subordinates were able to develop a high level of trust on him. I also found management involvement is necessary to align the company goals and employee insight together. Because management is able to turn the ideas from subordinates into action, employees are motivated to participate which enhances collaboration and contributes to ideas exchanges.

References

Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review press


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Energizing The Groundswell: Nurturing Relationships With Your Customers

Social media has transformed marketing from the traditional notion of “the campaign” to an automated, individualized and cross-channel interaction that works for companies and customers alike. The new dimension now draws global marketers to center the marketing efforts through building relationships with their stakeholders.  To make the relationship work out successfully, in addition to listening and talking in the groundswell, businesses energize the audience with actionable strategies.

An energized customer is a powerful asset to businesses because he or she markets the brands on behalf of companies for free.  BusinessPeople Marching with Bullhornses that run in a slow growth economy, in particular, found the contribution of vital importance. Most importantly, the crowd treasures word-of-mouth recommendations and this is why word of mouth is a powerful amplifier for brand marketing. Seeing the opportunity, companies use three techniques to turn these customers into evangelists of their products and services:

  • Tap into customers’ enthusiasm with ratings and reviews. Retail companies like Amazon are using feedback from customers as the main channel to market its products and services to existing and potential buyers.
  • Create a community to energize your customers. Toyota has launched an online community called Club Toyota in Canada for the car owners to share common problems and let members to educate each other for any related issue.
  • Participate in and energize online communities of your brand enthusiasts.  Apple makes use of the Apple Community to capture market attention and to bring in new ideas for products and services development.

Despite of all the benefits, energizing contains certain risk. As companies are dealing with actual customers, the situation is dynamic and may change at any time. To help companies deal with the challenges, groundswell guru Charlene Li and Jeff Bernoff have outlined 5 steps for energizers:

  1. Figure out if you want to energize the groundswell. Energizing only works well in a situation where customers share strong emotional ties with the products or services of the company.
  2. Check the social technographics profile of your customers. For companies whose sales target is seniors, energizing doesn’t seem feasible because the majority of them don’t have experience in social media.
  3. Ask yourself, “what is my customer’s problem?”  Companies have to frame the problems of customers neither too narrow nor too board in order to generate discussions.
  4. Pick a strategy that fits your customers’ social technographics profile and problems. Companies need to consider which energizing technique, ratings and reviews or communities, will make sense for their core supporters.
  5. Don’t start unless you can stick around for the long haul. Energizing the groundswell takes time and continuous efforts. Unless companies can make a long-term commitment, this should not be an agenda for their marketing plans.

 

Only if companies walk through these steps do they can advance their marketing programs to new levels and cultivate relationships with the customers in the rapid changing world.

References

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


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Twitter: A New Star In Social Media

Although I always hear people talking about Twitter at school and at work, only recently did I have the opportunity to explore this powerful groundswell tool. Like the many social networking mediums, Twitter aims at bringing people together by knocking down geographical and cultural barriers. However, Twitter does not offer as many interactive features as its counterparts do and any updates are limited to 140 characters. Despite the limited features, Twitter is becoming the most popular social channel for groundswell participants.

While many people might view Twitter’s functions as inadequate, it is the unique features that make Twitter so prevalent among social media users. By simplifying the writing task, Twitter empowers and encourages individuals to become Creators and Critics. These new ideas and topics then bring in more discussions and drive traffics and links to the site.  Its mobile platform also enables users to update their Twitter anywhere and at any time.

Furthermore, Twitter allows connections to form quickly. User only needs to click the Following button and immediately his or her account will be linked to other Twitter users. When locating an idea or a topic in Twitter, users are able to reduce the search time by using the Hashtags or reading its list of “Trending Topics”.  As a result, companies like KPMG are utilizing the tool to listen to a diverse range of opinion by following professionals and businesses in different industries and markets.

Word-of-mouth is a powerful force in the groundswell and Twitter is supercharging this power by using Retweeting to spread ideas from one account to the followers of other accounts. And as a supplement to its tiny updates, many tweets include links to articles, videos, and photos so as to enhance richness of the content. Given the high level of social connectedness between the firm and its followers, KPMG is tweeting daily to update the market outlook and its view on different business issues as way to talk and energizing its audience.

Reference

Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies.  Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review press


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Untangle The Complexities: The Power of Groundswell Support

Have you ever encountered a problem in which your family and friends were unable to help? I bet many of us have experienced this before.  In such a situation, we panic and feel frustrated as seeing no one else can offer any assistance. And there is good news for any help seeker: we can now explore avenues of support in the groundswell.

There are two ways to launch support in the groundswell: forums and wikis.  In a forum, individuals serve a dual role; they can be help seeker and problem solver at the same time. Like the tradition support method, customers need to make available the details of the problems. However, under the new process, it is the customers but not the companies to provide answers to those questions.

images (community)

Companies and consumers both love the idea of support forum. From the customers’ standpoint, they no longer need to take a long wait for a solution. Instead of gaining help from a single person in a company, they now can get as many helps as possible on the web. For companies, the system helps reduce the support costs significantly. It also strengthens the brand image due to less complaint from customers. Companies, like Dell and Linksys, clearly profit by the groundswell support.

Similar to consumers, companies also need support from the groundswell and they obtain the collaborative power by introducing wiki to both internal and external parties.  Different from forum, wiki enables participants to get direct involvement into the development process. This, in turn, creates a win-win situation for companies and consumers.

With the groundswell support, companies can enhance their products features at a minimum cost. They may well be able to capture more market attention which brings in more sales. On the other hand, consumers are able to obtain their dreamt products. Most importantly, they are comfortable to spend money on the products because they feel valued and support given by the companies. As an example, BearingPoint is using wiki to create more business opportunities.

Yet, any form of community support doesn’t come naturally. There must be a reason that drives people to help others. This requires companies to hold the perspective of customers to look for the deeper cause—the desire of psychic income—using this element to create activities to drive traffic and links. The companies themselves must also become active participants in the community in order to make the support system work out successfully.

References

Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review press


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4 Ways to Start a Conversation in the Groundswell

In the past, companies spent extensively on advertising and public relations to advance their brand images, but these methods no longer work in today’s customer-oriented marketplace. Companies now get consumers marched down the path from awareness to purchase and loyalty, called the marketing funnel, by talking with the groundswell.

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Like many companies, KPMG employ different means to initiate a conversation in the groundswell. These methods include:

Post a viral video: KPMG has updated many corporate videos on YouTube regarding the culture, strategy, services, and events for visitors to watch and make comment.  The company also allows these videos to be shared among Facebook, blogs, twitters, and other social networking sites.  In order to drive traffic to the corporate site, KPMG has added the YouTube button on the webpage for easy access to these videos.

Engage in social networks and user-generated content sites: KPMG not only uses LinkedIn to access and recruit talent individuals, the company also creates a Facebook page to introduce the work life in KPMG, both the Summer intern and full-time staff, and twitter to answer questions from job seekers, college students and new graduate.

Join the blogshpere: In the United Kingdom, KPMG has engaged its senior partners and industry experts to blogging. By connecting the business leaders to the clients, it helps the company build a trust relationship with their clients. It also enables these leaders and the company to gain valuable insights in different topics by reading and responding comments.

Create a community: KPMG has launched online community for its affiliation in Africa. The accounting firm wants to educate the population on complex topics like infrastructure, regulation, healthcare and education, technology, etc., with goals to encourage participation and stimulate discussion among visitors.

As we can see, all four ways begin by addressing the awareness problem, they then move forward to tackle with problems regarding word-of-mouth, improving communication on complex issues or topics, and creating a network with the targeted audience.

References

Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review press


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Organizational Culture: A Key Component of Your Social Strategy

Looking at the current business environment, we always see and hear people talk about the enormous potential of social media.  Especially after listening to successful stories in the market, more and more companies jump into the trend to adopt social media. But contrary to what they heard, these new social media users often find themselves incapable of exploiting the tools for value creation. In fact, these firms do not lack talent working for them.  These companies failed because they lack the mindset of change.

From the diagram provided by Netbase below, we can see the adoption rate of social media in business lags far behind the public usage rate. This reveals the problem that a lot of companies and professionals cannot internalize the value of social media. Without having groundswell thinking instilled into their minds, the new project is doomed to failure right from the start.

Cultural-ConundrumSource: http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Cultural-Conundrum.jpg

Yet, businesses can reverse the situation by changing employees’ attitude towards the deployment of technologies. As a starting point, change leaders should redefine the organizational culture with a goal to create a proactive organization. An organizational culture is important because it represents the core personalities of the business. Corporate culture, therefore, is seen as an ideal vehicle for business to promote its visions and values to stakeholders. However, bear in mind that the transformation will take time and need patient. Making  sweeping changes to policies can cause confusion and there should be trial period for employees’ to understand their roles in the new setting. Working in a steady progress can lead in a natural progress to the next step. Furthermore, backup from corporate leaders is vital to the success of great change since they provide the resources and give authority to change managers to develop and implement strategies to help employees go through rough patches during the process. As such, without executive support, a change can never be made within the organization because employees see no real leader in the plan of change.

The short video below explains the importance of organizational culture for implementing a successful social media strategy:

References

Haydon, J. (2012, February 9). The best strategy won’t fix a broken culture [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lqXUI9RA_U

Leo, D. M. (2012, December 26). The social media culture chasm. [Web log message]. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/social-media-measurement/tools-process-and-culture-oh-my/

Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by
social technologies. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review press


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Listening: The New Path of Branding Your Business

Brand Management in the New Era 

During the past decades, brand management has evolved from a close structure to an open structure. The growing level of groundswell activities has made transparent marketing the new trend in the field. Consumers no longer take a passive role in making purchase decisions. With new technology options, they are encouraged to engage, demand information, and push for value. Nowadays, the onus is on the market but not the company to promote the value of a brand. As a result, listening in the groundswell becomes very important for companies to survive and success in the market, both offline and online.

ideascale-banner

Listening to Your Market

Who to listen? There are lots of voices in the groundswell. For companies, the best sources of information come from customers, prospects, and competitors.

Customers: The existing customers will always be the most important research targets of companies because they have in-depth knowledge of their products and services. And companies can generate their feedback and turn them into novel business methods.

Prospects: This group is within the identified market segment of companies. So far, these people have not purchased any product or service that companies offer at present. Yet, by learning and engaging the inactive group, business can open up new opportunity in the market.

Competitors: Knowing the similarities and differences between the active players in the industry and the market helps companies discover the best way to position their products and services.

Where and How to listen? Companies adopt two strategies of listening to gain continuous insights from these market participants through 1) managing a private community, and 2) conducting brand monitoring.

Developing a platform for private communication enables companies to capture more insights for running their business.  As an advantage, this method automatically narrows down your audience into focused groups without missing out important information as most community members are individuals who have interest with the discussed topics. By interacting with these people, companies can easily find out hidden problems of their products and services and help spring novel ideas into existence.

Another option is to hire consultants to listen to the groundswell on your behalf, and have them summarized the findings for you.  This is called brand monitoring. The major benefit of this approach is that it ensures companies to receive all the relevant information.  Groundswell experts filter out representative information from various sources and offer customized reports to companies consistent with their industry types.

In summary, listening to the groundswell can help companies achieve the following objectives:

  1. Find out what your brand stands for
  2. Understand how buzz is shifting
  3. Save research money; increase research responsiveness
  4. Find the sources of influence in your market
  5. Manage PR crisis
  6. Generate new product and market ideas

 

Create a Listening Plan for Your Company

As listening is the starting point and an important component to position your brand image into the mind of your customers, companies need to develop the listening plan carefully. To begin with, companies select an optimum way to interact with their customers, introducing the listening programs to their customers and employees. These programs will be led by people who have experience and passions in the area with support from the top management. And “Over time, listening will become a responsibility that is spread throughout an organization” (Li, & Barnoff, 2011).

As an example, the video below briefly talks about how business can reinvent its brand using social media:

 

References:

Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review press
WebProNews. (2011, November 5). Reinvent a brand using social media [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FT_sOC34BlM