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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.


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.


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.


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:



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

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Groundswell Strategy

Defining Social Technolographics Profile

How to exploit Social Media as fully as possible poses a major challenge to many companies. To deal with such situation, market invented a new way to study the users of social media—the Social Technolographics Profiles. Different from the traditional market segmentation, this time researchers divide participants in the groundswell into subsets of consumers based on technology behaviors.

Understanding the Different Roles in Groundswell

The interests of groundswell participants may not be identical. An important task for companies, therefore, is to classify users according to their involvement in the groundswell. As illustrated in the diagram, participants can be categorized into six groups: Creators, Critics, Collectors, Joiners, Spectators, and Inactives.


Each role represents the activities and explains the involvement level of people in the groundswell. The different activities and applications also reveal the many impulses that drive people to participate: from keeping or making friends to personal branding. As companies understand how social technologies are being adopted by any group of people, they can build an appropriate social strategy to advance their business agenda.

Putting Social Technolographics Profile in Practice

Based on the data on the Alexa website, browsers of are mostly high educated individuals between 25 to 34 years old. And according to Forrester Research, in general participation of this age group has a broader focus on Joiners and Spectators, 75% and 76% respectively in Canada. The US has roughly similar numbers. As a result, the company website should include social networks as its major feature. It also makes sense for KPMG to carry blogs, forums, and online videos–reactive forms of groundswell content on its website.  In fact, KPMG is doing a great job in this area. KMPG has been using Twitter feeds and Facebook page, LinkedIn and YouTube video to build connection with its partners, clients, and employees. In order to bring up the clicker rate of the younger group, the company also maintains a presence in Wikipedia so as to attract more attention to the business and the industry.




The YouTube video below provides an overview on how KPMG utilizes Social media to improve its business functions.


Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, Massachusetts: Harvard Business Review press
KPMG. (2012, August 1). KPMG social media guideline: Think global think social [Video]. Retrieved from