Employees: Your Key to Success

Throughout my blogs I have talked about how to best use the groundswell to connect with consumers, but an important key to having success is through employees. Tapping into the groundswell inside of your company is extremely important. Connecting employees through internal social networks, collaborative wikis, and contributing to idea exchanges helps the organization thrive because the people who know the company best know what changes need to be made. Having a collaborative workplace opens doors for innovation and also helps find better ways to be successful when using the groundswell.

“The internal groundswell is all about creating new ways for people to connect and work together, and to that end, it’s about relationships, not technology” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 244). By creating a collaborative culture, employees will feel empowered and more inclined to participate and share ideas if they feel they are being heard and making a difference. There needs to be a level of trust created that gives employees the security to talk freely about thoughts and ideas. Culture plays a huge role in the internal groundswell success and all levels of management need to be participating. Since the vast majority of companies run in a top down structure, the change needs to be implemented and exemplified at the top to allow it to filter down to all levels of employees. Once they feel they have the support from management they will be more confident in participating.

A way to encourage participation can be through creating easy “on ramps” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 247). On ramps are used to integrate the new technology with the old to help aid the resistors into the transition of utilizing it. Rebels in an organization are people who push for innovation and change. They are continuously trying to make things more efficient and create new ideas that can take the company to the next level. By finding rebels within your organization and utilizing them you can create an opportunity for them to reach not just the internal of the company but the external market. Their enthusiasm about the organization and its products and services can help attract customers on the groundswell. These are the type of people that WestJet has placed on their Twitter accounts, to connect with the public and spread the word of the company’s positive doings.

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Employees are the ultimate success of any organization and by creating ways for them to communicate and collaborate through the groundswell is how innovation is sparked. Organizational culture is key to the successful operations of a company. You can have the best technology on the planet but without empowered employees, success is unachievable.

References:

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

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Energize!

Energizing the groundswell is extremely successful for people rely more heavily on word of mouth when they are considering making a purchase. It “is a powerful amplifier of brand marketing” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 130) because it is believable through personal testimonials, self-reinforcing through multiple consumers’ experiences, and self-spreading for if it is worth using then more people will continue to talk.

When looking to use energizing to strengthen your organization there are three techniques that could be used to help connect.   The first technique is to “tap into customers’ enthusiasm with ratings and reviews” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 134). This allows customers to give their honestly opinions about products and talk about their experience with them. People are able to read these and connect. Recently at Crate & Barrel I was buying some bowls and I wanted to know if they chipped easily, so I logged onto a computer in the store and was able to see comments on the product and a five star rating scale. I chose to buy the bowls solely off of reading others experiences with them. The second technique is “create a community to energize your customers” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 134). This is where forums are set up for customers to communicate with one another on similar issues, answer questions, and showing support. The third technique is to “participate in and energize online communities o your brand enthusiasts” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 134). This is done through creating ambassadors. Ambassadors are people who are informed by the company of new products and share it with the public online or in person. Jillian Harris, known for her show Love It or List It Vancouver is an ambassador for Pier 1 Imports, along with numerous clothing brands. She writes blogs and utilizes her Instagram to let followers know about deals and new products that have come into the store. It is a great way to get people excited and interested in products.

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Energizing is both powerful and risky because you are allowing people to freely talk about your brand (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 147).  It gives you less control over peoples comments yet has the ability to transform you company. The base of energizing is your most enthusiastic customers, but you will not be successful if you do not listen. People want to know that they are being heard and when they are giving suggestions that they are actually being acknowledged and considered. People will stop talking if they feel they are being unheard. Through energizing an entire online R&D team is formed generating innovative ideas and a connection to your consumers.  Energizing is moving away from traditional marketing to focus on embracing customers to get them enthusiastic about your organization and what it has to offer.

Reference:

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

Twitter!

“Twitter may well be among the simplest, most powerful social tools you can use” (Li & Bernoff, 2011 p. 212).

Twitter is a new trend in society that allows people to have free open conversation in 140 characters or less. It is an easy way to stay connected with people, and voice an opinion with little repercussions. Twitter can now be seen “at the center of a whole ecosystem of interactions” (Li & Bernoff, 2011 p. 197). The elements of this ecosystem consist of followers, hashtags and searches, mentions and retweets, links, and lists. On Twitters, anyone can follow anyone allowing for connections to form between yourself and things that interest you. It gives people the opportunity to follow their favorite celebrity, the daily news, or sports scores. Hashtags and searches allow people to look up popular trending topics on Twitter. It is an easy search tool to get the conversation started between users. Mentions and retweets “simply uses the “at” symbol along with the user’s Twitter handle” (Li & Bernoff, 2011 p. 198). Retweets are what allow tweets to go viral, they are a quick way to pass on a message you thought others would like to here. Links are used to share articles, videos and photos with friends. Lists were an added feature Twitter created in 2010 that allowed you to created lists of people you followed and then share them among the social network (Li & Bernoff, 2011 p. 199).

Twitter has proved to serve many organizations well for it connects them directly with their consumers. The groundswell makes it clear though that, “once your company starts to connect, people will expect the company to listen and respond, not just broadcast” (Li & Bernoff, 2011 p. 201). Organizations need to be prepared to listen, and talk with their Twitter followers in order for Twitter to be fully utilized and successful.

Crate and Barrel is a great example of an organization that utilizes Twitter to spread the word about their products by posting links and hashtagging. This is how the majority of organizations use Twitter to talk with their consumers.

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Energizing is also an angle you can take when using twitter. It “means finding more people who like your products or services and amplifying their voices” (Li & Bernoff, 2011 p. 204). On twitter this can be done through retweeting. When energizing, you need to first listen, to find the right people to choose to broadcast your product. This technique is used to encourage people to like your products and to also let them know that they are being heard.   Supporting with Twitter is becoming more popular because it allows you to instantly respond to customer’s questions and problems publicly. That way more than one person my have their question answered simply by logging onto Twitter.

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Reference:

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

Customer Support Through Communities

Providing quality support to customers plays a huge role in determining if an organization is going to be successful. Support is an expensive endeavour for companies but crucial for attracting and retaining employees. Companies approach support in two different dimensions. The first is “self-service revolution, in which companies put massive amounts of product and problem-solving information online and encourage customers to use it” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 158). This allows consumers to find the information on their own, saving the company large amounts of money. The second dimension is outsourcing, which is “moving support calls overseas” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 158). These two trends are proving to be something of the past as the groundswell has been able to widely assist organizations with their customer service.

Building a community for support has proven to be the successful way of reaching large amounts of consumers on the groundswell. Through this community people interact with one another and typically the company representatives to help them with their issues and concerns. There are five suggestions given in the text, groundswell that help an organization implement a community of support online. “Start small, but plan for a larger presence” for organizations who have large product lines it is best to choice one and move forward from there (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.174). This will allow them to learn what works best for their type of consumers before moving forward with other support products (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 174). The second suggestion is to “reach out to your most active customers” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 175). By getting your consumers involved in the planning phase you will have a better understanding of how they would want to participate in your online community. It encourages participation of others when you can create a core of reliable, loyal users.  The third suggestion is “plan to drive traffic to your community” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 175). When first opening it will people will be unfamiliar with your new community, utilize search engines and advertise online to create awareness. The fourth suggestion is to “build in a reputation system” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 175). By having a well-built reputation system participants will be more inclined to contribute in a positive manner. The fifth and final suggestion is to “let your customers lead you” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 176). Communities will always have a strong opinion and by listening and learning from them you will find ways to better serve your consumers. Buy building strong online communities you will “end up collaborating with your customers to create better products” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 176).

Shaw, a large technical service provider is an example of an organization that has utilizes the groundswell to provide customer service to consumers.  By logging onto Shaws online service called, Customer Chat,  you can have a conversation with a technician over the internet. That way there are no language barriers or waiting times.   They also have a Twitter page called Shaw Help, they answer customer’s questions, and inform them of the latest ways to use their Shaw devices. It also creates a window of opportunity for collaboration to happen; no one knows how to better improve products then your consumer base. These communities allow Shaw to connect with their customers on a personal level, and also create an environment where consumers can learn from one another by simply logging on.

Reference

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

Talking: Such A Success

When an organization takes the time to talk with the groundswell they will start to gain a better understanding of their current and future target markets. The text mentions four successful ways to talk with the groundswell: viral videos, social networks, blogs, and communities. The difficult part is deciding which method will work best for you and your organization. First you need to analyze your organization and understand where there are issues when it comes to reaching consumers. When learning to talk with the groundswell the marketing team needs to be well equip to undergo the transformation. They are no longer using their usual tactic of shouting and listening for the echo (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.125). Marketers need to understand that in order to talk with the groundswell they need to be prepared to deal with people, comments, and feedback properly. Responses need to be answered with the person, audience, and organization in mind. This can be related to the marketing funnel. The marketing funnel says, consumers are driving into the big end through awareness activities like advertising; they then proceed through the states of consideration, preference, action, and loyalty – to become the buyer (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.101). The difficulty with most marketing techniques is they lose control over what happens in the middle stages. This is where talking with the groundswell can have its biggest impact.   Through having conversations with consumers you are able to reach those middle stages due to instilling trust. People become influenced when they read comments and responses, even if they are not the participants.

When choosing a method the organization needs to ensure that it is meeting the current problem within the organization. The first method to analyze is creating and implementing viral videos. Posting a viral video is putting a video online and letting people share it (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.103). An organization that exemplifies this would be WestJet. For the past two Christmas’s they have created a heartwarming Christmas Miracle story and posted it online for people to view and share. This had given them an abundance of expose in a short amount of time, instantaneously increasing revenue at a mere fraction of the cost a normal commercial would have cost. The reason they were so successful was because they created a ‘brilliant idea’. They were heartwarming Christmas stories that allowed them to shine a light on their organizational culture.

The second way that can be utilized to talk with the groundswell is engaging in social networks and user-generated content sites. This is done through “creating a personality within social networking sites” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.103). Many organizations have taken to using Facebook and Twitter to talk with their customers and allow them to share products or posts of the organizations with their friends. The key to social networks is “to respond to what your customers are saying – so you can help them through the funnel” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.124). An organization who demonstrates the use of social networking well is Walmart. Although it has been more difficult for them to identify themselves within this method due their inability to have complete brand loyalty they have a strong consumer following and make sure to communicate back to their followers on Facebook.   Through this they are able to answer questions or concerns and even agree or assist with viewers comments. See Exhibit 1 & 2. I think this is a great way for Wal-Mart to minimize the negativity on their Facebook page and also let consumers know that their concerns have been heard.

Exhibit 1:

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Exhibit 2:

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Walmart’s Facebook

The third method to talk with the groundswell would be to join the blogosphere. This can be done through empowering your staff or executives to write blogs, and also by listening to and responding to other people’s blogs (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.103). Blogs help minimize the confusion of the complex messages you are trying to communicate to the public. Coca-Cola has a blog called ‘Unbottled’ where they post stories that are aligned with corporate objectives, along with diverse views from customers, employees and partners. Through these blogs they are able to make “great emotion and human connections” (Schaefer, 2015). They are able to connect with their consumers and give a better understanding of what they are doing around the world, it also helps start conversations where consumers are able to give their opinion.

The fourth method to talking with the groundswell is creating a community. “Communities are a powerful way to engage with your customers and deliver value to them” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.103). Creating a community is opening a window where consumers can band together and socialize about a certain topic, which they all have in common. An organization that does this is the Denver Broncos. They have a webpage where fans can go and ask questions about upcoming deadlines, they can buy merchandise and socialize with other fans. Although it is difficult to control negative comments, it allows people who are interested in the product to become united through discussions.

By talking with the groundswell you are building relationships with your consumers allowing them to feel important and heard.  “If you learn to talk, listen, and respond, you’ll master the middle of the funnel” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.126) and that is success!

References:

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

Schaefer, M. (2015, January 5). The 10 Best Company Blogs in the World. Retrieved 17 2015, March, from Businesses Grow: http://www.businessesgrow.com/2011/01/05/the-10-best-corporate-blogs-in-the-world/

Planning Makes Perfect!

The POST method is a four-step planning process, which creates the foundation of groundswell thinking (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.67). The acronym POST stands for people, objectives, strategy and technology. Each of these steps helps assemble a plan to effectively introduce your organization to the groundswell. Objectives need to be put in place to help this plan succeed. The text defines five objectives, which have proven to be the most effective when pursing the groundswell. The listening objective is to help organizations better understand their customer base where as the talking objective focuses around reaching a larger target market. Energizing is based around scouting out enthusiastic customers to push forward word of mouth marketing. Where as the supporting objective allows an organization’s customers to support one another online, and the embracing objective include customers in the designing of products. Organizations need to choice an objective before they start their implementation process; this allows them to have a clear focus of what their strategy to succeed will look like.

Lately Human Resources departments have taken to using the groundswell when they are recruiting talent. It is a great way to get information out to the public and attract suitable candidates. By utilizing websites such as LinkedIn, organizations are able to gain a better understanding of the industry and the employment situation. Before an organization can implement the groundswell they need to have a concrete plan in place to ensure success. The POST method works as a systematic framework for assembling a plan (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.67).

The first step in the method is to look at people and ask the question, “what are your customers ready for?” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 67). In a Human Resources department you need to look at the industry as a whole and understand if the groundswell will be well accepting by potential candidate. It is important to understand the target market you are trying to draw into your organization and find the best groundswell approach to reaching them. The second step is objectives and they answer the questions such as “what are your goals?” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 67). By analyzing the five objectives I talked about above the recruitment department of Human Resources are working towards achieving the talking objective. Through this objective they are targeting a larger market of people and spreading the positive word about the organization and why you would want to work for them. The third step in the plan that needs to be completed is the creation of the strategy. The question to ask yourself is: what strategy do you need to implement to best reach your goals?   For the Human Resources department they would need to implement a strategy, which allowed potential candidates to become more engaged in the company. They would also need to “create a plan that starts small but has room to grow” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 72). When structuring the plan you need to create tools to measure its progress and by having short time frames you are able to focus on the step-by-step changes and easily revise your plan to suit the organizations needs. Another key part to have in your strategy is executive buy in. By gaining their support and having them on board with the transformation will be what makes the positive impact on the organization and customers. Through determining the direction of the groundswell implementation you can then plan ahead for any issues that may arise while also being prepared to deal with resistance from other employees or candidates.  After setting the foundation for the purpose of the groundswell you than can look into the type of technology you would like to use. Many organizations fail with their groundswell implementation because they think that the initial step is to identify the technology and make that the main focus of their plan. When actually if you have not identified your target market, goals and strategy for implementation the technology will quickly become an ineffective and expensive undertaking. For a Human Resources department looking to utilize the groundswell in regards to recruiting they would best benefit from utilizing social networks, such as LinkedIn or Twitter. For the type of industry they are in LinkedIn has become a well known website for connecting quality candidates with companies.  Twitter has also proven to be successful for it allows relationships to be formed through direct communication between the two parties.

The failure rate for implementing the groundswell into an organization is high. That is due to people not utilizing the POST process properly or at all. An example of a failed social networking was JP Morgan who’s objective for using Twitter was talking. When they tweeted out that they would be hosting a Q&A session with their vice chairman Jimmy Lee they did not get the responses they were expecting (Moth, 2013). They ended up cancelling their Q&A session the day before tweeting out: Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 4.27.30 PM This is a great example of how trying to switch from their objective of talking to listening without properly utilizing the steps in the POST method failed their groundswell. By being prepared and following the POST method steps an organizations will be able to see great success with its groundswell. References: Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, Massachusettes: Harvard Business Review Press. Moth, D. (2013, November 23). The top 16 social media fails of 2013. Retrieved March 11, 2015, from Econsultancy: https://econsultancy.com/blog/63901-the-top-16-social-media-fails-of-2013/

Groundswell Transformations: Todays Ticket to Success 

Connecting with the groundswell has proven great successful for a number of companies. It is a cheap, efficient and effective way to reach a large target audience in a short amount of time. Due to the amount of social media sites being utilized on a daily basis, it is easy for organizations to spread the word of their products and company values. There are three essential elements an organization needs to follow in order to be successful in their transformation into a groundswell.

It first has to start within the organization, a mental shift needs to take place in order to gain employee buy in. When changing how things should work in an organization it is essential to use a step-by-step process to ensure the groundswell becomes a regular part of the company’s processes (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p.217). The second step is building a plan and vision where strategies can be implemented to build a firm foundation for the organization. The third step is getting executive buy in. In order to transition the entire organization into groundswell thinking their needs to be full support from the upper management. Without them buying in to the vision, it would be unsuccessful.  Throughout this chapter they talked about how utilizing the groundswell can transform an organization into an industry leading company.  With the way society has shifted its focus towards relying on social media for its information organizations need to take advantage of this by defining themselves online.  As the steps indicated it is a strategic move and each element of change can greatly impact the organization.

Recently WestJet has exemplified themselves as being an organization who embraced the groundswell and experienced nothing but success through their transformation. WestJets culture has been built around the foundation of ‘caring for you’. Through that statement they are including their employees on every level along with their customers. In December 2013 WestJet posted a video online of customers in an airport getting to tell a digitalized Santa what they wanted for Christmas. Little did these customers know when they arrived home their presents would show up on the baggage claim. It was an extremely touching video, which showed customers deepest appreciation for the organization and their grand gesture. This video soon went viral after being posted online reaching 36 million views on YouTube. It allowed consumers to better understand the culture of WestJet while also making a difference in their bottom line. “In December, 2013, visits to WestJet’s website doubled, bookings increased 77 per cent compared with the same month in 2012, and revenue rose 86 per cent” (Krashinsky, 2014). This past December, WestJet released another anticipated Christmas video, but this year they took a different approach. They went to the Dominican Republic to a community in need and set up a digital Santa to get the wish lists of all the residents. In less than a week of the video being launched, more than 2.3 million people had already viewed it (Krashinsky, 2014).

WestJet understood the opportunity the groundswell supplied to them. It allowed them to reach a much larger part of their target market and create a stronger sense of trust among customers. Richard Bartrem WestJet’s vice president of communications and community relations, stated how in a traditional commercial it could cost them a mid-six figures just for production but for the WestJet video, it was a mere fraction of those costs (Bender, 2013).   For the amount of viewers they had reached it could be comparable to that of running a Super Bowl commercial. The only exception is a Super Bowl commercial would have cost them $4 million for a 30-second ad. Much like Unilever example given in the text they were strategic with how they wanted their organization to be ran and portrayed. They transformed not just their image but also their organization as a whole to fit their cultural goals. This video was a huge undertaking for WestJet because they were entering into new territory of the groundswell. It involved high employee buy in, coordination, and communication among the organization. By being innovative and utilizing the groundswell they were able to differentiate themselves from the competitors and become a unique sustainable organization within the industry.

References

Bender, A. (2013, December 12). The Real ‘Christmas Miracle’ Of WestJet’s Viral Video: Millions In Free Advertising. Retrieved March 3, 2015, from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewbender/2013/12/12/the-real-christmas-miracle-of-westjets-viral-video-millions-in-free-advertising/

Krashinsky, S. (2014, December 4). WestJets’s viral success and the power of ’cause marketing’. Retrieved March 4, 2015, from The Globe and Mail: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/industry-news/marketing/westjet-does-cause-marketing-right/article21962159/

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