Listening to the Groundswell

Hello everyone and welcome to blog #3!

This weeks reading in Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies, was all about listening (i.e. Chapter 5). The main point I took home from this chapter was that your company does not own the brand, the consumers does. Which obviously makes sense if you really think about it, a company can promote themselves as much as they want but if the consumers have a different perspective of the company, then that’s technically what the brand is; “[the] brand is what the customer says it is” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, p. 78). The way a company can change this is through listening, or as titled in this chapter “Listening to the groundswell”. Listening can be done two ways:

  • Private Communities – “A private community is like a continuously running, huge, engaged focus group” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 82). One of the largest suppliers of private communities is Communispace, however other have been emerged (i.e. Markettools, Passenger).
  • Brand Monitoring – “Hire a company to listen to listen to the internet” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 82). Many companies, such as Cymfony, will deliver summaries based on information that they collect, via social media, blogs, reviews etc. to see what consumers are talking about surrounding yours brand.

However, as this chapter states, listening by itself is ‘sterile’. If a company gains any kind of information about their brand, it will mean nothing if they don’t use it or act on what has been learned. Six reasons why a company should listen to their consumers are that it will help to (1) find out what your brand stands for, (2) understand how the buzz is shifting, (3) save research money and increase research responsiveness, (4) find the source of influence in your market, (5) manage public relations crises, and (6) generate new product/marketing ideas.

So what now after you started listening? As with everything in business, their must be a plan… and this one is called the listening plan.

  1. Look at the Social Technographic Profile (covered in my previous blog) of your industry to figure out how your customers participate in the online world (aka the groundswell).
  2. Start small but think big so that it does not get too expensive too quick.
  3. Make sure your listening vendor has dedicated an experienced team to your effort so that the information is understood correctly.
  4. Choose a senior person to interpret the information and integrate it with other sources so that the information will be managed and used correctly.

This listening plan will likely cause your organization to change its power structure, become addicted to this type of information from customers, reduce ‘stupid’ policies and procedures that could have limited the brands success, and allow the company to talk confidently, knowing this information, when marketing itself.

Until next week,

Jordan Fewer



Li, C. & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell expanded and revised: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing.


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