The definition of a groundswell as defined by the authors is, “A social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations” (Bernoff & Li, pg. 9). After first reading this definition I was like, “yeah, maybe, I guess… but I still feel like people rely on corporations for a number of things.” However, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff did a great job in not only backing up their definition in the following chapters of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, but also showing me that I helped this social phenomenon become a trend.
People are going to rely on other consumers to review certain products and trust them more than they trust a big corporation. I’m going to be more prone to believe a stranger on the internet reviewing Nike tennis shoe than I am going to believe Nike’s advertisement (no offense to Nike; I actually own three pairs of their shoes and an unhealthy amount of their workout attire). You want to hear a product is great from a real person, not from the producer itself. This is what causes the groundswell. People want to hear from people.
While this can be scary for companies, the authors of Groundswell give them great tips on how to make the groundswell work to their advantage. I particularly liked the steps I last read about in chapters five and six: listening and talking. One quote in general stuck out to me when I read the book a few hours ago and has been in my mind ever since: “Your brand is whatever your customers say it is. And in the groundswell where they communicate with each other, they decide…brands belong to customers, not companies” (Bernoff & Li, pg. 78). After Li and Bernoff point out this realization it seems stupid that companies would even hesitate to get involved in the groundswell. But, as they pointed out in earlier chapters, it can be overwhelming and a lot of executives don’t know how to begin. You can’t always control the dialogue in a groundswell and that will keep a lot of companies from participating in it at all.
In order to grow your relationship (which is the most important thing, even over technology) with your consumers, you have to get wrapped up into this world where consumers are talking about your product. You have to listen to what they’re saying, because that will help you define your brand, see what people are saying about you and be able to see what you can improve on; without spending thousands of dollars on a survey or research. In addition to listening, you have to take initiative and talk.
Listening is fine and dandy, but nothing will get solved if you don’t participate in the conversation. Not only do you need to start the conversation to get people talking about you and your product, but you also need to keep it going. Some of the brands that I respect most have established a strong social media presence by engaging and interacting with their followers. This is what the chapters thus far have been telling us to do. Rely on the groundswell to build and strengthen relationships with your consumers. And don’t expect them to always come to you, you should go to them, too.