I’m currently reading Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff for my online class. The phenomenon of groundswell, as defined in the book is “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional instructions like corporations.” This broad definition of groundswell surrounds the Internet, like YouTube, Wikipedia, blogs, and Twitter.

Why is this happening? In short, because of people, technology, and economics. The desire to connect with one another, new interactive technology and online advertising.

The first step is in knowing your audience. Chapter three explains the Social Technographics Profile to group users and how they participate on the web.


This ladder states the profile of seven different consumers: creators, conversationalist, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, and inactives. It’s important for businesses to know which users are online and how they participate. Do you think someone could fall into more than one group? On some social media sites I am a spectator and on others I am a conversationalist.

If you are a business and do not know how to jump into the social media world, the authors give you a foundation which is a four-step planning process called POST. It stands for people, objectives, strategy, and technology. Each are equally important to understand. You should know how your customers will engage, figure out your own goals, create a plan of action, and find what sites or applications should be utilized.

In general, five objectives are pursued: listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing.

The first objective is listening, which I believe is one of the most important but it can easily be overlooked.

For example, does anyone remember the problems JCPenney faced when they tried to re-brand in 2012? This whole situation could have been avoided if research was done. To summarize what happened, CEO Johnson planned to end sales and coupons and replace it with everyday low prices. He changed the basic retail model without asking customers what they may think of it. Sales dropped tremendously and foot traffic dropped as well. To create a new campaign, you have to talk with customers, run your ideas by them, get ideas from them, and listen to what they say. One cannot assume you know the customers. This example shows the importance of research. Take a deeper look into the story here. Was there anything that could’ve been done to solve this problem before it resulted in a major sales loss? What do you think of the importance of research?

4 thoughts on “Groundswell

  1. I think your example of JCPenney shows that corporations that want to focus on their company so much, for example with rebranding, forget that they really are only their because of one group – the customers. If you look at Dominoes, they are rebranding slighlty by taking off the “pizza” part of their logo. However, not all Dominoes have been rebranded yet, while it is still being advertised. Some damage control I did hear was an ad on the radio actually addressing this, stating that price changes and deals applied to Dominoes that had been rebranded, and others would be as soon as the changes were made. It is interesting to see how companies can seemingly forget so easily how much customers can dictate different aspects of themselves.


    • I agree that sometimes companies can lose sight of their ending goal. I think it is smart for Domino’s to take off the pizza at the end, because they serve more than just pizza. On the other hand, it must be confusing for Domino’s customers if advertisements aren’t for every one of the restaurants

  2. I remember talking about JC Penny in Message Creation! Listening to customers is key for sure. Domino’s did a fantastic job at rebranding after holding tons and tons of focus groups. I think I am a collector, joiner, critic, and conversationalist. I embody a lot of different roles, as you said per site. I am a huge fan of customer service, so when a company assess my needs and provides help decently fast, I am a happy person. I normally will suggest that to my friends or call them and ask to speak to a manager or any other way I can help them out. @AbigailD6

    • It’s funny how all of our mass communication classes all relate to each other! I believe customer service is important as well and great customer service goes a long way. I’m not sure if I tell my friends about which ones are good, but I will tell them about the ones that are bad.

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