Now that Li and Bernoff have effectively communicated the importance of connecting with customers in the groundswell, they use chapter 12 of Groundswell to focus on connecting with employees.  According to the authors, “Throughout corporations around the world, employees are connecting on internal social networks, collaborating on wikis, and contributing to idea exchanges.” (216) They explain this internal groundswell by looking at three different applications: the community at Best Buy, wikis at Avenue A/Razorfish, Organic, and Intel; and an idea exchange at Bell Canada (217).

Two members of Best Buy’s marketing team created the Blue Shirt Nation (BSN) to find out directly from employers what was really taking place in the stores. This online community not only helps management but also allows employees to help each other by sharing valuable problem-solving tactics. Blue Shirt Nation accomplishes all five of the objectives Li and Bernoff addressed in chapter four. 

Managers listen and corporate talks to employees by posting easily accessible policy changes. This energizes fellow blue shirts by spreading positive thinking which then creates support for  one another and can embrace talent and ideas. While companies find online communities satisfactory, others such as Avenue A/Razorfish need to collaborate using wikis. More than 1900 employees interact on the wiki to share ideas, skills, and blog about work. Unlike BSN, Avenue A/Razorfish houses vital company information such as, team members’ roles, notes from meetings, and project information. More than 90 percent of Razorfish’s employees have accessed and contributed to the site. The company’s CEO Clark Kokick is also deeply involved in the community. The active presence of executives proves to be a necessary component of successful internal groundswell applicationssuch as in the case of Bell Canada. This company created its application, ID-ah!, which allows anyone to submit ideas, and employees vote on them. 

An article found on Forbes shows how leaders at Dell have also joined the internal groundswell. However, this was not always the case with Dell. Chapter 11 in Groundswell uses Dell to discuss how a company’s blatant failure can fuel a new method of communication in a place where the conversation already existed. After receiving a firestorm of negative comments from a customer with repeated technical problems and no answers, Dell faced not only a PR problem, but also a question about its transparency (224). After meeting with a team, a “blog resolution” was created to offer customer service and technical support to its customers. After having the new feature up and running, customers responded with positive feedback about Dell’s presence in this ongoing conversation (227). This is a clear indicator that companies must not just join the conversation, but start it.

The internal groundswell must be nurtured. Li and Bernoff provide three vital components for nourishment: ensure management is listening; encourage, but do not force participation; and provide creators with necessary tools to build successful applications. As shown in the case studies, an internal groundswell is the key to employee communication. When implementing the application make sure management is active. A company risks reaching its full potential when executives do not lead by example. 

Along with blogging and communicating internally to employees, companies should also take advantage of the information that customers are already offering. In an article focused on corporate blogging and its effects on company image, the authors stressed that the conversation must be kept with everyone. All the time. The article notes that companies “…discovered the importance of having internal blogs to allow forums for their employees, as well as having external blogs to encourage valuable feedback from their customers” (Strother et. al,  251).

Perhaps one of the most successful beauty campaigns to date has an ironic twist on today’s high standards of beauty. In  2004, Dove launched its Campaign For Real Beauty that focused on the average woman—and really their true consumer (218).  Although it was a risk, the company’s campaign featured commercials and videos that went viral on YouTube and allowed for more positive feedback from Dove and Unilever’s new and refreshing message (219).  The leaders of the campaign clearly saw success in embracing new media and, “giving the consumer a voice in the brand” (221). One of the pieces is the Evolution video on YouTube that shows a woman being transformed into today’s standard of beauty.

However, despite the success of the campaign, using new media also allowed for both positive feedback and the questioning of Dove’s methods. This Businessweek articlequestions Dove’s retouching what was originally meant to highlight “real beauty” (Helm). The real-life models used in the ads were allegedly highly retouched for the ads, which completely contradicts the original purpose of the campaign. The article also features a commenting section—a new method of communication that can sometimes carry backlash (Helm). Although Dove’s success relied on planning and new marketing methods (221), we must remember that these new methods of communication require constant upkeep and carry with them the possibility of negative feedback. 

Li and Bernoff spend chapter 13 discussing how organizations attain social maturity. The socially mature “empowered organization” is defined as: A business that leverages social technologies to enable better connections and relationships between empowered customers and employees – ultimately leading to better products, more efficient work-flow, more loyal customers, lower costs, and greater revenue (255).

The main takeaway from this definition is the focus on customers AND employees. A truly socially mature organization will use social technologies to empower both groups. Organizations attempting to attain social maturity face four fundamental challenges: the cultural issue, providing perspective, the organizational issue and the general risks of using a social platform. Organizations can develop in a variety of ways to combat these challenges. The authors list six factors that can be used to benchmark an organization’s progress in overcoming these problems. These factors include experience, resources and organization, process, measurement, commitment and culture.

To achieve social maturity all organizations go through five stages. The first of these stages is the Dormant Stage. Oddly enough, in 2011 one in five large companies still were not involved in social activity of any kind. While this step seems somewhat unnecessary, it is where all organizations begin. As the authors state “the first step is the hardest, so take it in a way that doesn’t raise a threat” (261).

After organizations take the first step, they move into the Testing Stage. This is early implementation. Most organizations focus on listening in this stage. Externally, they use things like Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Internally, companies begin expanding their own intranets with platforms such as SharePoint. About one-third of large companies were in this stage in 2011. Li and Bernoff recommend building on success, making measurements more “robust” and connecting to move into the next stage of Coordinating (262).

The Coordinating Stage also housed one-third of large companies in 2011. This stage is said to determine “the social future of companies” (265). Organizations build confidence during this stage. They focus on governance and the development of key staffers, which they call shepherds, who coordinate other employees’ innovative social ideas. In this stage, companies also focus on strategic growth and planning. Policies are also developed regarding their social policies and training occurs so mistakes are avoided.

The fourth stage in achieving social maturity is scaling and optimizing. Only 20% of major companies are in this stage which is the “pinnacle of embracing social media” (265). At this point, shepherds become managers with distinct titles and roles. Organizations have reached a stage of social maturity where the cultural of the organization is fully receptive.

The final stage of social maturity is Becoming Empowered. Right now the ideals of an empowered organization seem farfetched, but with the fast paced nature of the groundswell, it will not take long for this to take place.

In chapter 14, Li and Bernoff focus on the future of the groundswell. They believe rapid participation in the Groundswell is coming which will force companies not only to join the movement but also to rely on it. Organizations will be forced to think on the long-term instead of focusing on short-term goals and product-life cycles will decrease as organizations are able to interact with customers more rapidly.

The corporate strategy of deception is also discussed. Li and Bernoff state that “strategies based on deception are doomed” (279). They are apparently not the only ones that feel this way. Keiko Krahnke and Isaac Wanasika recently found that deception is more detrimental than productive, and “corporate executives with sufficient wisdom are better equipped in … arriving at effective value-based strategic choices that minimize deceptive strategies” (15).

While organizations can take advantage of the groundswell, they are still just organizations, and the groundswell will always be bigger. The authors end the book with seven pieces of advice on how to be in the groundswell concluding with the most important, be humble. This is further covered in an upcoming Groundswell publication. However, Empowered, the next book in line to effective communication, should take a page out of its current book and be a bit humble…especially with title choice. Just saying. #socialnetworks #wikis #socialmaturity #groundswell 

-Kali Johnson, Khristen Jones, Silvia Medrano

Bandukwala, A. (2012, July 13). Internal Social Media: Is Your Company Missing Out? Retrieved from

Helm, Burt. Surprise! Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” ads actually kind of fake. 7 May 2008.

Krahnke, K., & Wanasika, I. (2011). Minimizing strategic deception through individual values. Journal Of Academic & Business Ethics41-23.

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Strother, J. B., Fazal, z., & Millsap, M. (2009). Legal and Ethical Issues of the Corporate Blogosphere. IEEE Transactions On Professional Communication, 52(3), 243-253. Retrieved from