Tapping the Groundswell with Twitter

Twitter is one of the easiest, but powerful social media sites that is available to us right now. Twitter is now an essential part of the groundswell, and all companies that want to have an online presence should get on Twitter and start up some conversations; In 140 characters that is. However, “the richness that Twitter packs into these tiny updates is amazing” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 197).

Here are some elements that makes Twitter so unique to the groundswell:

  • Followers: Twitter also people to connect with whoever they want, which forms connections quickly, and enables people to develop followers in the thousands or hundreds of thousands (Li & Bernoff, 2011).


  • Hashtags and Searches: Hashtags are more precise than other searches, and because by default they are public, it makes them searchable (Li & Bernoff, 2011). This makes it super easy for people or companies to see what people are talking about.


  • Mentions and Retweets: Twitter makes it easy for people to reply or reference another Twitter user within a tweet, simply by using the @ symbol, along with the users Twitter name (Li & Bernoff, 2011). As for retweeting, this allows you to share others messages at the simple click of a button, and allows for ideas to spread virally, really fast (Li & Bernoff, 2011).


  • Links: Only having 140 characters makes links very convenient in your tweet. This could include links to articles, blogs, websites that you want to share with your followers, and gives more space to write something along with it! You can also shorten links using a URL shortener, like this one.


  • Lists: Twitter added the ability to create lists of people you follow and share them (Li & Bernoff, 2011). This allows you to organize your followers and share this information with others, so they may follow them too.


  • Apps and Tools: One of the best tools for Twitter users is TweetDeck. A free application that links with your Twitter account, to see your news feed, messages, and notifications across one full size screen in real time. This allows for better organization and engagement. Below is an example of my personal TweetDeck.

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Twitter and the Five Groundswell Objectives

As we’ve talked about before it’s important to listen and talk with your customers online. Every company needs a primary objective, however being ready for anything is always a good thing. Here’s how to use Twitter for each of the groundswell objectives:

  • Listening to Twitter – Someone should always be monitoring this, and keep track of what people are saying about your company and products. Look at trends people are tweeting about, and identify if any influential people are talking about your products.
  • Talking to Twitter – Get involved and start talking with people, just listening isn’t always going to work. Respond to questions and concerns, retweet interesting things your followers might like, and market your business. But don’t overload your feed with advertisements as this could annoy your followers.
  • Energizing with Twitter – This starts with listening, and enables you to find those you want to energize. This includes people that like your product and current follow you. Energizing simply means responding to fans and retweeting them, as well as giving them content to tweet about (Li & Bernoff, 2011). People will get excited if a big named company starts following them and retweeting things they are saying, it gives them a following too!
  • Supporting with Twitter – More companies are using Twitter as a means for support, by answering customer inquiries, questions and concerns. Instead of waiting on long drawn out phone calls, people resort to tweeting to the company in order to get the answer they need.
  • Embracing with Twitter – collaborating with customers on products or marketing strategies can be the toughest objective, however can be beneficial (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Twitter makes it even harder, as there are only 140 characters available, and be able to gather a big enough following. Driving customers to partake in surveys along with an incentive to do so will help this spread. Asking people for new ideas will also help them feel empowered, and keep the conversation going on your Twitter.

What to Include in Your Twitter Strategy

Below are a list of things to incorporate into your Twitter strategy to help in succeed.

  1. Lock up your handle
  2. Listen first
  3. Be ready to support people
  4. Follow others
  5. Be ready for a crisis
  6. Respond, retweet, link
  7. Staff it
  8. Check with legal and regulatory staff
  9. Having gathered a following, don’t waste it


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


Helping the Groundswell Support Itself

In chapter 8 of Groundswell, Li & Bernoff (2011) explain how companies are switching from the traditional way of customer support, to new and innovative ways like blogs, wikis, and forums. These can be used instead of the old fashioned call centres, that actually cost way more money to run, an average of $6-$7 per call, and that increases to $10-$20 if you need technical support (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Companies have resorted to outsourcing to try save costs in labour. Call centres run about 40% lower in wages than in North America (Li & Bernoff, 2011). However, customers don’t really care how much money a company is saving, they care about the service and getting their problems resolved fast and efficiently. People are tired of long wait times, hit or miss quality, and lots of paperwork (Li & Bernoff, 2011). That’s why people are resorting to online forums, Q&As and wikis to answer their questions and fix their problems. They don’t even need the company in order to get the answers they need; they can use each other. People can post questions and answer them between themselves. Companies can just monitor these sites, get involved and respond back, or create their own forums.

There are 3 things to consider before starting this move:

  1. What problem is your support activity trying to solve?
    Look at this from the customers perspective. Why do people want to participate? Don’t participate in a narrow market either, and specialize in one area of the business. Branch out and think bigger.
  2. How will you participate?
    These communities need activity, so regular updates are key for success. You also need to ensure you are reaching out to the right customer base, using your technographics profile you created on your customers. During the first year, the community will require lots of your attention, with staff and resources dedicated to it (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Drive customers to these forums and blogs, get people talking, and talk back!
  3. Should you create a support community or join an existing one?
    There are forums and blogs out there that companies didn’t even create, but are getting a lot of buzz and responds on them. Most of the work is already done for your company, you just need to get involved and start responding, and make it clear that it’s your company that is talking back. If these don’t exist, then you should create your own. Eventually these will blow up and get lots of people talking, and eventually they will do most of the work for you.

Advice for Getting Started With a Community

  • Start small, but plan for a larger presence- As in many groundswell activities, starting small leads to success. Figure out what works best for your customers, specialize it, and expand. 
  • Reach out to your most active customers – Find those who participate the most in the online forums and ask their opinion on how to run things. They have expertise, so keeping their support and enthusiasm is crucial.
  • Plan to drive traffic to your community – No one knows you exist, so you need to find ways to drive traffic. Advertise the forums where your customers browse, shop and on your own website. Consider buying search listings on Google or Yahoo! search.
  • Build in a reputation system – Give those who participate a lot points, which will give them more credibility towards others. People will see their expertise and knowledge in areas and go to them for advice.
  • Let your customers lead you –  The customers know what they want, and you should let them tell you what you are doing right and wrong. It would be helpful to set up a “how can we improve” forum and let people comment, but pay attention to what they are saying and fix what needs to be fixed!



Li, C. Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.