Does the groundswell even lift, bro?

Once you’ve set up your groundswell should be able to get its swell on by itself. You can work with it as a spotter, but you want it to do all the heavy lifting itself.

In non-bro-dude-gym lingo, you want the groundswell to support itself. Basically, this is your new customer support hotline. People should be able to Google their problem and get to your site to help. This could be your FAQ, your community message boards, or an outside message board where they can find a solution.

For instance, isn’t it better if I am able to Google “How do I kill the High Dragon on the Sacred Ashes mission in Dragon Age: Origins?” and find my answer somewhere on the internet versus 1) calling Bioware or EA and asking for help (that their customer support likely has no clue about) or 2) Going on Twitter and saying “OMG DAO SUX THE DRAGON IS TOO DAMN HARD!!1! eFFF THIS GAME!! #BIOWARESUCKS#EASUCKS #XBOXSUCKS!!


Now that is a bit of a goofy example but the principal is pretty universal regardless of if you’re business is blenders, vacuums, computer programs, newspapers, or swimsuits. But this is where your groundswell can support your company. The great thing about it is that the general public is able to create posts, answers, questions, reviews, help, tips, tricks, etc. The focus can also be on more than one of your products, your company, your competition, prices, etc.

This is the one-to-many/many-to-many effect.

However, before you start to create a community for your groundswell, there are three points that must be outlined:

  1. Problem you are going to solve
  2. How you will participate within the groundswell
  3. Create a support community or join an existing one

1. Problem you are going to solvePut yourself into your customers’ shoes. How will you create a community that will solve customers’ problems and create value?

2. How you will participate within the groundswell. You must keep activity in your groundswell that there is the generation of new content.

  • Drive people to your community (such as a message board) from messages posted on your Web site, social media accounts, products or other advertising efforts
  • Participate in the groundswell by helping people by answering questions and engaging in conversation. After a while hopefully the groundswell itself does this, but it doesn’t mean you can stop.

3. Create a support community or join an existing one

Whether your organization decides to become active in a pre-existing community or create a new one of your own, the goal is that both will be beneficial and add value. The community should be able to support itself, listen to conversation about your product, and talk to and engage with users about the product and what they like or don’t like, as well as let word-of-mouth travel.

I keep coming back to Bioware for this because I’m most familiar with their community and the way it is engaged. With the upcoming release of Dragon Age: Inquisition and having been a somewhat active member of the forums for the passed two years I can see how they’ve changed their approach to pre-release as well as the game’s construction based to an extent on what the community itself desired. The only details being released are about what has been confirmed for the game. Also, the changes in the combat engine, appearance variety and dialogue system in the new game stems from a dissatisfaction felt by many fans in the previous game.

As far as plain interaction with the community, I feel it is well done. Members of the development team and writers seem to pop in and have discussions on occasion or to debunk/confirm “rumours” to help keep control of their community and the expectations of the game. Those are good things.


Source: Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011) Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing.


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