Category Archives: Groundswell

Overview of Social Media for PR

Fourteen weeks have come and gone in my Social Media for Pubic Relations course. I have one more week to go, as I’ll be presenting a social media plan for a magazine alongside my teammates, Kyle and Vince, this week. You know, putting everything we’ve learned all semester into one proposal and presentation. Considering Dr. Hether’s class was my first public relations and social media course, I’ve learned a lot for a decent PR foundation.

When I began graduate school this past fall, I only had a relative idea of what PR was. Prior to this class, I thought it was all about crisis management, but it’s so much more. PR is about continually overseeing and maintaining a good relationship between a business and its public. It is a meticulous job, as a PR practitioner must be careful of what is being said and how it is said. It is being ready to mediate relationships when things go awry, as well as to energize relationships when they go well. PR also overlaps with marketing, but instead of “shouting” at one’s publics, it involves two-way communication. With the rise in social media use, two-way communication is easier than ever (if done right) for PR practitioners.

One of the most useful things I can say I learned in this course was everything I read in the Groundswell. I’d recommend it to anyone or any business beginning to learn the nuts and bolts of utilizing social media from a public relations or marketing standpoint. I will forever have the concepts of the social technographics profile and POST ingrained in my head as well as the ideas of talking, listening, embracing, supporting, and energizing. My favorite is “energizing” because it makes PR so exciting. Furthermore, seeing these concepts applied onto case studies, papers, and projects we’ve done served as great hands-on work.

In addition to the Groundswell, I enjoyed the weekly themed lessons on a particular social media platform or how to leverage social media. For instance, my main social media has been Twitter and Facebook, along with some form of blogging. This class gave me a little taste of content curation (Pinterest, Storify), social photography (Flickr), location-based social media (Foursquare), and social media metrics/analytics (Klout, Tweetreach). That is, social media and tools I otherwise would have never tried or heard of. Seriously, I’ve never heard of Storify before this class. I don’t have much of an opinion on Storify, but at least I tried it.

Overall, it was a very beneficial and thought-provoking class and I can’t wait to dive deeper into public relations theory and application in my future courses.



In this week’s reading, we’re taught how to “energize” consumers in the groundswell. That is, learning how to locate enthusiastic consumers (or convert those unhappy consumers to happy ones) in order for them to pass on a company’s positive image through word of mouth. According to the Groundswell, creators and critics play a critical role. They are the ones who will be doing the talking, and at little cost for a company if done right.

I find energizing to be the most interesting strategy in utilizing the groundswell because it just makes sense. In today’s world of social media, people are always talking, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or reviews. There are opinions, both good and bad. Though it’s important to be aware of the bad press, therefore having to “listen” and “talk” to the groundswell to mediate a crisis, being aware of the good press is just as important. In this day of reblogging, retweeting, and sharing links, digital “word-of-mouth” methods are the key to spreading and uplifting a company’s image. What’s even better is that it takes little effort and is cost-efficient in the long run. Assuming a company is already utilizing the groundswell to talk and listen to consumers, energizing can be seen as an added bonus.

In the case of eBags, they energize their consumers by encouraging those who have purchased their products to write up a review. If there are any bad reviews or a consumer contacts eBags directly with complaints, eBags makes sure to compensate those consumers with new bags or fix their problems. With such great customer service, consumers may then reciprocate by writing an enthusiastic review on both the service and/or product. Other consumers will then read those reviews, decide to make a purchase, and perhaps may even write their own review. It’s an endless cycle of energizing.

Another way to energize according to the Groundswell, is participating in online communities of your brand’s enthusiasts. In the case of Adult Fans of Legos (AFOLs), they started their own community, with no ties to the actual company. Rather then Lego having to start its own community and try to get those enthusiasts to move on over, it worked with the self-made community and created a Lego Ambassador program. The most influential of the AFOLs would then be selected as Lego Ambassadors, who worked with Lego to improve and design new products. I found this way of energizing important because the Groundswell teaches companies not to start a community if one already exists. That would only be a waste of resources. Therefore a company should use the Social Technographics Profile to locate their consumers, analyze their situation, and move forward from there on how they approach their energizing.

Overall, energizing is a great idea and can even be done on a small scale. For example, I’ve mentioned that I follow a lot of writers on Twitter. They of course, tend to tweet their works, retweet reviews of their works, and initiate conversations with their fans, which include such people as bloggers, reviewers, and other writers. As a result, these fans will sometimes retweet these writers in excitement, spreading those tweets to their own friends. This then increases the chance of a potential new fan to discover the work of the writer and give it a try. It’s amazing that such a domino effect can happen with a simple tweet or review.

Listening Strategies

This week’s reading of the Groundswell focuses on how companies can utilize the groundswell for research. More specifically, it’s about listening to what consumers have to say and how that can impact the company both negatively and positively. The book offers two different strategies for listening: setting up a private community and brand monitoring.

Of the two, I feel the setup of private communities is the most useful. The book makes a great point that traditional marketing research tools, such as surveys and focus groups, don’t give any insight. They may be good for mapping trends and answering questions, but these tools do not tell companies anything about what consumers really think and how they feel about a particular product or company. For instance, surveys may tell a company how much of something consumers are buying, but not why they are buying it. It does not reveal underlying factors, which may sway consumers to choose one product over another.

By setting up a private community, a forum within your own company, it brings together people with a common interest or concern. A company member may initiate the forum, but the consumers are the ones that will talk amongst each other. How they talk and what they talk about will depend on the company/product, but in the end, it becomes a more natural focus group. Today, with many people using the Internet for information, it makes sense that they may stumble onto a forum and perhaps even participate. Whether they are spectators or critics, there will be chatter, which will then produce unforeseen revelations a company can work with.

And while a company has to seek out participants in a traditional focus group, I find there is a higher chance that those who join private communities come of their own volition and willfully participate. To me the private community, if executed successfully, holds a lot of potential for companies to benefit from, save money, be efficient, and connect to their publics.

The idea of brand monitoring is also a good tactic, but I don’t think it gives as much insight as private communities. I see brand monitoring as just an extension of survey and focus group techniques with the addition of analyzing emotional sentiment. It’s only great for seeing trends, picking up any PR crises and minimizing the effects, and understanding how a buzz about a product is shifting. Brand monitoring is a good start, but it can’t offer anything under the surface.

Regardless of which strategy is more useful and which one companies will use, listening in general makes way for both finding out the root of a problem and stimulating inspiration for marketing changes. That is a fact that cannot be ignored.

I now leave you with my final thought on this chapter. When all is said and done of listening and marketing, where does the public relations officer fall into this groundswell method? How do you decipher between the public relations officer (who wants to maintain mutually beneficial relations between client and their publics) and the marketing researcher (who wants to generate sales)? I hope to have this question answered over the course of the semester.

Tapping into Web 2.0

As discussed in the previous post, there are many social media outlets that the average individual can choose from. However, what about companies? How can they begin to utilize social media to bring forth consumers and be part of Web 2.0? According to the Groundswell, two ways: the Social Technographics Profile and POST (People, Objective, Strategy, and Technology).

Taking together the Social Technographic Profile and POST, I thought I’d apply it to two types of writers I follow on Twitter and see whether they promote their works effectively. The first is a novelist and the second, a comic writer. Lets assume that both are virtually unknown. That is, they’re not popular as say Stephen King.

The Novelist:

I did not follow the novelist on Twitter, but rather she followed me, probably based on computerized mumbo-jumbo that took into account my profile stating I’m a “Literature enthusiast” and the fact that I follow writers. Out of curiosity, I followed her back to see what she had to offer. Suffice to say, I was not impressed. All she does is autotweet the same generic advertisement of her novels. The purpose of her twitter is to sell her novel, which is fine, but she does not apply POST. The first three steps are very important here. How she targeted me was purely random, not taking into consideration what genre of books I may be into, but that I liked books overall. She doesn’t realize that I may also be a blogger who likes to write reviews. Her objective may be to sell books, but her strategy is nonexistent. She doesn’t try to establish a relationship with followers like me in any way. And it’s obvious she doesn’t read our tweets from time to time to figure us out and how she can cater her twitter to us. There’s no communication at all. Her tweets don’t acknowledge her thousands of followers and in turn, followers don’t read her tweets. She seems to only utilize O and T, which is ineffective. Of course, this is all speculation and I’m sure some of her followers may pick up her novels. But me? I ignore her tweets. In fact, I don’t know why I continue to follow her. Time to unfollow, perhaps.

The Comic Writer:

Unlike the novelist, I chose to follow this writer first, but for a specific reason. For anyone curious, he doesn’t write for DC Comics or Marvel, which comes with them stature and decent living, but a smaller company called Image. The only reason I knew of him was because I read a short article about his new comic book about Peter Pan in WWII. Being a Peter Pan fan, I blogged about the series and my anticipation. I then tweeted the title and link of my blog post. Days later, this same writer retweeted me and tweeted me directly, thanking me for blogging about his comic and hoping that I enjoyed it when it came out. I was impressed. He was actually searching tags about his comic and making an effort to promote it. I followed him after this incident to see what he had to offer.

This writer definitely applies POST and considers his audience. He doesn’t follow thousands of random people. He follows fellow comic writers, artists, reviewers, bloggers, and the like who can help him. The people are the fellow writers and reviewers I mentioned, but the people also consist of his fans. His objective is to market himself by talking and listening to both groups. His tweets don’t simply say, “Buy my comic!” He tweets sneak previews, sends us to his blog that go in depth about the process, engages his fans by making them excited, pitches other writers, gives advice to aspiring writers, and better yet, he talks directly to his fans. His strategy is therefore to energize writers and fans alike, and get feedback. By applying POST, Twitter (and blog posts) works for him. I’m now a huge fan and promoter of his works.

Granted these writers are different, being from different genres, but how they use their Twitter to market their work was important to me.