Social Media Today: 5 Stages of Social Media Maturity

Don’t underestimate the power of social media. Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S.  and according to Erik Qualman, “We don’t have a choice on whether we DO social media, the question is how WELL we do it.”

Here are 5 tips from Bill Ives of Social Media Today that will help you move your company from where it is today with social media to where you can be, a social media innovator.

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Five Stages of Social Media Maturity

Written by: Bill Ives

Forrester has released a new report, Accelerating Your Social Maturity: How To Move From Social Experimentation To Business Transformation, which you can also find as a new chapter in the newly updated paperback version of the Groundswell book. Sean Corcoran said that, “the biggest insight that came from this research is that, no matter what industry your company is in, what geographies you reside in, or what audience you’re targeting, large organizations tend to go through common stages of change as they adopt and use social technologies for business.” They were able to place all the companies they interviewed into 5 categories on a progression.

First, there are the Laggards (aka the dormant stage). Forrester estimates that 20% of companies are currently not using any social media. This is a very small number when you think the reverse that 80% are users.

Next comes the testing stage. They write that while most companies are using social media, it tends to start organically in pockets. They describe this stage as “distributed chaos.” To move beyond it, they “recommend that a senior interactive marketer step up to play the role of “shepherd” to help coordinate efforts across the organization.” I would add that another smart move is to begin to monitor the effects of your efforts, as well as what others are saying about you in social media.

Then there is the coordinating stage where management recognizes the risks and rewards of social media. They “begin to put the resources and governance in place to create consistency across the organization, from ‘distributed chaos’ to a more centralized approach.” Let’s hope they do not over manage it to block the  individual initiative that social media supports.

The scaling and optimizing stage occurs when firms “have already coordinated their social organization and are now focusing on optimizing their social media activities – from improved processes to more advanced metrics to integration with other marketing activity.” Monitoring impact is essential here.

Finally the Innovators are truly empowering their employees. At this stage, “all relevant employees have been trained and empowered to use social media – essentially “organized distribution” – though centers of excellence are still needed.” Forrester writes that only a few companies, such as Zappos, have even just entered this stage but they expect many more to follow over the course of the next year.

This final stage is where an easy to use social media awareness tool, such as the Darwin Awareness Engine™ can have a real impact. The simplicity of the interface makes it accessible to a broad range of employees in different roles. It is designed to aggregate content from multiple sources, including social media. It can significantly reduce the time spent gathering new information to gain awareness about what matters to them making monitoring more manageable.

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