Understand the Social Media Maturity Stage of Your Organization

In our previous post, Emphasize Share of Conversation to Measure Social Media, we wrapped up our look at various social media metrics with Share of Conversation. In this post, we turn to the topic of whether your organization is ready for social media.

Maturity GraphAttributionShare AlikeSome rights reserved by guaravanomics

Social media expert Brian Solis, one of our favorite pundits, argues that until an organization’s social media practice has matured, discussions of the return social media delivers may be premature. Here are his ten stages of social media maturity,[1] as modified by us. Which stage are you at?

  • Stage 1: Observe and Report
    We call this Social Media Listening — Your organization starts to track what is being said online and reports back to executives
  • Stage 2: Setting the Stage + Dress Rehearsal
    You’re beginning to develop your social media presence by creating accounts on the popular social sites. You may begin to track numbers of followers and set targets.
  • Stage 3: Socializing Media
    We call this Joining the Conversation — You start to pay attention to how your community reacts to you and use this feedback to improve future engagement. You begin to converse with your community and identify supporters, and begin to track friends, fans, followers, conversations, sentiment, mentions, traffic, and reach.
  • Stage 4: Finding a Voice and a Sense of Purpose
    You begin to understand your community, their goals and interests, and start to integrate their ideas and energy into your efforts. You begin to track sentiment, including negative and neutral commentary, and monitor trends in responses and ultimately behavior. You begin to focus your efforts on particular social media areas that are most relevant and productive rather than trying to be everywhere.
  • Stage 5: Turning Words Into Actions
    Characterized by empathy and sense of purpose, in this stage you begin to truly understand your community, their challenges, objectives, options, and experiences, and better connect with them. You start to communicate strategically as you better understand how the community reacts to you.
  • Stage 6: Humanizing the Organization and Defining the Experience
    We call this Be a Person (Not an Organization) — You realize that your brand and your reputation is embodied in your people, and feel comfortable letting their voices be heard. Your story migrates from person to person, and evangelists are shaping it. In redefining the experience of new community members, prospects and influencers, you essentially make over aspects of your organization.
  • Stage 7: Community
    Surprised that this stage is this far from the beginning? We’ve said earlier that community is one of the hardest, and most rewarding, things to create online. Solis defines community as an investment in the cultivation and fusion of affinity, interaction, advocacy and loyalty that is earned and fortified through shared experiences. You proactively reach out to ideal participants and potential ambassadors, becoming social architects, building the roads necessary to lead people to a rich and rewarding network, full of valuable information and connections.
  • Stage 8: Social Darwinism
    Solis says that social media as practiced in the earlier stages is not scalable. To survive, the organization must integrate artful listening, community building, and advocacy that aligns with the organization’s ability to adapt and improve its products, services, and policies. This means external collaboration cannot evolve unless internal collaboration with stakeholders inside and outside the organization keeps pace. Solis describes the transformation as an integrated and interconnected network of evangelists that must work internally to ensure that the organization is responding to its community.
  • Stage 9: The Socialization of Business Processes
    Multiple disciplines and departments will socialize, and the assembly or adaptation of infrastructure is required to streamline and manage social workflow and develop a Social Customer Relationship Management (SCRM) system within the organization. The key concept is that all people in the community are equal, which is a concept far removed from the way most organizations operate today.
  • Stage 10: Business Performance Metrics
    From the cry to find the ROI of social media, we’ve come to the realization that the metrics of the entire organization must change to support the preceding transformations. Solis says, “make no mistake: Social is measurable, and the process of mining data tied to our activity is extremely empowering. Our ambition to excel should be driven through the inclusion of business performance metrics, with or without an executive asking us to do so. It’s the difference between visibility and presence. And in the attention economy, presence is felt. [ . . . ] Stage 10 reveals the meaning and opportunity behind the numbers and allows us to identify opportunities for interaction, direction, and action.”

You may be thinking this is more than you thought you signed up for when you decided to try to use social media in your organization!

It’s very conceivable that Solis is mistaken in this vision of organizations transformed by going social. He could also be right. There are lots of social media thinkers who tend to agree that social media is, and will be, much more than just another communication channel for external relation­ships.

One thing is sure, however: You will find implementing social media for external relationships much easier and much more rewarding if you also adopt social media for internal relationships.

Just listen to Manish Mehta,[2] Dell’s Vice President, Social Media and Community:

Today’s corporate leaders are struggling to figure out how to use social media to further their business strategy. At Dell, we believe this is backwards thinking. Social media isn’t a means to further a corporation’s strategy; it’s a means to help determine it.

So if you are wondering about how to leverage Twitter, Facebook, blogs, forums, and the company Website to achieve your organization’s goals, perhaps you are starting from the wrong point. As with the corner store, if your business uses social media to engage in conversations on a human level, you strengthen your business and allow your strategy — both corporate and social media — to evolve based on customer feedback.

“Mom and Pop” knew that their business was only as successful as their relationships with customers could make it. That’s the value of the direct connection to your customer, and that’s how every company can achieve success using social media — by facilitating the conversation. No strategy necessary.

Make sure you thoroughly understand the commitment your organization must make to properly implement and benefit from social media. Half-measures taken by a less-than-committed organization could conceivably do more harm than good, as several examples we present in our Social Media Hall of Shame demonstrate.

Understand the Social Media Maturity Stage of Your Organization is the 47th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at http://bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?, Social Sites Defined, Why Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1

Next up: Establish Key Performance Indicators for Social Media

[1] The 10 Stages of Social Media Business Integration:bit.ly/9fUxlG

[2] Isn’t the Value of Social Media What Business Is All About?: huff.to/cUcQ7b

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