Social Maturity – From Experimentation to Business Transformation

Forrester just released an interesting reportAccelerating Your Social Maturity: How to Move From Social Experimentation to Business Transformation, which also serves as a new chapter in the updated paperback version of Groundswell.

This is a very compelling study that basically says regardless of industry category, geography or audience, companies go through the same stages of change when adopting social technologies. I think it’s a pretty good barometer for new business to gauge a prospect’s sweet spot in terms of their needs and understanding of social media marketing.

The first of the five stages are the Laggards (aka the Dormant Stage). Forrester estimates that 20% of companies are currently not using any social media. This is a fantastic indication of the explosive growth of social media marketing considering how just a short time ago that number was reversed.

Next comes the Testing Stage. Here, Forrester says 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.” As a senior interactive marketer, I certainly, agree with that one and it is critical what they say about “across the organization.” Every communications discipline, from sales to HR should be included in these efforts.

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.” My advice here is for companies to redefine their view of control because this is usually the phase, in my experience, where companies recognize the value of social media but still believe it can be a “push marketing”approach.

The Scaling and Optimizing stage, according to Forrester, 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.”

Finally, the Innovator Stage where “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.

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