Social maturity: what it takes to get there

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Social technologies are changing the way organisations communicate and collaborate which in turn is impacting on the way these companies look at their resources, skills, tools, processes and culture. In essence, they have to ensure their employees have the skills and technologies to solve their customers’ problems in a digital world and create an empowered organisation.

These empowered organisations, or socially mature businesses, stand to benefit from the use of social technologies in various ways, for example:

  • Additional value from customer advocates: through social media, people have greater access to the brands they love and it is also easier to be an ambassador for that brand.
  • More efficient business processes: social technologies change the way people connect and share. This results in relying less on the more formalised sharing via email, file sharing and intranets.
  • Wider input into the new product development cycle: through these social technologies, organisations can source input from people closest to the supply and demand function which has huge impact on the product development cycle and success rates.

In order to access these benefits though, companies have to become socially mature and, according to a Forrester Whitepaper on the subject, this is a five-stage process: from Laggards, to Late Majority, to Early Majority, to Early Adopters and finally Innovators.

Forrester estimates that nearly one in five companies are not using any social technologies and can be classified as Laggards. Many of these socially dormant companies have conservative cultures and don’t have any plans for implementing social marketing. In order for these companies to progress to the next level, they will probably need to embark on listening strategies in order to find out what conversations are already taking place around their brands.

The second tier, the Late Majority, represents about a third of all companies and is usually identified by the increased number of social activity that is taking place internally, but is not coordinated across teams yet.

These are companies that are using the typical social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube where they employ a volume metric such as the number of likes. Generally you will also find that they have one or two heroes driving social but these people are not part of the long-term planning function.

For the Late Majority to progress to the next level, the company would need at least one senior manager to manage the social function and at the same time implement a training programme. The organisation would also need to start implementing the social data into the existing marketing metrics.

The Early Majority level also represents about a third of companies and this is where management starts to realise the benefits of social technologies. In this stage the senior managers implement social media policies and have the power to bring together people from across the organisation.

The company would generally address the resource challenge head-on by hiring a dedicated person or an entire team and one of the functions of these resources would be responding to customer feedback.

In the fourth phase, the Early Adopters, it is all about scaling and optimising. Forrester estimates that one in five companies have taken the step towards more sophisticated processes and measurement.

They generally have a sophisticated model focused on social intelligence, driving fundamental business change through the social channels and internal collaboration on these social applications.

To move beyond this step, the organisation has to create a culture that supports the new thinking and drive the entire workforce to embrace social.

The final phase, the Innovators, is where companies can say that they have empowered their workforce. This isn’t just about the technologies but rather about a company that has a culture of sharing and innovating.

These are the companies that implement business wide social applications and where the technologies become a key factor in business process management.

The path towards social maturity is clear — and the business benefits are massive.

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