Forrester: 5 Stages Of Social Media Growth


Having trouble finding friends on Facebook? Can't seem to influence people on Twitter? Well, you're not alone. Regardless of industry, geography, or target market, new research finds that most large organizations go through similar stages of growth and change as they wade into the world of social media.

Calling the process of change "social maturity," Forrester has outlined five stages and specific steps to accelerating the growth process.

At the shallow end of the pool, there are those companies stuck in "the dormant stage." Not as uncommon as you might think, Forrester estimates that one in five companies still don't use any social media. These companies tend to be highly conservative, heavily regulated, or just not interested, according to Forrester.

"To get beyond this stage, we recommend interactive marketers help garner small victories," explains Forrester analyst Sean Corcoran. "Focus on the best opportunities that can be used as case studies within the organization to get the ball rolling."

Next is the testing stage in which companies start using social media in pockets. Also known as "distributed chaos," Forrester suggests that a senior interactive marketer step up and "shepherd" an organization through this phase by coordinating broad efforts.

A successful shepherding will ideally bring a company into "the coordinating stage," at which point management recognizes the risks and rewards of social media and begins to put the resources and governance in place to create consistency across the organization.

With more room for progress, Forrester recommends a steering committee made up of key stakeholders to develop a foundation of shared resources, policies, processes -- and a budget in place for the long term so the focus can shift to optimizing results, i.e., "the scaling and optimizing stage."

In particular, Forrester cites Starbucks, Best Buy and Coca-Cola as companies that have already coordinated their social organization and are now focusing on optimizing their social media activities.

Finally, companies should determine who within their organization is best suited for using social applications to solve customer problems. Their appointed shepherd should help lead the creation of a plan for empowering all relevant employees with social media.

"Much of the hype around social media makes it sound like if you open a Facebook page or Twitter account then you can shut down your advertising, turn off your company email, your customers and employees will then swoon, and marshmallows will fall from the sky," Corcoran explains. "In reality, social media is still very nascent, and it is a lot of work."


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