The Gap Between Social Media and Business Impact: 6 Stages of Social Business Transformation

Social media is becoming a lot like email for business; every company uses it. In an Altimeter Group survey of 700 executives and social strategists fielded in late 2012, we found that 100 percent of participating enterprise organizations run to varying extents an active social media strategy. Unlike email, however, organizations haven’t mastered how to effectively communicate through the likes of Facebook or the tweets of Twitter.

Over the last several years, businesses have increased the pace of adopting social media strategies for use in marketing, service and other related capacities. What’s becoming very clear however is that adopting social media and understanding its impact on customer and employee relationships and also the bottom line are not always linked.

The 6 Stages

This disconnect between social media strategies and business value is forcing many executives to rethink their overall approach and the infrastructure they built to support it. The result of this reflective process is motivating organizations to transform everyday social media initiatives into deeper social business strategies.

Charlene Li and I spent the better of the last year studying how organizations approach social media and how planning, processes, and outcomes mature over time. Our findings are significant and are included in our newly released report, “The Evolution of Social Business Six Stages of Social Media Transformation.”

The results of our work were surprising to say the least. We uncovered a notable gap between organizations that executive social media programs and campaigns and those that specifically invest in social business strategies. Altimeter defines the evolution to a Social Business as the deep integration of social media and social methodologies into the organization to drive business impact.

What’s becoming very clear however is that adopting social media and understanding its impact on customer and employee relationships and also the bottom line are not always linked.

On one side the chasm, there are businesses (or departments) that are actively investing in social media without intentions or outcomes being tied to business goals. On the other side are organizations that are deeply integrating social media and social methodologies throughout the company to drive tangible business impact.

In fact, we found that only 34% of businesses felt that their social strategy was connected to business outcomes and just 28% felt that they had a holistic approach to social media, where lines of business and business functions work together under a common vision. A mere 12% were confident they had a plan that looked beyond the next year. And, perhaps most astonishing was that only one half of companies surveyed said that top executives were “informed, engaged and aligned with their companies’ social strategy.”

But there’s hope. Charlene and I learned that the two most important criteria for a successful social business strategy are that it is 1) clearly aligned with strategic business goals of an organization, and 2) has organizational alignment and support that enables execution of that strategy. What separates them are six distinct stages that we believe most organizations have or will traverse as they mature.

Perhaps most astonishing was that only one half of companies surveyed said that top executives were “informed, engaged and aligned with their companies’ social strategy.”

The Evolution

The six stages are as follows:

Stage 1: Planning – “Listen to Learn”

The goal of this first stage is to ensure that there is a strong foundation for strategy development, organizational alignment, resource development, and execution. Key tenets of this stage include listening to customers to learn about their social behavior; using pilot projects to prioritize social efforts; and using audits to assess internal readiness.

Stage 2: Presence – “Stake Our Claim”

Staking a claim represents a natural evolution from planning to action. As you move along the journey, your experience establishes a formal and informed presence in social media. Key tenets of this stage include leveraging social content to amplify existing marketing efforts, providing information to support post-transaction issues; and aligning metrics with departmental or functional business objectives.

Stage 3: Engagement – “Dialog Deepens Relationships”

When organizations move into this stage, they make a commitment where social media is no longer a “nice to “have” but instead, is seen as a critical element in relationship building. Key tenets of this stage include participating in conversations to build communities; using engagement and influence to speed path to purchase efficiently; providing support through direct engagement, as well as between people; establishing a risk management and training discipline to shift mindsets; and fostering employee engagement through enterprise social networks.

Stage 4: Formalized – “Organize for Scale”

The risk of uncoordinated social initiatives is the main driver moving organizations into Stage 4, where a formalized approach focuses on three key activities: establishing an executive sponsor; creating a hub, a.k.a. a Center of Excellence (CoE); and establishing organization-wide governance. Organizations should plan for a potential CoE pitfall, however, as creating one may lead to scaling problems in the long-term.

Stage 5: Strategic – “Becoming a Social Business”

As organizations migrate along the maturity model, the social media initiatives gain greater visibility as they begin to have real business impact. This captures the attention of C-level executives and department heads who see the potential of social. Key tenets of this stage include integrating social into all areas of the business; garnering executive engagement; forming a steering committee; and pushing social operations out to business units.

Stage 6: Converged – “Business is Social”

As a result of the cross-functional and executive support, social business strategies start to weave into the fabric of an evolving organization. To move into this stage, organizations need to make a commitment to a single business strategy process; merging social with digital; creating holistic customer experiences with converged media; and developing a holistic social culture.

 

Reposted with permission from BrianSolis.com. Brian Solis is a principal analyst with Altimeter Group and author of What’s the Future of Business, www.wtfbusiness.com

 

 

Art by mixa – mixa

Brian Solis is principal at Altimeter Group, a research firm focused on disruptive technology. A digital analyst, sociologist, and futurist, Solis has studied and influenced the effects of emerging technology on business, marketing, and culture. Solis is also globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders and published authors in new media. His new book, What's the Future of Business (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold and flourish in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. Prior to End of Business, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

  • http://Www.socialfish.org Maddie Grant

    I realize that the organizations I work with are not the same as the ones you surveyed for this report, and I still need to go read the whole thing, but my gut reaction to this is that the process is absolutely not linear in the way you describe it. More advanced orgs are more experimental, more decentralized. Your stage 4 is what we see as stage 1. Some of your early stage stuff doesn’t happen until much later. Listening? ROI? Audits? Nobody pays attention to that at the beginning, they just want channels to push out more content. And then an orgs presence on each social platform (plus private communities) has its own progression of maturity and integration with the whole business.

    Sorry, but this doesn’t read right to me at all based on my experience.

  • http://twitter.com/sagarmike Michael Sagar

    Evolvement is a way of life in business. Social Media tools and techniques have been adopted by consumers/customers that have created a new paradigm through the back door which companies MUST respond to if they are to both exploit the potential AND survive. Social Business IS a gamechanger, it redefines the rules for engagement and retention. CRM positioned companies to engage customers ‘better’, but it was on the companies terms! Social Business aligns the company with their prospects/customer community according to ‘their’ preferred terms of engagement – as individuals. Of course the ‘push’ methods of engagement/attraction are not dead, but companies ned to use Social Business tools/techniques to respond to the ‘pull’ paradigm. In terms of evolvement we are still in the ‘early adoption’ cycle; we get and should expect to find the same kind opf resistance that we used to find when trying to convince some senior execs of the possible value of having a website! Some didn’t ‘get’ that message until they saw the gains their competitors and new entrants to their market were making. Social Business will have even more impact as it is not just about a ‘new channel’ to market; but it requires a complete rethink of corporate ‘culture’ to make it work.

  • http://www.altimetergroup.com Brian Solis

    Maddie, I can appreciate your experience. Hopefully you can appreciate a dedicated year of research. When you do finally read the report, you will see that we explicitly say it’s not linear and that we do introduce best practices to help businesses mature with a more solid and concerted foundation. We also observed many businesses go far and to the right only to start all over (see CoE Trap). Cheers.

  • http://translucid.ca Bob LeDrew

    Due respect to your research, but when you describe something as “six stages” and refer to “stage 1… stage 6″, aren’t you by definition creating linearity?

    This is far from the only example — even the famous Kubler-Ross stages suffered from the implied linearity by using the term.

    I look forward to going through the slides and trying to wrap my head around your concepts in more detail.

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