After talking to many companies over the last few years about Social Media, I put together a model for the different stages that companies go through with social media. There seems to be 4 stages: Pre-Social, Connection, Engagement, Social Advantage.
Stage 1: Pre-Social
Companies in this stage have not yet tried to do anything in the Social Web. They don’t have a page on Facebook or any other Social network. They don’t have a Twitter account. Their websites tend to be traditional, 1-way push brochures without a way for their customers to interact with them or each other.
Stage 2: Connection
Companies in this stage might have started to experiment with Social Media. Many have a Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter account/page. But, sadly, they have not put in the investment to really start meaningful conversions with their customers. I find these companies might slap a Facebook icon on their website and are passively collecting fans, but don’t know what to do with this asset. They are also sending out the same marketing messages that they might send out in an email here. They see Social Media as just another communication channel.
Stage 3: Engagement
Companies at this stage are beyond connection and are starting to truly engage with their customers. They might have a blog, forum, or a community. Some are extracting value by using SM for customer service, light customer research, or public relations. There are real conversations happening here with customers, vendors, partners, and employees. But, they have not taken the final step to utilize Social Media to improve their product/services and innovate together.
Stage 4: Social Advantage
These companies are social, have living/breathing 2-way websites and applications. They are reaping the rewards of being truly in lockstep with their customers. From marketing/sales to product development to customer service, every department in the company is integrated with the customer, so they can deliver value in the fastest, most efficient, most innovative, and most profitable manner. The following companies are good examples of companies that I believe are in the final Social Media stage. Where is your company?
For Project Managers who are tasked with starting or building their Social Media efforts for their company, keep the long-term goal in mind. Social Media done correctly can lead to breakthrough business results if you get to Stage 3 or 4. It just takes some resources, commitment, a customer-orientation, and some creativity.