The 10 Stages of Social Media Business Integration
By Brian Solis
One of our favorite tools for illustrating the Social Universe is The Conversation Prism. Creator of the Conversation Prism, Brian Solis, has penned an excellent and concise explanation of the 10 Stages of Social Media Integration for businesses.
Here are the ten most common stages that businesses experience as they travel the road to full social media
Stage 1: Observe and Report
This is the entry point for businesses to better understand the behavior of an interactive
Listening: Employ listening devices such as Google Alerts, Twitter Search, Radian6,
and PR Newswire’s Social Media Metrics to track conversations and instances associated
with key words.
Reporting: Distill existing social media conversations into an executive report.
This early form of reporting is merely designed to provide decision makers with the information they’ll need for
continued exploration of social media and its potential impact on business.
Stage 2: Setting the Stage + Dress Rehearsal
Once the initial intelligence is gathered, businesses will set the stage for social
media participation. This is an interesting phase, as it often joins Stage 1 as a more comprehensive first step. Instead
of researching the best ways to engage, many businesses create accounts across multiple social networks and publish
content without a plan or purpose.
However, those businesses that conduct research will find a rewarding array of
options and opportunities to target.
Presence: Create official presences across one or more social
networks, usually Twitter and possibly Facebook (Fan Pages), YouTube, and Flickr. Early on, this is often experimental, and less about strategic
Analysis: Review activity for frequency (the rate of mentions), the state of sentiment
allocation, traffic, as well as the size of connections (friends, followers, fans, etc.). Provide managers with a limited
glimpse into the effects of presence and participation.
Stage 3: Socializing Media
The next stage in the evolution of a new media business is the proverbial step towards
“joining the conversation.”
As companies take the stage, they will eventually pay attention to the reaction of the
audience in order to respond and improve content, define future engagements, and humanize
Conversation: Representative of an early form of participation, this stage usually
evokes reactive engagement based on the nature of existing dialogue or mentions and also incorporates the proactive
broadcasting of activity, events and announcements.
Rapid Response: Listen for potentially heated,
viral, and emotional activity in order to extinguish a potential crisis or fan the flames of positive
Metrics: Document the aforementioned activity in order to demonstrate momentum. This is
usually captured in the form of friends, fans, followers, conversations, sentiment, mentions, traffic, and
Stage 4: Finding a Voice and a Sense of Purpose
This is a powerful milestone in the
maturation of new media and business. By not only listening, but hearing and observing the responses and mannerisms of
those who define our markets, we can surface pain points, source ideas, foster innovation, earn inspiration, learn, and
feel a little empathy in order to integrate a sense of purpose into our socialized media
Research: Review activity for public sentiment, including negative and neutral
commentary. Observe trends in responses and ultimately behavior. This allows for a poignant understanding of where to
concentrate activity, at what level, and with what voice across marketing, sales, service, and
Strategic Visibility: Introduce relevance and focus. You don’t have to be everywhere in order
to create presence, just in the places where you would be missed. Understanding that the social web is far more extensive
than Twitter, blogs, and Facebook, brand managers search across the entire web to locate where influential dialogue
Relevance: “Chatter” or aimless broadcasting is not as effective as
strategic communications and engagement. This stage reflects the exploration of goals, objectives, and value
implementation. Companies begin to learn that exchange is based on trust and loyalty.
Stage 5: Turning Words Into Actions
Actions speak louder than words. Businesses must act. Once the
door to social consciousness is opened, bring the spirit of your company through it to affect
Empathy: Social media personifies companies. It allows us to see who it is we’re
hoping to reach, and what motivates them. Listening and observing is not enough. The ability to truly understand someone,
their challenges, objectives, options, and experiences allows us to better connect with
Purpose: The shift from simple response to purposeful, strategic communication will be
mutually beneficial. It is in this stage that we can truly produce captivating content and messages. In order to hold
it, we have to give the audience something to believe in — something that moves them.
Stage 6: Humanizing the Brand and Defining the Experience
As Doc Searls says, “There is no market for messages.” Indeed. Through the internalization of sentiment,
brands will relearn how to speak. No longer will we focus on controlling the message from conception to documentation to
distribution. We lose control as our messages are introduced into the real world. Our story migrates from consumer to
consumer. This chain forms a powerful connection that reveals true reactions, perception, and perspectives.
conversations that bind us form a human algorithm that serves as the pulse of awareness, trustworthiness, and
The Humanization of the Brand: Once we truly understand the people who influence our
markets, we need to establish a persona worthy of attention and affinity. A socialized version of a branding style guide
Experience: Our experience in dynamic social ecosystems teaches us that online activity must not only
maintain a sense of purpose, it must also direct traffic and shape perceptions. We question our current online
properties, landing pages, processes, and messages. We usually find that the existing architecture leads people from a
very vibrant and interactive experience (social networks) to a static dead end (our web sites). As we attempt to redefine
the experience of new customers, prospects and influencers, we essentially induce a brand makeover.
Stage 7: Community
Community is an investment in the cultivation and fusion of affinity,
interaction, advocacy and loyalty. Learned earlier in the stages of new media adoption, community isn’t established with
the creation of a social profile. Community is earned and fortified through shared experiences. It takes commitment. As Kathy Sierra once said, “Trying to replace
‘brand’ with ‘conversation’ does a disservice to both brands &
Community Building/Recruitment: While we are building community through engagement
in each of the previous stages, we will proactively reach out to ideal participants and potential ambassadors. We become
social architects, and build the roads necessary to lead customers to a rich and rewarding network, full of valuable
information and connections.
Stage 8: Social Darwinism
Listening and responding is only as effective as its ability to inspire
transformation, improvement, and adaptation from the inside out. Survival does not hinge solely on a company’s
social media strategy. The social element is but one part of an overall integrated strategy. It’s how we learn and adapt
that ensures our place within the evolution of our markets.
Social Media as embraced in the earlier stages is not
scalable. The introduction of new roles will beget the restructuring of teams and workflow, which will ultimately
necessitate organizational transformation to support effective engagement, production, and the ongoing evolution towards
ensuring brand and product relevance.
Adaptation: In order to truly compete for the future, artful
listening, community building, and advocacy must align with an organization’s ability to adapt and improve its
products, services, and policies. In order for any team to collaborate well externally, it must first foster
collaboration within. It is this interdepartmental cooperative exchange that provides a means for which to pursue sincere
engagement over time.
Organizational Transformation: The internal reorganization of teams and
processes to support a formal Social Customer Relationship Management (sCRM) program will become imperative. As social
media chases ubiquity, we learn that influence isn’t relegated to one department or function within an
organization. Any department affected by external activity will eventually socialize. Therefore, an integrated and
interconnected network of brand ambassadors must work internally to ensure that the brand is responding to constructive
instances, by department. However, at the departmental and brand level, successful social media marketing will require
governance and accountability. Organizational transformation will gravitate towards a top-down hierarchy of policy,
education, and empowerment across the entire organization.
Stage 9: The Socialization of Business Processes
Multiple disciplines and departments will socialize, and the assembly or
adaptation of infrastructure is required to streamline and manage social workflow.
(sCRM): Scalability, resources, and efficiencies will require support, resulting in a modified or completely new
infrastructure that either augments or resembles a CRM-like workflow. Combining technology, principles, philosophies and
processes, sCRM establishes a value chain that fosters relationships within traditional business dynamics. As an
organization evolves through engagement, sCRM will transform into SRM — the recognition that all people, not just
customers, are equal. It represents a wider scope of active listening and participation across the full spectrum of
Stage 10: Business Performance Metrics
Inevitably, we report to executives who
may be uninterested in transparency or authenticity. Their goal, and job, is to steer the company toward greater profits.
In order to measure the true effects of social media, we need the numbers behind the activity –- at every
While many experts argue that there is no need to measure social engagement (much the way that some
companies don’t explicitly define the ROI of Superbowl ads or billboards), make no mistake: Social is measurable, and
the process of mining data tied to our activity is extremely empowering. Our ambition to excel should be driven through
the inclusion of business performance metrics, with or without an executive asking us to do so. It’s the difference
between visibility and presence. And in the attention economy, presence is felt.
ROI: Without an
understanding of the volume, locations, and nature of online interaction, the true impact of our digital footprint and
its relationship to the bottom line of any business is impossible to assess. An immerssive view of our social media goals
and objectives allows us to truly measure ROI. Stage 10 reveals the meaning and opportunity behind the numbers and allows
us to identify opportunities for interaction, direction, and action.
There is a
great distance between where we are today, and where we need to be. Our work in 2010 will be dedicated to narrowing the
The thing about social media is that it’s always new, and as such, these stages represent a moment in
time. They will continue to evolve and expand with new technologies and experiences.
In the end, social media is a
privilege and a tool — one more opportunity to run a more meaningful and relevant business.