Three stages of Social Media

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A lot of organizations are present in the world of social media. Not all these organizations use social media for the same reason. Some will see it as a form of media or a form of infrastructure and other organizations see it as an agent of change.



1- Social media as a form of media

Organizations can use social media as a form of media. They want to reach an audience. Organizations don’t call it reaching an audience, they call it engaging with an audience. This sounds more social. In this stage the challenge is maximizing engagement and creating an audience. This stage usually involves the production of a great deal of content. The task in this stage is identified as being a channel and message task – the same as that associated with conventional mass-marketing.

Most organizations want to outsource the management of their various social media platforms, because they don’t have the people or skills immediately available in-house. Each new campaign will also need to be given a presence within social media and indeed campaigns can be created specifically to generate social media response.  All of this creates business for digital, social and PR agencies and also opens up new creative and content avenues – especially in terms of video production as brands become seduced by the chance to create a viral campaign.

2- Social media as a form of infrastructure

Organizations enter this stage when they realise that the real value in the social digital space is derived from understanding and responding to the way customers, and indeed employees, actually use social media.

In stage two, the focus of social media activity will shift – away from pushing out content to an audience of people – towards listening and responding to what it is that consumers or customers actually want to talk to an organization about. The task in stage two is identified as a behavior identification and response task. The output of strategies in this stage shift from being things (messages, content, campaigns) to being processes – the process of matching answers to consumers’ questions in real time for example. Within this stage, there is a much greater focus on the organization itself, and the processes for managing flows of real-time information.

3- Social media as an agent of change

It is probably very difficult to get into this stage unless you have passed through the second stage. This third stage involves giving scale and effect to what an organization learns in the second stage.

It has become fashionable to call organizations in this stage ‘social businesses’.  People don’t much like this term because it is not the purpose of business to be social, it is the purpose of business to create customers and profits.  They prefer the term ‘connected business’ because this implies a business that uses the power of connection to constantly be in touch with, and responding to, the needs of all of its stakeholders.

The most important thing about this third stage is that organizations will be changing the way they operate in fundamental ways.  A connected business will look, and be structured, very differently from a business that is adapted to work in the old-fashioned channel and message world.

As you might expect or not, most organizations, almost 80% are at the first stage. Around 19% are at the second one and almost none have yet reached stage three.


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