Three Stages of Social Maturity

November 16th, 2010 by Matthew Rosenhaft Leave a reply »

We have had a series of meetings that highlight the need for those of us in the industry to provide context as to where companies are in the social maturity curve. For companies that are on the cutting edge, this is an easy conversation as they are comfortable with ambiguity and the speed of change.  For others, the experience is different.  Through our conversations,  we’ve  identified the Three Stages of Social Maturity:

Validation – For most companies in more mainstream and mature markets, it isn’t as easy to “place” themselves, so these companies are looking for validation that this is “right” for them

  • Are we early?  How involved is our market in social media?
  • We have a Facebook page, Twitter account, and a LinkedIn company page; now what?
  • How do we get started? What social tools do we need?
  • How does this relate to…. SEO/ PR/ Communications/ Lead Generation/ Web Content/ Blogging/ etc. etc. etc.
  • How do we manage our people? What should we be doing? We don’t have a policy, do we need one?
  • How do we use this to do lead generation/communications/PR/customer service/channel management/ employee engagement/ etc.?

Operationalization – For these organizations, they are beginning to see the value of the social media tactics, but now need to integrate a more strategic focus

  • We have been engaged in a social listening and reputation monitoring program for a while, how do we make this actionable?
  • We have X number of Facebook fans, successful campaigns, support community, internal collaboration, successful blogs – how do we justify the impact of these on the brand?
  • We have X number of social projects to manage, but they are tactical. How do we create a strategic plan?
  • We have Social CRM/ business intelligence/ social monitoring/ social marketing/ online community/ collaboration platform initiative(s) – How do they connect?
  • We have a social media committee or 25 volunteers or a social media person (Translation: we have not been able to justify a business value to sufficient to staff this full time)

Execution – These organizations have seen the value of their social initiatives, but now need to figure out how to integrate the value back into the core business

  • Who should own the social media within our business? (Translation: we haven’t been able to figure out how this applies at the organizational level and we want a functional group to manage it)
  • How do we figure out how we are doing comparably? How do we benchmark this against the best practices, our competitors, our market?
  • How do you manage all of these projects across all of our divisions, business units, etc? We are a large company with a lot of different groups with different needs? (Translation: we don’t have our hands around how to apply this corporate wide with some type of management structure like the other areas of our business)
  • How do you get an ROI from social media? (Translation: we haven’t figured out how this creates a tangible business impact that we can point to significant organization value)
  • How do we figure out how to get ahead of our market and turn this into a competitive advantage? If we are going to invest, how do we manage to a return?
  • We don’t have a line item in the budget for social media (Hint: Is social the means or the end? If it is the means, then it should be integrated into existing business functions/projects/organizations)

You shouldn’t feel uncomfortable about where you are in these stages; on the contrary, you should feel relieved that you are not alone. Most companies are struggling with the social disruption as this is impacting every company and every market. We saw a similar challenge for companies in the mid-90’s in trying to web enable their business. It didn’t happen overnight and it was a long, arduous, twisty, and difficult process to transform their business to adapt to the new paradigm. If anything, the process needs to be developed in a staged, managed, and measured program that is fast enough to be competitive, but controlled sufficiently to enable the organization to keep up.

This isn’t a “build it and they will come” type of impact to business as the opportunity costs are very high right now (for some markets – supernova critical). There just isn’t enough talent trained in the strategic side of this to support all of the companies that are currently involved; more importantly, the ones planning on growing their social business initiatives. I would also contend that you probably need a little adult “supervision” in managing this process to prevent costly missteps and extended learning cycles. Of course, I am little biased as I have gone through these stages myself over the last few years and I have the scars to prove it. A little knowledge can go a long way with the right teams…

Matthew Rosenhaft

Matthew is a Social Marketing Executive and is co-founder of Social Gastronomy, LLC and the Social Executive Council. Prior to founding Social Gastronomy, Matthew has over 18 years’ experience as an executive in marketing, product management, and sales. Matthew has an extensive background in the SaaS Software, Social Media, Mobile, IT Services, and Telecom industries. He has prior entrepreneurial experience as a founder and executive in several early-stage venture-backed technology companies, as well as, holds several US patents for a mobile marketing technology. Matthew is a prominent blogger and regular industry speaker on social marketing and strategy topics. Matthew’s blog can be found at For more information on Matthew, you can check out his LinkedIn profile at or contact him directly at