Thoughts on Achieving Social Media Maturity

I read this post about the ‘Five stages of social media maturity’ which made it’s way onto my Twitter stream a few days ago and found it particularly interesting.  One of the things, by the way, I love about Twitter is the way that by expanding the people I follow, I constantly get ‘hit’ by fresh and different information.

Anyway, it’s  from PR Weekly and in a field that I am wholly unfamiliar with but the basic premise is that within organisations there are five ‘stages’ to go through to reach the elusive ‘social media maturity’. This is taken from a report published by Forrester Research.

The five stages are

1. Dormant – Resistant to any use of social technologies due to unwillingness to participate

2. Testing – Individuals or departments test in isolated pockets

3. Coordinating – Management begins to coordinate across teams and departments

4. Scaling and Optimization – Organisational shift towards growing and improving social applications

5. Empowering – Organisation fosters all relevant employees; fosters and rewards top performers.

While I like this model for organisations, I’ve been pondering about how we achieve ‘social media maturity’ as individuals too and wonder if there is a parallel model.

Obviously when we are referring to people, personalities become a key point but I thought of the five stages of social maturity for individuals could be relevant too, in terms of understanding the process of finding new ways to communicate. We are all of us learners.

So my equivalent ‘stages’ are

1. Dormant – this would be the scepticism before we ‘jump in’. You know, the ‘Facebook is for stalkers’ or ‘Twitter is just people saying what they had for breakfast’ type approach. It’s easy to understand because it’s human nature to fear and feel sceptical about what we don’t understand. Until we know something, we can’t understand it.

2. Testing – these are the first steps we take into the new ‘online’ world – whether it’s forums, or bulletin boards, Twitter, Facebook or mySpace, we (and the speed depends somewhat on the personality) begin to try things out. We begin to take things (and ourselves) too seriously at times. We suffer from this. We get into flame wars. We test the limits including our own.

3. Coordinating (Building links) – this is what I’d call branching out and is one of the first stages of ‘understanding’. It comes from building links of use to others and working out the etiquette (oh, remember when it used to be called netiquette!) of the social environments. Using the jargon attached appropriately and moving beyond entertainment and novelty towards utility and information.

4 Scaling and Optimization (Branching Out) – This would be about building new networks, using different platforms. Trying things out and using the skills and base that has been created to create your identity and differentiate it. You are, by now, using the tools to gain and share information as well as to entertain. There is no ‘right’ way or ‘wrong’ way but there are social norms to adhere to and you are mastered them. Never, of course, forgetting the importance of the person behind the screen both on your own side and on the other side.

5. Empowering – I like the term ‘empowering’ so will continue to use it in this new model. It is about not only using the means well for your own purposes but helping others to learn along their path. Learning that sharing is more important than giving and information is not a limited commodity owned by particular institutions over others.

I’m not an expert by any means. I think I’d place myself in the third or fourth category but I’d be interested in the opinions of others about what the stages might be and if they are transferable to individuals as well as organisations.

8 responses to “Thoughts on Achieving Social Media Maturity

  1. Brilliant piece both in terms of describing the organisational approach to social media and the personal. Well worth passong on- especially to people new to social media.

  2. Being able to break the process of digital adoption into stages like this is always helpful – thanks for a really useful post.
    I can’t help thinking there should be a stage between 4 and 5, or part of number 4, which is about normalising digital tools. In my opinion there is quite a leap between trying different tools and achieving widespread adoption.

    • ermintrude2

      Yes, I am far from an expert and in a sense was trying to mirror the initial 5 stages. The blogpost I refer to initially actually subdivided and it may well be something I come back to at another point!

      • The normalising part is interesting… I hand out with many early adopters and often it doesn’t feel like we are normalising. Instead there is exploration of many tools. Things are picked up and left down again. Groups on LinkedIn are active for a while and then settle down. Who uses NINGs now? Even Delicious which I loved for so long seems to have died for many users.
        I like you stages. By the time you get to 5 there will also be some pretty big knock backs that have to be thought through very intensively. Our world views might even change a bit. It’s great!
        Thanks and sorry I missed this in December.

  3. What’s so great about social media is that it’s so new, no-one can claim to be ‘an expert’. I’ve been working in social media for two years now, and I’m always amazed by new reports, new developments and what it can achieve (for good and bad). If you’re going to be successful in social media, you need to understand human nature – the best businesses (whether in the private or public sector) know how to engage with friends and followers and create content that gets shared. Great blog!

  4. Tom Phillips

    Thanks for this. Not personally convinced by the reference to “management” in number 3.

    I know of, and also worked in, orgs where all management did was acknowledge that social media growth was happening. Beyond that, theirs was not an active role. Where there is good and rapid viral growth, or the media (communities of practice as an example) is largely external, the management process in organisations has little to do at that stage, except not come the heavy, and not impose bans. Experience is that users do the coordinating, not managers.

  5. ermintrude2

    Thanks for the comments. I am by no means claiming to be ‘right’ and was trying to echo the initial 5 stages for matters of brevity but the article I linked to sub-divided far more and was perhaps more satisfactory! I’m also fairly new to this game!
    The best thing for me is the amount I learn constantly!

  6. I enjoyed this post immensely, I agree, I think adoption of social media is a developmental process. I’ve considered it akin to passing up Maslow’s heirarchy of Needs see my blog

    I think it could be helpful to look at models to show people from outside the social media bubble how we have grown and developed in the way that we use it every day, and how we have come to the realisations we hold.

    As always, I’m left with no answers, just more questions. And that’s the way I like it!

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