Ready for the next installment of the 5-stage social adoption theory? The phase of Experimentation is over. In phase 3, social evolution reaches new heights. We’ll see the early benefits of Integration. On some levels at least.
By now, this (third) group has learned about the tools, picked the ones they deem most appropriate and made the decision to embrace social media for marketing, now what? Soon it will become apparent that marketing can become more powerful if they start using these tools together and in support of an objective. This group is called “Integrators” because companies or organizations in this phase will start looking for integration opportunities between their social and traditional marketing efforts, and across (e.g., Facebook and Twitter harmonization) and within (e.g., Facebook X and Facebook Y harmonization) their social media platforms. They’re now starting to create a connected social media story but their efforts remain within their corner of the larger organization. In addition, this is also the phase in which social media managers recognize the need for subject matter expert, or SME, engagement. For many people, the Integrator phase starts with launches and events because they are relatively easy to tackle and relate to. While this blog series focuses on marketing, it is important to mention that in this phase we might start seeing some collaboration and integration between marketing and PR if both functions are supporting the same launch or event. However, any proactive collaboration or integration will likely be limited to the duration of the program.
Without a doubt, this phase marks a new chapter in social media engagement. This is the point where companies will start to demonstrate the impact of social media on their campaigns and in turn, this success will help groups build the case for increased investment in financial and human resources for the duration of these programs. For example, groups that are new to social media and have no baselines or benchmarks may choose to compare the results of a comparable traditional campaign to the results of their social-infused campaign to show impact. They may find that their social-infused programs help create substantial cost savings and/or increase reach and word-of-mouth, amongst other benefits. This realization could be the catalyst to transform social media from a “nice to have” to a “must have” component for all consecutive launches and events. If done well, this is also the phase in which corporations will start building trust.
There will be a shift in audience interaction, too. A group’s initial blogs will likely follow the standard corporate language used for white papers and announcements, but as this group gets more experience, the language will likely relax and the posts will become more casual. Many companies will still find themselves talking at their audience more often than talking with them or enabling their audience to talk amongst themselves, but with the increase in confidence and commitment of subject matter experts, companies will start moving the needle from self-promotion to real conversations and direct engagement with their online audience. They’re going to start adding value on a more consistent basis and will listen to and monitor the conversations more closely than the Seekers (or Experimenters).
The Integrators will be more advanced than the Seekers in the areas of listening and measurement, too. Their use of measurement tools and what they do with the data will still be limited though. Their listening efforts will be more passive than active. It is also probable that they will only monitor and listen around the time of their launch or event. They will repeat the act of listening, engaging and measuring for each launch or event but they will not yet be able to fully connect all the dots among these activities. This will come with time and practice.
Don’t get me wrong. It is probable that the Integrators will continue their social media efforts post launch or event. Often times, however, these efforts will receive significantly fewer resources and less attention than the more visible launches and events which will have an impact on the frequency and quality of two-way conversations. Especially if the group or company plays in a field where social managers need to heavily rely on their subject matter experts.
TO BE CONTINUED…