Lost in Social Media: The Phase of Experimentation. Are You A Seeker? #lostinsm

February 3, 2011 - 1 Comment

Last week, I explored 4 reasons for not adopting social media. This week, I’ll be focusing on the second phase of adoption: experimentation. Let’s call this group “Seekers”. The Seekers are the early adopters gaining hands-on social media skills, experimenting with different tools and learning how to connect with their audience. In this phase, financial and human investment in social media marketing is typically scarce and most likely this group will not have advanced listening, monitoring or analytics tools besides the free resources available. The Seekers can be found in small pockets of the organization and their activities will be limited to a group, department, function or program. In large organizations, this phase will typically happen in silos where one or a few groups start experimenting independently. Some companies may decide to set up a central social media group, a hub, to test social media tools and tactics, and keep participation within the four walls of their department. Regardless of where the effort originates, these groups will not be about scale and sophistication. The first wave of Seekers within a company are known as the pioneers. Their grassroots efforts help prove a concept and set a foundation for others.

The Observers

Seeking can take several forms. The simplest and least active form of experimentation is observing. In general, this group consists of people that follow conversations. Their motivation is to:

  • Get a feel for how social media works on the conversation level and pick up some tips on how to write a blog, how to host an event on Facebook or how successful brands are harnessing the power of Twitter, to name a few examples, and/or
  • Use social media for listening first to better understand what people are saying about them before entering.

Observing provides a safe first look into the world of social media. Over time, however, it is likely that Observers’ curiosity will push them to become more active on the social web.      

The Specialists  

The Specialists are doers. They are active participants. They experiment by doing. They start small and focus on one (or maybe two) activity(ies), such as blogging or micro-blogging or a fan page. And because they spend their energy on one or two activities, they may choose to dive deeper into those activities from the get-go. If they pay close attention to how their content is absorbed, they will be able to draw conclusions on the type of content and presentation format that is most successful. Due to their focus, they will likely learn faster than the next group how their target audience engages on the chosen platform(s). The Cisco Corporate blog program which came out of Cisco’s Corporate Communications group is a good example of the work of a Specialist.  

The Generalists

The final group of people, who also happen to be doers are the Generalists. The goal of this group is to get exposure to as many different platforms and activities as possible. They will learn that not every tool will work equally well for every outreach effort or customer segment. In addition, over time they will realize the need for social destination-specific content and discover the benefits of synchronizing their activities across their social presence. In other words, why should a person follow a company on Twitter and Facebook if it always offers the same content on both platforms? The Cisco ASR 1000 series router launch managed by the company’s Service Provider Marketing organization is a great example of the Generalist group. Three years ago, we used a variety of different social tactics before, during and after the launch period. This launch helped prove the benefit of using social media in terms of cost savings and reach, and forever changed the way we do launches at Cisco. Based on the lessons learned, we adjusted our social media approach for future launches.

The common thread between the two groups of doers is the fact that they are just getting their feet wet. They’re testing the waters and focusing on proving a concept. They’re setting the baseline and laying the foundation for an online audience. They’re trying to find their voice. Their use of social media will likely be centered around promoting their white paper or an upcoming event instead of articulating a longer term relationship building plan. Most of their posts will likely be sharing (their own) content rather than bringing true value to online conversations, at least initially.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right? If you think you are ready to become a Seeker, please pause for a second. Before you run off to open a Twitter or Facebook account or start a blog, ask yourself: “How am I going to keep this property fresh over a long period of time? What’s my long-term plan?” If you find that you can’t answer this question or your answer is “I can’t do that” but you are anxious to get rolling with social media, there are other things you can consider. Getting started does not always assume the need for your own social media account. It is possible for a team, especially in a larger corporation, to partner up with another group that already has social media presence and provide blog posts or Twitter updates through their account(s). You can also look for a group or a community outside of your company (i.e., guest destinations) that focuses on your topic and participate in those social discussions. If you choose to do this, please remember to monitor and follow up when needed. Don’t leave people hanging.  

As you can see, entry into social media is not difficult. The challenge comes from keeping the momentum going and learning to connect with your audience. Success doesn’t happen overnight. As a Seeker, you will experience a series of trials and errors and the key is to be patient.

Yesterday’s Seekers Are Today’s Teachers

Since social media has been around for a while now, I believe that today’s Seekers may show more maturity in some areas when starting out. Why?

1)      The number of people with experience in this area is growing and these people can lend a hand to those who are looking to enter.

2)      The number of resources, application and tool developers is on the rise in response to challenges experienced by yesterday’s Seekers.

If you’re a new Seeker, remember that Yesterday’s Seekers Are Today’s Teachers. Reach out to them, tap into their knowledge. Learn the importance of not only the platforms but also the conversations, art of listening, need for actionable insights and rules of engagement.

If you’re a current practitioner, how did your group or company enter social media?



As I mentioned before, I’d like to thank my peers, Nancy Rivas and LaSandra Brill for being my second and third pairs of eyes (edits).


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