How Advanced is Your Company’s Social Media Program?

What I do for a living is helping companies with the essential parts of Social CRM such as listening, engagement and analytics.

Having worked with social media both on the client and agency side for the past 6 years, I’ve come across all kinds of various strategies, setups and organizational constellations.

It’s perhaps too bold to say that I’ve seen it all, but I’ve seen a lot.

And the similarities are striking. Most companies share the same problems, fight the same internal fights and all ask the same questions: where should social sit in the organization? Who should be ‘doing’ it? Should we have a Pinterest account?

When disruptive technologies enter the corporate environment there’s going to be a phase for integration of the new technologies, its processes, goals and objectives.

These things don’t happen overnight, and then don’t happen with the same pace at all companies.

Regardless, whether you’re a nimble startup that easily adopts new technologies or you’re a large multinational publicly listed company, you will find your social media program fits into one of these 4 categories:

  1. Social media playground
  2. Emerging social media program
  3. Advanced social media program
  4. Fully integrated social media program


Social level 1: the playground

This is where all companies start out, either that happened in 2005 or it’s happening now in 2014 in your company.

Change doesn’t happen at the same pace in all companies or industries.

If you found yourself in the social media playground a few years ago my guess is that social bubbled from below and up. Most likely someone within marketing & communications decided that it would be a good idea to have a presence on Facebook or Twitter.

As launching a Facebook page doesn’t require a budget, no approval process stopped this person from going ahead and launch it.

Most likely, any such initiatives weren’t taken very seriously at the top either,as a traditional view might have been “Facebook is only for young people anyway”.

However, companies who find themselves in the social media playground today probably have a mandate from above. However, it’s not backed up by any real objectives, strategies, budgets or organizations.

A company in search of itself in the social media playground is signified by:

  • Lack of goals, objectives and strategies with your social media activities
  • Social media is confined to one person or a very small team usually within marketing & communications.
  • Social media activities can be found elsewhere in the company, either in different departments or local regions; however, there’s no internal coordination or communication between these parties.
  • Activities are most likely focused around channels such as Facebook and Twitter, and consists mainly of publishing content
  • Very little attention to strategic listening and community engagement


Level 2: social media is emerging

I never came across a company that did not pass through the playground stage.

The question is more about how long they stayed there before social media emerged as a more important topic on the agenda.

For a sophisticated social media program to emerge, people need to be interested in it and find something beneficial in it for them.

Remember, social media was likely launched without any goals and objectives so it’s not evident for everyone in the organization what the eventual benefits and opportunities are.

Typically what happens is that someone within marketing & communications, usually the person who first initiated the Facebook page, is promoted to a social media manager tasked with creating a strategy and roadmap for the company’s social media program.

There’s a catch though: someone highly knowledgeable on how retweets and Facebook page settings work are not necessarily the best person for creating a program strategy.

Accordingly, you should consider having a strategic person aiding the newly-appointed social media manager in their planning.

The emerging social media level is signified by:

  • Someone is being tasked with managing the company’s social media channels; this person usually still sits within marketing and communications
  • Emerging here means that more channels and content is being produced
  • Goals and objectives are being drafted, usually focused on driving direct traffic to site and increasing sales
  • If it’s a larger company, coordination between global and local is starting to happening, but still confined to marketing and communications


Level 3: social media is becoming advanced

This is where your company should be today, here’s when it starts to become interesting.

Social media is now seeing use cases beyond marketing and communications. Departments such as customer service, sales, PR, R&D, HR are starting to either embark on social media activities themselves or are asking marketing for help.

It’s now when social needs to be present higher up in the organization.

Many large companies form a social media task force with representatives from across the company.

It’s up to the task force to govern social media, set the global strategy, find use cases for different departments and aid with the development and implementation of activities.

A company with an advanced social media program typically:

  • Actively listens to what’s being said about its products and services
  • Has defined a reporting and measurement model for social media activities that is aligned with top-level goals
  • Has social media customer support
  • Uses social tools for candidate recruitment
  • Embarks on pilots for social selling
  • Has their CEO present on social
  • Has social governed in a dedicated task force instead of a single social media manager

Level 4: social media becomes integrated in the organization

An emerging social media program as I’ve exemplified in level 3 is paving the way for a fully integrated social media program.

The idea of a fully integrated social media program is that employees and departments use relevant social media tools and technologies beneficial to their specific goals and objectives just as naturally as they use their phone or email today.

For marketing and communications this means becoming world-class storytellers in text, images and videos.

It means being responsive to events and opportunities and starting to value the individual over the mass.

For customer service it means focusing on solving customers’ problems promptly, rather than simply fast. It means finding customers and prospective problems regardless of channels. It means finding the problems before they are being addressed to you.

For any department it means using the tools and technologies that are available and finding the use cases for better achieving your goals.

Here are a few things that would describe an integrated social media program:

  • Management understands what having customers and employees voices on social media means
  • Everything the company is doing is optimized for having a positive echo in social media, or at least avoiding a negative echo
  • Marketing and communications has shifted from marketing to the mass to marketing to the individual
  • Customer support is no longer seen as a cost center but a potential profit center
  • The organization is listening to what’s being said about its brand, products and services across all channels and is able to reply and engage