Three Stages of Social Integration Maturity...and How to Speed "Growing Up"

When new technology or ‘way to market’ gets introduced to an industry, the adoption follows a similar path. I’ve seen this at Dell in change leadership roles. I saw the same thing over the last five years at Bazaarvoice bringing reviews and user generated content into 1,000 brand and ecommerce sites. And I see the same thing happening in the news, sports and entertainment industry.

Adoption will follow these three phases:

  1. Dabbler – You’re alone. You are dabbling in some fun experimentation. You’ve dipped your toes in the water on a new technology or program, or you are jumping in and out of disparate shiny-object ideas.
  2. Explorer – As an explorer, you have an objective but you’re not sure how to get there. You’re not operational, but you are determined to reach a destination. Failing fast is accepted and you’re exploring different ways to meet that objective and understand the need to fail fast.
  3. Integrator – You know what works and you are integrating it into the way you operate, from which you will optimize. You’re organizing team, objectives, technologies, and measurements around the programs and technologies that you are using.

Social integration is a big opportunity for media, entertainment and brand properties to improve audience engagement and therefore achieve their objectives. A major reason why is the speed of technology adoption over the past few years has had a dramatic shift in audience expectations. In most cases, the industry struggles to keep up, especially the larger and more establish brands. Therefore, speed of adoption, evolution and maturity is a competitive advantage.

The speed of evolution can determine your future success. What I see in media is the same I saw in ecommerce and manufacturer brands. The good news is the challenges are common and predictable. With larger organizations, I see one or a handful of champions evangelizing the new opportunities to integrate social content or interaction into their property. They face resistance from senior management, largely because they favor predictability. However, I believe we’ve arrived at a state in the industry that even executives realize social has changed the game and they need to adapt. They, and the majority in the organization, just don’t know how to proceed. So, the resistance change leaders face is inertia and ambiguity.

The typical path starts with dabbling. For ‘two people who are free radicals’ to do a pilot of something, show results, and move on to something else. This is not a bad start. It enables an organization to learn and make others comfortable along the way. However, is it done in a directed way? Is there attention on these programs from the organization? If you get stuck dabbling in a corner, the progressive entrants in the industry may have already passed you (ex: in media, that’s MTV, Huffington Post or Al Jazeera).

You want to move as quickly as possible to an explorer and integrator. As such, and as the change leader, you need to execute a plan to accelerate interest, education and execution towards social integration. My experience in change leadership suggests three primary ways to speed up traction:

  1. Show what the competition is doing. Let’s admit it…fear motivates more than opportunity. It’s a battle for visits and eyeballs, and you can find someone out there who’s doing something better than you.
  2. Make a strong case for incremental monetization. If you can get a program paid for by incremental ad revenue or other measure that leads to revenue, your project will be met with open arms.
  3. Sell the execs and create top down pressure (thus changing employee objectives). When an executive gets excited about a new strategy or buzzword, you can use this wind in your sails to drive change and adoption. I saw this happen at USAA and Dell.

So, what stage are you and what are you doing to move things forward at a faster pace. Out with the old and in with the new…just get there quickly!

Sam Decker's picture

Sam Decker

@samdecker
Sam Decker is a current member of the Spredfast board. Sam most recently served as the CEO and co-founder of Mass Relevance (now Spredfast). Prior to Mass Relevance, Sam was founding Chief Marketing Officer at Bazaarvoice, a provider of SaaS social commerce technologies serving over 1,000 brands, where he was responsible for building the company’s brand, products and platform.