Jackie Huba

The Social Engagement Journey

First in a series of three posts

It was exactly one year ago today that I wrote a post entitled “Social Media 2010: it’s time to get boring.”

I’d suggested that marketers and business leaders see past the social media hype and begin integrating it into business functions and processes, to go beyond the viral video.

A year later, companies seem to be on a journey in integrating social media into their business operations. By observing some top Fortune 1000 companies and how they transformed into more customer-centric organizations by integrating and operationalizing social media, we and our team at Ant’s Eye View have mapped out a 5-stage transformation. We call it the “Social Engagement Journey.

Journey phases for blog post.001

Stage 1 of the journey is traditional command and control. One-way communication with customers is the norm, and the various functional units in a company operate relatively independently.

Stage 2 usually involves 1-2 individuals or teams who begin experimenting with social engagement. These mavericks can appear in any part of the organization but are often in marketing or support groups. There may be multiple mavericks in a company, but they are not yet connected to each other. Teams in this stage emphasize direct customer engagement, likely breaking or bending internal rules to make it happen.

Stage 3 is when companies begin getting serious about social. A formal team may be empowered to  help operationalize social engagement, or there are informal internal communities that drive progress. At this stage, companies emphasize training, policies, measurement frameworks and common engagement platforms.

Stage 4 usually means social engagement is delivering real business results. Executive support is broad, and engagement efforts are built into forecasts and annual plans. Customer listening is the norm, and multiple individuals within business units and functional groups are empowered to engage directly with customers and prospects.

Journey phases for blog post.002

Most companies would feel very satisfied reaching Stage 4, but we believe there is a higher stage of engagement.  

Stage 5 is probably nirvana given that many of the tools to achieve this stage don’t exist yet for enterprise-level companies, but we call it the Fully Engaged Enterprise. In it, companies experience breakthrough business results based on deep customer engagement. Customers say things like “You know what I need before I do” and “my life is better because of you,” or “I trust you.” That said, there’s a lot of foundation work to do in Stages 1-4, regardless of technology.

What do you think about the Journey? What stage would you say your company is in? 

11 Responses to “The Social Engagement Journey”

  1. I see most companies getting stuck in step 1 and 2.
    We need to create and sell and expectation of return and timeframe up the power lines.
    Or they ( power) quickly reprioritize efforts, time , people and companies never move on to the true benefits of incorporating a social media strategy into their integrated marketing plan.

    Mark Allen Roberts

  2. Spot on guys. You paint a very realistic picture of the journey that organizations go on. In order for stage five to happen there is required a significant investment in human capital over a period of time. No quick routes to achieving nirvana I’m afraid.

  3. Minesh says:

    Great perspective on the journey! As Brendan mentions, there is no quick and easy route to get to Stage 5.

  4. Brandon says:

    I’m still skeptical that a Fortune 500 company can really become an engaged business. The time involved to reach step 5 makes it ok for small businesses (who have time but no money) but difficult for large organizations. Maybe a future article will address the different challenges involved with enterprise size and type?

  5. phil says:

    For the companies you examined – what percentage of them fell into the different stages? I’d be interested in how fast companies are moving. Thanks.

  6. Jackie Huba says:

    Great question. Companies are all over the map in terms of their journey stages. Anecdotally the companies we have/are working with are mostly in Stages 2 and 3.

  7. This is a very useful perspective, but as I look at the great customer evidence you described in Stage 5, these are the views of any deeply engaged customers who are in a value-added relationship with their provider, even before online communication and social media were a matter of course. I would be interested to hear what you have learned about the relative impact of social media here. Do companies get to stage 5 with their clients faster than without the options of communicating through social media? Do customers see the communication as better?

  8. Jackie Huba says:

    Today’s customers expects more real-time communication as well as support. They were customer-centric companies before social media but the landscape has changed. Customer expectations have changed. We find that companies are using Facebook and Twitter to serve their customers better than they have before.

  9. You’ve nailed it to a T. I have my own social media company after realising the power behind it. I agree with Mark Allen Roberts; that most company’s are still stuck on step 1 & 2, this is the same in Australia. It is slowly growing, but it all takes time with awareness. People don’t like change. I’ve personally found those who do take the risk due to peer presure and a little guidance end up getting addicted like so many of us.

  10. Lets face it, we are in the age of social media and what better way to advertise your product is through social media where majority of consumers are using as part of their daily activities. A company will sell more if it goes along with the trend in advertising.

  11. John says:

    Didn’t British Airways spend an absolute fortune redesigning there logo too. Somewhere in the region of £10m? Only for them to change it about a year later.