The Four Stages of Social Media

Over the past few years, I’ve counseled and assisted companies establish their social media programs. As I think back to these program, I believe there are four key stages intrinsic to the evolution of a successful social media program: broadcast, inquisitive, participatory, and conversation. While I don’t want to oversimplify this process – some organizations may skip or combine these stages – I do think this is helpful for framing the general growth of a social media program:

Broadcast stage:While we recognize that social media is about conversations and engagement, I’ve found that the first stage is getting comfortable with publishing on this medium. As such, the first phase will mainly be broadcasting – upcoming events, new blog postings, product announcements, etc.

Inquisitive stage: Once an organization becomes comfortable publishing on social media, the next stage is being inquisitive – asking others for their comments, feedback, including polls and other similar activities. From my perspective, this is the first step from broadcast toward engagement.

Participatory stage: It is at this stage that an organization moves from broadcast to a participatory level. In addition to promoting it’s own content, an organization begins recognizing the contribution of others. This includes retweeting, commenting, and sharing links to blog postings, articles and other content of interest to your followers/target audiences.

Conversation stage: This is the most intensive aspect of a social media program and most desired stage that all aspire to. At this stage, an organization is engaging in an active conversation with their audiences – responding in real-time to constituents while adding value.

Are there other stages to consider when starting a social media program?

3 thoughts on “The Four Stages of Social Media

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  • August 27, 2012 at 09:11

    Good list Cece. I’d add another stage at the end — Sales Integration. Some may not agree, but for my B2B and B2G clients there needs to be a strategy for appropriately leveraging the conversation to support business objectives.

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    • September 3, 2012 at 17:23

      Very good point. I would break that down into possibly two areas:
      1) Social KPIs and metrics – clearly outline how you will determine the success of your social media and the method for tracking against those metrics. In the beginning, it may be a bit of science and art, refining as you gather more information about your specific efforts.

      2) Sales Integration – This requires establishing a process with sales:
      – who will respond to incoming social leads
      – how do your route these
      – how do you incorporate this beyond marketing to include sales participation


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