Top 10 management models for your business #5: six stages of social business transformation
How can organizations optimize engagement with their target audience through social media?
Charlene Li and Brian Solis, consultants and authors on social media and digital marketing, have developed a leading body of knowledge on how organizations can deal with the rising importance of transparency and engagement. Their model builds on the ideas of Groundswell (Li and Bernoff, 2008), describing how people increasingly connect with each other to be informed, rather than listening to organizations. The book describes how companies are becoming less able to control customers’ attitudes through market research, customer service and advertising. Instead, customers increasingly control the conversation by using new media to communicate about products and companies. Li and Solis observe that organizations connect with customers by taking the following steps:
- Planning – ‘Listen and learn’: Ensure commitment to get the business social.
- Presence – ‘Stake our claim’: Evolution from planning to action, establishing a formal and informed presence in social media;
- Engagement – ‘Dialogue deepens relationships’: Commitment where social media is seen as a critical element in relationship-building;
- Formalized – ‘Organize for scale’: A formalized approach focuses on three key activities: establishing an executive sponsor, creating a centre of excellence and establishing organization-wide governance;
- Strategic – ‘Become a social business’: Social media initiatives gain visibility and real business impact.
- Converged – ‘Business to social’: Having cross-functional and executive support, social business strategies start to weave into the fabric of an evolving organization.
How to use the Model
The model can serve as a roadmap for organizations to improve their engagement with stakeholders, especially through social media. A model to measure current engagement of an organization with its target audience is Li’s Social Technographics Ladder (Li and Bernoff, 2008). The ladder identifies people according to how they use social technologies, classified as creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators and inactives. Taken together, these groups make up the ecosystem that forms the groundswell. Each step on the ladder represents a group of consumers more involved in the groundswell than the previous steps. To join the group on a step, a consumer need only participate in one of the listed activities. Steven van Belleghem, from Vlerick Business School, has developed a three-step approach to setting up and managing a conversation on any level of the Technographics Ladder: observe the conversation you perceive as relevant as an organization, facilitate the conversation you want to create and join the conversation as a peer.
Implementing the model as a roadmap towards more social engagement requires leadership in managing this change process. The authors of Groundswell suggest the POST approach for change, working with people (assess social activities of customers), objectives (decide what you want to accomplish), strategy (plan for how relationships with customers will change) and technology (decide which social technologies to use).
The impact of the Internet on society in general, and of social media in particular, has not created a paradigm shift in social science, as yet. In academia, the information revolution and ongoing digitization is mostly being explained by classic models, of which the most powerful are included in this book. Competing with these classics is a burgeoning variety of authors and consultants who publish all sorts of new models, mainly through media where displaying academic evidence is considered of low importance. The books of Li and Solis may not represent the state of the art in academia, but they do offer research-based, new, practical and appealing approaches in defining digital marketing.
Duhé, S. ed. (2012) New Media and Public Relations, 2nd Ed., New York, Peter Lang
Li, C., Bernoff, J. (2011) Groundswell, expanded and revised edition: Winning in a World
Transformed by Social Technologies, Boston, Harvard Business School Press.
Solis, B. (2011) Engage! The Complete Guide for Brands and Businesses to Build, Cultivate, and
Measure Success in the New Web, Hoboken, John Wiley.