Social Media Maturity in Digital Communication

Recently I came across an excellent  report that explores the top ten digital challenges facing communications practitioners. The report looks at the impact on each of the key communications disciplines, investigates the use and uptake of social media tools, and identifies the role and key responsibilities of heads of digital communications (or to appoint one).

The May 2010 report was compiled after face to face interviews with 40 senior communicators involved in digital media, in addition to authors and academics. What I thought most interesting was the 'four stages of social media readiness' which gives a good way of assessing overall social media readiness of an organisation (and, if ambitious, an individual).

The "Crawling" Stage

(generally corporate entities owning multiple businesses and B2B organizations)

  • creating and hosting the company Web site, including an online press page
  • securing the worldwide usage of the company name online
  • locking down online security issues across the organization
  • ensuring adequate ownership of relevant URLs
  • managing the internal blog

The "Toddling" Stage

  • undertaking a company-wide digital audit to determine current online activity base
  • introducing social media guidelines for employees
  • implementing an internal online/social media communications strategy
  • introducing an internal company blog
  • monitoring (but not reacting to) blogs

I fully believe that an audit is a great idea as it can provide some structure to social media thinking within an organisation. I think this also can be a good time to consider the online presences of key employees and how this relates to the organisation (if at all)

In my experience, many social media guidelines can easily go from simple recommendations to large instructions and policies that become essentially a list of "don'ts".

The "Walking" Stage

  • implementing an external online/social media communications strategy
  • implementing social media guidelines for external usage
  • ensuring a company presence on Twitter and Facebook
  • placing corporate videos on YouTube
  • introducing digital and social media activities into communications job descriptions
  • introducing an external blog
  • training all communications staff in social media
  • appointing specialist social media managers
  • monitoring online; tracking commentary and identifying advocates and detractors
  • getting actively involved in discussions on blogs, forums, and Twitter
  • working their way through the strategic implications of user-generated content for their business
  • creating an internal version of Wikipedia

I see this stage as very ambitious and any communication department that can achieve this should be proud.  The last three points as very aspirational and not always realistic except for the largest organisation's that can afford the manpower needed.

The "Running" Stage

(very few respondents)

  • actively producing bespoke content designed to take advantage of new channels (e.g., written content for blogs, video content for YouTube, etc.) The most successful campaigns are using a multiplicity of channels to link to and promote good content
  • appointing senior digital communications director
  • engaging in a significant way in online dialogue
  • dealing with the company-wide structural implications; for many businesses social media will impact on PR, corporate communications, promotions, customer relations, HR, customer service, product research and innovation, marketing, etc. Most of these operate in silos. The very structure of a business could be an obstacle to their social media strategy

Overall, some really good points for an organisation to consider but also a structured way of measuring maturity.

Based on this I can say that my organisation has some work to do.

What about yours ? Is this accurate in your eyes ?