The Social Engagement Journey

The team at Ant’s Eye View has been working on something we’re really excited to share. Last week, we formally unveiled The Social Engagement Journey. Before I explain, let me share some background.

Over the years, social media has become a significant conversation in marketing circles. The focus of that conversation has been about a theoretically linear progression companies make through social media. The way social media works, many experts have said, is that you start with a certain set of tools and tactics and continue to grow activity until you have all the tools and programs in place that you “should”. But our team never really felt quite comfortable with this idea.

Every company is different, with a different set of business objectives and therefore their needs are different. The idea of a linear progression and a final completion of program design that yields success is a bit then. Best Buy is a great example of this: they have some great social media programs, but their business overall is still continuing to have problems. In no small part, that’s very likely due to root problems with in-store user experience design. Customer Engagement is about helping a business change their core operating principles as a way to meet (and exceed) business objectives.

Our team has observed and worked with a number of Fortune 1000 companies as they transformed into more customer-centric organizations by integrating and operationalizing social media. Through this, we have noticed that rather than a linear progression of tool and program implementation, transformation to a customer-centric organization is about evolution. We’ve seen that there are 5 common stages of transformation companies move through on their journey to a nirvana state: The Fully Engaged Enterprise.

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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.

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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.

For more information on the Social Engagement Journey, head over to the Ant’s Eye View blog: