The 5 Stages of Corporate Social Media Maturity

The 5 Stages of Corporate Social Media Maturity

By Chad PollittDec 6 /2011

Social Media MaturityThanks to the wonderful social media work at Forrester Research we now have a succinct model which allows companies to identify where they reside in social media maturity and adoption. Knowing this enables companies to develop the appropriate plans to become more mature, increase adoption, scale, test and optimize in order to fully leverage the benefits of social media company-wide. The model also provides a guide for inbound marketing agencies to identify where their clients and prospects are in terms of social media maturity. Recognizing where a company lies on the model prior to launching full-fledged inbound marketing is critical for setting goals, defining KPIs, building strategy and determining tactics while mitigating risk and sidestepping social media faux pas.

1. Dormant2. Testing3. Coordinating4. Scaling & Optimization5. Empowering
Resistant to any use of social technologies due to unwillingness to participate or "analysis paralysis" Individuals or departments test in isolated pockets Management begins to coordinate across teams and departments Organizational shift toward growing and improving social applications Organization empowers all relevant employees; fosters & rewards top performers
Source: Forrester Research

The size of a company should determine the speed to which it can or should mature. Trying to jump from the dormant phase to the empowering phase too fast might have horrifying effects on a brand. Not only will the left hand not know what the right hand is doing, but the fingers and toes will be blissfully ignorant of each other too. This can lead to mixed messaging, social media faux pas, duplication of efforts and incorrect budgeting.

Inbound marketing planning should take the maturity model into account and establish goals for reaching each stage in order to have a smooth successful transition with social media adoption. For smaller companies moving through the maturity model can be relatively quick. However, for large companies moving from one stage to another may take a year or more.

Sean Corcoran of Forrester Research takes the social media maturity model a step further by defining personae for companies moving through the model. He identifies them as:

  • Laggards – He estimates one in five companies are not utilizing any social media and that companies represented by this persona tend to be highly conservative, heavily regulated or just not interested.
  • Late Majority – Labeled as starting in “organic pockets,” Corcoran describes this persona as “distributed chaos” and recommends a senior digital marketing manager step in to be the “shepherd” that coordinates efforts.
  • Early Majority – This persona is articulated by a recognition of management as to the risks and rewards of social media use, the allocation of resources, and the development of governance.
  • Early Adopters – Corcoran defines this persona as having already coordinated social organization and are now focused on optimizing social media activities. He cites Starbucks, Best Buy and Coca Cola as examples.
  • Innovators – Companies representing this persona have all relevant employees trained and empowered to use social media. Many inbound marketing agencies fall in this persona.
Social Media Bell Curve Reads from right to left
Source: Forrester Research


The above should help all businesses and organizations, both large and small, to identify where they are with social media adoption, where they can go, and what steps are required to get there. The model empowers companies and can create acceleration and velocity in their inbound marketing efforts. Lastly, the social media maturity model helps eliminate the magic-pill hype which surrounds social media by clearly establishing benchmarks for adoption. See our inbound marketing calculator for help with social media marketing budgets.

Image: Angela Anderson-Cobb

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