Social Media and The Evolution Towards Simply Marketing

When it comes to social media for marketing, different companies have different degree of adoption. This article is an attempt to shed some light on the path of social media adoption, in terms of sophistication in usage. The path can be segmented into five stages, as illustrated in the following diagram.

Evolution of Social Media

Stages Description
Silly Media The Age of Ignorance. At this stage, social media is a vague concept (“Surreal Media”) and perceived as hard to tame (“Scary Media”). Mainly, lack of knowledge and willingness to understand its application to business leads to various misperceptions and many think this is just another technology hype (and this too shall pass). However, the groundswell in social media usage among customers will likely to lower adoption resistance.
Spectator Media The Age of Silence. Companies begin to dip their toes into the social media streams. They setup presence on social networks BUT then, shut-up. The mindset here is ‘build and they will come”. Many still lock-in to traditional media mindset and treat social media as a medium for uni-lateral broadcast of marketing message. There is simply no overt and consistent efforts to build a community around its brands and actively nurturing a vibrant community to evangelize its brands.
Sponsored Media The Age of Sponsored Conversations. Probably, the first pro-active step towards engaging the social media community. Companies begin to engage influential voices in the social media ecosystem. Here, the control over marketing messages are slowly loosen. The idea is to lead credence to the product, gain brand exposure and hopefully, the message will go viral. Its a form of advertisements, disguised as conversations in social media universe.
Social Media The Age of Social Web. Here, things are getting fluid and dynamic. If sponsored media is countryside river rafting, social media is whitewater rafting. Getting into the act of direct conversations with the market and the medium becomes participatory. There’s a tectonic shifts from company-generated contents to user-generated contents. At this stage, companies are actively experimenting with various concepts to ‘socialize’ their brands. The ultimate aim is to engage customers creatively and encourage them to evangelize brands in the social web. However, at this stage, social media initiative is still isolated and remain within a silo in organization.
Simply Marketing The Age of Normalization. At this stage, social media becomes a widely accepted way of branding. Social media tools are perceived as just another tool in corporation’s branding arsenal. The concepts, ideas and technologies radically enrich company-market interfaces, as they become fully ingrained and embedded in marketing strategies and brand building infrastructure. Only then, we will see social media reaches its potential as the game-changer in the business world.

Let’s Continue the Discourse on Twitter

Social media is not an endgame but just a means to an end. It simply has be embedded within a company culture for it to realize its full potential. Do you agree with the above social media evolutionary path? At which stage is your company at now? Let’s chat on Twitter; find me @limyh.

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  1. Working at a company that does online marketing in various forms, I’d like to state that I agree with your evolutionary path posted above. However, I also think it’s quite possible for a company to skip some of the earlier evolutionary stages and just jump in to the fray; the requirement here being that they have the right talent that can execute their social media marketing plans. It’s not entirely a question of which generation the SM marketer is from either, but a question of how much attention that person pays to how their branding is received in the social arena. With careful planning and receptivity to feedback, any organization can successfully be marketed using the latest social media tactics.

  2. Eli, I agreed with you that many organizations can “just jump into the fray”, sort-of, landed on social media ground, running.

    However, the ‘evolutionary’ diagram aims more at describing stages of SM adoption, in terms ‘sophistication, in usage rather than illustrating a rigid progression of social media adoption.

    Thank you for your feedback.

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