Forrester: Social Media Still Very Nascent – Adoption And Adaptation Challenges For organisations

This is the conclusion of Forrester’s report called Accelerating Your Social Maturity: How To Move From Social Experimentation To Business Transformation. The research learned that large organisations tend to go through common stages of change as they adopt and use social technologies for business. Forrester has called this process of change “Social Maturity”.

Forrester Social Maturity Model

The bell curve reads right to left.

They found that most organisations fall within five stages:

  • Laggards: the dormant stage. Forrester estimates that one in five companies is currently not using any social media. These companies tend to be highly conservative, heavily regulated, or just not interested (yes they exist; think non-tech B2B). To get beyond this stage, we recommend that interactive marketers help garner “small victories” – focusing on the best opportunities that can be used as case studies within the organisation to get the ball rolling.
  • Late majority: the testing stage. While most companies are using social media, it tends to start organically in pockets. This stage can be described as “distributed chaos,” and to move beyond it, we recommend that a senior interactive marketer step up to play the role of “shepherd” to help coordinate efforts across the organisation. (It’s important to note that this role is sometimes manifested in a “social media strategist” or similar, but it is not required, as many companies mature successfully through existing interactive marketing teams).
  • Early majority: the coordinating stage. At this point, management recognises the risks and rewards of social media and begins to put the resources and governance in place to create consistency across the organisation, from “distributed chaos” to a more centralized approach. To move beyond this stage, we recommend that interactive marketers work with a steering committee made up of key stakeholders to develop a foundation of shared resources, policies, processes, and budget in place for the long term so the focus can shift to optimising results.
  • Early adopters: the scaling and optimising stage. These leaders (think Starbucks, Best Buy, and Coca Cola) have already coordinated their social organisation and are now focusing on optimising their social media activities – from improved processes to more advanced metrics to integration with other marketing activity. The next big step for this group is to determine who within the organisation is best suited for using social applications to solve customer problems (their HEROes) and for the shepherd to help lead the creation of a plan for empowering all relevant employees with social media.
  • Innovators: empowering their employees. At this stage, all relevant employees have been trained and empowered to use social media – essentially “organised distribution” – though centres of excellence are still needed. Only a few companies have even just entered this stage (think but we expect many more to follow over the course of the next year.

Two stages – Adoption & Adaptation

When we have a meta-look on the five stages, you will notice a split between adoption and adaptation of Social Media.

The Laggards and Late Majority have the challenge of adopting Social Media within their organisation, understanding the power of them and how they fit the brand and goals.

The Early Majority, Early Adopters and Innovators have overcome the adoption phases but now encounter the even greater challenge: adapting to the opportunities and threats by Social Media incorporation.

There are many purposes where Social Media techs and their data can be used for. These can be divided into four areas:


This is where the organisation’s primary objective is to use Social Media to engage with external stakeholders (Marketing or PR). For many this is the focus of Social Media integration.


This is where the organisation wishes to gain insights from Social Media either in a monitoring or research capability (Comms, Research or Innovation). By researching, discovering and understanding –unmet- needs and hot topics, the organisation can alter the value chain(s).


This is where the organisation acknowledge they need to change how they operate to adapt to Social Media. This goes beyond adapting governance, people and technologies, this means understanding the impact of Social Media on the different supply chains and value chains and adapting those accordingly.


This is where the organisation realise Social Media is the opportunity to co-create innovations with external stakeholders . By researching Social Media data, organisations can discover –unmet- needs and product/service ideas which can be used to enhance the existing portfolio or develop new products and/or services.

As other researches has shown, ineffectiveness of Social Media implementation is a common outcome. A Booz&Co research –specifically for the Netherlands-  has reported that Social Media budgets will rise with 30% and its employees will double. But at the same time, strategy and measurement lack.

Another research found that 90% of firms say Social Media takes up more time internally than a year ago. However 60% say they have gained any benefit at all. Only 25% say that they have gained “real, tangible value” from social media .


Because most just apply the ‘universal ‘ Social Media best practice tactics. ‘One-size-fits-all’ is out of step with the niche demands of the Social Web.

Next to broadening the scope of Social Media purposes, the challenge is to create and execute evidence and insight-based strategies, leading to the right outcome delivered in the right way. This can be achieved by understanding the organisation’s Social Media landscape and what customers/external stakeholders are saying about the brand, competitors and market developments. This will enhance the planning.

The even more efficient and effective approach is creating co-designed strategies (or strategic co-creation), where external stakeholders are incorporated in the organisation’s processes, measurements and objectives and collaboratively create value.

Next to a better output-to-market (which is also achieved with the ‘landscape‘ strategy) it achieves a faster speed-to-market and lower cost-to-market. Product development cycles shorten and organisations are less dependent on third party agencies and advertising. This because co-creators (customers, partners, experts) care about what they create and virally promote this via their networks.

Opening up the organizational boundaries means a blur in internal and external, becoming an part of the eco-system, the value network.