Where Does Your Business Sit On The Social Media Adoption Curve?

This is a guest post written by Natalie L. Petouhoff

In my many incarnations—as a Forrester Analyst, as an agency executive, and a PWC management consultant, the guidance I’ve been asked for really hasn’t change over the past 25 years—even though it spanned three cycles of major innovation in software—ERP, CRM and now Web 2.0/social media. The questions executives asked me were always about how to increase revenue and decrease costs. And about how best to do that with people, process, and of course technology.

In advising clients about social media, I’ve taken a cue from Geoffery Moore and Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation theories, and ask them, "Where are you on the social media adoption curve? And what’s your tolerance for not knowing the ROI for social media?" and developed my own Social Media Adoption Theory. 

Innovators and Early Adopters

Those who have readily adopted social media are part of the innovators and early adopters. Innovators are technology enthusiasts. They love it so much they are always the first to buy, even at high prices. They are very tolerant of products that may not be perfect yet and are dying to be beta testers. They are the ones camping over night in front of an Apple store to get an iPad.

Early Majority and Late Majority

Those who haven’t implemented social media, in general, want proven, established products, based on industry standards. They only buy from established market leaders who have mature products, fully packaged and supported at a low price. And they want to know the business value of social media.

Is there an ROI to Social Media?

Where is your business on the Social Media Adoption Curve? Why is this important? Sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same. For instance, when executives ask me what social media is, I tell them that its similar to what W. Edward Deming said years ago: "Listen to your customers and employees and integrate that feedback into your company and you’ll be successful." 

Now imagine a company that takes input from thousands—authentic, genuine, direct feedback and integrates that into their company. Imagine a company that does that on a daily basis. Then imagine a company that doesn’t—ever. Imagine both companies in 3, 5, or 10 years.

From this point of view, every single company needs to do social media. But will they? The Cluetrain Manifesto predicted there would be a time where the customer would be in charge of a brand and what’s said about them, and that there would be an enabling technology. We are here now. That is what social media is.

The success or failure of any business is their ability to continuously increase their share of the market. The best way to do this may be implementing social media. You’ve seen businesses that get a rolling start and then they seem to disappear (think Blockbuster). 

I think that if more executives understood the business value of social media they would be more open to implementing it. In fact, they’d be crazy not to. And that’s why I think, now more than ever, social media ROI is paramount! The early majority wants and needs social media ROI to move forward. 

Click here for more information on Social Media ROI videos and free ROI of Social Media white papers. Follow Natalie Petouhoff on Twitter @drnatalie or on her website at drnatalienews.com. She can be reached at doctornatalie@gmail.com 

[Image: Flickr user 96dpi]

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  • Charles Miller

     With all that is available to a business today , keeping a pulse on

    The advantage that Social Media provides for intra-day implicit and explicit feedback directly from your most valuable customers is key to being nimble especially in today's market.

    When you realize that not only can you monitor insights into your own business, but the weaknesses of your competition in real-time is only beginning to be leveraged.

    I will respectfully disagree with part of what Thad states here -- most often I have seen brave souls sell the value on small, yet compelling success stories and with those successes efforts have moved out to other organizational departments within an

    The power and ROI is amplified when process breakage is identified and addressed, and communications can be refined based on this real-time feedback.

    Ask yourself one question - if Wall Street firms are feverishly working on social arbitrage efforts, why shouldn't you examine how this might do the same for your business?

    Hats off to Natalie's work and passion for championing this business-minded approach!

  • drnatalie petouhoff

    Hi Brenda, Thad, BT and Gregg!
    Thank you for taking the time to respond! It's really fun to be in the middle of this fabulous business transformation! 

  • Brenda Harms

    Dr. Natalie, thank you for sharing the videos and guidance.  I love your ideas on how employees can direct their CEOs' attention toward the power of listening to social media voices. 

  • Gregg Masters

    Nice piece DrNatalie! Cluetrain anticipated it all. Though written in 1999, still timely and relevant in 2011.

    What does that say about the uptake side of innovation?

    Speaking of late adopters, I tweeted today in @DreamForce:twitter 
     #df11 hashtag:

    "Come to healthcare! Our cathedrals of medicine built upon silos and moats of separation need you!"

    The democratization revolution of social media may be the only hope we have to tame the beast aka the 'healthcare borg', where resistance is futile.

    Gregg Masters aka

  • Burghardt Tenderich

    The Cluetrain Manifesto should be recognized as one of the most visionary pieces in business writing. Twelve years ago -- before social media was even invented -- the authors not only predicted it would happen, but they also accurately anticipated the impact social would have on customer empowerment. CEOs who ignore social and fail to invest soon will become dinosaurs.

  • Scott Hirsch

    Nat, Thanks for referencing Deming and Cluetrain in this post. The thing to remember about social media is that this movement toward customer control and transparency was predicted long ago ... not only predicted, but also touted as the ideal company/customer relationship (see also ccpact.com). Social technologies are just the tools that made these predictions come true. 

  • Thad Eby

    Social Media is no longer a toy but a strategy that every organization must adopt in order to survive.  The only issue?  It has to start at the top and transcend every organizational department within an enterprise.  It is unfortunate that most organizations don't realize the implicit ROI until it is too late...  The ROI work that this author has developed goes miles in educating the organizational leadership. If your CEO has not embraced a Social Media strategy, you should send them the ROI measurement tools referenced above.