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5 stages to unlocking social media's full potential

5 stages to unlocking social media's full potential Scott Fasser

Are you using social media to persuade your target audience to buy? If so, this is a colossal mistake. When using social media, most people are in conversations with others and are not in a research/learn/buy mode. In reality, they're much further up the sales funnel.

Instead of focusing on sales, marketers should maximize the true value of social media: gather large amounts of valuable customer preference data, using the advanced targeting to connect with specific people and augment other direct sales campaigns. This is marketing's Holy Grail -- getting in the buyer's head to serve them even more relevant messaging and ultimately, influence their behavior.

So how can marketers unlock the full potential of social media? This model demonstrates how a business can evolve its social media strategy from nascent to awesome.

The 5 stages: Listening, experimental, operational, productive, and fully engaged



The first step toward social media success involves watching and listening. In the five main social media networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Google+) look up the following and begin a list of the profile names, URLs, likes, followers, number of tweets, and content. Get a feeling for how active they are in the networks, how popular they are, and what type of conversations they are having.

  • Competitors

  • Potential partners

  • Influencers:¬†people who are active posters in your business category

What topics are generating responses, comments, likes, and retweets? Where do you think you can add to the conversation or create some controversy?


Once you've done your basic research, it's time to dig deeper. Here are two important tactics for getting off on the right foot when you create your company profiles:

  • Find someone who wants to be on point. This person can post content, receive feedback, and generally be engaged with the audience.

  • Take full advantage of the different fields and options each network gives you. The company description, images, products, etc. all set the foundation for how people will see you.

This stage is more about refining your online persona and finding someone in the organization who has an interest in social media who can help streamline these processes.

Operationalize your efforts

It's time to start putting some metrics and resources against your efforts. The operationalization stage moves your social program from someone's side project to something that is included in planning, has basic metrics that are reviewed regularly and have a primary focus of growing a series of conversations or networks.

Remember, sales is not the objective of social media -- leads and connections are. With that in mind, here is a list of basic metrics that we track at this level:

  • Basic network size metrics such as likes, follows, people in circles, etc.

  • Engagement metrics such as how many retweets, people talking about, replies, etc.

  • Activity metrics such as number of tweets, number of posts, etc.

  • Business impact metrics -- what portion of your traffic and leads are coming from social media? Third party metrics. Track Klout for company authority and use MOZ to track domain authority.


The big shift at this stage is broadening the social media efforts outside of the marketing and PR teams -- or if you are an organization of one, getting additional help. Setting specific goals for content publishing, social media activity, network engagement, leads, site traffic, and sales is part of this stage.

Some of the key strategies for this stage to drive the program forward include:

  • Cross-team planning and program ownership. Seek engagement from as many departments as possible.

  • Create guidelines on how to post to social media for more tentative users.

  • Try different third party solutions to improve efficiency

Fully engaged

Very few companies get to this stage. Big brands are investing in social teams, integrating across departments, and developing large scale governance, but many times social is in its own bubble. Social media can and does touch all aspects of a business including customer service, PR, brand, content, product, marketing, operations, and analytics. In this stage, everyone in your company is tuned in to and participating in your social media efforts.

Social media has dramatically changed customer expectations, ways to connect with prospects, and how companies promote themselves. Social media is an opportunity to have authentic conversations with a wide range of people who care about your company and your products/services. As stated by Simon Sinek, an author and public speaker, "People don't buy what you do, People buy why you do it." Social media gives you an opportunity to expose your "Why?" Now, what are you waiting for?

Scott Fasser is the digital account director at Hacker Group.

On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.

Scott Fasser is Hacker Group’s Director of Digital Innovation. Scott has vast experience in data analytics, digital marketing, consumer technology, internet advertising, e-commerce, website development, and more. In his spare time, Scott...

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