A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing – moving beyond social media 101

posted by Brendan Hodgson

This post is born from a situation I’ve found myself facing increasingly often, particularly as colleagues and clients reach what I would describe as the ‘consideration’ phase of the social media adoption continuum (or the SMAC if you prefer acronyms… and I know you do).

Essentially, I’d describe it as the point at which people have been exposed to social media: they know what it is (for the most part), they use it, and they realize that it’s an increasingly important and strategic element for many communications programs. At the same time, these same individuals have not yet fully grasped the potential that Web 2.0 technology offers to create entirely different forms of outreach and engagement with their audiences. What it means is that many are fundamentally ’stuck’ in first gear,  recommending basic strategies that tend to be restricted to what might now be considered table stakes. As a result, it’s becoming apparent that getting out of first gear requires a different kind of education, understanding and perspective beyond simply articulating what social media is and why it’s important.

It requires, rather, constant exposure, immersion, ongoing education, and a belief that in this day and age, if you think it, we can probably do it. And it means providing colleagues and clients with the creative capacity to look beyond the the blogs, flickrs, Diggs and Youtubes, and consider other potential forms of engagement that, while sharing the same social media ethos, deliver more uniquely relevant experiences that are also (when done right) more closely tied to an organization’s brand attributes or strategic objectives. Current example: The Members Project (hat tip to B.L.)

So what does SMAC look like to me? (and it’s really only something I’ve been noodling in recent weeks, so thoughts are welcome) Well, from this practitioners perspective, I would suggest that there are four phases that characterize the level of social media adoption or sophistication within an organization or agency setting, at least as it relates to PR…

So how am I describing these terms? well, in a nutshell: 

Awareness: Gaining a basic understanding of what “it” (meaning social media) is

Consideration: Developing the capacity to identify opportunities to use “it”, yet finding oneself limited in identifying what the opportunities might be.

Integration: Connecting the dots between traditional PR and social media… and realizing the value inherent in strategically integrating the two.

Optimization: Identifying new opportunities to create ‘breakthrough’ campaigns that further extend the value of social media within a PR/marketing context.

Too simplistic? Perhaps. But however you describe it, and for those of us who sit on panels and speak at conferences, I’d suggest that it’s time to put away the social media 101’s and start thinking about the next level and beyond… our colleagues and clients are asking for it.



Boyd Neil

You are right about the need to move beyond social media 101 and begin moving towards what you are caling integration and optimization.

I think, though, there isn’t really time anymore to bother with the ‘consideration’ step. Staying stuck in awareness and consideration is irresponsible if you claim to be contemporary practitioner.



Ryan Anderson

I think a lot of the problem is as much clients’ education as our own.  The problem is that clients know about it, want it, but don’t want to know about the hard bits like transparency and not trying to control the message, etc.  Some just want results and don’t care about things like astroturfing because they don’t know enough to know that it goes fundamentally against the grain of social media.

In that respect, the value of the exercise pretty much flat lines until the client reaches "understanding."

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