This poll-analysis post was written by Jeremy Victor, editor-in-chief of B2Bbloggers.com. For more of his writing, follow B2Bbloggers on Facebook and Twitter.

SmartPulse — our regular reader poll in SmartBrief on Social Media — tracks feedback from leading marketers about social media practices and issues.

Our most recent poll question: Which statement best describes your business’ approach to social media?

  • We are experimenting: 41.88%
  • We have a documented social media marketing plan and metrics to track performance: 24.79%
  • We have analysis paralysis — in other words, we are all talk and no action: 11.97%
  • We are well on our way to becoming a social business (i.e. implementing social technology across the organization): 11.11%
  • My subscription to this newsletter is the extent of my company’s social media activity: 10.26%

The genesis of this poll question came after reading Geoff Livingston’s article “The End of the Social Media Adoption Road,” which references Rogers’ Innovation Adoption Curve. Livingston writes, “We’re rapidly approaching the end of the technology adoption curve for social media. … We’re likely moving into the laggard stage currently.”

While I disagreed with the article and Livingston’s conclusions, thinking we were nowhere near market adoption for social media, I had no data to support my argument. Hence, the poll. Let’s see what the results have to tell us.

  1. 22% of respondents said they are taking no action to adopt social media in their business (12% analysis paralysis plus 10% newsletter-subscription-only activity.
  2. 67% said they are working on social media programs and trying to understand the benefits social
    media can have for their business (42% experimenters plus 25% documented social media plan).
  3. 11% said they are evolving and becoming social businesses by implementing social technology across the organization.

When we compare these results with the adoption curve, it turns out Livingston’s conclusions are far more accurate than I thought. Here are the reasons.

  1. In our poll, the 22% are the laggards, compared with 16% in Rogers’ curve. This group in the adoption curve prefers the tried-and-true method, is critical of new ideas and is willing to consider them only when they have become mainstream.
  2. Our majority of 67%, compared with 64% in Rogers’ curve, has accepted the change social media represents and adopted social media in some form.
  3. Finally, the 11%, our early adopters, compared with 13.5% in Rogers’ curve, are leading the way and transforming themselves into social businesses, finding ways to use social technology in all aspects of their business.

Compared with Rogers’ Innovation Adoption Curve, our poll shows social media and its business applications are here to stay. We are rapidly approaching mainstream adoption, and soon even the laggards will join the fun. Don’t you think? There’s no turning back at this point, right?

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25 Responses to “Has social media for business hit the mainstream?”

  1. Thank you for taking the time to do this. It's refreshing to see someone with questions who goes out and find the answers.
    My recent post What People Care About Not Social Media

    • jeremyvictor says:

      Geoff,
      Far too often we make conclusions and generalizations without any data to support it. This week's poll was the perfect opportunity to test my thinking, and as the data revealed, your thinking was spot on.
      Thanks for the comment,
      Jeremy

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Geoff Livingston, SmartBrief on SocMed, Maddie Grant, Thomas Baekdal, Matthew Ray and others. Matthew Ray said: Has social media for business hit the mainstream? | SmartBlog on Social Media http://t.co/95Qo6Di via @sbosm [...]

  3. Jeremy,

    I too read Geoff's post and actually concurred with his thinking – and am also excited to see your first hand data from the poll. I teach DOI in my undergrad class on social media & thought leadership and I've just added both of your posts as required reading for the next term coming up in January!

    That said, we have a long way to go in the area of 'the social enterprise' and 'social business' becoming adopted as mainstream (that is, if you hold those concepts in the same regard as re-engineering, CRM, Lean, and other corporate concepts that have followed their own respective innovation curves). Lots of opportunity still out there!

  4. Paddu G says:

    I remember that there was a big buzz around Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software tools came into existence about 10 years ago. CRM is now more matured and organizations have started adopting it in some form or other. The major difference between CRM adoption and social media adoption is the all pervasive nature of Social Media; and it affects everyone, right from mom and pop to large corporations. Hence the learning curve will be much shorter. On the other hand, number of software tools for content generation, dissemination, sharing and collaboration will be far too many (unlike a handful of CRM tools in each segment). While the buzz will down, marketers will start quietly working on the tools and granular implementation of social marketing concepts. Hence the adoption curve may not come down so fast, in my opinion.

    • jeremyvictor says:

      Paddu,
      Thanks for the comment.

      I think what the data is telling us from an adoption curve perspective is that we are reaching the adoption/maturity phase. That doesn't necessarily mean we are seeing the end of social media and it use, quite the contrary, it means more prolific use by more people/organization. So as you suggest, "marketers will start quietly working on the tools and granular implementation of social marketing concepts."

      We are only just beginning to see the impact social technologies will have on business.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Jeremy

  5. Marcia Garcia says:

    Jeremy,

    As a fellow SM enthusiast, I was quite alarm by the statement made by Mr. Livingston, “From an adoption perspective, we’re likely moving into the laggard stage currently. By year end 2011, social media will not be special, new or unique anymore. In my opinion, online will be just another information source.”

    I find that new forms of social media have not even reached adoption phase, i.e. geolocation platforms such as foursquare. Additionally, grandfather social mediums (forums) are not extinct either; therefore, perhaps some mediums will fade or taper off to a niche audience while others may flourish. Thank you for posting this.

    Marcia G.

    • jeremyvictor says:

      Maria,
      Thanks for the comment. I think you are right, and while I can't speak for Geoff, he may say the same thing. Moving to the "laggard phase" does not mean the end of the tecnology. It simply means that the last holds outs, the people most unwilling to change, will now begin adopting and using the technology.

      Laggards traditionally need for the technology to become mainstream with there being no threat of a retreat and absolute evindence that we are not dealing with a fad. Social media in its many forms is proving that out with some technologies being further along the curve than others.

      Thanks again for the comment.

    • @geoffliving says:

      Social media is traditionally defined as the ability for two way interaction via commenting, blogging, sharing, etc. I wrote a second post for those who felt upset about this… http://bit.ly/dqaoFS We need to get the emotion out of the medium, and start looking at the big picture. It's not extinction, just as when libraries became used throughout society, learning did not end. But, don't get stuck on the tech. Focus on the conversations, community development and associated outcomes.

  6. Cynthia Price says:

    Thanks for this research Jeremy. And Geoff, as always, thanks for keeping us focused on the bigger picture. I'm frequently saying that social media is not new media — it's another platform in our tool kit. The important thing, as you noted, is to focus on the conversations, community development and associated outcomes. It's not simply about being "cool" but about how to connect. Traditional media doesn't allow for that connection, but now it can drive traffic to the platforms where you can converse and connect.
    My recent post Providing a New Hire with a Successful First Day

  7. Cynthia Price says:

    Thanks for this research Jeremy. And Geoff, as always, thanks for keeping us focused on the bigger picture. I'm frequently saying that social media is not new media — it's another platform in our tool kit. The important thing, as you noted, is to focus on the conversations, community development and associated outcomes. It's not simply about being "cool" but about how to connect. Traditional media doesn't allow for that connection, but now it can drive traffic to the platforms where you can converse and connect.

  8. Jonathan Trenn says:

    But wait…what types of businesses did you poll? Size? Industries? I keep on seeing polls like this and wonder what the context is.

    As geolocation becomes more important, smaller local business will have to adopt. Many haven't take much of a plunge. And my guess that some that responded may think that a Facebook page that they rarely update makes them part of that "experimenting" group.

    • jeremyvictor says:

      Jonathan,

      Thanks for the comment. You ask a very good question. Like all of the SmartBrief on Social Media Reader Polls (http://smartblogs.com/socialmedia/category/polls/), this poll appeared in the SmartBrief For Social Media newsletter and is used to take the pulse of the readership.

      So from a statistics class point of view, the results of a poll like this is highly unscientific from a sample size and control perspective. So in this case, our context is the readership of the newslettter.

      That said, I do think that the data in this poll is fairly telling and supports the findings Geoff offered in his post. To your point on geolocation, the question, asked about "approach to social media." If the question was more specific and asked about geolocation, I think the results would have been much different from an adoption perspective.

      • Jonathan Trenn says:

        Jeremy

        The more I think about this, the more I am skeptical. And I mean this to no offense to you or Geoff. Your poll is surely an accurate refelction of thsoe that responded. But it's a poll of subscribers who have chosen to subscribe to a newsletter about social media…not of business in general. Those that responded likely have active interest in social media themselves, regardless of the level of the interest and the adoption rates of social media by there employers.

        Also, I see plenty of half-hearted attempts that could be seen internally as a significant effort. A Facebook page with 1100 "fans"!!

        In today's iMedia Connection, Danny Flamburg tells of a story of how a client looked at running a social media campaign and then balked:
        http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2010/10/13

        I wouldn't be surprised if that marketer fits neatly into that 67% that either 1) "they are working on social-media programs and trying to understand the benefits social media can have for their business (42% experimenters + 25% documented social-media plan)"; or, 2) "have accepted the change social media represents and adopted social media in some form".

        I'm thinking that true adoption and implementation is going to take a lot longer than next year. At least in the types of companies I've been looking at.

      • Jonathan Trenn says:

        Jeremy

        The more I think about this, the more I am skeptical. And I mean this to no offense to you or Geoff. Your poll is surely an accurate refelction of thsoe that responded. But it's a poll of subscribers who have chosen to subscribe to a newsletter about social media…not of business in general. Those that responded likely have active interest in social media themselves, regardless of the level of the interest and the adoption rates of social media by there employers.

        Also, I see plenty of half-hearted attempts that could be seen internally as a significant effort. A Facebook page with 1100 "fans"!!

        In today's iMedia Connection, Danny Flamburg tells of a story of how a client looked at running a social media campaign and then balked:
        http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2010/10/13

        I wouldn't be surprised if that marketer fits neatly into that 67% that either 1) "they are working on social-media programs and trying to understand the benefits social media can have for their business (42% experimenters + 25% documented social-media plan)"; or, 2) "have accepted the change social media represents and adopted social media in some form".

        I'm thinking that true adoption and implementation is going to take a lot longer than next year. At least in the types of companies I've been looking at.

      • Jonathan Trenn says:

        Jeremy

        The more I think about this, the more I am skeptical. And I mean this to no offense to you or Geoff. Your poll is surely an accurate refelction of thsoe that responded. But it's a poll of subscribers who have chosen to subscribe to a newsletter about social media…not of business in general. Those that responded likely have active interest in social media themselves, regardless of the level of the interest and the adoption rates of social media by there employers.

        Also, I see plenty of half-hearted attempts that could be seen internally as a significant effort. A Facebook page with 1100 "fans"!!

        In today's iMedia Connection, Danny Flamburg tells of a story of how a client looked at running a social media campaign and then balked:
        http://blogs.imediaconnection.com/blog/2010/10/13

        I wouldn't be surprised if that marketer fits neatly into that 67% that either 1) "they are working on social-media programs and trying to understand the benefits social media can have for their business (42% experimenters + 25% documented social-media plan)"; or, 2) "have accepted the change social media represents and adopted social media in some form".

        I'm thinking that true adoption and implementation is going to take a lot longer than next year. At least in the types of companies I've been looking at.

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