Have you ever talked to anyone that knew there were stages to social media, let alone what stage their business was at? It's time to reveal this simple concept to help business owners get a leg up on their social media marketing. So, read on and find out what you can instantly do to adjust course on your social channels and get results!

How The 3 Stages of Social Media came to be

After doing social media for clients or training their staff, I found myself saying the same things over and over when client’s expectations for results were not met. I was not managing their expectations.

It also made it difficult to ensure their success and that of their staff. It was time to put this awareness of how the stages social media work into actionable knowledge more people could use.

How do The 3 Stages of Social Media work?

Let’s use the analogy of dating to explain the three stages. Dating, Engagement, and Commitment (Marriage). Much like dating, social media isn’t designed for direct sales. You wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on the first, second or even the third date right? You have to get to know each other over time. And each stage has its own distinct strategy as the "relationship" matures.

So not only do you have to understand what the stages look like you need to understand the correct strategy for the tactics you use are likely to be unsuccessful. Clients ask “Where is my ROI” after a short period of time. Not happening!

So, let’s identify The 3 Stages of Social Media

#1 - The first stage of social media is dating. This is where people get to know are you, where they experience company and become more aware of your brand. In this stage, you need to build your following, your page likes, and connections. You need to give people a reason to come back and see your time and time again. If you don’t is the correct strategy for this stage, employ the right tactics and set the correct expectations, chances are you’ll The 3 stages of social media - stage two engagementnever move to the next stage.

TIP: Spend your promo budget build page likes and followers and generate brand awareness and appreciation. You are not ready to spend money on sales related posts and offers.

#2 - The second stage is engagement. This is where you have built a sufficient base of followers and posted the right kind of content to stimulate engagement with your brand. This is where the personality of your business communicates to your fans. The strategy, tactics, and expectations for results are unique to this stage.

TIP: Spend your promotional budget building engagement, deepening your relationship with your fans. Boost posts that will attract people to engage and join your page. Keep the sales related posts to no more than 20% and start testing sales promotions with targeted audiences.

#3 - The third stage is commitment. In this stage you have a strong base of followers are engaged and they’re willing to make a commitment to you in the form of payment for goods and services. In this stage, you’re the most likely to see ROI and spend your ad budget directly on driving sales.

TIP: Keep the momentum of engagement going with non-sales posts too. A common mistake people make at this stage is to get too sales focused. The 80/20% rule still applies. You will know if you are too "salesy" as fans and followers will disconnect from your channel.  

Why is it important for people to know what stage they are in?

There are a number of reasons why it’s important for people to know which stage they’re in. The most an important reason, in my opinion, is that it sets your and others expectations for appropriate results. Without this, social media can be seen as unsuccessful or that the person doing it is not doing a good job.

Another is to ensure you’re using the correct strategy and tactics to get results. Plus, you need to treat your social media as part of your marketing with the proper amount of resources dedicated to reaching your goals. It’s much easier to do that when you’re clear about strategy, tactics, and metrics.

If you know where you’re at in relationship to the three stages, it’s easier to see why you not hitting your goals. It would be appropriate to examine things like your ad budget and time spent. Ask is it insufficient? You would look at the quality and frequency of your posts. If you’re posting too infrequently, engagement tends to drop. If you’re posting frequently and people are not engaging with your content then you may have a relevancy or quality issue, such as not enough video for graphic posts.

Do the stages ever overlap?

Of course. One of the ways that signal overlap, for example, is you know you’re in stage one and you can see that you’re getting some engagement. Or you are in stage two, your fans are engaged, you might even have the occasional sale or be gaining a new customer here and there.

However, don’t be too quick to graduate to the next stage without a sufficient amount of momentum to keep you in the next stage. And remember, that moving stages requires a shift in strategy, tactics and new metrics.

Are businesses ever perpetually in one stage? If so, why?

Unfortunately, this happens more often than not. This is probably the reason, more than anything else, that prompted The 3 Stages of Social Media eBook.

Because people usually go about their social media without a strategy, the correct tactics and with unrealistic expectations, they rarely succeed. Over time people either give up on their social media efforts or they just go through the motions. Social media marketing is rarely tied in but their overall marketing and given a sufficient budget to succeed so it tends to stall.

After talking about it at speaking engagements,  this a simple concept, this new perspective, was actually making a difference to people’s social media success.

The Social Media Audit - an easy way to start fresh

Whether you’re doing your social media yourself, with an in-house staff member or outsourcing it, a social audit is a perfect place to start. There are dozens of templates online that help you do an audit in-house. Here is a template by CoSchedule, who gives users a ton of resources.

The purpose of the audit is to assess what stage are social media is in, if you’re employing the correct strategy and tactics, what you can do both organically and with paid advertising to maximize your efforts and set everyone’s expectations around timing and results.

Here is an example of a recent audit. The company has been in business for many years, and they have over 6,000 people on their Facebook page. They have someone doing a daily post, but they are just going through the motions. The engagement on their page is entirely flat. The only benefit that their social media is producing for them is a small bit of social proof. They were thinking of letting all their social channels go dormant except for review sites. While working with one of their staff members on their social media to test if it could produce more, we started with an audit. Even though they have a large number of fans, we declared their social media in stage one which gives them a fresh start, a new perspective, and opportunities rather than just going through the motions. They now have a strategy and a direction.

Download the eBook The Three Stages of Social Media.

Key Takeaways:

By identifying the stage your or your client’s social media marketing is at, you can employ the right strategy for that stage and spend their ad budget correctly and efficiently. It also allows you to set the correct metrics and expectations for results in each stage.

Download an audit template and go through the process with your social media person and all your staff. Identify the stage your social media is in, take the findings from your audit and lay out a fresh strategic plan and the correct tactics.

When you see a stage starting to overlap the next stage, you’ll know you are making progress. But remember do not be too quick to jump until the metrics support it. You’ll be more effective, and your client will be happier. You’ll know what is working and what to adjust.


Posted in: Social Media

Irene Donnell

Irene Donnell

Irene Donnell is the social media marketing specialist at P5 Marketing. She is the author of three eBooks on social media success and a workbook that allows companies you apply her methodology. Her talk “Social Media Sorcery – How Social Media and SEO Together Are Magic” was one of the best-attended talks at WordCamp LA in 2017 and WordCamp Riverside 2017.