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The four phases of digital adolescence of companies

Written by: Thomas Praus July 1, 2014  


With 9 independent agencies, operating in 9 different European countries, the Box currently serves 9 of the key markets in Europe. For many years, all of us actively assisted clients by managing their digital communities. Today we are taking care of millions of fans and followers of various brands. Even though there are cultural differences and companies run parts of their business in a different manner, we’ve made one interesting observation: all of our clients have quite a lot in common – no matter the country or sector they come from. We did notice a typology in the different stages of development, which we would like to share with you. The main focus here is the handling of community management.

1. Testing with experts
A lot of companies start their digital channels without strategy – or some uncoordinated channels already exist which are maintained by individual departments. As these companies gain their own experiences, sooner or later they’ll end up asking someone for support, who has experience in this field. Other companies start with the help of an agency, which takes over all the activities. However, all these companies use trial and error, which doesn’t make it clear what the specific objectives are nor how they can be achieved.

2. The community management grows into the company
With growing success, greater support is needed. Questions need to be answered, postings checked and discussions moderated. An agency can’t do this on his own. A lot of information has to be provided by the client and structures are built to make those tasks faster and more effective, e. g. with social media management tools or with assigned tasks within the support team. If management takes the digital development seriously, it will create certain positions which will have a cross-sectional role.

3. The community management is taken over by the company
Large communities are expensive. The maintenance costs time and money, especially if an agency takes over the whole community management. Many companies have come to realize that it makes sense to create their own positions within the company. The tasks are shared: moderation, support and monitoring are managed within the company while agencies produce content and applications, train and advise.

4. Digital structures are used naturally within the company
The digital development isn’t just a development in the field of communication. Networking within the organisation, easily accessible information, data anywhere and anytime and the ability to quickly deal with trends and decision making processes are just as much part of this development which affects all economic sectors and all parts of companies business. Thus the final stage is reached when the knowledge and opportunities offered by digital technology are implemented not only in the IT, finance and marketing departments but in all sectors within the company.

And what is our role in this process as a digital agencies?
In any case, the workload won’t be smaller. While a few of our clients take community management into their own hands, others increase their investment and need more support. Regardless, there are things to do for us at each stage of development and of course at every step there is something for us to learn and share within the Box Network. Valuable expertise and experience flows into new projects to the benefit of our clients.

It is a great pleasure to develop changes with the right kind of expertise and excitement. Even though the stages of development are similar, the specific structures, traditions and objectives of each organisation always result in a new challenge to shape the digital development for and together with our clients.

(Image by Sjrohde on Flickr)

Read on:
Brian Solis about companies, which become digital
MIT Sloan School of Management about factors of digital transformation
A checklist that turns each step of digital transformation into manageable projects