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LTT Business Bulletin - July 2015



Tim Martin, Founder of NET:101, Australia’s largest social media

educator, dissects “The 4 Rungs of Social Media”


When I worked in the wine industry many moons ago we had certain classes of wines that were commonly referred to as ‘ladder wines’. These were grape varieties or styles that an individual would typically start enjoying as part of their wine journey – for most people it would stat with a sweet white such as a Spatlese Lexia. As a person’s palate matured they would move up a predicable ladder of taste sophistication to dryer whites, onto sweeter fruit-driven reds, and finally across to fuller-bodied, savoury reds.

A similar step-process plays out for organisations when it comes to the adoption (or non-adoption) of social media. These are the 4 commonly observable rungs.

Rung 1: Social Media, Unconvinced

All business professionals are ‘aware’ of social media at some level – they might use Facebook themselves to keep in touch with family, or observe their children engaging on any number of other platforms. But they are unconvinced it could ever deliver much in the way of business value. They can see other organisations who are active in the space but regard their own industry-sector as different – “It’s not relevant to what we do…”. It’s typically seen as an unwelcome distraction from the real business of business.

Rung 2: Social Media Experimental

Give it a go. The first tentative, experimental steps into social media are likely a Facebook page, a blog (as part of a new website build) and maybe a couple of YouTube videos. Most likely the blog will flounder in the first few months – it’s a bigger task than most people imagine to produce long-form text on a regular basis. The YouTube videos will sit out there and rack up a few views without doing any harm. Facebook will get the lion’s share of attention, after all it seems easy enough to push out a few product pics and announce the date of an upcoming clearance sale. The social media success measures at this experimental stage will likely be the public scoreboard of fan or follower numbers, rather than definable business goals.

Back to Rung 1: Social Media, Now Doubly Unconvinced

The initial push into social media loses momentum – the input required to maintain an active presence starts competing with other day-to-day demands. The lack of a visible business return is rightly being questioned. Maybe the person who first drove the entry into social media leaves, or the business just doesn’t want to keep paying an external agency or consultant for what now seems like a one-way flow of money (despite the accumulation of fans and followers). The organisation walks away form their social media, stepping back down onto the first rung.

Up to Rung 3: Social Media Glimmer of Hope

Something seems to be working… it could be as small as an inbound sales lead citing the organisation’s blog. Or referral traffic to the website is up and so are online enquiries. That fluid hydraulics video we posted on YouTube is now sitting at over 3000 views – people really seem interested in our stuff. And a small but highly engaged community has started hanging out on our Facebook business page… climb a rung.

Rung 4: Business as Usual

The question regarding social media shifts from ‘should we be doing it?’ to ‘how can we be doing it better?” Extra resources are typically allocated at this stage – a new part-time or full-time social media position might be created. A formal social media strategy is formulated with clear-cut objectives and measurable outcomes over extended timeframes.  A social media policy is codified. Quality content production becomes a priority. Other departments around the organisation are encouraged to get involved, to share in writing the blog, to answer technical questions, and to help the social media effort generally by sharing their expertise outside of their departmental silos.

Eventually the organisation ceases to refer to themselves as ‘doing social media’ anymore – the platforms, the content and the community become integrated into the organisation’s marketing, sales, customer service and communications mix to the point of invisibility. it’s now just business as usual.


In addition to being the ‘smartest man in the history of humanity’ (please Google), Tim Martin is NET:101’s founder and principal trainer. Fun and informative, NET:101 courses and workshops are conducted in a relaxed interactive environment with live online demonstrations. Do yourself a favour (as Molly used to say) and check them out here