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How to ladder up your brand’s social media maturity

Every marketer knows there are no overnight successes in social. A trending brand post has less to do with luck and more with time spent building and executing on a sophisticated strategy. The brands that pull it off have put in the work to reach a high social media maturity.

And that’s great news.

Effort is way easier to control than luck. Any brand can put in the work needed to create a buzzworthy social presence. It just takes dedicated time and resources.

Over the past 13 years, we’ve helped countless brands integrate social into every aspect of their business, leveling up their social expertise along the way. All that experience has informed this tested social media maturity model, designed to advance both your team and strategy.

Section 1

What is social media maturity?

A text-based image that says, "What is social media maturity? A company’s social media maturity is defined by the sophistication of its social media processes, policies and technology."

A company’s social media maturity is defined by the sophistication of its social media processes, policies and technology. Understanding where you fall on the social media maturity spectrum makes it easy for businesses to uncover opportunities for improvement in key areas such as strategy, workflows and investments. 

Reaching a higher level of social maturity requires identifying and resolving challenges, investing in necessary infrastructure and tools, and educating stakeholders in marketing and beyond on how to leverage social in their roles.

Why does social media maturity matter? 

Social media moves faster than any other marketing channel. A social trend can spark important conversations that provide unparalleled insights into consumer sentiment—sometimes in less than a few hours. 

An organization’s social media marketing maturity determines its ability to act on these conversations. The more sophisticated your approach is, the easier it will be to act with purpose and agility when the time comes. 

That preparedness can translate into measurable growth. According to a Q1 Sprout Pulse Survey, 78% of marketing leaders and 85% of executives say that it’s clear how social impacts their bottom line. It’s no wonder 79% of marketers say that their use of social data increased from 2021 to 2022. 

A text-based graphic that says, "85% of executives say that it’s clear how social media impacts their bottom line."

These businesses see the value in working toward a thriving social presence, and are making the investments needed to level up.

Section 2

The elements of social media maturity

Picture your organization’s social media presence as a garden bed. Taking your garden from a little plot of land to a thriving backyard grocery store takes habit, consistency and competency in the three following areas:


Anyone that’s ever tried to grow produce in their backyard knows that it all starts with a trip to a garden supply store. Rakes, gloves, seeds—there’s a whole list of upfront and ongoing investments needed to set your garden up for success.

The same goes for your social media strategy. Business leaders need to invest both time and resources into developing a team that reflects the varied needs of modern social media management.

Here are some key areas of investment to consider:

  • Team growth: Social media careers continue to specialize as the space becomes more segmented by content network and format, not to mention organic and paid efforts. Building agile teams designed to support the unique aspects of your brand is foundational to social media success.
  • Leadership: Leaders at the management and executive level need to invest time into understanding and championing their businesses’ social media strategy. Their interest and contributions set the tone of a social-first organization.
  • Budget: Several teams contribute to and benefit from an organization’s social media strategy. That said, social media budgets should be pulled from multiple cost centers across brands or business units.

A data visualization that reads "Teams that contribute to their organization's social strategy." The chart demonstrates that customer service, corporate communications, product, HR and R&D teams contribute to their company's social strategy.

  • Software: A centralized social media management tool can give you back the time you need to invest in these other key areas by speeding up time to insights and simplifying workflows.
  • Collaboration: Social media insights can inform brand strategy, product development, customer engagement practices and more. Reaping these benefits starts with an investment in cross-functional collaboration.
  • Education: Stakeholders beyond marketing need to be educated on social data applications beyond marketing to fully understand how these insights can strengthen their functions.


Some plants need daily attention. Others, you can let sit for days or weeks at a time. A smart gardener will create a system of routines that support optimal outcomes for every seed in their bed.

And that, my friends, is process.

Strong processes help teams maximize the use of their time. For social media teams, that means creating workflows that scale publishing, engagement and reporting.

There are ways to optimize native scheduling and engagement, but you’ll reap the most productivity from a sophisticated social media management tool. Smart, AI-driven technology can help you take back your time, so you can spend it on the projects that push the needle forward.


Think of your social media strategy as the layout of your garden bed and the timing at which seeds are planted. Through research or experience, you probably know that planting strawberries in the dead of winter underneath a shady tree is not the best idea.

Research and data analysis can similarly guide social media decisions.

A strategic social presence is informed by business objectives and reinforced by data. Planning frameworks should be proactive and embedded throughout an organization.

A data-oriented approach to strategic planning helps tie effort to impact, while providing insights on future trends and challenges. These are the must-have competencies for up-leveling your organization’s social media maturity.

Section 3

The stages of social media maturity

There are three primary stages of social maturity: emerging, evolving and mastering. Once you understand which stage best describes your company, you can begin determining next steps for advancement.

A text based image that lists the three stages of social media maturity. The image says, “The three stages of social media maturity. 1) Emerging: This level encompasses basic content publishing and engagement. Companies operating at this level may struggle with executing social strategies, as well as demonstrating ROI. 2) Evolving: Businesses at this level typically have a strong grasp of social strategy fundamentals and are achieving some return in investment. 3) Mastering: Companies at this level possess a comfort with social and its application across teams and departments."


The emerging stage of social maturity involves individuals or siloed departments using social media with little-to-no oversight from management, and without an overarching, holistic strategy in place.

This level encompasses basic content publishing and audience engagement. Companies operating at this level may struggle with organizing and executing social strategies, as well as demonstrating ROI.

Laddering up from “emerging” to “evolving”

To move on to the evolving stage of social media maturity, companies at the emerging level should:

  • Appoint a primary stakeholder who can oversee social efforts and coordinate individuals and teams, as well as act as a liaison between upper management and social practitioners.
  • Establish clear business objectives related to social and craft detailed strategies to support specific goals.
  • Create company social media policies that establish guidelines for common questions and concerns, such as content publishing responsibilities and reply time expectations.
  • Educate all departments on the company’s social strategy, and include appropriate individuals in efforts to link social to overall marketing and customer care initiatives.
  • Train teams on how to use social platforms in a way that aligns with business objectives, and empower them to achieve goals with the necessary budget, staff and tools.
  • Determine which social metrics are relevant to business success and benchmark them against industry standards and competitors to ensure pertinent data is consistently captured and analyzed.
  • Consider adopting a platform that centralizes publishing and engagement work across networks into a unified space.


The “evolving” stage of social maturity is when companies have made progress in synchronizing and supporting social strategy across different departments, and are now focused on scalability, integration and optimization. This level is characterized by targeted social campaigns, community management and the application of social insights throughout the company.

Making it to the “evolving” stage allows a company to provide experiences that support customer satisfaction across all their active social networks. This does more than just raise brand awareness—it can prevent churn, as well.

According to The Sprout Social Index™ 2022, 36% of consumers will discuss a negative social customer care experience with friends and family. A comparable 31% won’t complete their purchase, while 30% will buy from a competitor instead.

A text-based graphic that says, "36% of consumers will discuss a negative social customer care experience with friends and family."

Businesses at this level typically have a strong grasp of social strategy fundamentals and are achieving some return in investment. However, they’re aware that there are more opportunities to maximize results.

Laddering up from “evolving” to “mastering”

To progress to the mastering stage, businesses at the evolving level should:

  • Increase focus on social intelligence, moving beyond standard social metrics and demographics data to track online trends, conversations and sentiment.
  • Use social data insights to inform larger marketing initiatives, as well as product, service and brand enhancement efforts.
  • Cultivate relationships with social influencers and content creators through programs to drive organic interest, trust and loyalty.
  • Encourage consumer advocacy through the use of user-generated content.
  • Invest in necessary tools to determine the impact of social on bottom-line KPIs, such as sales leads and purchases, as well as the financial outcomes of social advertising.
  • Empower experienced social users to share knowledge, advice and best practices through consistent training sessions and cross-team collaboration.
  • Elevate brand awareness and social selling by leveraging employees with social advocacy programs and tools.
  • Ensure social processes and workflows are properly integrated with existing systems and technologies.
  • Boost performance of social media workflows through automated features, such as chatbots.


You’ve reached the “mastering” stage of social maturity when social is integrated at every level of a company, playing a primary role in sales, marketing, customer experience, communications, collaboration, research and data analysis.

Companies at this level possess a comfort with social and its application across teams and departments. Competitors and target audiences alike recognize the sophistication of the company’s social strategy.

If you’re looking for a company that consistently operates at the “mastering” stage of social, look no further than Grammarly. A quick scroll through their social profiles clearly showcases their commitment to experimenting with new formats and delivering on customer care.

This content is driven by a forward-thinking approach to social media reporting and listening. Grammarly uses Sprout’s social listening tools to monitor brand health and competitive share of voice. Since then, they’ve been able to extract even more product insights from priority platforms like Twitter and Reddit.

Maintaining your mastery

“Mastering” is a verb for a reason. It requires an ongoing commitment to maintain. Digital transformation is not a checkmark activity. It’s a moving goalpost that calls for constant innovation. To keep driving an excellent social media strategy forward, businesses must:

  • Prioritize social innovation and employee contributions to processes, workflows and strategies.
  • Remain up to date on emerging social technologies, channels, capabilities and use cases.
  • Leverage social business intelligence strategically and continue improving performance measurement models through testing.
  • Capture and analyze advanced metrics beyond bottom-line concerns, such as trending conversations, market movement and user attitudes.
  • Take calculated risks on new social media use cases.
  • Utilize social media management tools to their full capacity.
  • Make continued education and training a company cornerstone.
  • Proactively anticipate changes in social usage to stay on the cutting edge, drive efficiency and maximize benefits.
  • Understand that social optimization is an ongoing process that will continue indefinitely but must always be relentlessly pursued.

Section 4

Where does your organization's social media maturity fall?

Use this model to diagnose your team’s social media marketing maturity, and outline a path forward. Remember: These competencies take time to build, so pick a few pressing goals to focus on and work your way through the list. The longer you work at it, the more manageable it becomes.

Sprout’s Insights blog is designed to be a helpful tool to support you along the way but if you’re looking for something more prescriptive, reach out to our team to schedule a demo. You’ll discuss your business goals, then determine the best way to take the next steps up the social maturity ladder.