As businesses look at their plans for 2013 its time for them to seriously consider adopting a maturity model for social media. For many marketers social media is looked upon as an immature media, but when Nielsen titles its 2012 report “Social Media is Coming of Age” perhaps its time to stop treating social media as a wild child and instead approach it as the rapidly maturing media that it is.

Adopting a maturity model for social media will require businesses to evolve their thinking and approaches, as well as their use of resources, in order to take advantage of social media as a mature media form. One way might be to adopt some of the strategies that Obama For America campaign used in the 2012 presidential campaign.

Obama’s 2008 campaign was heralded in countless slide decks for its forward-looking use of social media. But looking back, considering that Facebook was barely two years into public use and that twitter was still outgrowing its SXSW launch, it seems that they were mainly recognized for just recognizing that social media existed. With another four years to work with the 2012 version of OFA approached social media from a much more mature, evolved standpoint.

While there are plenty of lessons from the campaign that will fill plenty of slide decks in the coming year, here are three that businesses should consider incorporating:

  1. Bring the technology in-house
    As Alexis Madrigal pointed out in his excellent article on the tech side of the campaign, OFA made the conscious choice to develop their bring their campaign technology team in-house instead of outsourcing it as had been typically done before. The result was the creation of a custom technology platform that could iterate, (sometimes painfully), and grow to meet the real needs of the campaign.
  2. Effective use of data
    By bringing technology in-house the campaign was then able to integrate disparate data sets, build analytics tools and and connect them directly to the field. This data also helped OFA determine which social media platforms to use, such as Obama’s suprise AMA on Reddit. Most importantly this integration drove a culture of testing using A/B tests on a massive scale to discover the best media platforms, headlines, images and even the best, ($14), minimum contribution level for emails.
  3. Create a social media infrastructure
    These two approaches came together in the creation of unique social media tools and infrastructure. Using its ability to integrate multiple data sets OFA was able to use Facebook to “build a volunteer army” by reaching out to supporters with messaging and tools they could use to reach their friends. On the infrastructure side OFA rolled out Dashboard, a tool which changed the way that the interacted with its volunteers.

    Dashboard “socialized” the volunteer experience by using data to help volunteers focus on making “likely voters” actually vote than trying to convince opponents to change their vote. As campaign CTO Harper Reed pointed out in this interview,  Dashboard not only helped identify these likely voters, but it also created more positive experiences for volunteers by driving more positive better results and connecting them with affinity based call groups. The result was a get-out-the-vote effort that surpassed all expectations and one of the biggest successes of the entire campaign.

Elections and marketing campaigns don’t always make for the best apples-to-apples comparisons. But since the days of Kennedy v Nixon elections have become test beds for new strategies that change behavior and make the most of new and maturing media.

As businesses look towards maturing their social media efforts the combination of bringing technology in-house, creating a culture of testing and data integration and using both to support an infrastructure of social activation makes for a very good place to start.