In the late 1980s, Zmud and Apple (in Cooper and Zmud 1990, 124-125) identified that information technology adoption in organisations was undertaken in various stages. Firstly a problem was identified and information technology options were scanned, looking for a potential solution. The catalyst for change came from either an identified need in the organisation, technological advances or a combination of both. The adoption process occurred after securing managerial support and was followed by the adaption phase, where the technology was then introduced into the organisation, procedures were developed or revised and staff training occurred. For the emergency management field, Bharosa et al (in Latonero and Shklovski 2011, 4) proposed that an information expert is also required to act as mediator between the technology, information, organisation and intended audience.
The adoption of social media into government and organisations has taken a less structured approach. For governments, innovation in the use of information and communication technologies was traditionally driven by policy, political mandates or consultants who were hired to improve service delivery (Browne and Osborne in Mergel 2012, 283). However, as Mergel (2012, 284) has identified, the adoption of social media in many government agencies has occurred as a result of experimentation, either through the observation of social media use by stakeholders, other government agencies and organisations or by staff members, 'so-called intrapreneurs, who were willing to test and experiment on third-party platforms outside officially sanctioned processes'(Mergel and Bretschneider in Mergel 2012, 284), with social media policy and guidelines following retrospectively (Mergel 2012, 284).
Further research undertaken by Mergel et al (2012, 155-158) expands on this approach and introduces another two ways in which social media is adopted in organisations. The Early Adopter and Innovator pathway, where organisations seek to increase their visibility and be at the forefront of the market by using social media. This approach involves some element of risk taking, where there is freedom to experiment using social media, with the advantages of being competitive in the market far outweighing the more cautious approach of waiting to see what other organisations were doing. The other pathway, known as Bandwagon Jumpers, is where an organisational decision to use social media is based on how many other organisations are using it rather than their own specific organisational need. While this approach is slower in pace, it is still considered by Mergel et al (2012, 157) to be used by 'highly innovative social media practitioners.' This responsive adoption process enables organisations to be seen as being up to date and in touch with their communities.
One of the key differences between information technology adoption and social media adoption is that the decision to adopt social media has come from a change in consumer communication preferences and behaviour (Mergel 2013, 124) as opposed to a need to rectify an identified organisational problem with an information technology solution (Cooper and Zmud 1990, 124). Miller (2011, 96) argues that 'social media is a technological anomaly', where individuals have quickly adapted to the new technology in their private lives, without exposure to it in the workplace. This is quite different to other communication processes (e.g. emails, faxes) where business needs drive the introduction, prior to individuals using the technology in their personal lives.
This bottom up approach together with the more experimental nature of social media adoption in organisations, also highlights the difference in the way organisational policy is developed, with social media policy being developed after using the media as opposed to the traditional technology adoption approach, where policies and procedures were developed prior to the technology being used in the organisation (Mergel et al 2012, 155, 159).
Additionally, in contrast to other technological adoption in organisations which were primarily undertaken out of public view, social media adoption is highly visible and observable to the online community where 'every misstep or unresponsiveness is immediately called out by the public and replicated through each social networking site' (Mergel 2012. 283).
Another differentiating factor between these two types of adoption is that social media uses third party platforms rather the organisation's own information and communication infrastructure (Mergel 2013, 123), alleviating the need to make decisions about hardware and software solutions as previously done in information technology adoption. However, this lack of control over the management of social media platforms brings other concerns for organisations such as little or no influence in relation to platform feature changes (Mergel 2013, 124), privacy issues (Lindsay 2011, 8;) and security concerns (Crowe 2012, 64; Van Zyl 2009, 913-914) such as the security of organisational infrastructure and confidential or sensitive data (Gharawi et al 2010, 360; Picazo-Vela et al 2012, 505-506).