Even though a company sees the value of social media, it doesnt mean the organization or its members are ready for it. Have you started something you really werent ready for? Sometimes it works out and other times it doesnt.
In order for companies to realize the maximum benefit from social media marketing, there must be a certain level of understanding about the nature of online communities, social media sharing web sites and applications. One of the most effective ways TopRank Online Marketing has found to assess a companys awareness, capabilities and resources for social media marketing is to conduct an external audit and an internal survey.
Identifying a companys current state of social media readiness helps determine benchmarks and sets a baseline from where to build from. This is part of developing a social media strategy and helps avoid the random testing many companies are calling their social media strategy.
There are a number of free or low cost tools that one can use to identify a brands current social web participation, ranging from social media monitoring software to profile checking tools like KnowEm to social search tools like How Socialable, 48ers or socialmention.
With many companies, there are often a mix of official and unsanctioned social media accounts setup. Its important to get a handle on such participation, whos managing the accounts, whether they are run by employees or fans and what the company can learn from them. Getting a handle on the difference between how social the company is and will need to become is essential for planning, training and strategy development.
As part of the evaluation process, here are a few questions companies might ask themselves and answer as they embark on a social media marketing journey:
What goals do you hope to achieve from a social media marketing effort?
What measures of success will be used to evaluate a social media marketing program?
What are your current social media channels and destination web sites/pages?:
Do you employ a full-time community manager?
If not, do multiple staff share the role of community manager?
Are you conducting a formal effort at monitoring social channels using a social media monitoring/analysis software application? (Ex: Techrigy SM2, ScoutLabs, Trackur, Vocus, SocialRadar, Radian6)
Is there a particular business unit, division or product that can serve as a test case?
If active, how long has the company participated with social media sites and which? Blogging, Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Wikis, Delicious, Digg, StumbleUpon, etc
Are current social media participation on different sites coordinated?
Is a dashboard and campaign management tool used for social media content promotion?
Have you noticed any particular preferences within the target audience in their social web participation?
Do they prefer particular sites? (Twitter vs Facebook blogs vs forums)
Do they comment, do they contribute content, do they tend to observe, do they not participate at all?
Have you identified and engaged and/or networked with influentials in your target industry on social web sites?
What unique value do current social media efforts offer clients/prospective clients? What need do they satisfy better than the competition?
Are text content or media regularly shared on other social media sharing sites?
Is there a user generated content component of your web site? Profiles, comments, reviews, content sharing: text, image, video or audio?
What departments, business units, cost centers and approval entities would be involved with the Social Media program? Is there an internal social media council?
What internal human resources are available within the company for support and implementation of social media marketing initiatives? (Content creation, network development, promotion, monitoring & analytics, community engagement)
Obviously each situation is as unique as the company and its objectives, but the list above can provide valuable insight into a companys state of social media marketing readiness as well as provoking new thoughts and concepts. The more informed companies are about the social web, the more successful they will be at qualifying and managing social media marketing agency engagements.
You might be wondering, why did I pick 19 questions when 20 would be a much nicer, even number? Its because Im curious what your 20th question would be. What are we missing? What else would you ask to determine the social media readiness of a company, business unit or division?