Lee Odden

19 Questions to Determine Corporate Social Media Readiness

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, Social Media

social media marketingEven though a company sees the value of social media, it doesn’t mean the organization or its members are ready for it. Have you started something you really weren’t ready for? Sometimes it works out and other times it doesn’t.

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 company’s awareness, capabilities and resources for social media marketing is to conduct an external audit and an internal survey.

Identifying a company’s 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 brand’s 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. It’s important to get a handle on such participation, who’s 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:

  1. What goals do you hope to achieve from a social media marketing effort?
  2. What measures of success will be used to evaluate a social media marketing program?
  3. What are your current social media channels and destination web sites/pages?:
  4. Do you employ a full-time community manager?
  5. If not, do multiple staff share the role of community manager?
  6. Are you conducting a formal effort at monitoring social channels using a social media monitoring/analysis software application? (Ex: Techrigy SM2, ScoutLabs, SocialRadar, Radian6)
  7. Is there a particular business unit, division or product that can serve as a test case?
  8. 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
  9. Are current social media participation on different sites coordinated?
  10. Is a dashboard and campaign management tool used for social media content promotion?
  11. Have you noticed any particular preferences within the target audience in their social web participation?
  12. Do they prefer particular sites? (Twitter vs Facebook – blogs vs forums)
  13. Do they comment, do they contribute content, do they tend to observe, do they not participate at all?
  14. Have you identified and engaged and/or networked with influentials in your target industry on social web sites?
  15. What unique value do current social media efforts offer clients/prospective clients? What need do they satisfy better than the competition?
  16. Are text content or media regularly shared on other social media sharing sites?
  17. Is there a user generated content component of your web site? Profiles, comments, reviews, content sharing: text, image, video or audio?
  18. What departments, business units, cost centers and approval entities would be involved with the Social Media program? Is there an internal social media council?
  19. 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 company’s 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? It’s because I’m 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?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.


  1. Great set of questions Lee. A couple of questions that I like to ask:
    What successes or failures have you had within social media?
    Who, if anybody in your industry is doing a good job with social media.


    • Thanks Doug – I like the question on their perception of others social media work. Sometimes there’s a very big difference between that perception and reality because the company in question isn’t a participant and without access to competitor activities.

      • This is a great list of questions, Lee. I’m actually in charge of launching new social media outlets to market our company–not only to keep the communication flow among our current clients, but also to gain new clientele. I have a question for you: whats the first step you should take after setting up facebook/twitter/youtube accounts? Would searching for your target customers and becoming fans of their page be your first step?

        • Hey Ashley, I’d probably have researched influential network members of those channels before setting up a profile.

          Once you do have an account set up, make comments on the posts of influentials, rate/review/retweet/like etc to provide a positive signal and follow that up with friend requests. Create reasons for positive word of mouth and make it easy for customers to come to you vs. targeting them with outbound solicitations. That is not to say there’s anything wrong with making a relevant offer that is timely and helpful to a specific situation/potential customer.

          When you create signals of credibility and grow a network of others that will spread the good word about you because you create good content and make it easy for others to share, then customers will be motivated to seek you out. It’s a whole new ballgame when customers pursue you vs. you having to solely rely on pursuing them.

  2. Randy Schrum says:

    Defining the measurables are always key to the long term commitment to any corporate social media strategy

    • It’s a given for marketing, but so many companies start out their social media efforts as a tactical experiment, never thinking it will actually pan out. Therefore, often no goals set or benchmarks established.

  3. Lee,

    Thanks for such a comprehensive list. I can’t really think of anything to add.

    I especially like #14, because it’s something that companies of all sizes can incorporate into their social media efforts. It doesn’t take a large budget to have someone spend a little time engaging all the “key players” in their relevant virtual communities.

    • I’m a big fan of coordinated effort – small amount of time by many people. That all adds up in terms of impact pretty quickly without destroying a marketing or PR person’s workday.

  4. Lee,

    Great summary.

    An additional angle (for question 20) might be regarding integration of Social media with other messaging channels. For instance:
    a) How do you convert social media participants into site visitors (or whatever conversion you ultimately want)
    b) How do you leverage social media to help SEO/SEM, and vice versa
    c) How do you leverage display advertising to help social media, and vice versa
    d) How do you coordinate a social media marketing calendar with a traditional marketing calendar (including email) and also with an editorial calendar

    • Thank you for your insight Peter – integration is a huge piece, since it’s the most practical application of social in an organization and it can be a large part of the justification for budget.

  5. I love the questions you present here as I can apply those to my business. Thanks! In my personal point of view, you need to really define your brand first before you try marketing it online. You have to send out a clear message to people on the Web and if you’re not pretty sure of your brand, chances are , people will feel the same way too.

  6. Great stuff here Lee!
    I think one more important question I would add to your list as number 20 is “Are our customers even using social media?”
    I know that there are a lot of us who spend a good portion of our day on and talking about social media, but there is still a huge population of the world that has not moved into social media yet, and it’s sometimes easy to forget that.
    I had a friend with a company who asked me for some advice on how they could get more involved in social media. The first question I asked him was if his target audience was even using social media. The answer wound up being no.
    That’s not to say that companies can’t expand into social media to gain new customers, but it’s also important to not forget about your current customers who still need attention and may not be on social media channels.
    I think that may be an important question to add to your list.

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

    • That is an important question 40deuce, one that is alluded to with “Have you noticed any particular preferences within the target audience in their social web participation?” The answer is often, “Our customers are not active in social channels” or similar.

      Obviously listening tools like yours can help determine whether there are relevant conversations and where, helping to determine whether there is a current market of interest or not.

  7. Mark W Schaefer says:

    Realistically, none of these questions would predict a success for social media if the company does not have a marketing-oriented corporate culture to begin with. Look at the SM success stories. No surprises in that company list. If a company does marketing well in general, it will do social media well, too.

  8. Good set of questions to ask yourself, here! Oftentimes, I find businesses want to jump into social media simply for the sake of having a more widespread online presence, but forget to think about whether their specific audience will actually engage on them. I especially like your points about having a community manager, or appointing specific staff members to be responsible for community management. It’s important for someone to have that responsibility, otherwise any efforts will fall flat or be forgotten.

  9. AJMobileMedia says:

    An excellent list, I have book marked this list for when we take a social media marketing manager on.

  10. Solid list Lee, one I’ll bookmark for future reference. I think a starting question, before asking goals or current presence on networking sites, is for them to “define” social media. If the answer is just a list of tools and networks, that could be a problem. You questions allude to it, but if company doesn’t have their own blog or any active SM presence, is deploying a bunch of tools like Twitter and/or Facebook a smart strategic move? Maybe, maybe not.

    Loved Sheldon’s comment about where customers are; not everyone IS on social media, so very true.

    As a 20th question, after you’ve established internal authorities, content providers, support, etc., “who’s the external face or voice of the company?” This one adds on to #s 4 & 5. Is it one community manager, will multiple people engage as the “brand” via initials, or will it always be a person or just “the company”? FWIW.

    • Davina, that’s a good point regarding how the company is represented. There are examples of single individuals like Scott Monty at Ford and then there’s Richard at Dell, Lionel at Dell, etc. Definitely an important question to ask and get answered.

  11. 20. Do you have a business?

    If so, then you were ready for Social Media yesterday. “Wait and See” is for fools. Your customers and your competitors are blogging and tweeting and writing on each others’ walls. Join them or die a slow death.

    I agree with the list above, just not so much with the deadline (but then I read the post, so the headline worked!).

    • I guess the intent was that there would already be a business in place as a prerequisite to considering these questions, otherwise, it’s pretty irrelevant. Glad you liked the post.

  12. Awesome Post!

    The 19 Questions / Considerations are Top!

    Thank You Very Much for Sharing!

  13. The one I sure wish I’d asked before taking an SM Marketing Mgr position:

    20. How many sales leads do you expect this to produce?

    Or better yet…

    20. Does your business see the value in perhaps starting a blog? Are you even slightly open to the idea? Certainly you’ve got smart people who’d like to share their viewpoints on this industry. Not trying to give them more work, I’d provide writing/editorial assistance…

    Of course this one ended with a firm, “No, outta’ the question.” Utterly disastrous, I’m moving on.

    • Thanks for the suggestion Dan. Sorry to hear about your experience. I guess getting a definition of what social media means to the company is as important as identifying specific goals 🙂

  14. Question #20: does your CEO blog, tweet or at least know how to use Google Reader? Do If not, you’ve got some internal work to do. CEOs drive the corporate culture.

    • I don’t know that CEOs must blog or Tweet, but there should be executive representation from someone. I agree, that leadership in the organization does drive the culture and if the management team doesn’t support the company behaving socially through their own actions, it’s an uphill battle.

  15. #20 – What’s your story? That’s the question I would ask. Companies need to start thinking of their position in social media as a story and less as a presence. In other words, the big question is why do you matter to anyone in your audience? It’s a tough question but it needs to be answered!

    • I like that Tia – great suggestion. Storytelling is an essential piece of any social media effort. I’ve always relied on “Facts Tell, Stories Sell” to guide messaging.

  16. Excellent … shared via facebook/pickettandassociates … I find this sort of “litmus test” so valuable for clients as well as the profession. Helps distinguish genuine strategists from the guy who just has 2,000 followers 🙂

    • Hopefully lists like this will help companies become more aware of what to expect during the discovery process. It’s another thing entirely to move the needle. Talk the talk and walk the walk.

  17. Great, valuable information … destinguishes between the true strategist and the guy who just has 1,000 random followers on Twitter 🙂 Thanks!

  18. MyBinding.com says:

    This is a really helpful post. Any company think of venturing into social media marketing should read it.

  19. A very interesting article.
    Regarding the social media value, I would add that socia media generates brand awareness and brand engagement. It also personalises your brand appealing emotionally to customers. Listening, learning, engaging with your customersas well as beeing transperent is very essential for your social media strategy. Social media also helps you monitor your customers’ satisfaction and understand customers’ expectations.

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  21. Anthony Pensabene says:

    Good post idea. I think #14 is something most businesses would not think about without a mental nudge from a marketer. Also, the in-house social media council (#18)or think tank is a great idea if the resources are available or a passionate individual wants to adopt the role.

    Some companies and industries do not translate well to social platforms like Twitter or Facebook.  In some situations, a brand’s product or service could take on a life, having its own social media account, personifying a “personality” while an in-house employee or outsourced SMO professional pulls the social media strings.

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