1. Have you formalized the goals, KPIs, and reporting for your social media activities? This gives us a sense of the degree to which social media efforts are aligned with the business, as well as the current state of listening, analysis, and reporting.
2. Do you know who’s talking about you online, what they’re saying, and the scope of their influence? Most (though not all) companies I’ve worked with have a general sense of what’s being said about them online. Typically, the past year, this sense is mainly anecdotal. In the next year I expect to see much more systematic, sophisticated, and analytical listening. But if you’re not there yet, you’re not alone.
3. How effectively are you able to respond? Yes, this begs the question of whether a business is responding at all. For those who are, the question of degree of effectiveness can be a stumper. The real question here is: How do you know how effective you are (see #1)?
4. What technology tools are you using to monitor social media activity around your brand / product / service? People really are surprisingly resourceful when it comes to using free tools to listen online. Even for businesses without a sophisticated listening platform in place, a conversation about the tools they’re using tells us a lot about what they care about and are (or aren’t yet) able to measure.
5. Which groups and individuals are informally involved in social media activities? Once you start walking around asking people, the variety here can be surprising. Typically corporate social media efforts emerge out of PR, Marketing, or Customer Service. But ad hoc efforts are very common, and there’s usually something important driving them. Building out a strong program requires accommodating, supporting, and enabling ad hoc efforts.
6. Whose job description includes it, and who has overall responsibility? As you might guess, the answer here last year was very often “nobody.” Next year we’ll see a shift toward the guerilla social media people formalizing their roles and management recognizing the need for coordination and leadership. And yes, this question can set off turf wars. Tread lightly.
7. Have you defined a corporate policy for engaging with customers through social media? If not, better get on it. Talking early to legal / brand / compliance, especially in regulated industries, always saves frustration later.
8. In what third-party venues do you have a presence? This always yields surprises. “None…. Well, oh yeah, I guess we do have the Facebook thingie. And someone in marketing has been posting our ads to YouTube.” Or: “Marketing is in charge of our Twitter accounts. Except for the ones they use in customer service. And Dale down in R&D is a total Twitter fanatic.”
9. How well are those efforts coordinated? Yes, more question-begging. Most often, efforts across social networks, blogs, and media sharing sites are not coordinated. Maybe, just maybe, they should be.
10. What is your brand’s online personality? This one is a great conversation starter. It’s really about understanding how to show up in social media (hint: not with offers, and not with campaign messages). This topic is really about starting to think about how the people representing the brand should show up in social settings—authentically, as people, but as people not only representing but also enacting the brand and its character. I like to use the example of our client NAU. They make sustainably-developed clothing, and they blog not about their clothing products but about sustainability, outdoor recreation, and social action—the passions that are at the emotional core of their brand. A while back they posted, for example, a video of people moving an entire Portland, OR household by bicycle. Awesome. You want to subscribe, to follow, to befriend them.
11. How consistently do your social media efforts embody the character of the brand? This is really a question about governance. How organized are you? Do you have a system in place to manage customer interaction across touch points? Is the system in use?
12. Where do your customers spend time online? What content do they create? Market research typically tells us a lot about where customers spend time online. What it typically doesn’t tell us is very much about what they’re doing—So 40% of your customers check Facebook daily. That’s good to know, but to really drive action, you need to understand whether they’re there socially, professionally, or both. Whether they’re using it to market their services, keep in touch with Granny (oh yes, Granny is definitely on there), or what. They’re on Twitter, good—but what are they talking about? Whom are they following?
13. What are their preferred information sources, and how do they consume them? What’s the information ecosystem your customers tap? Who are the influencers? What do they read? Blogs, newspapers, Digg? Are they looking at web pages, RSS feeds? Are they reading on mobile? Are they sharing things they find? Which things? With whom?
14. Where are their relationships? Whom do your customers interact with online? Through what channels—IM, email, blog post commentary, Flickr photostreams? On social networks? Twitter? Do they use different channels for different kinds of relationships? Which ones, and what kinds?
15. What are you doing to enable customer participation on your own properties? Do you have an email contact form buried in your footer? Or a p2p support forum? Corporate blogs? Can customers comment? Review? Rate? Can they interact with each other? Create content and add it? Suggest or vet ideas? Do they have a stake in your next version? What value can they create for each other, and how can you enable it?
16. How does your organization interact with customers online? Can your customers contact you? How? Simply being reachable is a great first step. The next step is to proactively engage customers who need support, to reach out to your customers for feedback and ideas, and to create opportunities for customer collective intelligence to create business intelligence.
17. How do you capture business intelligence from those conversations? Social media listening has a major difference from behavioral web analytics: It’s a two-way conversation, and it’s not just about what people do. It’s also about what they say, and how they feel.
18. What is the process for making your business intelligence actionable? Intelligence is useless without action. But the challenges in actionablizing (ha!) business intelligence are often really substantial. How do you get the right bits and pieces to the people who can take action? This question is really about escalation, delegation, roles and responsibilities, and workflow. To make the most of what you know, you need definition around how you’re going to do something about it, who’s responsible, and how success gets measured and reported.
19. Have you monetized the value of your social media efforts? Social media ROI is one thing, and monetized estimates of the impact of social media activities are another. ROI is great, and showing ROI in social media is absolutely possible to do. The problem is that a large portion of the payoff in social media happens over the long term and is measured in, for example, lifetime customer value and word of mouth—neither of which show up on your quarterly balance sheets.
20. Estimated the financial impact on lifetime customer value or word of mouth? We do have a very advanced approach to this, but it’s a subject for another post. Essentially the idea is to be really smart about some monetized estimates of the value of certain measurable activities, then validate and refine those estimates over time.
Naturally, we don’t typically get these questions answered by sitting down with the marketing people for an hour and just asking. We basically never ask these questions in these words. A huge part of the assessment is getting time in conversation with the right people in the first place, and talking with them about their jobs, their goals, satisfactions, and frustrations. We use a combination of interviewing approaches including contextual inquiry and appreciative inquiry, and a fair amount of intuition and sneaking around. In other words, it’s not a mechanical process.
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