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Editor's note: See Lee in person at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, Driving Sales: What's New + What Works. Catch her session on "Creating a B-to-B Social Media Strategy: A Guide to Defining It and How Your Company Should Take the Social Media Plunge." Sign up for the event and use promo code ESPK08 to save $200 on the registration fee.

"Three Factors to Consider Before You Jump on the Social Media Bandwagon," the first in this two-part series of articles, talks about your market, your competitor, and your buyer—the three factors to consider when creating a social media strategy.

In this article we'll dive into the fourth factor—assessing your company's readiness, which consists of three key areas: resources, content, and culture.

1. Do you have the resources you need?

Even if you're just monitoring the social-media conversation, you'll need to dedicate time to listen, evaluate what's being said, and share important information with others.

And when you're ready to join the conversation, you'll need a knowledgeable resource that has time to respond in a thoughtful and helpful way, and on a regular basis (at least weekly).

Questions to ask:

  • Who inside my organization is leveraging or participating in social media?
  • What resources or tools are available to monitor destination sites (weekly)?
  • Who is currently responsible for publishing new content for our Web site and customer communications?
  • Can our experts set aside time to share their knowledge on a regular basis? Realistically, how often would they be able to participate? Can they play a roll in defining key issues to be addressed?
  • What PR activities can be leveraged?

What to look for:

  • Identify persons who are already active. They'll be the best in terms of having the passion and understanding the commitment level it takes. They may even be willing to put in some extra hours to get things started.
  • Find out who already produces content for your organization (whitepapers, seminars, or training). Typically, these are your true experts and they're already in the mode of sharing information.
  • If you're communicating on a regular basis with customers and prospects, talk with those responsible about sharing resources and content.
  • If you have an outside PR group, find out if it can create relationships with A-listers and influencers and feed you key industry insights.

2. Can you generate useful content?

Social media is about educating—not selling—the buyer. It's important to evaluate your organization's ability to produce useful educational content on an ongoing basis.

Questions to ask:

  • Is there enough information that management is willing to share, to sustain a long-term conversation?
  • Is there a repository of content from which you can pull or expand content?
  • How does content currently get published? Is it a rigid or flexible process? What role does Legal play?
  • What assets do you have that educate or inform buyers about issues related to the products and services you provide? (We're not talking about traditional product literature or sales/marketing materials.)

What to look for:

  • Determine what content is available and what plans there are for generating new content.
  • Identify upcoming events or speaking engagements that can be used to capture content.
  • Evaluate how easy it is to create and distribute content outside your organization. If there are multiple levels of approvals, you'll need to think about how you can streamline the process.
  • Identify topics that are top-of-mind for your buyers. Then, determine whether you have available resources to address those issues.

3. Is your culture ready for social media?

Finally, it's important to gauge your company's openness toward social media. Management buy-in is key. Without some tolerance for feedback that may be critical of the company, management could shut down the entire initiative at the first sign of negativity.

Questions to ask:

  • How does management view the role of social media for your company? What is management's experience with social media?
  • How comfortable is management with providing details on products, services, strategies, and best-practices in an open forum? What percentage of your content would management consider proprietary?
  • How is your organization leveraging or participating in social media? Do you have internal blogs, wikis, or shared repositories of information? Does your company already collect and respond to employee, customer, or partner feedback?
  • Is the culture able to adapt and change quickly? Is it tolerant of the need to experiment, fail, and learn by trail and error?
  • Is management willing to dedicate a resource (full- or part-time) or some budget to this initiative?

What to look for:

  • If management isn't on board, start monitoring conversations and feeding them insightful information. If you can show them how you can tap into buyers' needs and provide examples of useful conversations going on out there (that you're not part of), you may begin to help them see the relevance of social media to the business.
  • If management is gung-ho, ready to dedicate resources, and sees social media as an opportunity to engage with buyers, then start by listening in and monitoring conversations on destination sites while you're planning out your strategy. Keep management informed about what you're finding, and provide regular updates on progress.

Know your roadblocks and opportunities

By looking at your company's readiness in conjunction with your market, your competitors, and your buyers you'll be able to determine what the potential is (or isn't) for social media, where you should be diving in, and what's a realistic starting place.

If after your assessment you feel one or more of these factors isn't what it should be (and you've determined that social media is appropriate), you can develop specific strategies to address gaps in readiness within your company. Meanwhile, you can be monitoring the conversation and learning from others.

We'd like to know what social media activities you participate in and whether what you do for work is different from what you do for personal use. If you've got two minutes, answer our survey. We'll reveal, at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in June, what we find.

Continue reading "Three Key Determinants of Your Company's Readiness to Plunge Into Social Media" ... Read the full article

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lee Erickson is cofounder and president of Erickson Barnett (ericksonbarnett.com), a B2B technology marketing firm. She can be reached at lee@ericksonbarnett.com.