social media strategy

Gauging Social Success Readiness

10 Comments 02 October 2013

Venn Strategy

Recently I set out to think about the significant internal and external elements that must be present for organizational social media readiness. I’m teaching a graduate class on social media strategy at Marlboro College, and challenged myself to create a dynamic illustration – a tool even – that would offer an estimate of the relative preparedness of any organization to successfully engage in social media.

Notice what the diagram does not include: strategy and tactics. These are not included because they would be realized as a result of this diagram. This diagram is, simply, a list of ingredients. And like any ingredient, its performance depends on the level of purity, flavor, chemical balance, and what not.

If I were to take this general diagram, and convert it into a tool for gauging readiness, I’d add scale and value to each element. Something equivalent to this optimization scale for each piece of the diagram:

ready for social optimization scale blog image 10.1.13An organization’s general diagram might receive a “social media readiness” score of anywhere from 0 to 14. Each separate element of the diagram (including goals) would be scored along a continuum, in this case from zero to two. Another way to think of this scale would be as a general social media audit resource. Now, I haven’t used this as a tool, though as you can read, I am beginning to think about how it might be used as such. I’d welcome your feedback and input.

An explanatory note on each element of the diagram, which can be modified and adjusted to create value scales:

Internally Networked: How much does the organization resemble a “networked nonprofit,” as described by Beth Kanter and Allison Fine in their book?

Time and Internal Assets: How much time will the organization be able to devote exclusively to social media strategy and execution? What are the internal assets available for doing so? (personnel, training and support, databases, etc. to be determined)

Audience/Stakeholders: Is the organization able to identify categories of stakeholders within each social channel? For example, has it figured out who is the primary audience for Instagram, or the blog, and who’s following/commenting/etc?

External Networks and Social Capital: Does the organization connect externally with other networks, collaborators, partners? It is highly networked in this way online or off? Does the organization or staff hold high or low levels of social capital online or off? They are considered together within this element because of the relationship between the two, but could easily be separated into two. This element recognizes the role of Small World Network Theory, social capital, and network weaving in social media success.

Channels: Social media platforms or channels.

Budget: The size of the budget to support social media initiatives.

  • First of all thank you for sharing this. Love the idea of having a tool to identify readiness, a conversation everyone should have been jumping into strategies and tactics. Getting expectations right upfront can have huge impact on perceived “success” of efforts in social media.

    I like the idea of a recipe or framework more so than a total score however. As a total score you may have a relatively high score overall but be completely missing an element vs. a mid-range or even low score but good balance of each element overall. I think the later setting up an organization to jump in, learn and grow with greater success then the former.

    Likewise, the idea of a recipe being that everyone will have a different mix of ingredients and thus flavor..and that can be alright. As long as the flavor matches the palette (organizational culture) of your organization I think again you can have a good foundation for learning and long-term success.

    It is also safe to say some recipes are awful and while you can use them they won’t produce good results. Others, produce 5-star restaurant quality results.

    Thank you again for jump starting a fantastic discussion and pushing us to be more strategic in our approach to “doing”.


  • bethkanter

    This is great! I developed something very similar about two years ago — “Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly” The past year I started to quantify it, adding scores for each area. I don’t include tools – but I found that I had to parse out the different practices: Institutional Support, Networked Mindset, Capacity (staff, budget), Strategy, Measurement (analysis and sense-making) and then use of specific social best practices: listening, relationship mapping, use of champions, engagement, content strategy. I found that when I used to develop the syllabus for peer learning or extending training and quantifying it to use for a baseline was really effective. I also used it to gather “learning analytics” to help me target one-on-one coaching.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Well, Beth, great minds think alike eh? 😉 Seriously, I like what you wrote about using for transformation of practice instead; that is a really interesting spin on this tool.

    I can really envision adding more practice areas, as you use, and keeping the practice area titles fungible as the way practitioners use and think about social media evolves.

    Lastly, yes, baseline measurement is what I had in mind. I think Ash has (he commented after you) has a valid point that overall scores may hide or overlook crucial areas. However, perhaps some scores could be weighted…do you weight your scores? Of course, we must keep in mind that value judgement comes into play with weighted scoring.

    Thanks so much for adding to this, and adding such great insights from your work. I’m really interested in playing with this as a consultant and modifying it after use.


  • tonyloftis

    Thanks for this great evaluation tool. As you know, I am working with an organization that is rethinking its digital presence. You post will give us some great insight on what to do next.


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Tony, you’re welcome. I’ll be curious to hear what you do with it, so please check back in later and let us know.


  • Great point, and to be honest, the “social media consultant” is also going that way of the “social media manager.” “Communication consultant” is the future job description, as it should be.


  • Hi Debra, this is fascinating, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I have developed a tool which helps define the time required for social media management based on the tasks that are to be performed. Using that as a base, I have used your approach to begin reverse engineering this to a readiness score, using it to answer the questions of “Time and assets” on the assumption this is a constant to use as a benchmark. Would love to discuss further if you fancy!


    Debra Askanase Reply:

    Blaise – yes! Would love to talk with you further about your tool and how you’ve melded it with this idea for a “readiness” score to answer the time+assets question. Really intriguing, and will be in touch.


    Blaise Grimes-Viort Reply:

    Great, look foward to it!


  • melindalewis

    Echoing elements of many of the comments, I love that you’re putting this out (and, of course, sharing it so generously), and I think there’s so much value in helping organizations to think not just dichotomously: ready v. not-ready, but in terms of the elements of readiness, and, then, what building toward it would look like. I am curious about the numerical score piece, too, though; drawing parallels from the advocacy capacity assessment enterprise, we find that numbers tend to be somewhat problematic there, in that they can not only somewhat mask nuances in the aggregate, but also lead to unhelpful comparisons against very different (and differently-situated) organizations in other contexts. I don’t know enough about this, certainly, to offer any guidance or real insights, but, a month later now, I’d love to hear how your thinking is evolving and how this has worked in the field. And, again, thank you for sharing!



Debra Askanase is an experienced digital engagement strategist, non-profit executive, and community organizer. She works with mission-driven organizations to develop digital strategies and campaigns that engage, create trust, and move stakeholders to action. Debra speaks at conferences worldwide on the intersection of technology, social media, and nonprofit organizations.

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