Getting started within The Social Ecosystem, a checklist

Last November I built a short series to help organizations with their 2010 Social Media Plan. The series was well received and I think we all learned a lot in the process of writing and commenting back and forth.

Sometimes, however, it really helps to boil things down to a simple checklist, keeping it simple to execute and simple to understand. I was really excited when I saw Andrew Wilson, Web and New Media at Federal Government – HHS – SAMHSA, post a really good checklist for getting started with Social Media. I immediately reached out to Andrew to see if I could build off of his checklist to give something to help people within The Social Ecosystem and he was nice enough to agree (Thanks Andrew).

Before we construct the checklist it is important to keep in mind that you must always define your goals up front. No checklist is perfect on its own. While it is a great guideline, it is only that, it needs to be modified to meet the goals you have set forth.

The target audience for this checklist is individuals, groups, or organizations that have no real social media presence and who are seeking to get started. This is a great starting point for this audience because it focuses on no cost tools and minimal time investment while seeking to maximize your return. Now, it is true that you get what you pay for and that, as you progress within The Social Ecosystem you will outgrow this checklist and the tools we discuss. However, since we are including measurement and goal setting you will be able to decide when you are growing out of this framework and need to move into the Advanced Checklist

Goal Setting

  • What are you trying to do? Are you just trying to learn about the platforms or is this part of an individual or organization effort.
  • What does success look like a month from now? What does failure look like a month from now?
    • At the beginning focus on simple measures like # of retweets, number of followers, number of fans. Do not focus on lead generation in month one, you will fail.
  • Check out the Social Media Guidelines put together on Mass.gov as the State of Massachusetts has done a nice job providing toolkits for various social media accounts, for security, and for legal guidance.


To minimize daily execution time you want your social media channels and monitoring setup at the beginning. I urge you to set up the following channels and, if possible, use the same account name, logos, and profile descriptions throughout. Each channel is simply a way for you to interact with your audience, your customers, your citizens, and they expect a consistent experience.

  • Create an account on Twitter. Andrew notes “The Government Social Media Subcouncil Wiki has links to many good guidance docs, including EPA’s Twitter guidance which can be found at http://govsocmed.pbworks.com/EPA-Social-Media-Guidance-Documents
  • Create an account and page on Facebook. If you are a B2C Organization or a Local Government this is a must have in my opinion. Others can skip this.
  • Create a YouTube account. Check out the great Youtube toolkit put together by Mass.gov. If your organization is not yet ready to deliver content on YouTube skip this setup. Most organizations at this stage are not ready so do not feel bad if you fall into this category.
  • Create a Slideshare account. Andrew’s post does a great job of leveraging Slideshare for sharing a Word document. You can leverage Slideshare for PowerPoints and other content as well.
  • Create a Foursquare and Gowalla account. If you are a B2C Organization or a Local Government this is a must have in my opinion. Others can skip this.

Andrew nails it when he discusses setting up free monitoring solutions. Simply copying what he has already proposed for completeness:

  • Google Reader: Set up a Google Reader account for your organization (http://www.google.com/reader). This will be used as the hub to monitor social media activity
  • Twitter Search: Search on three terms relevant to your organization & add to Google Reader (http://search.twitter.com/).
    • These terms could be the name of your organization, its acronym, issues relevant to your mission or issues that are of particular relevance or importance. Multiple word searches should use quotes. Click the “Feed for this Query” icon at the top right to add each of these to your Google Reader account.
  • Google Alerts: Search on three terms relevant to your organization & add to Google Reader (http://www.google.com/alerts).These could be the same words as for the Twitter search but it alternate terms can be used. Relevant settings should be: Type: Everything – this will catch news, blogs, video, etc.Deliver to: Feed

Personally, I still rely on Google Reader as I have set up feeds for dozens of my favorite blogs and scan this at least twice daily.


Minimize execution time, that is part of the focus of this checklist. Andrew proposed a 20 minute daily process which is perfect for starting out. As you begin to see results you will want to double this, spending 20 minutes just before, or just after, lunch and 20 minutes at the end of the day.

  • Monitor (10 min): As Andrew suggests, “Read through feed items in Google Reader. If you don’t get through everything, mark the remainder as read. Watch for and note individuals that are getting significant attention or appear to be either strong advocates or critics of your organization or work.”
  • Post (5 min): As Andrew notes post at least once daily on the accounts you have set up (most likely just Twitter).
    • If you found an article in Google Reader that is relevant to your audience share it.
    • If your organization is already blogging and has posted something new, share it.
    • DO NOT tell your audience what you had for lunch everyday either. In time you want to personalize your efforts but when starting out focus on adding value in terms of sharing great content.
  • Engage (5 min): I agree completely with Andrew when he notes “Find ways to interact and begin building community. Example could Retweeting (RT) other accounts, finding new accounts to follow, thanking new followers, thanking people for mentioning your organization or your work.”
    • If you find other news sources that you should monitor add them back to your Google Reader feed.


At the beginning of this process we discussed the need to define your goals, define what success and failure looks like. Every month, take 30 minutes to review:

  • Are you executing as planned? If you are going over the suggested time, or not executing daily, than you are failing. Correct this immediately.
  • Review what success and failure is supposed to look like, in terms of real numbers, at this point. Set your targets for next month.
    • For the first three months only focus on simple measures, only focus on following the checklist above.

Every three months step back and have a longer review session and ask yourself:

  • Is this effort worthwhile? In the majority of cases the answer will be Yes. However, the answer is not YES for every individual and every organization so answer this question.
  • Are you ready to become truly strategic in your approach? In the beginning of this process you are not truly strategic in the sense that you have not yet mapped your efforts to higher level individual or organizational goals.

Some will never need to go beyond this level of investment. However, through goal setting and measurement/review you will be able to make an informed decision if, and when, it is time to take this to another level.


If you need help from The Lab, drop me a note. If you would like to view more case studies and interviews, or just want to read about The Social Ecosystem, click on the links and let me know your thoughts.

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