7 Tips for Selling Executives on Social Media

social media viewpointsAre you a marketer who’s trying to juggle social media with the rest of your team’s activities? Do you think social media should be at the top of your priorities, but you’re having a hard time proving it?

Don’t worry. You aren’t alone.

I fought this battle also, and in the end I realized that I needed to drop terms like followers, retweets and status updates from my discussions in executive meetings. It was a tough conclusion, but I realized those metrics didn’t tell executives what they wanted to know.

This article will share 7 tips for getting executive buy-in for social media.

#1: Identify with the mindset of executives

corporate horizon

It's important to work together to measure social media optimization.

Think about social media measurement differently. Try to remove all jargon and put it into a language that executives can understand and ultimately help tie results to the bottom line.

Executives think at a 50,000-foot view. Most of them aren’t looking at metrics like daily site traffic; they’re looking at sales reports. Their benchmarks are different than what we’re used to measuring ourselves.  It’s mission-critical that you align your benchmarks with theirs.

#2: Show them the money

Because social media is new territory for them, it’s too complex to try to teach them the “new” measurements and have them make the connection to what matters to the company on their own.

To be successful, you need to clearly make the connection for them. There is one way to do this and eliminate confusion. SHOW THEM THE MONEY! Yes, that is a shameless Jerry McGuire reference. But it’s extremely relevant.  Transform your conversation with executives about social media into how it impacts sales, revenue and costs.

These three items are at the top of every executive’s mind. They look at reports every single day to determine whether the company is meeting its sales and revenue projections and they watch costs like hawks to make sure profits aren’t being eroded.

Your challenge is to find a way to put social media into the context of how it impacts these core metrics, so you can finally break through and get your executives excited about the possibilities that social media brings to the company.

#3: Stop freaking out

panic button

Don't let fear prevent you from taking action.

Trust me, no-one knows more than I do that tying sales, revenue and cost to social media is darn near impossible from where you’re sitting right now. It sounds great in theory, but the execution is a whole different ball of wax. However, I will tell you it’s not impossible. With the right questions, the right tools and the right people in the room you can find a way.

#4: Understand what you CAN measure today

If you were to sit down and look at the three metrics—sales, revenue and cost—which ones can you measure today? I can probably answer this for you—cost. We pretty much all know what we’ve spent on social media in the last year and what we plan to spend this year.

#5: Know what you CAN’T measure today

business metrics

Having clear and concrete goals is important in calculating your return on investment.

Take a look at your company’s executive reports. What metrics are your executives actually looking at? What metrics are you struggling to get data on for social media? Is it revenue and sales (units sold)? It’s okay if it is, but your goal is to find a way to add social media into the mix.

#6: Recognize what you’re dealing with

What systems does your company use to generate the executive reports? Typically, it includes a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, campaign reporting system, web analytics system and potentially an accounting system if that isn’t part of your CRM package. Focus on how your other online activities are tied into these systems.

For example, how do you know if sales are coming from Google Adwords or organic search? How is that tracked, what systems does it pass through and where does the data end up?

Then we get to the tough part. Can you leverage any of these systems to track social media traffic? If you can’t do it with how they’re set up today, ask what modifications need to be made in order to include it.

#7: Put together a plan for today and tomorrow

business plan

Your plan should include internal and external goals.

You’re probably going to have to do some work to get social media included into your existing metrics for the company. And unfortunately, that will take something we’re all lacking… time. But that’s okay because while you’re building for how you’ll measure in the future, you can also leverage what you know today. If you’re like me, that’s cost.

Here are three metrics you can probably get today. While they aren’t ideal executive metrics, they’ll tell a story that your executives will understand.

Cost per site visit

You can use the referring URL in your web tracking system to calculate the number of visits generated from social media channels and generate a cost per site visit to compare against other types of referrers.

Cost per impression

If your company is heavy on traditional advertising like TV and radio or public relations outreach, executives are used to looking at cost per impression metrics. You can use tools like TweetReach to get rough calculations for Twitter.

tweetreach

TweetReach generates reports with key metrics like reach and exposure.

Cost per subscriber

If you can look at the referring URLs for your newsletter or email subscribers, you can also calculate the cost per subscriber. Think of this in terms of the cost of getting the email address of a prospect. Social media can generate really low costs per subscriber, giving it a leg up on some other online channels.

As more executives become interested in social media, it’s our responsibility to show them that it isn’t fluff and that it does contribute to the bottom line. You can check out these 6 Social Media Success Metrics You Need to Track, 8 Social Media Metrics You Should Be Measuring and this Study Reveals Top 6 Social Media Goals for 2011.  You can also check out this 33 page step-by-step guide, if you’re up for the challenge.

Hopefully, these tips will help you get there.

How about you? What kind of questions are your executives asking about social? Add your thoughts and share your perspective in the comment box below.

All photos from iStockphoto.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

About the Author, Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the president of SME Digital, the digital marketing division of Social Media Explorer. They provide digital marketing strategy, implementation and measurement using the Full Frontal ROI methodology. Other posts by »




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  • Nichole_Kelly

    Hans – Thanks so much. I’m so glad you found the article useful.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Thanks Nick! I really appreciate you stopping by and letting me know you liked the article.

  • http://www.colemanmg.com Antonio Coleman

    Nicole the strength of this social world is powerful once a company knows who to follow the rule of marketing..its comes down to engaging and making the customer come back for more..

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=630792345 Stan Irby

    Nichole – Excellent article!! Perfect for my SM utility belt.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Stan- Thank you so much for the feedback. I’m so glad you found the post useful. :-)

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Thanks for the comment! I agree engaging and getting the customer to come back for more are very important.

  • http://fundraiseCZAR.com Baran Hill

    Very good stuff. How often do you blog on your personal site?

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Baran – Thanks for the feedback. I don’t blog as much as I would like on my personal site, usually 1 to 2 times per month. But my philosophy is that if I don’t have anything important to say I’m not going to blog for the sake of blogging. If I post I want it to contain awesomeness! LOL

  • http://efanpage.com Sebastian

    Thanks for the post. You were extremely clear and concise in your approach to “handling” the execs. I think sometimes sales people and social media “experts” are so worried about overselling— that the direct, today benefits of social media are often lost—yet they are the most important for many business owners.

    Thanks for the post,

    Sebastian

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Sebastian – Thank you so much for the feedback. It’s true, it is very easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest new tool or new metric, that we forget to apply the old metrics we have been presenting for years. One time I got feedback that someone was a little disappointed because the list of metrics I had in a post were the same metrics they’ve always looked at and weren’t new. I said, thank you so much! That’s exactly what I was trying to show. If you are using “special” metrics for social media you can’t compare apples to apples with any other marketing channel. Why would we want to set ourselves up for failure like that?

    Again, thanks so much for your feedback. Your comments are always thought provoking Sebastian. :-)

  • http://www.update.com Norbert Kuenzl

    Dear Nichole,

    we are a leading providor of CRM solutions with integrated Social Media Monitoring and integrated social Media customer processes. What you are saying helps us and our customers even better why CRM and Social Media has to be integrated. I forwarded your post internally and maybe we can share your post to our customers as well.

    Norbert

  • http://www.FrontlineTraining.com Peter Coombs

    Hi Nichole:

    I train and coach salespeople on how to be more effective with their clients and prospects. More and more I am steering my clients to using social media as a prospecting tool. Thanks so much for this insightful post.

    Peter

  • PaigeHolden

    Hi Nichole,

    Great post. I think all of your thoughts on metrics are spot on and as an in-house marketer grappling with measurement, I will take them to heart. I do however think there is a lot more to convincing executives on social media than metrics. I say, show them the conversation. Sales people will spend hundreds attending events to have conversations. Execs can’t hear, see or participate in those conversations – but they trust it’s worth the money. The great thing about social media is that you can actually show, in real time, engagement with prospects, clients and other stakeholders.

    I’d also suggest that education is essential for buy-in. I hold training sessions with the management team on various social media topics. Since social media is still so new to a lot of industries, especially small businesses like my own, this is a critical first step.

    Cheers,
    Paige

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Norbert – Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad the post would be helpful. I would be very interested in seeing some information on your social CRM integration. :-)

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Peter – Sweet. Thanks for stopping by and letting me know you enjoyed the post. :-)

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Paige – Thank you so much for your feedback. It’s great to hear from another in-house marketer. I’m thrilled to hear your executive team is interested in the conversation. I’d love to connect. I just followed you on Twitter. :-)

  • PaigeHolden

    Thanks! Yes, maybe I am lucky. We are a smaller business, so our executive team still has the capacity to engage more than others. Still, I think getting ‘em from all sides is key! Just followed you back – looking forward to following your tweets!

  • MizeM

    The underlying power of Social Media Marketing seems to be creating communities that can be trusted. Is a blog part of this mix? Is there any information out there about the payoff for the energy and work that goes into a blog?

  • http://www.Frequence-Cosmique.com/ Gilles Vitu

    This is a very good point of view… People don’t always understand me when I talk about Social Media Marketing. Just focus on the needs of the person and the result they will get, that’s it.

    Thanks for sharing your experience !

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Gilles – Thanks for stopping by to provide your feedback. I’m so glad you found the post helpful.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Mize – Thanks for stopping by. I count a blog as part of the mix and think it is one of the first steps in creating a social media strategy. Here is a good slide deck from compendium on ROI from blogging, they also have some great conent on their site if you are interested. http://www.slideshare.net/compendium/calculating-roi-on-blogging

  • MizeM

    Thanks Nichole

    Thanks,

    Mike

    Mike Misner

    917 605 5280

    http://deepblueblogx.blogspot.com/

  • http://epitomemedia.com.au/2011/03/speak-their-language-to-sell-social/ Ben Shute

    Great post Nichole, it echoes some thoughts I blogged a few weeks ago, but takes it much much further. So many times you hear the complaint about selling to the “c-suite” and how difficult it can be, but with practical steps like these, it should make it easier.

  • http://www.clarekelway.com Clare Kelway

    excellent article Nichole, ! I am amazed at how much you share here in this article. I will definitely check out some of your resources for more information on social media metrics and ideas to help executives see that social media is key to future growth. I have been wondering how I relate social media to sales, revenues and costs when speaking with clients!

  • http://www.twitter.com/jojagiello JoJag

    Hi Nichole, I get a lot of eshots and articles that come my way…out of the very few I actually read yours are the most useful. Coming from a Public sector background I am now in a sales environment as the one and only Marketing and Comms professional. I struggle with getting the sales people on my side on daily basis and it’s comforting to know I’m not alone! However, all the above are things I’m always considering yet I still get a lot of negativity about it. It’s a catch 22 really, to get something out of it (leads and sales) they have to put into it (time and effort)! It’s an up hill battle but I’m confident eventually there will be a break through!
    You can follow my tweets here: http://www.twitter.com/jojagiello

  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com/ Nick Robinson

    I completely agree with your post Nichole. While the non sales and cost data can measure the overall health of your off-site social activities, the real bread and butter is the sales lead, cost per impression, and cost per lead metrics. Great stuff.

  • Randy Clark

    Great post. I used tweet reach to show the executive staff a guest blog linked back to our organization had reached 250,000 potential clients, They understood that!

  • Jan Wong

    Great post, Nichole! I think many will find your post exceptionally helpful especially when dealing with ‘traditional’ executives. I often find that a challenge myself as most companies here are still very much skeptical on how far and what social media can do.

  • http://www.iDriveROI.com/ Rob Humphreys

    Great post! It all comes down to ROI.

  • http://joakimnilsson.com/ Joakim Nilsson

    If your point of sales is online Google Analytics and tracked links with the UTM-tool is essential. I’d also like to shred some light on organising your company for social media success: http://www.joakimnilsson.com/case-studies/organise-internally-social-media-success/

  • http://www.aaroneden.com/ Aaron Eden

    I have to say you’ve got valid points here. Now, the problem with measuring the success of your social media campaign is interpreting the numbers. There are plenty of third party sites out there who can give you stats like your twitter value, klout, reach, etc.. But, what do you do with those numbers? This is the question I’m trying to solve to get down to the heart of social engagement. After having interviewed key people, I’d say that social media is a tool; you can’t automate trust and authenticity.

  • http://twitter.com/ljbianchi Laurens Bianchi

    Great post, I will use it towards my clients. It would be nice to show some more metrics examples. You mention Tweetreach for measuring tweets, but what about YouTube views, Google Analytics in you Facebook apps, your Facebook stats, stats from social media monitoring etc.

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  • http://twitter.com/VSKWebMarketing Web Marketing

    One thing I’ve encountered quite often as a web marketing consultant is that I can get my initial contact at a company on board and understanding the use and benefits of social media. But it becomes lost in translation when it’s time for them to relay what they’ve learned to their higher-ups. I’ve since taken over this aspect of the process, asking (politely but firmly) to be included in whichever meeting includes decision-making about the company’s use of social media. This has, surprisingly, helped a lot. My initial contact (usually a marketing director with little web marketing expertise) doesn’t have to feel the pressure of selling their bosses on something they may not understand 110% (we all know that a lack of confidence when explaining anything can be the quickest way to a “no”), and I get to immediately address concerns, questions and objections. When executives don’t have to wait for answers, they have less time to talk themselves and their colleagues out of something that could have been beneficial to their company.

    Of course, executives are busy people and may not want to make specific allowances for little old me to attend a decision-making meeting. In this case, I offer the use of my online meeting software. They can simply log on or call it, they don’t have to download or install or pay for anything, and we can all get on with business as usual.

    Adding to your tip #2, the first way I relate to the kind of metrics executives will understand is to take a marketing practice they’re already doing regularly (let’s say TV or print advertising), and compare the costs of maintaining these campaigns to the costs of maintaining a full social media campaign. In our case, most companies will have hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars by implementing social media in 2 ways: first, they can use social media to learn more about how their audiences want to be interacted with as well as their dislikes, and then when they do decide to implement those more expensive campaigns they can do so in a more targeted (and less expensive) way. The second way is that in most cases social media will help them to reach more potential customers who are directly interested in what they’re selling. With print ads or TV commercials, you just pay for space & time. There is no amount of measurability, no metrics and you’re not targeting anything. With social media, you have the benefit of all 3! When executives see this, their ears perk up, their eyes widen and they start asking questions (a very good thing).

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Ben – Thank you so much for your feedback. I’m so glad you found the post helpful. I’d love to see your post on the subject too!

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Clare – Thank you so much for your feedback. I hope you find my resources helpful as you are speaking with clients. If I can help you in anyway, please let me know. :-)

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Jo – Wow. Thank you so much. Trust me I’ve been there with sales teams. One thing that has helped me was showing them the value or specifically what they will get out of it. If there is a win for them and a win for you, it is usually easier to get support. If you would like to discuss your specific situation please let me know.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting Nick! It’s great to hear from you. :-)

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Randy – Thanks for commenting. Nicely done…Now add in how many of those 250,000 became leads. :-) That’ll get their attention.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Jan – Agreed. Thanks so much for commenting.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Totally agree! Thanks for commenting Rob.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Great stuff. Thanks for sharing Joakim.

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Aaron – Thanks! I put those numbers in the top of the funnel. :-) I look at them as exposure, engagement and influence. See here. http://fullfrontalroi.com/2010/02/5-categories-of-social-media-measurement/

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Laurens – Thanks so much! I have a lot of content about specific metrics on my site. 5 Categories of Social Media Measurement. Here is a post that might be useful. http://fullfrontalroi.com/2010/12/8-social-media-metrics-you-should-be-measuring/

  • Nichole_Kelly

    Great points here. I like your approach!

  • http://www.twitter.com/jojagiello JoJag

    Hi, thanks for responding. Re: showing value, this isn’t an issue, I’ve run various training courses showed examples and some of the sales team have actually physically made money from it, yet still there is defiance, lack of interest and a resilience to leave the phones! In my opinion the long standing rivalry (is that the right word) and clashes between Sales and Marketing are so deeply embedded in the private sector especial in sales focused companies that any thing like this will always be a struggle. Not impossible though! Happy to share my experiences further if anyone would like to share best practice http://www.twitter.com/jojagiello

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  • Nancy Chou

    Thx for sharing this article. I think it would be even more helpful if you could cite specific examples. e.g, #1: Identify with the mindset of executives–align your benchmarks with theirs. Considering the fact the person who has to sell social media is not yet an executive, helping him understand what the mindset of his executives might be like would be much appreciated.

    Likewise, your suggestion #2 show them the money—exactly how would you do that if you’re in a traditional space like semiconductors where chips are sold mostly to distributors and OEMs, and your specialty chip is a small component that goes on a printed circuit board. The design engineers who are ultimately the buyers who decide whether or not to use your chip in their product design are worried about much bigger issues like the core processor than necessarily every little specialty chip that will need to work with the core processor.

    I’d love to see your elaboration on your points.

    Thx – Nanch

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2G3AS4M7WYPPGAE2M35NFIXCCM mishka

    I’m surprised that you even have to convince executives to get on the social media bandwagon. I thought by now that everyone came to the conclusion that social media is the wave of the future and if you’re organization or company isn’t riding on it, you’re going be left behind. The biggest issue for executives is ROI. Steps 4 and 5 are crucial because executives always want measurements to assess success.

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  • http://insurancecoverage.me/car-insurance-ideas-for-bad-drivers Bad Driver Insurance

    Talking to executives about the new realm of social media to say the least must not be easy. Your tips are straight to the point and in the end time saving in getting through to the upper echelons of companies. The most valuable point take away from what you said, “Show them the Money”

  • Fuion Media

    Thanks for sharing your incredible thoughts on social media. it is valuable.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/April-Atkins/100002557175252 April Atkins

    Social Media marketing with the power of the world’s most popular search engine. The number of votes that you receive from other users will help to improve the position of your page in results when people search using keywords that are relevant to your business. For this reason, it is well worth taking the time to make your Google+ page both informative and entertaining, to ensure that people are encouraged to visit on a regular basis and give it their seal of approval. Status updates also feature in Google search results now, providing companies with another opportunity to appear in search engine results pages (SERPs).

    URL : http://www.addvalue.com.au

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/April-Atkins/100002557175252 April Atkins

    One of the biggest advantages that Social Media has over static websites is the ability to interact with potential customers that it offers businesses of all sizes. Consumers are much more likely to buy from a company that they already know and trust and it is possible to build a rapport with people on Social Media networks by answering their queries promptly and engaging them in discussions about your company’s products. 

    URL : http://www.addvalue.com.au

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