social media how toConversations are happening online with or without you. This is one of the most frequently used social media sayings. If you’re engaging with social media for your company, it’s almost second nature.

However, there are still many who are struggling to ‘sell’ social media to their executives.  And as Doug Frisbie, Toyota National Marketing Manager says, “The price of inactivity is greater than the risks of anything we’d be doing in social media.”

Let’s explore 9 ways you can make a good case for social media programs.

But first…

Why Do Some Execs Avoid Social Media?

It’s important to understand the reason that executives resist jumping into social media. Most of the time it’s fear of the unknown. Brands are not used to being open; they’re used to being in control. Old-style marketing was easy – you push out a message to millions of people (through TV or radio) and you’re done.

Marketing the new way actually means letting go of the reins and putting customer voices up front and center, which can be a scary thing. Because a lot of executives often are not personally active on social networking sites and microblogs, they lack full knowledge of the inner workings.

Couple that with all of the negative press some companies are getting for having the wrong approach to social media and you start seeing the lack of trust in the effectiveness of social media.

But what can you do to convince your executives that Doug Frisbie and all those social media practitioners out there are right? How do you show them that social media should be a critical part of your business strategy?

Here are a few suggestions:

#1: Display Current Conversations

One of the fastest ways to convince your management that it really isn’t a matter of ‘why’ rather than ‘when’ is to do some quick detective work yourself.

Using free tools like Google Alerts, TweetDeck and others, research the ongoing conversations about your company and provide a quick summary in a very visual way. Include screenshots of people’s tweets; calculate the percentage of positive, negative and neutral posts and comments over a specific period of time (1-2 months). If you don’t have expensive listening tools in place, the calculation will be manual, and it will take you a little bit of time.

If the customers are already reaching out to you and getting no answer, this will definitely get management’s attention. Further into your presentation, don’t forget to tell management what you’re planning on doing to turn the ‘neutrals’ and ‘haters’ into loyalists.

#2: Don’t Leave Out Competitor’s Information

Make sure to include the information on not only what your competitors are doing in this space, but also what is being said about them. If your competitors are not yet looking into social media immersion, this is your chance to show leadership in the industry. If they’re already getting into this space, this might convince your boss to at least look at doing the same to avoid being left behind.

#3: Show Your Industry Peers’ Successes and Failures

Take a look at what other companies in the industry are doing and make sure to mention two or three social media campaigns that got a lot of press coverage. Providing examples of companies that failed to listen to social chatter and to address customers’ concerns can at times be very convincing as well.

#4: Use Data

Do your homework. Organizations like eMarketer, MarketingProfs , Nielsen, comScore and lots of others publish a ton of data on social media usage, social network demographics and other statistics. Morgan Stanley and Forrester publish research on digital trends and consumer expectations. Use this data to make your case when it makes sense.

#5: Start Small

Start with pilots. Try it out with a small budget (or sometimes with no budget to begin with) and a small dedicated team. Enlist the help of grassroots folk from all over the company if needed (you don’t have to have full-time dedicated personnel at this point; you can succeed with just the help of a few passionate people). Make sure that your goals are measurable. This is absolutely critical to your mission.

#6: Do Risk Analysis and Contingency Planning

You need to ensure management is comfortable with the idea of pilots. Having a crisis plan helps. Map out every scenario you can think of. Identify any potential risks. Ask yourself, “What if conversation turns to this topic?” or “What if we get this type of reaction?” and have a solid plan to address every one of them.

#7: Seek Outside Help

As much as it pains me to say this, the sad reality is that often external consultants seem to have more convincing power and more credibility than a company’s internal experts. If that’s the case, then enlist the services of an external source to help management understand that the conversations are happening with or without them and that they don’t have a choice but to join in.

#8: Create Guidelines and Enable Your Employees

Let your management know that you’re not going into this blindly. Start by creating guidelines for engagement on a platform of your choice for your pilot. Include topics that will and will not be discussed, your moderation house rules (what posts will be deleted and why) and any additional information you want to convey.

Be transparent up front and be sure about setting expectations for the dialog to come. You can then go even further and create a simple set of social media guidelines to ensure that your employees are operating with a clear understanding of what’s appropriate and what is not. Partner with legal, PR, HR, security and privacy teams on this; it will ensure your key stakeholders are all on the same page and feel comfortable with the direction. Their support will be critical in your pitch to executives.

intel social media guidelines

As an example, take a look at “Intel’s Social Media Guidelines (and feel free to steal with pride).
intel guidelines

#9: Stay on Course

Most importantly, remember that change isn’t easy. But one person can make a difference and help a brand think and behave differently. We’ve seen it time and again. Don’t get frustrated; stay on course. Having a meaningful dialog with your customers is critical to the success of your business and absolutely is the right way to go.

We would like to hear your experiences. What has worked for you? Let us know your thoughts in the box below.

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  • Hey Ekaterina,
    Loved the compare and contrast theory. Nothing get’s the mojo flowing better than reviewing what people are saying about you…kind of a secret shopper type of experience, and seeing what the competitors are doing and not doing. This process could also be helpful to social media service providers trying to convert prospects into customers!

  • Tom George

    Hello Ekaterina,
    I enjoyed reading your post, your information is very well thought out and engaging. I can see you know your stuff. What do you think the future holds for mobile advertising and inbound advertising? I think we are headed for location based mobile or positional mobile inbound advertising fueled by social media you?

  • Thanks for this checklist! This is also great advice for selling social media to clients. Especially, the part about pointing to what the competition is doing in this space. If they are active and successful, this can make a very convincing case.

  • Thank you for your comment, Andy and Tom!

    mobile is definitely big. Mobile is the reason social networks are this popular as well. Brands should definitely start looking into it. As far as location-based services (LBS) go… They are definitely all the hype right now. And they are a great tool for small businesses and retailers (if used and incentivized correctly). However, I am still skeptical on LBS. there are multiple reasons LBS are still not mainstream. There is no scale currently – Forrester research recently found that just 1% of US online adults are using location-based social networks weekly. There is also an issue of privacy. As a brand you also can’t measure your success very effectively. The list goes on…


  • Camella,
    thank you for your comment! And yes, you are absolutely right!


  • Thank you, Andy!


  • Paul Wittenberg


    Nice post. Thanks for connecting with me via Twitter. I like your blog.

    One other approach that I put together to get Executives on board is to have them take a Social Media Assessment. A 20 minute survey that asks them lots of direct questions about where they are with their Social Media efforts. It is a bit like holding up a mirror. It gets them thinking, especially when they need to answer questions about the competition.

    One other approach would be short education sessions that tie to corporate goals. These can get some lively discussions going if you get the right people in the room.

  • I like #2, 4, and 8 the most. These are all good suggestions, but those would be particularly effective at getting companies involved with social media the fastest. Why?

    #2 says no one likes to be left behind, and showing the competition’s success or lack thereof creates a healthy sense of “getting in the game” for the decision makers in a company. The hard sell gets a little softer by showing what the markets will bear.

    #4 puts proof into the argument of why a company might want to get involved. I’ve used comScore in the past for market research, and the others likely have the same deep-dish level of information that makes sense to people used to analyzing facts before making decisions.

    #8 looks like a way to personalize a company’s social media experience, to get several different groups involved toward the common goal of “getting with the times.” This way no one’s left out of the decision, and groupthink becomes the best way to hash out the details for a policy everyone can be proud of.

    Thanks for the great post, Ekaterina.

  • David,
    appreciate your comments!
    Agreed – I love comScore data as well and use it often.


  • Thank you so much for these great tips, Ekaterina. As usual, another fantastic post filled with extremely helpful content! : )

    One additional tip that can really help is to attempt to make the connection to ROI. After all, engaging in the social space can be a costly endeavor – perhaps not necessarily in the implementation of software that aides your effort, but definitely in terms of the necessary time and effort needed to create a vibrant social presence. Olivier Blanchard has a really great slideshare presentation that was posted a few years back that does a nice job of attempting to link social media with ROI.



  • Ekaterina.. 🙂 Loved this article.

    Really some great tips here. Working on some Workshop models for small Hotels – these tips was very cool.

    Cheers.. Are

  • Paul,
    thank you for your kind words. Glad you liked my blog 🙂

    Like your approach with the assessment. And it’s always great to tie to corporate goals. One of the things I always say is “speak their language”. You execs most likely won’t know what “Twitter” “tweet” “tweeps” etc means. But they do know “customer advocacy” and “ROI”. Presenting it to them in a way that explains how it will help them achieve their goals is always a smart way to go.


  • Thank you, Are!
    Glad it was helpful! Good luck with the workshop.


  • Davidfitzgerald

    Hello Ekaterina

    very logical and well presented article. As I am the boss – it’s not fear of the unknown that needs overcomming – it’s simply a resources /ROI issue. The assumption of social media (as I understand it) is that “the Market” is there. If there is no demonstrable market presence its seems dillusional to take comfort from being the first there – surely there has to be some engagement / interactivity or am I missing something?
    My nich is business to business rather than consumer and this seems to be a fundamental difference to a mass market approach. If one has the distinction of being an early adopter of social media with negligable market presence who do you tweet, facebook or blog too?


  • Great stuff on Ways to Sell Social Media to the Boss, thnx Ekaterina 🙂

    I was having a conversation with my biz partner few days ago about this same exact topic. This is exactly the challenge he is facing with some of his clients. We brainstormed and came up with few strategies but with this post whatever we have will certainly look more rounded. So thank you 🙂

    Your No 1 I think is on the money. Not why but when. And if they get into the social media space 5 yrs from now it only means that their competitor already has a 5 yr head start. Not good.

    Besides, traditional channels are less and less powerful while social web is gaining in numbers, popularity, …power? I think so…

    Keep it up…loved the post 🙂

  • David,
    all great questions. Intel is B2B as well and social media is an essential part of our strategy. I think you are asking important questions – where is my audience and should I really engage with them on all these networks? After all, it does take time and resources to effectively engage.

    The answer is – you have to give the opportunity to your customers to engage with you in a 2-way dialog. It doesn’t matter what tools/platform you use for this (forums on your website, blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc). There is also the fact that your business is probably talked about online and you need to know what your customers are saying and what your potential customers are hearing. Use tools like TweetDeck (Twitter), Google Alerts, etc to find conversations out there about your brand. If you don’t do anything else just yet, do this! Listen! This will give you a ton of insight into your customers’ thinking/behavior/perspective/perception. This will also give you a chance to jump in and correct the wrong or thanks them for their reviews. If you don’t know what is being said out there about your brand, you cannot effectively address it.

    No matter whether you are B2B or B2C, in every case you sell to people. So connecting with people is what every business needs to learn how to do and social media offers a perfect opportunity to do so.

    Hope this answers your questions


  • David,
    YES! You need to demonstrate ROI in anything you do, period! Always tie it back to your goals and objectives!

    I love Olivier Blanchard – he has fantastic insights on social media, ROI and other topics. I always recommend his blog to others.


  • Thanks, Dino! 🙂
    Great to hear this post is helpful in your shaping up your strategy.


  • Samantha

    Firstly, thanks for a great article.

    Quote: “What posts will be deleted and why”. – Does someone out there have a B2C Facebook Page? Do you delete posts that put a negative light on your product/service?

  • Samantha,
    thank you!

    At Intel we use The Good, The Bad, But Not The Ugly rule. We leave the posts that are positive, we leave the posts that might criticize us or our products, but we absolutely delete offensive posts. Other examples of posts we delete: spam, linkbaiting, etc. If you look at the screenshot of our Facebook Moderation Guidelines above, you’ll see the full list.

    Examples of B2C companies that put moderations guidelines up front and center: Skittles, Subway, Oreo, Coke, Dunkin Donuts, Kraft…


  • Iamqueensblvd24

    @Ekaterina – I love this post and interaction! Thanks! Have you heard of Fan Page Factory by any chance? (

    Take Care.

  • Hey Ekaterina – I echo pretty much everything said above and, like everyone else, thought your post was great. We use a similar approach when selling social media strategies into clients and find examples very effective but in the UK the biggest hurdle for them is resource. You can sell that fact that the tools are free til you’re blue in the face but they still need resource (and bright, switched on resource at that – not the office junior) to make it happen. This is where we hit the biggest resistance because, as you say, the senior management tend not to be using social media so don’t ‘get’ whey valuable time/resource should be invested in it. My principal goal tends to be to meet with senior management first as you could be bashing your head against a brick wall with comms teams if they don’t have support from the leadership. Thanks for getting us all debating.

  • Thanks for the overview. I think there are several opportunities here for employees to be of service to their management teams. Not everyone understands social media! They may know it is “the latest” but not have a clue with how to get started.

    With the right approach, employees that do get it are in the perfect position to start the dialogue and educate their team. It’s a great way to carve out a new role in the org!

  • Thanks for this post, Ekaterina. I’m sharing it with the Social Media in Organizations (SMinOrgs) Community. Soon after I began working with social media intensively, I came to the conclusion that top leadership is key to moving forward – it’s part of the paradoxical reality of social media that I refer to as “democratic dictatorship.” I have been developing a Social Media Primer through the SMinOrgs S.M.A.R.T. Blog to help educate them, and several parts expand on some of the ideas you present above. Specifically:

    Part 3 (4 Mental Shifts Organizational Leaders Need to Make) discusses the need for leaders to accept the shifts in the balance of power and the loss of control, develop new perspectives productivity, and view social media in terms of “when” and “and” rather than “if” and “or.”

    Part 4 (Organizational Factors Relevant to Joining the Social Media Game) addresses the question of whether particular kinds of organization should pursue social media initiatives, and why.

    Part 5 (You Can’t Outsource Leadership) describes some of the activities organizational leaders need to engage in themselves to help their organizations move forward with social media.

    I also always like to point out that the external applications of social media are just the tip of the iceberg, and that ultimately the intra-organizational and inter-organizational applications of social media will be far more pervasive. I address this idea in Part 2 of the Primer (The Juggernaut is Bigger than You Think). Helping leaders understand the true transformative power of new digital technologies will help them engage sooner.

    For folks who are interested in reading these parts of the primer and more, you can find an index at


    Courtney Hunt
    Founder, SMinOrgs Community

  • Thank you! 🙂

    No, haven’t heard about it, but I’ll check it out.


  • Marcie,
    great point! You are absolutely right. When we work with business units within the company, one of the first questions we ask is “Do you have sufficient resources for a meaningful, long-term engagement?”. And sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes it is about making the case to management for dedicating these resources to social media. But every company/group/situation is different, so here, yet again, you have to go back to your objectives.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment!


  • Brenda,
    spot-on! Sometimes it is just an issue of education. At Intel our team is responsible for education and enablement as well. We put together classes, educational decks, and playbooks on different platforms to help folks get started.

    Great point!


  • Thank you for a most interesting article. I must admit that I am rather a novice when it comes to business, but a simple, straightforwards blog article like this is very informative as to the thinking required. i am grateful that I found this as it has given me some information I will find very valuable, the data section with the sites which offer statistics especially.

  • Steve Parker

    Great eye opener for a novice.

  • Great suggestion! I visited first time on your blog and really impressed with the post. i have to add it to my favorite blog.

  • Thank you for a most useful article. Recently In Japan, we become to have the same difficulty. So I want to introduce this article to Japan, and I partly translate it in Japanese on Facebook Notes. Under URL is the page. If there are problems, please tell me via Facebook message. My account is here

    The page is here:


    Daisuke Kawabata
    Student of Waseda university
    & Looops Communications Sales Div

  • Thank you, Seiji! Apprecite your comment and kind words!


  • Thank you, Justin!

  • Daisuke,
    thank you for your comment and for sharing the content!


  • Thanks, Courtney! I like your thoughtful approach. Thank you for sharing with us!


  • great checklist and a great writeup.

    hard part is finding the time to gather all the information out there..

    great name by the way – ekaterina. wow 🙂

  • Thanks! For both compliments 🙂

    And you are right, finding time to collect all the relevant data takes time. But then again, just like with everything else worth doing… 🙂


  • Hey,
    I am very impressed with your article. Social media is gaining fast attention, and the results achieved by many will be the good selling point for those who don’t see social media in a nice way.
    Recover data

  • Brianthekinetic1

    interesting and informative insight into Social Media, Mobile, and B2B. I love your insight and checklist is great for updated info.

  • Celiasellers

    As I was thinking about my blog post for today, I was asking myself the question of why some folks are still so resistant to using social media in their work. Your article provided great information on how to sell its use to management, thank you. I’d like to build on it and start talking to people about using social media in their personal life, which will then (I think) naturally lead into using the tools for business.

  • I need information regarding the connection between social media and consumer interaction??????

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