9 Ways to Sell Social Media to Executives

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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