I’ve said this many times, but I have worked in online communications essentially since its inception (19 years and counting). I have had more battles about why online matters than I could possibly count. I’ve gone to battle with IT (in the beginning, they wanted to own it), with Legal (they always want to own everything) and there is always an ongoing tension between communications and marketing folks because they want to own every piece of information that goes out. At some point, almost EVERYONE at wants to lay claim to a company’s social media presence.
But guess what? I have been at this for a long time, and I STILL see the need (almost weekly) to convince someone influential at my employer that social media matters. Yeah. That.
It’s a good thing that I have had these conversations hundreds of times (and even wrote a post all the way back in 2008 entitled “How to Sell Social Media to Your Dumb Ass Boss“), because I usually know what’s coming when I bring up creating a program for social media that will save time, money and further communications objectives.
Then I get “the look.” Something like this:
Well, if you find yourself in those same shoes and getting The Look, I have updated my post of seven years ago with some new ideas that just might help you sell what should be innate to even the most conservative organizations:
- Define your purpose. If you are planing to try to sell social media, you are the expert and the person to whom others will look to for information and persuasion. So have a really good reason why you think that your organization needs to use Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/SnapChat/YouTube to communicate more effectively. Know your stuff and be ready to start singing for your supper in an elevator, hallway or meeting. Know your talking points and your purpose.
- Identify your business goals. You can just sell social to sell social. You will have a MUCH more likely favorable outcome if you carefully study the goals of your organization and then build you plan and your pitch around them. For example, if you work for an association whose goal it is to become more influential and gain members, come up with a plan that meets those goals. And sell it: “We can increase membership by X if we can identify and engage with people who share our interests. Social media will enable us to find and talk with them, but social interaction is what will bring them in.”
- Set specific targets. The beauty of using social is that since Day 1, we have had a built-in advantage over those who want to use “traditional” media. So let’s say your communications budget is finite and someone proposes (shudder) a satellite media tour. That might be great, but how can you measure how many people watched it? You might know how many stations pulled it down, but then it’s s crapshoot to determine how many people actually were exposed to your messaging.When you attempt to quantify the impact of what you have done, you can say “Well, we have 5,000 new followers on Facebook, 200 on Twitter, an engagement rate well above the industry average and our YouTube videos have been viewed more than 200 times, totaling more than 18,000 minutes.” That is specific, measurable, and if there is a cost involved, enables you to actually calculate a cost per contact. Take that, Mrs. “We Really Should Use TV Ads More.”
- Determine IF/where social fits in. Sometimes, social is a slam dunk. The other day, I was speaking with one of the most respected professors in the profession, Robert French of Auburn University (who has been teaching digital since 1999), and he told me of a large agency whose executives decided that they will not compete for any business that does not have a social media component. I think that this is smart, simply because if you are only using traditional and have an online audience to, it’s practically corporate malpractice NOT to use it.On the other hand, there actually ARE times in which it simply is not a fit. I remember once trying to come up with ways to reach farmers who were growing a certain crop. It did not take me long to determine that we were NOT going to be able to be successful using social media to sway them to our argument, so we let go and focused on other things. It’s not going to work every time – but it will more times than not.
- Work with others to build your program. I am an unabashed “room stacker,” meaning that if I am going into a meeting and pitching an idea to a group of people who will give me a thumbs up or thumbs down on an idea, I make sure to reach out to the people who I trust beforehand, do a soft-sounding of my idea, put it in terms that benefits them, and hopefully ensure that I’ll have one more “yes” vote when it comes time to choose my approach. So think about your legal, communications, public relations, HR, public affairs and marketing colleagues and reach out to them before that all-important decision meeting.
- Internal is important too. This item came to mind from a kerfuffle in 2012 when a young lady by the name of Cathryn Sloan wrote an article “Why Every Social Media Manager Should be Under 25” that set off an Internet firestorm that I waded in to and actually got to write a rebuttal on the very same same site. My response to her was this: “Dear NextGen: A Rebuttal From the Social Media Old Folks.” I pointed out that just because you are really good at Facebook does not mean that you will be successful at implementing it in a work setting. The example I use is that, just like stacking the room with supporters, you need to consistently and enthusiastically be a social media evangelist at your employer. Give brown bag lunches. Make people understand what it is that you are accomplishing. Back it up with benefits-oriented statements from the point of view of your organization. Think of yourself as someone who is thinking about running for President while building allies and accepting contributions. Work the crowd. Consistently. Knowing how to do this (or that it is even necessary) comes from years of experience – that’s why so many people got ticked off at what Cathryn Sloan wrote four years ago. It is much more likely that a seasoned communications person who happens to do social will know this, rather than someone who is god at Facebook but unable to articulate how this will further organizational objectives – and build a coalition of supporters.
Finally, the go-to point that is usually the deal-clincher is simply this: if your employer thinks that he/she can control what people are saying about your company, I guarantee you that this means that you have already lost control.
Hang in there guys. I’ve gotten The Look for almost two decades, and I keep going back for more.