Your Boss Fears Social Media – Now What?

I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that many of the executives I’ve met just don’t get the whole social media thing.  Their concerns range from fear of the unknown, to discomfort with potential and current customers being a little too candid, to hesitation with creating something whose ROI they can’t measure in the typical black and white manner.

I don’t know if this is a typical attitude for Generation-X’ers, but in the midst of a tumbling world economy and a transformation from old forms of advertising to new, social media is more important than ever.  And it might just be you who needs to prove that to your bosses.

Have specific goals in mind.

You have used integrated marketing campaigns in the past; what were you trying to achieve with those?  Do you want to simply increase web site traffic?  Do you want more conversions on your web site?  Do you want your name to show up in major online publications?  Figure out what you want to achieve, and plan accordingly.  Then show the boss your ideas.

Be one step ahead of your boss.

I was recently asked about the potential for a blog on our web site, which is based in Java and therefore is not compatible with standard installations of WordPress, for example.  Instead, I had chatted with a colleague earlier to find out about open source, Java-based blogging platforms, and was quick to bring up Roller as an option for us.  By having an option already in your back pocket prior to speaking with your boss, you save your boss from hemming and hawing about how your company “wouldn’t know where to begin,” thus delaying things further.

Stress the low cost.

I’m not saying that social media is free.  One must consider the fact that social media marketing, if done right, can be extremely time consuming – and in this day and age, time is money.  But many bosses are more concerned with specific dollar amounts, which is where social media really shines.  As far as finance is concerned, if you aren’t spending large amounts of money, you’re doing a fine job.  And in this poor economy, not spending money is going to sound pretty darn good to your superiors.

Give real-life examples of how social media has worked for other companies.

You know the value of social media for business; otherwise this wouldn’t be an issue for you at all.  But you can’t very well expect to convince anyone of the many merits of using social media as a marketing tool if you have nothing to back it up.  If you’re in the food industry, cite Coca-Cola‘s use of Mentos in YouTube videos to send its sales of Diet Coke skyrocketing.  If you’re in the Internet services industry, refer to HubSpot‘s fast-paced growth over the last year thanks to its blogs, webcasts, and “Grader” toolset.  Dell has an entire island dedicated to its products on Second Life, and Starbucks has both Facebook and Twitter pages to connect with its community.  It is important that your boss sees success stories with regard to companies in your particular sector or industry to further bolster your arguments.

Prove it.

Especially if you work in a small company, there is no harm in doing some small-scale experiments to prove to your boss that social media marketing really can work.  If you don’t have a PR team or communications pro that is accustomed to doing so, take it upon yourself to respond to blog posts about your company.  Digg or Stumble articles that reflect your company favorably.  Start a Twitter account that allows you to deliver and intermix objective articles about your industry while slipping in an invitation to a company webcast here and there, for example.  Once you have something going, something solid, you’ll have a lot more pull when you finally talk to your boss.

For those of you who do use social media marketing in your company, and were the champions of such an act, how did you sell the idea to your boss?  Did you address his fears (consumers with not-so-flattering things to say about your company), or did you focus on his practical side (cutting costs)?

Special thanks to @RichBecker, @ChristySeason, and @candyhog for their feedback!


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4 Comments so far:

  1. Excellent post. The longer it tales larger firms to get with the social networking program, the bigger the learning curve will be for them.

    From my experience, the biggest fear of big firms in blogging and tweeting is exposing too much. There’s a great deal of caution to always be perceived as having the perfect answer for everything.

    My opinion is that clients will evangelize even more for a company that they feel a personal connection to, even with the occasional publicly exposed gaffe (if admitted and solved).

  2. Dave Peck says:

    Great Post. One issue that comes up to is how do you measure it? Companies want to use traditional methods to measure ROI

  3. Abigail says:

    Great post, loved every point, all terribly relevant. I love the advance research, preëmpt points especially. Solve the problem before it comes up. Anticipate. And stress the savings (Many businesses that don’t tie employee hours to project billable hours love no- or low-outlay solutions that absorb amployee time and focus. And they should!).

    @Dave Peck Measurability will vary from company to company. Small companies with feisty employees will see the most measurable return (business in terms of revenue/inquires/opportunities), followed closely by large companies with very sensitive measuring devices. I guess what I’m saying is that measuring IS hard, but it’s not as hard for businesses too small to fail to notice results and businesses too large to fail to notice results.

  4. Ingrid says:

    Thanks for all of your comments! @Abigail, I agree – measuring social media successes is still very much in its infancy, and at the moment can prove a daunting task. The important thing is to ensure that you have clear goals for your efforts, whether it is having a high number of blog subscribers or Twitter followers, a superb list of sites that are linking back to yours, a certain number of web site visitors, etc.

    Also, @Sparky Firepants, I think you hit the nail on the head with your last line: “My opinion is that clients will evangelize even more for a company that they feel a personal connection to, even with the occasional publicly exposed gaffe (if admitted and solved).” I think an “admitted and solved” mistake or error in judgment actually creates the personal connection in the first place, and potential consumers do respond to that. Obviously, if you ignore or play down the mistake and kept trudging forward same as always, you might not get the same results. 😛