How to convince your management about social media? Don’t talk about it.

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It must be one of the questions I get very often: “Steven, how can we convince our management team to invest more in social media?” My answer is very simple: “go to them with a plan that is not about social media.”

Of course, this post is meant for companies with a board that is hard to convince about the role of social media in their organization. If your management is fully with you on social media, you can take a more rapid approach than what I propose in this article.

What every management wants

The best chance on success is to create a story that includes the daily challenges of a board of directors. Most top managers that I talked to, have the same goal: they want to create happier clients and employees at a lower cost. They dream of a higher market impact with less resources. In fact their challenge is to increase the ‘return on happiness’ of clients and employees.

In other words, start your story with clear objectives on how your plan will help to increase marketing impact and to make people happy. At the end of your plan, you need to convince the board that your plan will lead to a lower marketing and service budget, but that it is no free journey. Short term investments are needed. I personally think that a social media plan should go for that ultimate goal.

Pilots with long term potential.

Once you made your objectives clear, the next step is to propose a plan that works with clear building blocks. Don’t propose to change everything at once. Use an approach where you include pilots, but go for pilots with long term potential. For example, if you want to start with online customer service (webcare) and you dream about a 24/7 helpdesk, maybe you should propose a webcare plan that helps customers during the office hours. At that point, you may already know that this will not be sufficient, but it will get you started. After a while, you can go to step two of your webcare plan. Take the step-by-step approach to take people with you in the story. In a previous post, I already talked about selecting the right pilot projects. Add the dimension ‘future potential’ to that post. If a pilot is just a short term idea that ends at a certain moment, you need to start over again. I tend to compare it with the ‘boiling frog’ metaphor. If you throw a frog in a pan with boiling water, it will jump out. If you put the frog in a pan with cold water and your slowly heat up the water, the frog won’t notice it and stays. The same will happen with the barriers towards social media. If you propose a too advanced plan, the barriers will be hard to remove. If you start with a clear and ‘safe’ plan, the barriers won’t be there. By slowly heating up the pilot projects, people won’t notice the change that much.

4 C model to create pilots with long term potential

So, we need pilots with long term potential. Next to that, the pilots should have enough diversity to include different departments. The end goal is to integrate social media in the different business processes. Of course, the goal is not a technological goal, the goal is to make the entire organization more customer oriented.

In brainstorms, I always use the 4 C model from my latest book ‘The Conversation Company’ to create a list of pilots wit future potential.

4C model of the Conversation Company

  • Customer Experience: many companies that started with digital customer service, are now wondering what the next step could be. Taking webcare to the next level, is a very common project. But maybe there are more possibilities in this field. Maybe we can develop applications that increase the service experience for clients but lower the costs for our organization.
  • Conversation: social listening is a typical pilot in the area of conversation management. This is obviously a pilot with a lot of future potential. You can evolve from a one time listening project to ongoing listening. The last step is active listening in which the listening conclusions are integrated in some decision making flows. But there is more to think about: for instance the role of employees in the conversation, when should you engage and when should you not engage… These are projects where for instance the HR department should play an important role in.
  • Content: a typical pilot is a digital advertising campaign. My advice would be, make sure that the digital campaign fits in a long term communication objective and know what will be next once the campaign ends. We have seen too many wonderful campaigns the last few years that were just one time successes without a next step. The creation of a long term content plan is important in this field. It’s clear that the marketing & communication people should be onboard in these pilots.
  • Collaboration: how can we collaborate with the consumer? Companies can start with a short term collaboration pilot with the potential to extent it to an ongoing collaboration project. There are different forms of collaboration to experiment with: you can choose for the large, open forms of collaboration, or maybe you prefer the smaller, closed platforms. These projects could be very interesting for the R&D department as consumer collaboration is often about the improvement of existing products or about creating insights for new products.

When you create your social media integration plan, it really helps to think about each of these components. The challenge is to develop the pilots (with step 2 and 3 already in your mind) and to involve the right people. Good luck with your mission!

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