Social media may be maturing, but there’s still a whole lot of companies out there that aren’t on board yet. This means that getting senior leadership’s support of social media engagement is still a challenge for some marketing and PR pros.
For example, consider the following:
> A 2008 study by found just 16 percent of Fortune 500 companies have corporate blogs
> The flip side of this eMarketer report shows that anywhere from 20-30 percent of companies do not maintain profiles on social media sites
> Just 16 of FTSE 100 companies are on Twitter.
Social media will buzz about your company online, with or without your participation — just like a reporter will run a story whether you choose to provide a comment or not. Naturally, engagement is the preferred technique, because it provide the opportunity to shape the conversation. So, how do you get senior management buy-in? Here are five ways to help make the case:
1. Build your case with facts. Research and identify tangible statistics about the value social media can provide to a business. For example, one study found that small businesses with 100 to 500 followers generated 146% more (median) monthly leads than those businesses with less. Social media “wow” videos like this are fascinating to those active in social media, but probably don’t provide the compelling evidence you need for a business case to your leadership — the more relevant the facts you find are to your industry, the more credibility they will hold.
2. Identify customers and prospects online. The objective here is to demonstrate that your customers and prospects are currently active in social networks which makes it a necessary place to engage them. There are a couple of ways to approach this research. The first way is to identify your customers on a given social network. If you are a B2B company, it’s easy enough to search Facebook or Twitter for profiles of your customers. B2C companies may have success on these networks, but YouTube is also a great place to look since people routinely post videos of the latest gadget they purchased. The second way to do this is to search for customers that are searching for your company on social networks. The “answers” section of LinkedIn and Twitter are excellent resources, though you’ll have to search Twitter routinely since Tweets can be hard to find in search after a couple weeks. Prospects in particular will often solicit feedback from the Twitter stream, “Have you ever heard of XYZ company?” Take screen shots of customers requests for engagement. The more you find, the stronger your case.
3. Review your competitors. Spending on social media is up — this eMarketer post says that B2B companies planned to spend about 40 percent more on social media in 2010. There’s a good chance your competition is contributing to that number — find their profiles online and take notes on a) their activities. For example, document the type and frequency of their engagement (i.e. are they offering deals, resources or something else?) and b) the number of fans, followers or other measures of their audience size. Where possible, capture the data in a spreadsheet and chart the findings visually in graphs. Nothing captures senior management’s attention like the competition so this is a good trigger for gaining interest.
4. Platforms and use cases. At this point you’ve done the research on where your customers are and what they are seeking. Use this knowledge to make recommendations about what platforms you should consider and what types of engagements your company should perform. Pitch the effort as a trial — a pilot test with the necessary time to demonstrate value.
5. Manage expectations. Don’t oversell social media — building momentum takes time and if you set the bar too high, you run the risk of falling short and undermining your case. Remember that social media requires you to listen first, then engage.
Note: This post is part of a blog panel with Ashley Wirthlin who writes at the Public Relations Blogger. Be sure to check out her post kicking things off.
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