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Guest Article <br>Reading Minds: How NOT to Sell Social Media to your Boss!

13-August-2010
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Guest Article <br>Reading Minds: How NOT to Sell Social Media to your Boss!

Yeah, Yeah we know your boss does not think that social media is a fad! http://ht.ly/2o4aR (show him this video in any case). Even if your boss believes that social media will be the next big thing, the problem is that he may not commit the budget until he believes it has become big. If every boss thinks so, then my friends it shall never become big, hence this post.

Recently I took a one day work shop on ‘Leveraging Search and Social Media to gain a competitive advantage’. One question paramount on every participant’s mind was ‘How do I sell the importance of Social Media to our Management’. However when I dived further and asked them what strategies they had followed to sell social media to their management including getting approvals for the workshop, to my horror I realised, the bigger problem is “How NOT to sell social media to Management”

Here are some examples I heard, and my two bits on how they could be modified …

1 Social Media can deliver Customer Acquisition – quite a few people cite how Dell has used Twitter to sell millions of dollars of products and set expectations that Social Media shall deliver customer acquisition. A micro Blogging platform such as twitter is an effective information dissemination platform; in this case Dell has used this to distribute discount coupons, however Dell is an exception, so setting up customer acquisition expectations is not such a good idea. Instead focus on the strengths of the social platform, and see how you can leverage the same for your company.

Example You Tube, Twitter are great platforms for information dissemination, Facebook is great for building and managing a community, ORM tools are great in understanding consumer behaviour- promise delivery based on the strength of the platform, the endeavour shall become self-sustaining. Of course if you don’t sell customer acquisition to your Boss and do achieve customer acquisition, that corner office is not far away.

2 Let me setup a Blog / Twitter for you – I believe that tens of thousands of Bosses’ Twitter id’s or blogs are languishing in cyberspace. Blog writing is a serious commitment; managing Twitter can be also become strenuous. A better idea is to get the boss on Facebook, help him find a few of his college friends, write to them, setup an online reputation management dash board for him, (he will receive amazing insights of what consumers are saying about your brand) or setup a Twitter account where it becomes more like an information filtering tool rather than a platform where he has to tweet regularly. In case you do get a committed boss who takes to blogging or Twitter, it is critical that you allocate resources to promote the blog or the Twitter account. Unless he receives visitors / comments on his blog or exponential growth of followers on Twitter, he is bound to lose interest. Worse develop a perception that social media does not work.

3 It’s Free – This is probably the worst thing to tell your boss. I know of some large organisations where some of the team members have communicated to the management that social media endeavours shall not be expensive, as they are free and existing team would manage it. Enterprise social media is a serious commitment, as it can’t be a one-off activity, it needs to be sustained. Social media involves Online Reputation Management, Content Creation, Application development, Managing Conversations etc. Lastly in order to seed the community and ensure traction, one also needs media budgets. Thus it is critical that management understand the commitment social media endeavours require.

4 Don’t Worry Nothing will happen– Let’s be honest, the threat of negative consumer response is real. As Clay Shirky has pointed in his book ‘Here comes everybody’, social media allows consumers a platform to unite against a brand – this is the first in the history of mankind where these unified consumers communication can become as powerful as the communication of these large brands. What needs to be explained that not being on social does not solve the challenge of negative consumer response, in fact consumer tend to criticise when their complaints are not addressed. The management needs to be given an overview how ORM tools can help them keep a track of consumer responses and how they have a chance to address the issue before it really becomes a problem. The second more important point that needs to be communicated. If a brand has a strong social media presence, when something goes wrong, these followers/fans would defend you. However if you don’t have social media presence, things could still go wrong (employees spitting on Domino Pizza or Rats running around in Taco Bell’s are live examples). At least an effective ORM strategy along with a strong Fan Base would help either prevent a negative consumer comment or help resolving it faster by involving the fan base.

Summarising my thoughts, social media endeavours requires a huge commitment from an organisation, both from time as well as investments of view. Taking a shortcut to get quick approval does not help the long-time goals of the endeavour. Don’t sell only to your immediate superior, but also sell to his Bosses’ Boss. Unless the entire Senior Management is behind the initiates as well as willing to give it time and money, sustaining the endeavour shall be difficult. So in a nut shell, sell the holistic perspective of social media and how it can be leveraged. Create a complete strategy road map for each of the Social Media Platforms, list out the investments it would require, this approach may take a lot more time, however once you have the approvals, it would give you allow you to scale the endeavour and sustain it long enough to prove its value.

Best of luck my friends! Happy Selling! (Remember, once you get approvals I am just a tweet away @Vivekbhargava )

(Being the CEO of Communicate 2 puts me in that “BOSS” bracket, so any comments made towards the Boss are not derogatory, actually they refer to a HIPPO (Avinash Kaushik describes it to be Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). So every room at all times generally has a Hippo, many a times it is you.)

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