Three things to do before you ‘sell’ social media to anyone

I hate using the word sell in a way that really means ‘influence’ or inform. But there are some times when you as a communicator need to sell the idea upstream because, frankly, no one seems to have the courage to broach the subject.

I was talking to someone in an association the other day and he sort of shielded his mouth and lowered his voice to tell me “our website sucks.” I’m sure you have had that kind of experience. Then he went on to say that most people agreed that the content was so badly laid out, and the delivery was soooo not in keeping with new media, that the higher-ups had decided to revamp the site. But still, no one wants to be the first, or loudest, to say that ‘we need to plug into some social media strategies – fast.”

How do we tell them and prove to them these are the things we need to do, he asked? I was tempted tp say make a list, but I held back.

I came across a “Five things to do” article (on executive buy-in) at Ragan Communications that was one of those. It is a great list and I happen to agree with the steps. But I worry about numbering these, and even putting a finite number to it.

I know, I know! I titled this post “Three things” but you will discover why in a bit.

The writer, Frank Strong, asks you who dare to sell the idea to the big guys to take these steps:

  1. Get the facts
  2. Identify customers and prospects
  3. Review the competition
  4. Know your ‘Use Cases’ –a  buzz phrase that means what-if scenarios. Among  many other things!
  5. Manage expectations

To which I would add:

Identify related topics and conversations that the company ought to be addressing. He covers part of this in#3. But apart from responding to queries, senior management might like to know the blind spots and what might not seem obvious, and why this ‘chatter’ could be responded to.

Provide a plan of action. Sounds simple. But most people tend to want to wait for the green light to provide the steps that might be taken. By outlining, however basic, the road map you will might take, makes the executive more confident that this is not just another “let’s throw something and see if it sticks” idea.

Work the back-channel. Execs often have their ear to the ground and randomly check the pulse of people who have opinion credibility. Get to these first if you can. See if you can have their buy-in even at a basic level, so that they may not be the ones who make of break the deal.

So here’s my list of things to do.

  1. Seek out the blind spots
  2. Sketch your road map.
  3. Get lower heads to nod
  4. Ask permission later

On that last point, sometimes you need to get things moving before you can bring the heavy lifters in. Social media always lets you try-before-you-buy. (Can’t see that happening with say, a  TV campaign or magazine inserts!) Start a Twitter account even if no one has approved of one. The worst they could do is shut it down. This gives you the up-seller a way to reach deep and wide and check the pulse, so that you can then say you have dabbled in this thing and have acquired … (provide numbers and details here.) Same with other channels whether it is starting a LinkedIn group, a Flicker account, or guest blogging for a friendly vendor or alliance.

So yes, there are four suggestions in my “Three Things.” The point is, there could be four or fourteen; they can (and should) vary for every situation.

Make your own list! Don’t follow mine, for goodness sakes!

2 thoughts on “Three things to do before you ‘sell’ social media to anyone

  1. As an IT consultant I am fully aware that IT management is struggling with whether social media is productive or obstructive for companies and their employees. Software is being developed and policy and restrictions are being decided everyday by IT managers. The security of company networks are at stake but the potential for innovation using social media is a large enough carrot for the discussion of how to properly utilize the medium continues. Palo Alto networks came up with an webinar,, that should be interesting exploring the issues surrounding social media in the workplace. It is important to not only understand the immediate benefits of doing business how one lives, but the threat it presents to a company’s greater ROI and productivity when it comes to the server’s safety and security.


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