How to sell social media to senior stakeholders (in 10 handy tips)
Know you should be doing social media but not sure how to sell it to the powers that be, who still keep referencing FaceSpace and believe social media is just a fad for overstimulated teens looking to get knocked up (or something?)?
Well consider me to be your figurative Bruce Willis to your Earth-threatening asteroid, because once again I’m about to save the day (albeit I’m not sacrificing my life to do so, just my time… which is pretty much as precious as Bruce Willis’ character’s life in Armageddon. Or any character’s life in that film for that matter).
Now that we’ve gotten past our amazement at the best and most relevant article introduction EVER, here are 10 arguments to use to convince your senior stakeholders that social media is going to rock your company’s socks. (PS. I may have just eaten about 20 marshmallows = way too much sugar = explanation of hyperactive and ridiculous words coming out of my keyboard).
1) Everyone else is doing it. This isn’t really a legitimate argument per se (god I love that phrase) however it’s an absolute winner when used in any sort of argument to senior stakeholders. The reason for this is that senior stakeholders generally don’t like doing work, or thinking too hard about any ideas or suggestions or improvements or any of that annoying crap that interrupts their online shopping sprees and general fits of self-importance. They just want to do the bare minimum that will get them their paycheck without minimum stress or requirements for real work. However they also don’t want other people to know that a) they are lazy or b) they missed the boat on something.
So if you suggest that the business start to use a completely new marketing channel (social media), their little brain is going to raise a huge red flag that will scream “new channel = more work = fail”, however if you then position this with a message that everyone else in your industry (ie. all your competitors) are already using social media, their little brain is going to override the aforementioned red flag with another red flag of “everyone else is doing it = we’re being left behind = the big boss will ask why = fail”. The risk of having to do more work will then be completely overridden by the risk of being left behind, laughed at and potentially sacked. Everyone is a winner.
Note: ‘senior stakeholders’ referenced above are completely fictional and not representative of any senior stakeholders I have ever worked with, or will work with in the future – all of whom have been ridiculously awesome.
2) Reach people where they are already playing. If that argument is not enough to convince your dubious stakeholders you can use a more logical approach. And maybe even a few analogies. Chances are you can pretty much prove that your target market are using social media (see point 3 below). Unless you’re living in the highlands of Nepal or with the penguins in Antarctica, penetration of channels like Facebook are going to be reaching 50% or higher of your online population in your region. That is some serious penetration (that’s what she said) right there. It’s pretty unlikely an argument can be made that your target audience is not there, since just about everyone is.
The clear numbers and the highly targetable nature of social media make it a brilliant channel to cost-effectively reach the people you want to buy your products. Can you target your TV ad or online press release only to females between the age of 18 and 34? No you cannot. You stick it on the TV or online and hope for the best. You pay a premium (at least for the TV ad) and cop a bunch of waste in the process. It’s not great. It’s not that measurable. You don’t really know who has watched your ad who actually cares at all about your product. Same goes for print ads, radio ads, cinema ads etc.
Social media reaches people where they are not only hanging out (online), but also in a more engaging environment. You are not so much interrupting their activity but participating in it. And that, my friends, is called a big fat huge win. Booyah.
3) Numbers, numbers, numbers and more numbers. Plus statistics, which is what I mean by numbers. As I preach often and loudly, everyone loves statistics. Despite the fact that often they are really quite misleading and potentially completely wrong, we all just declare them as fact and use them willy nilly to prove arguments. This is one of those situations that you should follow this path. We can never really know what is true and what statistics have been derived from a study of five people getting paid $10 (at least not without doing a bit of research, which is just way too much effort). We can only use the information that we have at hand, and as long as it comes from even a semi-reputable source (enter: me) that’s good enough. So raid all my previous social media statistics articles and find those that suit your argument. People cannot argue with figures, unless they take the time to go out and find conflicting statistics, which let’s face it, they won’t do on account of the fact they are probably lazy (see point 1).
4) Viral ability. Social media is not free per se (I just had to squeeze it in again) because time is money and it takes time. Not to mention actual money if you want to do really awesome community growing things like Facebook ad campaigns or Facebook competitions. But here’s the thing: the potential for free resulting marketing from people sharing your shit with their social networks is HUGE (the wankers of the world refer to this as earned media but I thought I’d speak like a normal human being). You could promote your brand new product and pre-sale offer via email to your 1,000 strong email database, but ask yourself – how many of these people will share that email? Probably pretty few. But if you stick a post about it on Facebook, where you have a whole happy community of fans who love you you’re likely to at least get a bunch of likes and comments as well as some shares – which will ultimately get you WAY MORE promotion than a couple of email shares.
I feel like I could explain this a little more (eg. I would only share email with one or two people but on Facebook potentially with my entire Facebook friend network) but to be honest this article is getting long and I think you get what I’m talking about. Am I right?
5) Fluffy stuff does count – engagement, personality, customer service = winning. It’s true that a lot of senior stakeholders think that social media is all about fluffy crap that doesn’t really help the bottom line. Whilst this is not strictly true (see point 6 below), what it is important to convey is that the fluffy crap does actually help you. It may not be tremendously measurable, but it absolutely will help your bottom-line in the long run. If you’re out there building a personality and engaging with your customers, providing more efficient and friendly customer service on channels that your customers are already using and generally being publicly awesome, I can guarantee you that you’ll get more business – new and returning. You haven’t heard the old adage ‘people want to do business with people, not businesses’ a billion times for nothing. It’s true. And they also like recommending you to friends and liking your Facebook page and posts if you’re a human and social business. So in your senior stakeholders’ faces.
6) It can absolutely drive sales and revenue. Fluffy importance notwithstanding, never forget that social media absolutely can drive sales and revenue in a direct-response and measurable way as well. You can post about sales and featured products and drive sales. You can offer Facebook or Twitter only deals and get new customers that way. You can run Facebook ad campaigns just like you can run normal ad campaigns (except with much more effective targeting). I bought a pair of shoes after seeing them on Pinterest and I bought a camera through a Facebook post by Harvey Norman. I’ve bought clothes thanks to social media. I’ve used special coupons promoted on Twitter to buy shit too. Purchased airline tickets thanks to sales promoted on social networks. It works. TELL YOUR MUM. AND YOUR BOSSES. But mainly your mum.
7) Case studies. There’s a veritable array of social media success case studies out there that prove the financial and communication benefits of social media. Go and find some (I can’t do all your work) and reference these to your senior stakeholders. If you can find some that relate to your industry even better, but if that fails just get anything. The proof is in the pudding, and in this case the case study is a warm, gooey heaven of a pudding. Or something.
8 ) Genius arguments that cannot be refuted. Every now and again you’ll come up against a real tough nut of a senior stakeholder. One that just decides to not believe your statistics or case studies and doesn’t care if every business in the world is doing social media. They don’t want to do it. When this happens it’s time to unleash the Cara Principle (self-proclaimed and named). It’s time to tell them this in reply to their protestations:
Yes ( insert actual stakeholder’s name) BUT think of the money we’re currently spending advertising and promoting our business and sending people to our website. We might get them to our site, they may take a look around. But if they don’t choose to purchase right then and there, will they ever come back? Will we ever get the chance to market to them again, without spending the same amount doing the same advertising/promotion? Probably not. We make such an effort (and spend money) building up email/mail database details and yet how many emails or crappy letters do they actually read? Their filter is already set to high on these. Our open rate is in the toilet. Snail mail is OLD SCHOOL. But get these people instead on our social channels and we can promote to them, in an engaging environment, for free, FOREVER.
Liking our Facebook Page is not only openly endorsing us (see point 9) to their entire networks, but gives us permission to ply them with self-serving messages within their very own Facebook news feed for ever after. We’ll not only hit them when they’re at their happiest (socialising and stalking), but they might engage with us further in this very environment, thereby earning us even more free promotion (see point 4).
[elaborate on above points and illustrate with interpretive dance]
So how, ass douche, how do you like them apples? Because I think they’re pretty damn tasty. Yes indeed.
[end Cara Principle]
Did that just blow your mind? Did it?
Yes I think it did.
9) Endorsements. People who join your online communities are publicly endorsing you. How many people will tell their friends they subscribed to your email list? Or visited your website? Probably none. But get them to like your Facebook Page and all of a sudden a whole heap of their friends and family will see that (whether they like it or not). Winning.
10) Scalable. Social media is completely scalable. You don’t have to go all out and sign up to every single channel and spend billions of dollars getting yourself socialised. If your senior stakeholders aren’t sold on the points above (which is pretty damn unlikely if you pulled out the Cara Principle), then suggest starting out slow/easy by using one channel (probably Facebook) first and building it up slowly testing the waters. If you agree to do it within the remit of your current role, and put together the appropriate strategic documents and risk-mitigating strategies first, and not spend money on ad campaigns or competitions for the first while, where exactly is the risk?
If none of these points work I suggest you just go ahead and do it anyway. I mean, they probably will be too absorbed with their solitaire game to even notice.