Not long ago many marketers had to explain to their CEOs why they should care about social media. Those conversations were fun, weren’t they?
Fast forward to 2015, and now 92% of marketers say social media is important to their business.1
Clearly, social media marketing has come of age, at least for marketers.
The problem is that many executives don’t seem to have been listening very carefully the first time we explained social media: 68% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies have no social media presence whatsoever.2 And now they’re getting miffed at the burgeoning size of social media budgets.
We can potentially blame this on the fact that they see their kids spending free time on sites that they pay their marketing team to frequent, but that’s beside the point.
What we need to figure out is, in the world of nearly universal social media adoption, how do we talk intelligently to our bosses about why social is still a vital part of any marketing plan?
Change the Way You Talk About Social Media Marketing
Marketers understand the value of social media on an almost intuitive level, so it can be difficult to try and explain its value empirically. It can help to think about social as if it were an old school marketing tool, like a SWOT analysis, and use the same sort of reverential tone.
Instead of Facebook, the home of click bait about the crazy thing you won’t believe happens in this amazing video, it’s Facebook, the place where 45% of our demographic spends over two hours a day.
If you want your bosses to take social media serious, you’ve got to start treating it like a serious marketing channel.
Sure, your posts about Serious Business Topics might be showing up in someone’s feed adjacent to a fainting goat, but you still need to keep a straight face when it comes time to talk ROI, budget, and priorities.
Learn What Not to Say to Your CEO About Social Media
Even the most tech-savvy, millennial-esque CEO has their limits when it comes to accepting social media marketing. You need to know where that limit is and stop the hashtag rehash well before it gets there.
But, regardless of the kind of executive you’re dealing with, don’t ever talk about social media like this:
Don’t Say: We wouldn’t have problem X if only you’d give us more budget for social media.
Whether you’re lagging in market shared behind a more social competitor, missing out on opportunities to interact with customers in real time, or not learning about networking events in your area, a lackluster presence on social media can cause problems.
But these are not what your CEO wants to hear about.
S/he listens to list after list of problems all day long. Don’t put social media on those lists.
Instead Say: I think social media is an excellent solution to problem X. [pause for interested reaction] Can I elaborate?
Getting a lot of customer complaints lately? Offer up social media as a way to engage people while they’re feeling evangelical or disgruntled.
Feeling the squeeze from a new company entering your market? Reconsider the power of your brand reaching out to engage your audience.
Whatever the current pain point that’s annoying your CEO, suggest a possible social media solution if you think one might actually work.
Don’t overload with statistics. Statements like, “I read about a company that generated 100,000 leads with Facebook!” immediately throw up huge red flags with most executives. They assume the stats are padded, or just plain fake.
Instead: Reference a pet statistic that your CEO likes to dwell on. Casually mention how you think social media will drive improvements to that number in new and innovative ways.
A number or two never hurts, but keep them down to earth. Even if you think you could triple your lead generation, being conservative in your estimations while you get high level buy in is typically a winning strategy.
Don’t use competitors as an excuse: This one is particularly tempting if you’ve got a competitor doing exciting things with their social media marketing. Many marketers are driven by a competitive nature that makes them want more retweets, more shares, more connections than the competition.
But unless your CEO has a similar competitive streak, this kind of tactic can easily backfire. Executives may instinctively shy away from imitation, preferring instead to forge a unique marketing approach without reference to competitors.
Instead: Figure out where untapped opportunities exist that your competitors haven’t tapped yet and focus on those.
Maybe their social strategy only targets one market segment, and you could monopolize another. Or they could be emphasizing sharing high quality written content, leaving a big opening for your brand to dominate visuals.
You can also leverage any existing competitor successes to create a case for your own unique tactics. Think of competitors as test cases; they got out there and took the risk, so now you can reap the rewards (or avoid their mistakes).
Don’t ask for more money to spend: Whether you want start, expand, or revitalize a social media campaign, try to keep the focus off the amount of cash your CEO is going to be expected to fork over.
Whatever the best case outcome, asking for thousands more dollars to tweet can be a tough sell.
Instead: Focus on the money you’re freeing up. Especially when compared to things like market research, hiring a new employee, or heavy duty PPC advertising, social media marketing is a bargain.
You get measurable, actionable results quickly, and the flow remains fairly consistent.
Now may be a good time to bring out the stats if you think your CEO would be receptive. Here are a few to consider:
- By spending as little as 6 hours per week, 66%+ of marketers see lead generation benefits with social media.
- Nearly half of those who spend at least 6 hours per week on social media efforts saw a benefit of reduced marketing expenses. At least 57% of businesses with 10 or fewer employees agreed social media reduced marketing expenses, while only 40% of businesses with 1000 or more employees agreed.
- With as little as 6 hours per week, the vast majority of marketers (95%+) indicated their social media efforts increased exposure for their businesses.
Don’t throw around social media jargon: This can extend even to the names of new and trendy social networks (I’m looking at you, Meerkat). You don’t want to make your CEO feel out of the loop, or even worse, stupid.
Remember, the goal is not to show off how clever you are for knowing social media buzzwords. The goal is to accurately convey the value of social media marketing to your executives.
Tossing out meaningless words because they make you look smart isn’t going to do it.
Instead: Make social terms accessible. Think of common, real world parallels for how social media interactions work, and use those to explain why social media marketing simply works.
Is having followers on LinkedIn akin to going to a meet and greet at the Chamber of Commerce? Maybe a retweet is like telling a friend about a great restaurant you ate at.
Don’t talk down to the C-suite, but consider couching your argument in the most relatable terms possible.
Conclusion: Your CEO Is Not on Instagram
Casual, well-considered references to social media as a legitimate marketing channel can go a long way to setting them up as a respected marketing pillar.
Avoid the common pitfalls when discussing social with C-level executives, and you may even get some interest in expanding the company’s social presence.
Whatever your goals or tactics for re-introducing your bosses to the power of social, tailor the conversation properly or you could find yourself getting un-followed quickly.