5 Tips for Selling the Value of Social Media Inside Your Company

by Kate Brodock on 10 August 2010

Posted in: Educating,social media,Toolkit

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Today’s Guest Post is by Kristin Zajac, a social media marketing enthusiast and recent MBA graduate from the MIT Sloan School of Management. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Feel like you spend as much time trying to “sell” your own organization on the value of participating in social media as you do actually harnessing value from Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook? You’re not alone.

How many of these objections sound familiar?

  • “Twitter is just for posting personal updates that no one cares about. Why would our company want to participate in that?”
  • “We want our customers coming to our website for information about us, not Facebook.”
  • “What if a customer posts something negative about our company or product? We can’t let that happen.”

One of the biggest challenges for the social media marketer today is assuming the role of evangelist within his or her own company.  For those marketers who want to move forward with a social media marketing program, gaining buy-in from internal teams can be a frustrating and painful process. Try these tips to help accelerate acceptance.

Tip 1: Carefully consider the perspective of your audience.

Marketers, salespeople, lawyers, executives, etc. all have different career goals, and these goals influence how they perceive anything new and different in their company.  If a colleague feels that the company’s participation in social media threatens their ability to be successful in their job, they are going to resist it. Therefore, it’s critical that you consider why someone doesn’t want social media.

  • Does the salesperson fear that their value will be eroded if customers can post questions online and any employee in the company can answer?
  • Does the engineer worry that too much information about her product will be revealed publicly?
  • Does the executive believe that the demographic of social media users is all wrong for your product line?

When you understand the source of the hesitation, you’re more likely to be able to address it effectively. Not only can you mitigate fears, you can also find unnoticed aspects of social media that may positively impact your colleague’s goals. For example, an executive concerned about the ROI of employees producing white papers may respond to the idea that content assets repurposed for a new medium may provide additional return.

If you don’t know what might be making a colleague hesitate – ask! Maybe the concern stems from a simple misunderstanding and can be easily cleared up. Or if it’s a bigger issue, it’s likely that others have the same misgiving and you’ll need to address it eventually anyway. Either way, you’ll show that you understand the important business issues and that you have the expertise to overcome them.

Tip 2: Speak the same language.

Be aware of key vocabulary used in the department of the person you’re talking to, and incorporate it into your conversation if appropriate. Try to avoid using a lot of marketing terminology that may be more familiar to you than to them.

When you’re talking to someone in sales, mention that social media generates leads that will help them reach their quota.  If it’s someone in finance, stress that adding social media marketing will add little to nothing to the budget.

At the same time, don’t use social media-specific  terms like hashtag or fan page — not only will novices not understand what you’re talking about, they may also feel defensive about their lack of knowledge and annoyed that you don’t understand where they are coming from (see Tip 1). If you need to reference a social media term, make sure to explain it.

Tip 3: Provide relevant examples of success.

One of the most powerful ways to convince skeptics of the value of social media is to give concrete success stories. Research your competitors’ efforts and make sure to point out any wins they have had, even if it’s as simple as their number of Facebook fans.

Anecdotal evidence works great too. For example, perhaps you’ve heard that a competitor closed a big sale with a client who came to them by finding the company’s blog. Relay those stories to colleagues early and often.

The more concrete examples you can give, the more you can open up a skeptic’s mind to the ways social media can be a fantastic tool — and less of a liability.

Tip 4: Reference or hire third party experts.

Sometimes an external expert in a space can bring credibility to a claim made by an employee when colleagues are skeptical.

Find and share an article highlighting the value of social media in a publication that your colleague respects. For example, if you’re trying to win over your CFO, scour the Wall Street Journal.

Or, consider bringing in a speaker who is an expert on social media marketing to explain the space and answer questions. This can take some of the onus off you to be able to respond to every potential issue.

Tip 5: Show that your customers are already on social media.

Provide evidence that your customers are already present on social media and talking about topics related to your industry. Gather screenshots of customer comments about your company, your competitors, or the pain that your products solve on various social networking platforms. Then show your colleagues. Ask: If our customers are already having these conversations online, shouldn’t we have a voice in the dialog?

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