Paradox: In an age when people gobble technology advances like Pez candy, marketing and customer service somehow get more labor intensive, not less.
Social media and the rise of self-serve content requires us to actually attempt to fulfill the decades-old promise of one-to-one marketing—winning hearts and minds a few at a time. And that takes time.
Social media and content marketing aren't cheap, they're just expensive in a different way. Even with the latest and greatest social media management software, automation, workflow, application programming interfaces (APIs), and the entire chorus line of digital shiny objects, your company needs actual human beings at the controls. And that's where the problem starts.
The social media people problem
Executives do not fully understand the labor that content marketing and social media require. They overestimate the role of the wand and underestimate the role of the wizard.
Social media management software companies and others buy expensive ads in trade publications, sponsor conferences, and publish regular research to get on executive radar screens. Their marketing facilitates the belief that social media success is a byproduct of software. There is no voice of the other side to say "Yeah, but what about the human capital that needs to pilot this craft?"
This is why one of the most common questions I hear at speaking engagements and in corporate conference rooms is, "How can we do this well with limited resources?" I've even heard the conversational shoulder shrug of, "We can get software approved, but we can't add headcount."
You're asking the wrong question
If executives won't give you the workforce to execute what you want in social media and content marketing, then trying to figure out how to do more with less is 100 percent wrong.
I'm not saying a small staff can't be efficient. More companies should get their customers, employees and business partners to create and spread content. But ultimately, understaffing is like mononucleosis: it may not kill you, but it will make you feel exceptionally crappy for a long time.
You shouldn't ask, "How do we squeeze blood from a stone?" You need to ask, "How do we get more stones?"
It's not their fault, it's yours
When I make this argument, I often hear, "Our executive team doesn't really understand or appreciate what we do in social media. Certainly not enough to give us more people." If that's the case—and it often is— it is your responsibility to educate and illuminate.
Is it the executives' fault they don't understand the potential impact? No, it's yours. Everything they read is designed to convince them they do not need to invest in more people. You are the counterbalance.
Argue for people by ignoring the people
Perhaps it's ironic, but the way to effectively argue for more people is not to demonstrate how much time social media and content marketing requires. That never works because executives have no frame of reference or objective measure to know whether you efficiently use the hours you say are necessary.
You say it takes four hours per day to effectively monitor the Facebook page. How are executives supposed to react to that? They know as much about what it takes to monitor a Facebook page as they do about what it takes to shoe a horse or flush a radiator.
Even when you confront them with your stunning charts, it boils down to whether they believe you. Given that many of you waging these internal arguments have not been in your positions very long, you may not have accumulated the executive-layer trust and goodwill that allows you to succeed in this type of scenario.
The argumentative power of math
This is why it is so important to map your social media and content marketing programs back to business results. Do your team's efforts make or save the company money?
When I ran my prior digital marketing agency, I often used this line in new business pitches: "If every dollar you spend with me brings back at least $1.01, you don't have a budget. Your budget is how fast you can borrow money."
If you need more people on your team, it is your responsibility is to prove to your executive team that each dollar they spend will bring back at least $1.01.
Here's how to lose that argument:
- A report that shows growth of Facebook likes.
- A report that shows growth of social media mentions.
- A report that shows total number of Twitter impressions.
- A report that shows the number of blog comments.
Remember, executives don't care whether the company is good at social media or content marketing. They care about being good at business. You should report instead on how you drive customer behavior that yields financial outcomes.
Leads, sales, repeat purchases, referrals, email sign-ups, redemptions, foot traffic. All of these are behavior metrics, not aggregation metrics. You can track all of these back to social media and content marketing if you make the effort to do so.
You want more people on your team? Show executives the money.
Jay Baer is a social media strategy consultant, speaker, and co-author of "The NOW Revolution." He is the founder of Convince & Convert, a social media strategy firm, and he blogs at the Convince & Convert social media strategy blog
, where this article originally ran.