6 steps to gaining company backing for social media

Start by making your organization’s mission your primary social media objective, Renee Alexander of UNICEF USA tells a Ragan conference crowd.

Having trouble getting buy-in from your company on your social media campaign? Maybe it’s because you’ve set the wrong priorities.

The first bullet point of any campaign should not be to amass Twitter followers or Facebook friends but to restate your organization’s mission, said Renee Alexander, social media manager for UNICEF USA.

Speaking at Ragan’s Social Media for PR & Corporate Communicators conference in Las Vegas, Alexander also urged social media managers to reach out widely within their organizations when building their presence on the Web.

Alexander—who has also worked for a major digital agency representing clients that included Coca-Cola, Olive Garden Italian Restaurant, and Kleenex—has successfully used social media to raise donations or boost sales.

Here are some of her tips:

1. Put the company’s goals first.

“Your goals in social [media] should be the exact set of goals of your company,” Alexander said.

That means point No. 1 on the social media mission statement should be a rewording of the organization’s own mission.

“If it’s to grow the business by 15 percent, grow your business in social [media] by 15 percent,” she said. “If it’s to create long-lasting relationships with your donor base if we’re talking nonprofits, that should be your social media mission.”

In adopting this attitude, the social media strategy is no longer how to get out a press release in 140 characters, but how to accomplish the corporate plan the bosses themselves designed.

“They’re going to love you,” she said.

2. Reach out to other departments.

“Social media is not a marketing function,” Alexander said. “It’s not a PR function. It’s not a promotion function. It’s not an R&D function. It’s not a customer service function. It is a business function.”

That is, social media has implications across every single segment of a business or nonprofit organization. Once other departments see the benefits for the work they do, they are likely to buy in.

For example, she said, at one company, employees started griping about their bosses and their shifts and even resigning via Facebook. Suddenly, human resources could see the importance of social media.

The same message can resonate in the research and development department.

“How many times from an R&D perspective,” Alexander said, “have you been able to think about a product and go, ‘Gee, I wonder if our consumer base would enjoy this product? Would they like it better in purple or red?'”

Social media gives companies the ability to try such questions out among hundreds of thousands of people at once, making it integral to product development.

3. Use case studies to persuade the bigwigs.

When corporate leaders seem shy about social media, Alexander brings out case studies about how it can hurt or help their brand. “The best possible thing you can do with your higher-ups is to give them case studies,” she said.

For example, she said the “United Breaks Guitars” song that went viral hurt the airline’s ticket sales, whereas good use of social media, such as Kodak’s, can help revive a company.

Likewise, frustrated customers have begun tweeting about how long they’re kept on hold. So a major call center with 400 employees placed five staffers on Facebook and Twitter watch, searching for comments to address, Alexander said.

4. Listen to customers—and learn from them.

When customers started tweeting that they didn’t like the name of a new Kodak camera, the company launched a social media campaign to rename it, Alexander said.

Other companies have had similar campaigns, effectively enlisting “the people to do your job for you.” This means the social media staff has to figure out where people are and what they are talking about.

The organization must also be prepared to respond. “If customer service says, ‘We know you hate that about our cell phones, but we’re going to fix it,’ you’d doggone well better have engineering ready to fix it—or don’t tell them you’re going to fix it,” she said.

5. Don’t get left behind.

Alexander once compiled a report for a major client who had business interests all over the world. She told them, “Oh, by the way, there were about 3,200 Facebook pages or groups for their brands that they had no idea about, where a district manager or a sales person somewhere had set up a Facebook page or group by themselves…”

They were filling a void left by the company.

6. Take a long-term approach.

In her presentation, Alexander displayed a slide that read, “First comes LOVE, then comes MARRIAGE, then comes monetization.”

It is possible to use social media to increase sales, she says, but it takes time.

“You can monetize,” she said. “You can raise money. You can increase sales. But it’s a little bit longer. It’s not going to be in the back of a Camaro. It’s going to be in a church.”

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