How to persuade leaders to embrace social media—5 simple steps

One out of three businesses doesn’t use social media, according to a recent study. Here’s how to overcome the most common obstacles.

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One out of three organizations hasn’t adopted social media marketing for business objectives based on the 2010 State of Social Media for Business conducted by Smart Brief for Social Media and Summus Limited. While there are two major obstacles to social media usage, there are some relatively simple steps that can overcome these challenges.

Two hurdles to adopting social media

1. Lack of social media marketing support by decision makers.

One third of respondents cite not being the decision maker as the reason that social media marketing isn’t used in their organization. Additionally, 15 percent of respondents noted management resistance (Note: Survey allowed multiple answers.)

Given that senior management may be reticent to admit their lack of social media savvy, one way to get them on board would be to offer special one-on-one social media support with an expert or to train a group of senior managers together. Getting management comfortably using social media would help expand the firm’s use of social media as a business tool.

2. Confidentiality concerns are referenced by a third of respondents as hindering social media usage. While regulated businesses, like finance and pharmaceuticals, must be careful in how they integrate social media into their marketing mix, there are still many opportunities. For example, Chase used its Facebook page to get customer input as to how to distribute $5 million to local charities and Fidelity Investments uses podcasts and videocasts to disperse its message.

So what’s the best way to make the case for using social media for business? Here are five tactics that take the major objections into consideration.

1. Monitor the social media landscape to determine what’s being said about your organization, brands, products and management. Your prospects, customers and the public may be talking about you without your knowing it.

2. Set your business objectives for social media. To help make the case for adding social media to your marketing mix, here are three reasons that can cause a business to reassess their current position.

  • Need to be where your prospects and customers are. With the growing amount of time that users spend on social media, it’s critical to have a presence to help build your brand. The reality is that depending on your customers and their feelings towards your service, you may already be part of the dialogue without knowing it.
  • Provide a competitive presence. If your competition is active on various social media platforms, it’s important for you to be there to ensure that your prospects and customers see you and your brand.
  • Support search optimization. Some forms of social media, namely blogs and video, can help your search optimization efforts cost effectively.

3. Develop a set of corporate guidelines. While many firms may wait to see how the organization uses social media before creating a set of policies, it’s important to detail what employees and customers can and can’t say in social media forums where confidentiality is an issue. This also holds for companies that don’t allow employees to engage in social media networks during work hours.

4. Start small with a focused test to see how social media performs for your business. Depending on your business it can be a blog, videos, meetings or another option. What’s critical is that there are committed resources to make it work. Where possible, use a form of social media that will provide measureable results. For example, a blog integrated into your firm’s domain can support sales while helping improve search optimization.

5. Get HR support to ensure that the social media related work is integrated into the appropriate staff’s job description. The test won’t work if it’s something that employees do when they have time.

For many companies, the biggest hurdle to using social media is to learn what it is and how it works because there’s a broad selection of options that a firm can use to achieve its objectives within the boundaries of its business requirements.

Heidi Cohen is president of Riverside Marketing Strategies. Follow her on Twitter @heidicohen.

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