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Two Ways To Build The Social Media Case For Your Boss

Last week I had the pleasure of joining a panel discussion hosted by the Nashville PRSA. During the question and answer time someone asked a question I’ve heard many times before: “How can I convince my boss to get on board with social media?”

I began to answer the question with a “here’s how you build the business case” kind of response but it struck me in that moment that it really depends on the kind of person your boss happens to be. Leaders are motivated by very different things. I know some who are conservative and measured in every decision they make. Then there are others who are aggressive and have never seen an opportunity they didn’t want to take. You must know what motivates the leader to effectively sell social media to them because what may work with one kind of leader won’t necessarily motivate another.

Two Kinds Of Leaders
I propose two ways to go depending on which characteristics best describe your leader. Whether your leader looks more like Conservative Cathy or Aggressive Andy, I hope you’ll find this helpful in thinking about positioning social media the most effective way for your boss:

Conservative Cathy: If your boss is a Conservative Cathy she doesn’t want to do anything that will disrupt the current flow of business. Although she may be interested in new things, she will absolutely not go for anything that could hurt business as you know it today. Therefore you’re going to take a start small approach:

  • Give her tangible benefits that are small but meaningful and won’t negatively impact the business.
  • Present her with an outline for a social media policy. That will show that social media isn’t going to be something that can get out of control.
  • Show how social media can be done in small, incremental steps.
  • Paint the big picture but break it down into several small phases with checkpoints along the way to do measurement and do course correction if needed.
  • Show how it can be done now for little or no additional funding but tie that into a goal that, if met, builds a case for funding to achieve greater success.

Aggressive Andy: If your boss is an Aggressive Andy he doesn’t want to miss an opportunity. He doesn’t want to fall behind the competition and he certainly doesn’t want to turn down a new revenue opportunity. Therefore build your case on going big with social media. Give Andy your best “I have a dream speech” for what social media could do for the company. Paint a big picture and show how it could happen so he can come to the same conclusion you did. Also consider the following:

  • Present him with stats about social media growth, adoption, and use.
  • Show him actual Tweets, Facebook updates, or blog posts from people talking about the things that matter to your company and show how, if at all, you are responding to the people. You may be able to show that these are all potential customers that you’re simply not talking to yet.
  • Give examples of how your competitors are doing better than your organization with their own social media efforts. Be sure to show him how many followers/fans they have if the number is impressive.
  • Give him a realistic scenario about how the efforts could turn into actual revenue. How soon would it take to break even? When do you start making a profit?
  • Present him with two scenarios to choose from moving forward: the first scenario is an “all in” approach that outlines what it would take to do everything you want. The second approach is a two-phase process. Give him the two phases on a time line and show how momentum can build from the first to the second phase.