The social media strategy series: Getting Buy In

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[tweetmeme] Welcome back to the second in my social media strategy series. If you missed the first one, Is social media right for your business?, pop back and have a read before reading this one.

This series is targeted at those businesses thinking about using social media as comms tool, but are not sure how to go about it. It’s less about setting up a Facebook page or Twitter profile and hoping for the best and more about aligning social media to your core business objectives and treating it with the strategy it deserves. So let’s crack on with post number two: Getting Buy In.

At this point you’ve done all the necessary checks to prove that social media is right for your business. The next stop is convincing the Boss/C Suite/Board that the time and budget investment will help you to get the results they want. This, my friends, is the tricky part. The boss will have read countless articles questioning the ROI of Social Media. It’s likely they’ll have assumed that it’s only for the youth or that it’s irrelevant to their business. Your job is to prove it’s worth and get full, ongoing support, resources and budget.

You see social media is more than just a ‘campaign’, it’s a long term commitment that needs long term support. It needs to be taken across the business, not just handed to one lonely manager to look after, which means it needs resource and to get this kind of commitment you need a strong business case.

The Business Case

Aligning with the business

First things first, get hold of the business plan and marketing strategy. Have a look at the objectives and work out which can be achieved by applying social media. Be realistic here, social media isn’t the answer to everything, so pick out those that are achievable. Then do your homework. Find examples of other businesses (preferably within your sector) that have achieved those objectives. Show how achievable it is, show how it can be measured, show an idea of realistic timescales. My collections of case studies are here and here.

Who’s using it?

Next up, think about your stakeholders. These can be customers, clients, suppliers, partners, employees, journalists, peers, investors and anyone else your business needs to connect with. Segment these and then find where they are online. What social media platforms are they using? Is there a large number using Facebook? Twitter? Linked In? a niche social networking site? Can you find any stats showing usage? (I’ve collected a bunch of stats here and some useful infographics here). You basically need to prove that the people you need to connect with are using social media. If you can find  case studies that show results of how others have engaged with these audiences, use them (again my collections of case studies are here and here).

Competitive analysis

Now moving onto your competitive set. List your competitors and then search for them online. What platforms are they using? Who are they engaging with? Do they have any success stories or case studies? Do they appear to be reaping other rewards through using social media (ie has their press coverage increased? Has their brand awareness grown? Are they directly engaging with prospects online? Are they speaking regularly at events?). If so, these are great ways of showing how social media is working for them. However, don’t be put off if you can’t find many of them using social media. It could be that take-up in your industry is slow and if you’ve found justification for using it in the other ways discussed here, you could be the first to reap the rewards.

Brand reputation management

Finally, and perhaps the piéce de résistance to those brands that are regularly talked about, find what’s being said about you online. Show what people truly think of your brand using the free tools such as Social Mention and Twitter Search. This really can make people sit up, take notice and realise they need to be part of that conversation.

How will you do it?

So, we’ve proven that social media is a relevant activity for your business and the board is onboard. Now you need to make them understand what’s involved and how it will be managed. Take them through the next steps, who will do it and timings. These steps will consist of:

  • Identifying goals and objectives
  • Finding your audiences
  • Developing tactics
  • Metrics and measurement
  • The content strategy
  • Defining resources
  • Guidelines and training
  • Ongoing management and beyond
  • (I will be covering each of these throughout the rest of this series)

Then provide them with the budget requirements – do you need to hire an external consultant? Do you need external training? Do you need extra salaries (or portions of salaries)? Also provide them with the timings. Be realistic with both of these, they need the cold hard facts not hype.

If you think budget is going to be a sticking point, review your current communications activities. Work out what’s working and what’s not. Suggest replacing those activities that aren’t producing results with a social media strategy and reassign the budget. Similarly, if finding extra resource is an issue, review job descriptions and work out what responsibilities can be replaced.

If you do your homework, get the justification, manage expectations without falling into the trap of overhyping social media, you can build a solid business case that should get the buy-in you need.

I hope that was useful. As always, I’d welcome any comments below, particularly if you’ve really struggled with this.

Next up in this series are the following posts.

  • Identifying goals and objectives
  • Finding your audiences
  • Developing tactics
  • The content strategy
  • Metrics and measurement
  • Defining resources
  • Guidelines and training
  • Ongoing management and beyond

** Update: This social media strategy series has since been pulled together and published. Download the social media strategy ebook here.

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  1. Peter Kay says:

    Another great post Gemma.

    You are absolutely right when you say ‘It needs to be taken across the business’ but partial buy in is a real problem. Often a business can see the benefits of getting involved but don’t fully understand the implications so as a result they don’t commit to the extent required.

    Not a great platform to launch from but better than nothing at all. Where would you take it from there?

    Do you get involved with a view to extend the programme by building a stronger case from within or do you take it back to the negotiation stage to try to gain higher level buy in?

  2. Gemma Went says:

    Thanks Peter. I’ve experienced the partial buy-in and always try to get across the full implications to get full buy-in before any action. This can take time as I need to fully understand what the barriers or fears are and what they need to understand to alleviate those. Where that’s not possible (and I’ve had that before too) I work with those that are behind social media to introduce partial activity and ensure we implement a robust measurement framework to prove the results after a few months of activity.

    It’s never easy, but my methods are about providing the proof people need to both understand and get onboard.

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