How To Pitch Social Media To Your Boss

Making a presentation
It’s safe to say that there is no one formula for presenting social media to your company. The approaches will differ based on your position in the company, the company’s culture, formal presentation processes, probably on the size of your company, and the receptiveness of the industry to social media. But if you believe, as I do, that social media is here to stay and that your business can benefit from tapping into the social revolution, then you should find some helpful tips here for making your big pitch.

I’ll start by sharing my personal experience pitching social media to my previous boss then share responses from across different social networking channels. Just so you know, I think my presentation barely made it to first base. The tips I mention below include “corrections” for things I left out of my presentation. Those bits of extra wisdom plus crowdsourced responses should help your presentation go much further than mine and hopefully you’ll knock a homer.

I hope you’ll stick around and add your experiences and feedback in the Comments section below.

The Pitch
It was 2008 and I was pitching social media to the company’s CEO.

It was lonely standing up there in the conference room. It was just the CEO, me, and the glow of the projector displaying my Power Point presentation. But I knew that folding social media into the fiber of the company was the right path. I presented the benefits and massive opportunities of social media, examples of other companies doing amazing things with it, and showed him Tony Hsieh’s (Zappos CEO) Twitter stream to help him visualize what top-down involvement looked like.

Presentation Tips
My personal tips for pitching social media to a boss are:

  1. Get help from other colleagues. Two or more people pitching a new project is much more convincing than one lone voice. I chose to present on my own after getting lukewarm feedback from potential allies.
  2. Schedule a time for the pitch. This conveys the message that you have something serious and important to discuss and it avoids interruptions.
  3. Create a formal presentation. I suggest a Power Point or a written proposal. This will give you a clear framework and keep you on track in case your nerves set in. I used Guy Kawasaki’s “10/20/30″ Power Point presentation guidelines to select the presentation structure.
  4. Primarily, answer the question “What problems will social media solve?” This was the first question I was asked and my answer was a bit shaky. My presentation had focused on the benefits and opportunities, not as much on problem-solving. The CEO and I ended up coming up with potential problem-busting uses during the meeting.
  5. Present the benefits of using social media from different company perspectives. If you are a marketing person, your inclination may be to only focus on the marketing opportunities. Don’t stop there. You can approach social media from an HR, customer service, IT, and sales perspectives as well. During the meeting, we discussed using social media as part of the Web site process improvement cycle.
  6. Recommend a concrete plan of action. Ask for resources (time, people, and money) to accomplish an objective and get a commitment. Make sure you recommend a SMART objective – one that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.

As a result of the pitch, I was given time to do some “experimenting” with social media. This was less of a commitment than I had hoped for, but was resolved to make the most out of the opportunity. This would require patience since I had already been very active on Twitter and knew what could be accomplished. A year and a half later I designed and help implement a blogging infrastructure and all product managers are now blogging and sharing great content with customers and the Blogosphere.

Other “Pitch” Stories and Approaches

As I closed up the blogging project, I wondered how other people fared making a similar social media pitch. I jumped on my social networks and asked them. I went to Twitter, Facebook, Aardvark, and LinkedIn and posted the question:

Tips for presenting benefits of social media to your boss

I’m working on a blog post on top ways to present social media to your boss. Do you have any personal examples of successful approaches to “selling” social media benefits to your boss or to company executives? I’d love to hear your key “pitches” and approaches.

I’m looking for personal stories from within your own company. Thanks in advance. ~@JesseLuna

Note: This was the question posted to LinkedIn. The Twitter version was much shorter as was the Aardvark version. I blogged about using LinkedIn and Aardvark for doing in depth Internet research earlier this month (includes a video demonstration).


Crowdsourced Responses

There were many different approaches to pitching social media. Here are some of the responses:

Present a binder containing examples of all the things that are being said about the company, industry, products – even about your boss – on social media. Also include some LI Q&A, tweets, blogs etc. by employees, key customers, competitors.

This can be a real eye-opener that brings home the lesson that the train has left the station, and though you can’t control the chatter, you can be influencing the discussion – but only if you get in there and play.

Some great examples to include are situations where a customer was upset or misinformed about something, and got satisfaction through a social media response.

-Rob Duncan, www.robduncan.com, via LinkedIn


Developing a tracking system for social media is imperative for measuring the efforts put in by your social media manager and ROI. While it may not always be concrete numbers, there is something to be said for sentiment, reach, and passion for a company.

- JNR from San Diego


I have never had to pitch my boss on social media, but I have had to pitch social media to very stubborn and old fashioned people before.

I really like Rob’s suggestion of showing examples of where people have talked about your company. When ever I have done that for potential clients, they are very impressed. It helps them to see the vision of what social media is.

I posted a link below of a great video by Socialnomics that I’ve found to be pretty effective. It displays a bunch of impressive statistics on how social media is here to stay.

[stream provider=youtube flv=http%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DlFZ0z5Fm-Ng img=x:/www.jpluna.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/social-media-revolution2.jpg embed=true share=true width=560 height=340 dock=true controlbar=over bandwidth=high title=Social Media Revolution 2 (Refresh) autostart=false /]



-Chad Mustard, Owner Blue Helm Communications, www.bluehelm.com, via LinkedIn


A couple [of] suggestions based on my 4+ years experience pitching blogs/SM to clients.

  1. I’ve had much more success sitting with decision makers, one or two at a time, in front of a computer, actually showing them what can be done on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. I agree with others here that showing mentions of your company are powerful – even more powerful if you show them these mentions in real time on one of the monitoring sites. For people who aren’t engaged in SM on a regular basis, it all sounds strange and highly theoretical when discussed in a meeting. You have to make it real.
  2. Be crystal clear about your SM objectives. If you’re not sure what purpose SM serves in your organization, discussing engagement tactics and even strategy are premature. SM can support many organizational goals – branding, thought leadership, SEO, customer loyalty, lead generation, etc. The top people may not understand SM, but they understand more leads, happier customers, more prominent brands. I think it’s much better to internally position SM as a tool to support initiatives rather than an initiative in itself.



-Brad Shorr, Director of Content Marketing, Straight North, www.straightnorth.com, via LinkedIn


…In order to “sell” my boss on social media it was pretty easy conceptually, just drive traffic from these social media activities to our website. Actually delivering on the results is the hardest part.

It’s just getting past that first hump that is the hardest part when you’re relatively unknown in the SM world. Getting the first visitors are always the hardest, but it is something that can provide exponential gains with growth.

So the best way to start out is to set some obtainable goals, go ahead with your plan, measure the results and control the expectations with your boss.


-Chris Rizzo, from a Michigan data center, Online Tech, via LinkedIn.


Present the rationale backwards. Start with the benefit of social networking (interaction with brand, profit generation, lead generation, etc.) and leave the execution to the end. Most people can get bogged down in explaining how social networking works which can be a heavy learning curve for some non-tech savvy people.

-Ed M., Hoboken, NJ, via Aardvark


I’ve presented twitter as a valuable primer for research by searching for tags, organizing the results into columns, and highlight key phrases in peoples’ posts. This enabled my boss to see it as both qualitative and quantitative, but also synthesized into something that seemed meaningful, just by providing simple headings like “many women feel guilty when taking time for themselves” with supporting tweets below. Make it look substantial, but highly organized. Avoid the overwhelming clutter appearance of social media. That’s what they’re afraid of.

-Michael Kiser Innovation/Interactive consultant in Chicago, via Aardvark


Review

We’ve seen my approach to pitching social media, some of my tips, and several other approaches. If you’re about to make a big pitch to your boss, department, or to a potential client, I hope these approaches and techniques help you in your endeavor.

I’d also like to send a big THANK YOU to everyone who responded to my question and shared and contributed to the research for this post.

Have you pitched social media to an executive? As always, I would be honored to hear your stories via the Comments.

This entry was posted in Build-A-Fan-Base, Jobs-In-Social-Media, PRO_TIP, Social, Strategy, Toolbox, Training, Video, Web Marketing, Web/Tech and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to How To Pitch Social Media To Your Boss

  1. Omar Alam says:

    I primarily stay away from the large companies, and especially executives, and work in the small business and solo professional areas (chiropractor, dentist, wellness, motivational speakers, author, event promoters). However, dealing with the head of a business regardless of the size would be similar to your convincing of a CEO, or whoever is going to make the decision solely and give the contract to you.

    Where I go with it is to illustrate the importance of having a presence “where the people are talking”, and to have an open door policy (digital in this case) to receive and address concerns from “the people”. Another thing to add is if they do not get involved in the discussions already taking place, they stand to lose all visibility and value in the eyes of customers who are discussing your company. Showing that they are an authentic and transparent organization is what social media will create, and by default, can be modified for other internal uses (e.g. process improvement, SLA's, IT Security).

    Any business owner, executive, key decision maker in an organization has the common sense to see how having a great big ear (I've called it a radar before) about their enterprise is a must.

  2. jesseluna says:

    -Omar, in my case, the company is in the niche B2B area so people weren't really talking about the brand yet but they were certainly talking about much larger competitors. There was an opportunity to jump in against the big kids.

    Your phrase “where the people are talking” reminds me of the old Willie Sutton quote. Willie Sutton was a bank robber and when he was asked why he robbed banks, his reply was, “Because that's where the money is.”

  3. Omar Alam says:

    It's definitely a chance to jump in and jump over the 'big kids', while also establishing the social voice for your company.

    Bank robbers, eh? Nice.

  4. Brad Shorr says:

    Hi Jesse, This turned out to be a very useful and richly textured post – nothing like tapping into the collective experience of social media, and thank you so much for sharing yours! I think on the one hand, pitching SM is getting easier because more people at the executive level are getting exposed to it. But on the other hand, the job is getting a little more difficult because these same folks are developing some preconceived ideas about SM that aren't necessarily accurate. Sometimes it's easier to shape a mind than change a mind. We'll see how things go.

  5. jesseluna says:

    The latest iteration of social media is still new and evolving. For some executives, SM is a blur and it will take time for them to see the amazing benefits of the space. But I think it will be like the Internet in 1998 when some companies chose to lurk instead of marching into the online world.

  6. kellybriefworld says:

    I am an IT management consultant and trust me when I say that when approaching your IT department about social media you should arrive armed with knowledge and facts. This is a whitepaper in a language they may understand best… http://bit.ly/d2NZRp. It's an interesting whitepaper on the safety and security of your network and why employees should have access to their social media apps. Pass it along to your IT department. Best of luck!

  7. Pingback: 10 of the Best Recent Social Media Tutorials on the Web

  8. Curtis McCoy says:

    Hi,
    Your video still doesn’t work…

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