How to talk to your boss about social media (so she’ll approve the budget)

    This isn’t a “Social Media for Idiots” post or one that is designed to make fun of clueless bosses. There’s already enough material to cover both of these topics quite well.
    When preparing to talk about a social media strategy for your organization, think about things from your boss’s perspective. What outcomes would make her (and you) look like a rock star? Focus on addressing those. It will take some effort to create a case for your specific organization, but it will pay off.
    As a reference point, keep this equation in mind:
    Little Money + Low Boss Time Commitment + High Return on Investment = Good Place to Start.
    Here are several strategic points to consider when building your case:
    • Focus on the strategic reasons WHY to use social media instead of the tactical HOW to use it. It’s easy to get sucked into HOW to use Twitter, for example, but that isn’t really going to help your strategic argument. You can always schedule another time to give a HOW tutorial.
    • Research the demographics and user trends of the social media channels you intend to recommend. Show her user demographics that will appeal to your company’s needs.
    • Take time to figure out who is talking about your company or product in the social media space and where, when and why the conversations are happening. If you can demonstrate the conversation is happening without you, it strengthens your plea to get involved.
    • If NO ONE appears to be talking about you, but they’re talking about your competitors, the same argument applies. It’s also possible that your industry or product doesn’t yet have an active community online, possibly because it doesn’t yet have a host or a home. You can be the first to give it to them. Game on.
    • Show how your competitors are using it successfully or otherwise. That’ll increase the importance of discussion very quickly. Build an arsenal of examples of well-done Facebook pages, Twitter personas, and brands in your space that are leading the way. Just make sure you’ve thought about what you might do to differentiate from and/or improve upon what’s there.
    • Make sure you translate the outcomes to the business objectives of most interest to your department and your organization as a whole. Demonstrate the anticipated tangible business outcomes your boss can expect from a successful effort – and how you’ll report on them. Show the correlation between the effort/cost associated with engaging in building a social media presence and community with your brand or product in a meaningful and measurable way: number of new business leads, increased Web traffic, measurable uptick in brand awareness in target demographic, improved search engine rankings, trackability of click-throughs, etc.
    • Remember to discuss the timeline to the payoff. It helps if your boss knows how long she’ll have to wait before she can claim responsibility for your brilliance.
    With careful planning and thoughtful research, you can convince even the staunchest doubters to give social media a try. In these days of tight budgets and lean staff, it would be a lost opportunity to NOT take a closer look at how social media could benefit your business.

    Sara Meaney is a partner with Milwaukee-based Comet Branding.

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