Tips for "Closing" the Social Media Discussion

Posted filed under Business Management, Social Media, social networking, Web 2.0.

You’ve done the appropriate homework. All strategic recommendations have been outlined and prepared. There is a clear action plan containing desirable outcomes and key metrics. Based on your findings, you know social media is right for your company. Now comes the hard part: “closing” the deal.

Selling the value of social media isn’t easy. In fact, there are dozens of blog posts from incredibly smart individuals that address this very topic. It’s an ongoing issue and regular source pain for both agency and in-house marketers.

Having presented audit findings and strategic plans to rooms full of executives and decision makers on several occasions,
I’ve had the opportunity to see which discussions spark interest and which ones fall flat. Trust me when I say that simply playing a YouTube clip containing amazing statistics about the growth of the Web will not work. Unless the numbers are representative of a particular industry, product or target demographic, these tactics may do more harm than good.

Selecting a Theme
When entering the room before your big meeting or presentation, I find it helpful to have a theme within the findings that is referenced frequently. This focus helps to ties all of the research together and assists with connecting the dots all the way from key findings to strategy development and implementation.

The Marketing Strategy
Social media and marketing go together like Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Marketing is often is the glue that holds most external social media plans together. It would be hard to find an organization that does not want to market to their customers in a more strategic and efficient manner. In many cases, marketers view social media as a chance to reinvigorate their efforts and bring their company from “then” to “now.” There is nothing wrong with this approach. In fact, it’s often the safest route to take when at this point in your discussions. However, try and steer clear of the “our marketing is antiquated” message unless you have the data and examples to back up your claim.

The Branding Strategy
When auditing your company’s online reputation, you may find that what exists on the Web is not a true representation of the vision and values of the company. Employees may be acting out or customer service issues may be going unanswered. Such examples can have a negative and lasting impression on your organization’s brand. If examples such as these exist, there is a great opportunity to appeal to leadership’s emotional tie to the company and its brand when presenting your findings. If there is a real issue here, don’t be afraid to go for the jugular. Show them that what is out there on the Web needs to be fixed and that repositioning your company’s brand will play a key role in your strategy.

The Sales Strategy
This is definitely the elephant in the room. If an additional investment in marketing or communications is going to happen, the leadership team is going to want to know how it’s going to impact sales. If you’re in an industry that doesn’t sell products and services online or has a long sales cycle, this can be a hard topic to address. However, if there are examples of other companies in your industry that are using social media to drive purchase consideration, use them as a guide for positioning your social media strategy. Visualize in your discussion and presentations how the dots connect from social channels to sales.

There is No Right or Wrong Way
One could definitely argue that all of these elements are inherently connected. That you cannot discuss a marketing strategy without mentioning the business strategy and vice verse. In some cases, this is true. You may need to be ready to address all areas of operation. However, if a real pain point or great opportunity exists, drive that message home in your presentations and discussions.

I should end with saying that it often takes more than just one internal presentation or meeting to close the social media discussion. Scheduling meetings with multiple teams or presenting findings to groups of shareholders is very common. But, if you come armed with great example and a clear, consistent vision, you’ll be well equipped to move from just talking about social media to actually implementing a program.

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Brandon Chesnutt serves as social media director at Identity. He has worked with brands of all sizes, ranging form startups to Fortune 100 companies, to help them connect the dots between social media and business development, recruiting, customer service, internal communications and marketing efforts. He's also a huge gamer and craft beer snob. Contact him at bchesnutt@identitypr.com.

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