Social Media Revolution? Convince My Boss.

There has been a lot of dialog recently about what everyone is referring to as the “social media revolution.” On numerous occasions during my time here at the University of Washington’s MCDM program we have been told that social media have resulted in a shift in the way we communicate. These platforms have provided a connection between industries and consumers that was unprecedented 10 years ago. The key issue that advertisers and marketers are running into today is convincing their bosses that these platforms are important for the future success of the company, and do require more than a few daily posts by a $9 an hour intern. But what do you tell your boss if he just doesn’t get it? Here are some ideas.

In a speech to the Association of  National Advertisers, the CEO of Procter and Gamble, A.G. Lafley, stated that

The more in control we are, the more out of touch we become. But the more willing we are to let go a little, the more we’re finding we get in touch with consumers.

It is clear that social media have had a huge impact on traditional marketing and advertising methods. Print and broadcast ad sales are dropping dramatically as efforts transition to online environments. Why? Because people don’t want to be sold to, we want to feel like we’re being heard. When marketing and support departments “let go” and listen to the issues of their consumers rather than trying to fight them or cover them up, they find an increase in consumer loyalty as well as earned media (online exposure as a result of a consumer comments or postings).

In the book Secrets of Social Media Marketing, Paul Gillin states that the first step in making your social media pitch is convincing your boss to embrace change. Social media is not the “common” method of communication to consumers and actually challenges many of the theories of marketing interaction. It is important to inform management that these platforms are to be utilized as a resource for people to voice their opinions and learn more about your business through interaction. That engagement is what gives consumers a feeling of loyalty to your brand by making them feel like their opinions matter. It’s all about building relationships.

Your boss may be concerned that opening up these channels will lead to negative dialog. This is a given because oftentimes people are much more apt to go online to vent about a negative experience rather than rave about a positive one. Nonetheless, this negativity should not be feared. It should be viewed as constructive. Sure, you may run against a wack here and there that is just angry for the sake of being angry, but more often that not the criticism will help improve your practices. Chances are that people are talking about your company online anyway, by excluding yourself from the conversation you are merely operating with ignorance to the real life concerns of your consumers.

I was asked recently by a Product Manager at a well-known online travel agency how she could approach negative social media without constantly providing free hotel rooms, rentals and discounted trip rates. I told her that the key to responding to a negative experience is admitting fault. Oftentimes that’s all the consumer wants. She had initially looked at the situation in a traditional mind frame “If I leave it alone, it will eventually go away.” This is not the case with social media, those posts are archived and spread like wildfire. You don’t want someone googling your company and seeing posts about poor business practices in their search response. Therefore if you admit fault and promise to improve, there isn’t really anything anyone can say after that. That is typically the best way to combat negative social media exposure. Not only have you addressed the issue, you also have the knowledge that you need to fix it. If you leave it alone more and more people are going to add their own experiences which could lead to a negative campaign that goes viral and ruins your image across markets. Your company messed up, it’s ok to admit that, just don’t let it happen again.

These are just a few important ideas to consider when presenting social media marketing as an option for your company. In addition, you can show him/her a great video about the social media revolution by Stephen Abram. Your boss may be concerned about affording resources for social media, but it’s your job to convince him that in today’s age, he can’t afford not to.

Source: Gillin, Paul. The Secrets of Social Media Marketing. (2009). Fresno: Quill Driver Books.

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