The Executive Decision

Have you ever heard Charlie Brown’s teacher? You see the Peanuts characters sitting in the classroom, while somewhere, off-screen, you hear “wa-wa-wah. Wah-wa-wa-wah”. It makes no sense, but you get the gist of what is being said by the reaction of the characters on the screen. Did you know that this is the same sound that many executives hear when their sales, marketing or IT staff come to talk to them about Social Media?

Convincing Your Boss that Social Media is Worthwhile

I see and hear it, time and again; “My boss just doesn’t get it. No matter how much I explain it, he just doesn’t understand the advantages of using Social Media for the business”. For a long while I just chalked it up to it being a classic case of new technologies and media moving faster than the average executive has time to pay attention to, but then it dawned on me: it’s not the technology or tools; it’s the subject matter. Let me explain.

My youngest son is a huge fan of Pokémon. He started to get into it early in 2012, and now it is an all-encompassing fascination for him. He talks about it constantly. He gets together with his friends and it’s all they talk about. He plays with it, he studies it, he reads about it and he researches it. However, when he wants more of it, he has to come and see me. He will start rattling off the latest and greatest thing in the Pokémon universe and he starts making his case as to why he needs it. I sit and listen, but, to be honest, all I hear is “wa-wa-wah. Wah-wa-wa-wah”.

Then the dealing starts. What do I get if I get you this latest Pokémon stuff? Will you promise to clean your room and feed the dog? Can you live if we only get a few of them now and a few more later? Sometimes he makes the deal, but, more often than not he either has to buy it himself with his allowance or wait for a special occasion. Why? Because all I heard was Charlie Brown’s teacher and it wasn’t compelling enough for me to spend my money on it. After all, it costs a lot to run a house and home.

Getting the picture?

The person holding the purse strings needs that compelling argument as to why he/she should loosen those purse strings. More often than not, in the business world, that compelling argument is based on the ever present Return on Investment (ROI). An executive isn’t interested in the latest Social Media tool or app. They are not interested in the latest pitch as to why this platform is better than that platform. They are interested in the bottom line. They are interested in “how much is this going to cost me, can I make that money back AND can I make a profit”.

The Change Up.

If you are the person, in the company, who wants to get Social Media up and running, or even if you are the person who is already responsible for the current environment, but needs more resources to improve it, you need to take an entirely different approach if your boss isn’t receptive. You need to stop thinking like the Social Media person and start thinking like the executive. Here are some tips to making Social Media a reality where you work:

  1. Take a meeting. Meet with some of the decision makers and learn how much sales, marketing and customer service cost the company on a monthly / annual basis. Use it as an opportunity to understand what the boss is looking for in the profit / loss column.
  2. Watch and Learn. Observe how the current systems work. How is the company selling their product or dealing with their customer?
  3. Gather success stories. Find out if similar businesses or industries have had success with Social Media implementation. Include those stories of those that were NOT successful.
  4. Present your case. Forget the latest and greatest apps and tools. Focus on the analytics and metrics. Focus on the costs, pros & cons and ROI. Be prepared to turn “wa-wa-wah” into “Good morning, Sir. Here is the bottom line…”
Good luck and please let us know how it goes or what your experience has been with pitching social media to the C level offices in the comments box below.

Sean Smith

Sean is Managing Partner in ThatSocialMediaGuy.com, a Social Media consulting company based in Campbell River, BC. Sean has over 15 years of experience in the IT industry, from a HelpDesk Manager to business owner. In 2009, Sean started focusing on the world of Social Media, something he had been learning about since jumping into Facebook in 2006 and Twitter in 2008. Since then he has consulted on the development of Social Media strategies for a wide variety of businesses, from retail to tourism, and has been guest speaker for numerous business events.

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  • Evelyn M

    Hi Sean, as an Interior Designer (and fellow Campbel Riverite) I deal with purse string holders all the time and my experience when dealing with them is that “fear of the unknown” is a huge factor as to how tight they hold the purse shut. Aside from explaining the cost / benefit ratio it has always been most important in my business to alleviate the anxiety by calmly assuring the purse holder that they will be gently guided through the process in such a way so as not to loose control until they are ready to. After “trust” in the process is established control is happily handed over. I think this gentle approach would work well with businesses that are not savvy in the word of social media as well.