CEOs are the leaders of their corporations and the wardens of company reputation. Every day, they’re faced with making difficult decisions regarding the quality of their work in the face of pressures to maintain profit margins, decrease time to market and pay the bills. While facing these issues, they’re also tasked with providing top-rate quality to their customers, while satisfying the needs of employees and other stakeholders in the organization.
So, how does a CEO juggle the responsibility of providing organizational direction while maintaining aggressive business growth? While each company and CEO is different and none face identical pressures from the market, in today’s environment you’ll find that every CEO is handling decisions as if he or she is a shareholder—that means seeking a return on investment (ROI).
In this case, selling social media to the CEO—or any other C-level executive (and even your client)—is no different. They’re not going to spend hours on unproductive activities that don’t affect the bottom line and improve customer service efficiencies; they won’t waste their time with clients or employees that aren’t a good fit; and, most importantly, they don’t advocate trying—or investing in—new things simply because they’re “cool,” “cutting-edge” and “fun.”
By sticking to these five best practices—all with a strong focus on achieving specific business results—you can take a leadership role in creating a social media road map that defines the goals and objectives to achieving success. Along the way, you’ll also position PR as a strategic force in the organization … before the CEO or your client comes calling with a “social media fire drill.”
#1: DON’T MEASURE THE IMMEASURABLE
When the CEO asks the CIO, “What’s IT contributed to the business lately?,” he doesn’t want to hear that IT is “keeping his BlackBerry running smoothly.” He wants to hear that since implementing that seven-figure software package the CIO pushed hard for two years ago, IT has have delivered a total ROI of 29% while increasing costs by only 3%.
It’s safe to assume that your CEO or client will want to hear those same kinds of quantifiable metrics when you’re selling your social media plan. Measuring the return on social media when you haven’t started implementing a strategy, however, is impossible. You can’t make decisions on new media initiatives if you’re measuring it with old media metrics.
Take Dell’s announcement that it surpassed $3 million in sales from one of its Twitter accounts. Telling your CEO or client that social media is worth pursuing because Dell made $3 million on Twitter probably isn’t the best strategy. However, when combined with additional examples of real-life scenarios like the following, you will start to get their attention:
• Unhappy customer = full-blown crisis: Showing how a social media program can fix a customer service issue quickly, and before it becomes a customer who’s (publicly and vocally) shacked up with your competitor.
• Reputation and brand monitoring: Becoming actively involved in social media will give your company a chance to influence what’s being said about your brand, as well as a chance to listen and respond to the current conversation (remember the YouTube fiasco that made Domino’s Pizza a poster child of social media slackers?).
Once your plan and goals have been in place, create a corporate-wide acceptable-use social media policy. And for the next 60-90 days remember to chart your progress, share that with your stakeholders and change direction if your strategy isn’t getting the desired results.
Remember, getting your company or client 8,000 Twitter followers sounds great, 2,000 RSS subscribers for your press release postings looks impressive, but what does that add to the bottom line? Your CEO wants to know.
#2: DOWNPLAY THE ‘COOL’ FACTOR
Let’s face it: Not every CEO is Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com, a social media rock star in his own right. And that’s all right. Social media is trendy, the “cool kids” are doing it, but so what? Social media is not for everyone, and certainly not for every CEO.
When you’re developing and presenting your social media strategy, it’s important to remember you’re presenting a methodical, step-by-step road map that outlines why the company can’t afford not to participate in social media.
That doesn’t mean advocating for every C-level executive to become an active, personal participant in social media. You’ll never get that kind of commitment and you’ll certainly lose credibility. What’s relevant is that your C-level executives or clients recognize social media, embrace it and are committed to understanding the new rules and values of using social technologies.
On that note, there is one important element that should be highlighted, and that’s corporate culture. Without a doubt, the CEO has a strong influence on employees and other stakeholders in the organization and they must make an effort to understand what social media is about. By encouraging their corporations to be more transparent, CEOs are creating an environment that truly supports social media engagement.
#3: REMEMBER, NOTHING IS FREE
Your social media presentation to the board is going perfect, when the CEO turns to you and says, “How much is this going to cost us?” Without thinking twice, you blurt out, “Social media is free. Sites like Twitter and Facebook don’t charge their users.” Unfortunately, by doing that, you just lost your audience and your credibility. Nothing is free, at least not in the eyes of the CEO.
While it’s true that many of the tools that can be employed in social media are free to use, integrating these tools into a communications program requires skill, time and money. For example, taking a free blogging tool like WordPress and making it function as an effective, customer-centric site, complete with style sheets that integrate with the company’s branding, takes more than time. That takes skill, experience and money.
And although countless social media sites do not charge their users, their cost is not zero. Their actual cost must include the human costs of participation, engagement, content development and management. How many employees will be involved? How many hours per day? Per week? Although your company doesn’t write a separate check for social media costs, they are paying for participation.
#4: DON’T CLAIM TO BE A SOCIAL MEDIA EXPERT
Search “social media guru” or “social media expert” on Google and you will quickly realize why pinning yourself as an expert will get you nowhere —and may even do more harm than good.
Every day, we’re seeing more and more people claiming to have powers unknown in the social media universe. But what constitutes an expert and how do you tell the professed “miracle workers” from the real players?
Today, there are a few select people who could (or should) be called social media experts, and you probably aren’t one of them—but you don’t have to be. What you do have to be is a confident, engaging social media ambassador who stresses why social media is a worthwhile investment and who strives to get internal stakeholders to buy into the virtues of social media.
#5: DON’T THINK THAT SOCIAL MEDIA WILL BE A FLEETING TREND
Our digital and physical lives are blurring more and more every day, with the Internet becoming the information hub where people spend a majority of their time learning and communicating. The numbers speak for themselves:
• 70,000,000 videos on YouTube
• 133,000,000 blogs indexed by Technorati since 2002
• 900,000 blog posts made, on average, in a 24-hour period
• 200,000,000 active Facebook users
Needless to say, social media is going to stick around for a while. And in the years to come, we’ll continue to see it grow leaps and bounds. If your CEO or client is off to a bit of a late start with social media, that’s irrelevant. What’s important is getting them to venture into the world of social media and never look back. PRN
This article was written by
Toni Iafrate, managing director of Davies Murphy Group Inc., and will appear in the soon-to-be-published PR News Measurement Guidebook. For more on PR News ’ collection of guidebooks, visit www.prnewsonline.com/store.www.prnewsonline.com/store.