There is a lot of chatter around the topic of how best to convince the top dogs to spend their marketing budget on social media – how can you make key decision makers see the value in utilising these tools and platforms to achieve and extend their business objectives?
Many other articles around this subject tend to have a firm focus on demonstrating quantifiable business objectives or utilising specific platforms to achieve these objectives. There is no denying that these are important parts of making the case for social media but in order to demonstrate these clearly, it makes sense to go back to basics first – to approach the issue from a more conceptual point of view. You may have already noticed that this post isn’t about giving you a definitive list of tactics to use in your pitch but is more about giving you food for thought when defining the direction from which your pitch should come from.
I would say the biggest challenge for those making the business case for social media is demonstrating to these decision makers that there has been a real shift in consumer behaviour. The increasing popularity of social media is a perfect indicator of this change, which is characterised by a shift in the way that people wish to communicate with each another, as well as brands. By utilising these tools and platforms, brands can adapt to this change and communicate with their customers in a more interactive and personal manner. People are tired of being numbers to businesses; they want a conversation and the long awaited return of the personal touch.
However, this shift is much bigger than just a change in choice of platform or ever changing technologies. Sure, we’ve seen an increasing preference for consuming information online on a variety of devices – something that has resulted in a definite shift away from the more traditional media channels of print, radio and television. But what is behind this change? It’s to do with more than technology – the popularity of these communication platforms lies in their ability to enable people to communicate as, well, people.
When we are coming from this perspective, it is easy to see why social media has become so popular. The Internet is inherently interactive and it is this interactivity that consumers are craving as it enables us to communicate with one another in a more natural way. In the same way as in real life interactions, using social media we can share information, thoughts and opinions as well as a large array of rich media content (an added bonus). Gone are the days of one-directional broadcast messages that we associate with more traditional media channels – the landscape that we see emerging today has a heavy focus on interactivity, the sharing of resources and user generated content.
So whilst this perspective may not focus on the specifics of HOW these tools can help businesses, it’s a good place to start in terms of explaining WHY it is important to utilise these tools. Rather than trying to make social media tick only the usual business boxes, inspire these decision makers to see the possibilities presented to them as a result of this shift in the behaviour and demands of consumers.
If someone can understand the concepts, then they will be inspired to apply this to their business – the key to helping decision makers see the value in social media is by going back to basics and moving away from focusing on specific tools or platforms. There is a temptation to focus your pitches around the tools they are most likely to know such as Facebook and Twitter but don’t fall into this trap just to try and make them feel comfortable. Go back to the basics, start with the concept and work it out from there using a strategic social media process. It is up to you to connect these concepts with tangible business objectives moving forward but your pitch should always start with the basics and work its way up.
I’m inspired by social media on a daily basis and can see endless possibilities for how businesses can utilise these tools to achieve any number of objectives – whether that is:
- Driving targeted traffic to their website
- Providing real time customer service
- Connecting with new customers, key influencers and potential partners
- Gaining insight that can inform market research
- Aiding product development
- Supporting and extending existing PR and SEO activity
And it doesn’t just stop with customer or client communication – many businesses could also use social media to fine-tune internal processes such as project management, training and team communication. The possibilities are endless once you have inspired your prospect enough to start seeing the advantages for themselves. If you can illustrate clearly enough this change, then it will become clear the value of social media – in that it is embracing a shift in consumer behaviour. By being reactive to this change and embracing it, businesses have a real chance to connect with potential customers in ways that were never possible before.
Once you have inspired a potential client, it is easy to apply these concepts to more quantifiable business objectives and specific platforms. Just remember, before you make the business case for social media, you have to make the business case for an overall change in the way they run their business and communicate with their customers.