Social Media FAQ #5: How Do I Talk to my Executives about Social Media?

I’ve started a new series, called Social Media Frequently Asked Questions. It’s a collection of the top asked questions I hear over and over. I’m putting them here on my blog is a great place to help everyone quickly get educated, convince their boss, or be able to help their clients get over these hurdles, so please, pass them around.

If you’re seeking advanced topics, cruise through the web strategy posts (it goes back pages and pages)

Social Media FAQ #5: How Do I Talk to my Executives about Social Media?


I enjoy feedback, but was surprised to see a few votes come into my uservoice page, one suggesting I help convince management on how to deal with social media.

Your job: To convince your peers, stakeholders and executives that don’t use social media (or don’t believe in) on why social media may be important to your business.

I’ve actually written about this before, so I’ll highlight some of the previous posts that I feel are helpful:


Start with Technographics

First, obtain the technographics of your market segment (we’ve made a sample free), if your customers are using social media tools, then you’ve a strong business case. Secondly, we’ve already concluded that decisions are based on trust, and trust is highest among peers, not from marketers. This disruptive change is enough to kick start the thinking gears of your executive.

Ascertain if this is right for your company
It’s important to note that social media may NOT be the best for your market or company, if the inactives are a significant amount of your technographics, or you’re in a very conservative industry, you may be ready to deploy a listening program, but may not want to participate. I really believe that social media isn’t for every company, and you’ll have to do an internal reality check to see if this is the case for you.

Focus on value, not technology
Next, don’t focus on tools, instead focus on the end result: value. How To: Effectively Talk to Execs and Clients about Social Media. This post teaches you how to talk about the end results of what’s expected, ever lead with “we want to start a blog”

Learn how to talk to immigrants about natives
Getting Your Digital Immigrant Executives to Understand the World of Digital NativesFrequently, the decision makers, are my parents age, and often their technographics usage is very low. I’ve found talking about Generation X and Y as the new workforce a quick way to open their eyes about the changes in communication.

Be prepared for the business questions

Lastly, before you go to your execs, be prepared to answer the tough questions, the one Legal, the CFO, the COO will ask. Be prepared.

Hope this is helpful, if you’ve other suggestions, please leave them below.

  • http://www.clarakuo.com Clara

    Hey Jeremiah, this is really great information. Thanks for posting–I am seeing that my parent’s generation is just starting to open their eyes to social media this year.

    They are interested but not as adept to diving in to the technology. As you imply in your posting, it does take some level of patience and maybe even compassion to understand this. Like you say, focusing on people and not the technology helps, otherwise it’s easy to acquire a dozen sign-in names for things that may not be useful.

  • http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/ jeremiah_owyang

    Thanks Clara, good real world insight.

    My parents are what we call ‘spectators’ they read this blog and look at my pics, but it’s rare they actually create content online.

  • http://insidetherabbithole.com Jennifer Van Grove

    I think it’s important to note that this is a constant battle, and one that isn’t won overnight. Having worked as a Community Manager, I know from experience that even organizations that are open to social media, can still be incredibly difficult to educate and teach. Often motivations for a new way of engagement are misguided, changed with time, or completely forgotten. If the conversations with Execs around social media are designed to initiate real change, one has to be prepared for the long haul. Value will need to be demonstrated repeatedly and it ways that make sense to the business folks.

  • http://pikesthinking.blogspot.com/ Walter Pike

    Hey – So I’m probably your parent’s age or at least I’m in my fifties.

    It gives me some advantages though. Because I am able to straddle the two worlds.

    I was given a very interesting perspective a few days ago after someone has responded to my blog and that is that ‘modern’ marketing is an aberration caused by the scale economies (industrialization) approach.

    Social media forces the thinking into the past while its pushing us into the future.

    Creating trust for example was an imperative in the medieval village.

  • http://coolastory.blogspot.com/ Sudha Jamthe

    Thanks for taking the time to write indepth educational pieces of all trends.

    This one is particularly useful because it connects with me as I am involved in bringing social media to traditional marketing organizations. Your technographics categorization is so true.

    I remember your tweets about organizations using twitter for customer support.

    Do you have any other research of posts about how different parts of an organization can adapt a social medium as a business transformation? For example, I am working with clients to build an online community using Facebook Fan Pages and bulk of the work is in translating the work of current marketing/web content people work to feed into Facebook. Is there a bigger pattern to this transformation for all social media or have you noticed this applicable to certain industries?

    Thanks and keep up the good work.

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  • http://hawaii-online-advertising.com Hawaii SEO

    Thanks again! :^)

  • http://www.AAA.com/news Janie Graziani

    Thanks for providing this great information.

    I agree with Jennifer that in many cases you have to be in it for the long haul. I recently had this conversation with the company’s execs, and while the discussion went well it certainly wasn’t a done deal. We’ve moved on to the BofD. (Like I said, long haul.)

    I can say with assuredness that the most important questions were, “What are our competitors doing?” and “Why is this important to me?”

    I also have to chuckle at Walter’s comment that “Social media forces the thinking into the past…” At one time, newspapers were very hard to come by and only the wealthy could afford them. At that time nearly everyone got the news from someone they knew personally because word of mouth was the only to know what was happening.

  • http://ebiz-tomorrow.com/blog christopher salazar

    There’s some good points here. Although, my only concern is your first point. What if what you’re doing is new for your market? It’s difficult to sell something if you don’t have numbers to back it up and even more difficult if no one else is doing it. This gets confusing and nerve wracking.

    Another issue is public blogs that touch traditional customers are easy enough to sell. But what about trying to sell a blog for indirect customers where content is not necessarily confidential, but the overall messaging is different from direct customers.

    I seem to think that these kind of blogs can be used to 1) get those indirect customers connected with your company, 2) familiarize them with tools/programs/and lead to them, 3) and promote new initiatives. It sounds like its marketing, but its more informal. It’s “XXX company cares, and look what they’ve put together for you…”

    The idea of confidential information is VERY difficult to manage, especially if you’re target audience is indirect customers and/or “internal”

  • http://ebiz-tomorrow.com/blog christopher salazar

    Hello again…

    If one of your goals for a blog is feedback, what is the single best way to get this? I’m familiar with surveys, polls, etc…but if you had to pick one…what would it be?

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  • http://blog.lpf.com Hal Amens

    In March, McKinsey & Company, a very prestigious management consulting company joined Facebook. That is a perfect example of “what the competitors” are doing. If it is OK for McKinsey, it is probably OK for every other management consulting company.

    I found it amazing the disparity in the way large companies are dealing with Facebook — and presumably other social media. One of the largest US banks is represented on Facebook by a mid-western branch. Several major US companies are represented by off-shore subsidiaries. Did a recent post on my blog: What’s in your [corporate] Facebook. Not as comprehensive as the work Forrester does.

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  • http://twitter.com/BizWebCoach Business Web Coach

    Thanks – I found this post on Google while I was searching for a Social Media FAQ to help my clients understand frequently asked questions.

  • http://twitter.com/BizWebCoach Business Web Coach

    Thanks – I found this post on Google while I was searching for a Social Media FAQ to help my clients understand frequently asked questions.