Tuesday, 26 April 2011
How to convince your boss to let you give social media a go*
So you want your organisation to start using social media? Perhaps you've been using it for a while personally and have seen other organisations reaping some of the benefits? Perhaps you sense you've got some persuading to do of senior managers?
Who you have to persuade and how much you have to persuade them will depend on where you work: some organisations have a culture that is open to innovation, others prefer to observe before dipping their toe in.
Presuming that you've already developed your social media skills through your personal use, you'll have to start by making a business case. Some of the questions that the business case should answer are:
1. Won't it take too long? We're already rushed off our feet - how can we possibly launch a social media presence as well as doing everything else?
It doesn't have to. Initially setting up either a facebook or twitter account doesn't take long (10 minutes at most). When you're starting out, you won't have many followers or likers to engage with, so it is likely that you will be starting the conversations. This means you can post as and when you have time. At Wolverhampton Homes when we were starting out, we probably spent 20 minutes a day checking and posting on social media sites. Even now, when the communities are more mature, we still only spend about 40 minutes a day posting a replying. Social media, by its nature, is quick so you can allocate more resource as the community grows.
2. Aren't social media sites blocked on our computer network?
They may well be. If social media sites are blocked for security or management reasons, find out who controls access and make the business case to them (if you have a senior manager in your corner that would help as well). Explain they need only open the sites to you and whoever will be updating and posting in the first instance and that you would be happy for them to monitor your usage to check it is genuinely business related. They might want assurances about passwords and security - offer to take whatever security measures they advise to protect your company.
3. What about the risks? Aren't we exposing ourself to criticism or negativity?
Yes - to some extent. Social media does make it easier for customers to voice their (good and bad) opinions of your services or products. But,crucially, whether your organisation is on social media doesn't make a difference to whether people will talk about you on it. People will still use social media to air their gripes, it's just you won't hear it.
Ask yourself this, do you have more respect for a company who ignores its customers or one that listens, takes complaints and compliments with equal consideration and then improves what it does? Criticism isn't a bad thing - complaints should be treasured because they allow you to learn and improve. By using social media, you give your company a chance to win that particular customer back in a public forum - which will also mean other customers' respect for you grows when they see how you well handled it.
4. Will it be worth it? What will we get out of it?
How you use social media will determine how much you get out of it. At the risk of sounding cheesy, you get out what you put in. If you don't post regularly, rarely engage with the people who follow you and just peddle your press releases, you won't get much out of it. And your customers/stakeholders/followers/likers might actually have a worse opinion of you than when you started.
But if you genuinely seek to engage people, show an interest in the world around you and communicate that you care about your customers, you will reap the rewards. To reassure people who are reluctant about social media, you could (and should) offer to regularly report different measures of your performance. This means they will have a stake in the community that you are growing and will start to understand its value.
5. Are our customers on the internet? Do they use social media?
Recent estimates about internet usage among social housing tenants at about 30-50% but I suspect it is higher than that, particularly with the growth of smart phones. That is a trend that is only going to increase.
There is no doubt that you will have customers who are on facebook and probably some who are on twitter too. More than 600million people worldwide are on facebook and although the rate of joining has slowed, it's not stopped by any means.
I'm sure I've missed some questions/barriers out. Let me know if there are any other that you're being asked and I will do my best to answer them.