My boss doesn’t believe in social media, but I know it would be a big benefit to the company. How do I get him to use it more?
You can tell them. You can show them.But you can’t force them.
I’ve had the great fortune of working with some of the most talented, most progressive, most successful executives across several industries, nationally & internationally. When I started my career, social media was still in its infancy (at least ‘social media’ as we know it today.) But as it has grown in popularity and we’ve had to fumble our way through the ‘do’s & don’ts’, I’ve come to this conclusion:
There are leaders who embrace change and there are leaders who don’t. Forcing them will only blow up in your face.
I’ve worked with leaders who have literally jumped at the opportunity to get online and engage: “Kat! I read about this site. Get me on there!” And I’ve worked with leaders who reject it immediately: “No. That’s useless and silly.” There have also been some leaders who have had a healthy curiosity mixed with a healthy amount of scepticism.
When I first wrote this blog, Forbes published the article: “Why Leaders Need To Be On Social Media: An Interview With Brand-Building Expert Justin Foster.”
“Most customers and employees now expect a level of engagement from a brand’s leaders. They don’t want to hear from a logo. They want to know that a company has a face, a voice, a personality. They want to feel a connection to a person. The leaders of innovative organizations are eager to be the “Face of the Brand” — especially the CEO. They don’t use spokespeople. They reach out to and listen to employees and customers. They talk directly with the media. For them, social media engagement is a natural extension of their thinking and behavior. The reverse is true as well. Leaders that are uncomfortable being the “face” will struggle with individual social media usage.”
I agree with much of what he’s saying. “People do business with people because they choose to, not because they have to. We can always find others doing the same thing or selling the same product, it’s the personal connection that makes the difference.”
However, I was one of those people who forcefully tried to persuade leaders that they needed to be online. My no BS’ing was sometimes met with strong resistance (actually, in one case I was accused of ‘fear-mongering’… lol whoops!) As I saw it, they were missing out on a huge opportunity and advantage of getting online early (ahead of their competitors.) Social Media was an opportunity for them to connect with the people they did business with and those they wanted to do business with in a meaningful way. But as much as I believed in the opportunities and importance of social media for businesses, not everyone saw it this way.
In my opinion, the entire point of social media is to have transparent and authentic interactions with others – whether business or personal. And we engage to add mutual value.
If you’re struggling to show your leadership team the value of Social Media, here’s how I approached it:
You can (and I have) explained the value (or ROI) of being part of online conversations. Explain the value of learning insights you would have never known otherwise; the value to your company, both in reputation and financially.
e.g.: “Wow, we really need to start answering our phones. That seems to really annoy people on Facebook! They’re dropping like flies.”
You can (and I have) shared statistic after statistic after statistic about social media. Numbers can be really effective when used in the right context.
e.g.: 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying (which means, they’re on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, review sites, your website etc., before they are compelled to take action.)
You can (and I have) shared actual scenarios directly related to your industry where a company has made a positive impact.
e.g.: Look at the google reviews for our competition; people are really impressed that their CEO is so engaged on Twitter!
If you go through all of that and they’re still not interested, why bother force people to participate in social media, if they have no desire to do so?
Social media is about authentic and engaging conversations. It’s about being visible and valuable. When it’s unnatural, fake and forced, it’s just going to go nowhere. In order to gain from social media, you need to give. You must use it freely and regularly. The best analogy I can use is that social media is like a gym membership: you get out of it what you put into it. From my own personal experience, social media has allowed me to connect and learn from some of the foremost marketing experts in the world. This has been invaluable to me. And it can be invaluable to businesses, organizations and leadership teams – imagine what you can learn and do!
But if you’re still focused on getting your leadership online, here’s my advice:
Explain the sites you think they should engage on. Match them based on their personality. Are they comfortable in front of the camera? Put them on YouTube. Do they like to write? Set them up with a blog.
Teach them how to use it. Most execs will have little understanding of what each site does. Of course there will be some who have ‘read all about it’, but they won’t always get the point. Show them. My favourite reaction: “Wow, this is really cool.”
Remind them. Literally. Set reminders for them in their calendars. We’re all busy and sometimes we can also be forgetful. Richard Branson is running an empire, but he still finds the time to jump online. (Here are his social media tips) And yes. He does it himself. Be proactive and get your leaders into a routine.
Check in and follow up. Remember that this is mostly unchartered territory for most leaders. It is not their area of expertise, so don’t expect them to ‘get it’ right away. What you can expect is a lot of hand holding. This is new. Ask them where they’re at: are they enjoying it? Or is it stressing them out?
Gauge usage. Are they actually engaging? How frequently? What’s the climate like? Evaluate whether they think they’re getting value and offering value.
And if they’re still not seeing the value after trying it out for a reasonable amount of time, let it go. They’re just not ready. There’s nothing quite like working with leaders who have immediately understood the value of social media. And there’s nothing quite like the frustration of working with a leader who pretends to be interested but really isn’t – all you can do is set them up for success; give them everything they need and be their resource (even on the days you want to literally strangle them!)
BONUS: if you’re struggling to get them to test it out,what can motivate leaders to get online is ROI a.k.a.: money. 🙂 Show them how social media can positively impact their bottom line.
If you want to chat about the challenges you’re having, please go ahead and give me a buzz!