Defining Social Media Buy-In

A commonly discussed question relating to social media marketing is how to get buy-in from management and organizational leadership. How can we get them to take a social media effort seriously? How can we get them to allocate resources to our social media strategy?

This is not only a serious issue, but an unresolved one. Despite the amount of money thrown at social media campaigns by companies like Pepsi, Coca Cola, Nike and Starbucks, I still hear stories of small, underfunded strategies where the social media manager is the only person allocated to the project, and her work is misunderstood and often maligned.

Similarly, large, traditional and well-funded marketing departments sometimes don’t know how to use social media resources effectively, so they don’t. Either they try to use the SM strategy like a traditional advertising medium, or they brush it off and sort of ignore it.

So the issue is clearly still important. The question is unresolved and numerous strategists are scrambling to find the answer. The root problem with the whole issue, though, is that nobody is asking questions that precede the one about getting buy-in. Most pointedly is this: what counts as buy-in?

Elements of Social Media Buy-in

Is it funding? If a business provides a limitless bank account for a social media strategy, does that mean they really understand that strategy? Likewise, can a business choose to be frugal when allocating resources to social media strategies and be successful?

Is it personnel? I’ve seen SM efforts for small organizations manned by a single person that were (to use Gary V’s terminology) crushing it. Likewise, I’ve seen multi-million dollar campaigns carried out by global businesses that were positively worthless.

Is it integration? There are times when the social media team needs to be left the hell alone (article on that forthcoming), but they should never be the bastard step-children of a brand’s marketing effort.

Is it understanding? When leadership tasks people to create an organizational social media strategy, do they really know what that means? Do they understand that it takes time, that it’s not like anything they’ve done before, and that it requires risk and letting go of some power?

Buy-in is all of these things, and is much more complicated than others have painted it. It’s more than showing a study that suggests the potential real ROI from each Facebook-like they get. It’s more than the number of followers on Twitter or interactions from a post or update.

Buy-in is knowing what a social media strategy entails and is being prepared to stage a long, determined and very deliberate campaign to eventually realize the potential rewards.

No infographics from the campaigns of other businesses will do that, nor will the financials from organizations killing it through Facebook and other networks. The only thing that will create buy-in is education, training and knowledge. And there are some very good books that can provide that (contact me and I’ll make some suggestions). The problem is getting the decision makers to read them.

Article first published as Defining Social Media Buy-In on Technorati.

Word One Consulting
clint @
2263 S. Main
Las Cruces, NM 88005