I spent much of the summer and fall of 2007 assembling my first electronic book on social-media strategy, There Is No Secret Sauce. I wrote the book because while there are thousands of brands that can afford to work with agencies like mine to devise its social-media strategy, there are others that either lack the budget or manpower to engage an agency. I wanted to provide a blueprint for getting started and getting to the point where the organization understands the value and potential of social media. Without tangibly seeing that promise, no organization will care enough to want to take it to the next level.
Not everyone in your organization or even your company's PR group is going to see the value of social media yet. You need to make the following high-level points really clear.
Consumer trust in traditional media has eroded to an assessable low. Last month, Manhattan gossip blog Gawker attracted more unique visitors than the San Jose Mercury News Web site, one of the earliest newspapers on the Web (and one year ago, it was more than double the size of Gawker, in terms of traffic).
Social media properties and conversations are no longer just "disruptive." Their influence can twist or even counteract any brand's marketing and PR, and the conversations that take place in social-media entities are highly visible in search engines. For example, a healthy dog treat brand that has strong PR and retail partnerships is beginning to see negative conversations in highly-visible places (huge online-shopping portals like Amazon) that counteract even the majority of positive sentiment about the brand.
The key benefits of using social media are stronger, more direct relationships and better interaction with your customers. Social media will also prompt buyers to consider the brand a part of the community. When brands engage in social media and join in on the conversation, they're seen as being responsive and connected to what their customers and prospects are saying, even if it's in somewhat negative circumstances.
To gain buy-in on a departmental level, you're going to need to educate your team on what social media actually is. The conversations you have are bound to encounter some resistance from team members that don't yet understand the value of social media. Your job is not to try to answer all of their questions on the spot and sell them on it, but to sincerely listen to their concerns and serve as an educator (as opposed to a cheerleader) for working with these new channels.
Figure out where their pain points lay, and address them with facts and case studies from similar-sized brands or agencies at the next meeting. At this point, you should well be on your way to getting the necessary commitment to diving into social media.
Adam Metz is the director of social media strategies at LaunchSquad, a San Francisco-based PR firm. His marketing blog can be found at metzmash.typepad.com.