Gini Dietrich

Selling A Social Media Program to Your Executive Team

By: Gini Dietrich | July 21, 2009 | 

zapposI know I don’t act like what people think a CEO should act like, but I do think like one. I love numbers and know that’s part of what makes us successful. I look at EVERYTHING and measure its return-on-investment. We look at what is best for business growth, and how to work with talent to grow both personally and professionally. We strive on better improved client service every, single day. We don’t waste our time on things that don’t bring us business, we don’t work with clients that aren’t a fit, and we don’t try new things because they’re fun.

Don’t get me wrong. Social media IS fun. But it has had the biggest effect on our business growth than anything, including word-of-mouth, has in our four years of existence. So we don’t spend our time with it because it’s fun…it’s become a priority because it works.

On Friday, Mark Wiskup and I hosted a Webinar for Vistage, which was an introduction to social media (see the archive here). After the Webinar, and into the weekend, I had quite a few emails, tweets, LinkedIn mail, and Facebook messages asking me how to sell social media to an executive team. I thought I’d answer that question here.

There are two ways you can sell a social media program to the c-suite:

1. Tie results to the P&L.

2. Tie results to more improved customer service and better efficiencies.

If your CEO is an entrepreneur, he or she wants to hear the idea, how you think it will improve the P&L or customer service, and then they want you to run with it.  If your CEO is a “hired gun,” there may be more process behind what you present and how you execute, but the strategy is the same.

When I speak to Vistage CEO groups, I have them tell me everything they’re doing to communicate to their customers, employees, and stakeholders. On that list, you typically find:

* Trade ads
* Trade shows and conferences
* Business publication advertising
* Public relations
* Email marketing
* Marketing brochures
* Radio and television ads
* Customer service department
* Internal and external newsletters
* Golf outings
* Client dinners
* Travel to see clients

Then I ask, “What if you can still do all of this, but have a new way of distributing the information, getting feedback, listening to what your clients have to say, and make changes immediately, instead of when someone becomes unhappy or you have a crisis on your hands? What if you can talk to your customers every day to build loyalty, without having to depend solely on client dinners and golf outings?”

This is where I start to get their attention.  Then I ask, “What if, right now, your customer service department or your sales people are hiding an issue from you because they want to try to fix it before you hear about it? For hypothetical sake, let’s say this is happening. What if you learn about it the instant it becomes an issue, because you’re talking to your customers every day, one-on-one, in an informal, and easy, fashion? Don’t you think a lot of your issues could be solved pretty quickly and cost-efficiently?”

If you begin your presentation to the c-suite with these types of scenarios (even better if you have real issues that are happening within your company) and then you show how a social media program can fix a customer service issue quickly, and before it becomes a customer who is no more, you’ll have their attention.

As for how to affect the P&L, that one is easy. There are SO MANY ways to measure the effectiveness of a social media program. Benchmark a few things before you present to the c-suite. Look at:

* Your Web site grade via Web site grader
* Everyone who is on the social networks within your company; look at their Twitter grades
* Compare your traffic, search terms, and key words with your competitors via Compete
* Find your Google page rank via
* Assess your share-of-voice via siteVOLUME
* Analyze your social popularity via socialmeter

After you’ve done this, create 30-day, 90-day, six month, and annual goals that affect the bottom line of the company (i.e. drive more traffic to the Web site for increased sales or increase awareness of bi-weekly white papers or podcasts customers can buy).

Then go present the program and show why the company can’t afford NOT to participate in a social media program! If that still doesn’t work, tell them Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, does it and they just debuted the Fortune 100 list at #23!

If you haven’t already registered for part two of the Vistage social media Webinar series, do so here.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • This is great information!
    I’m not sure how Website Grader, etc. truly fit into a P&L report.
    Sure, getting a good grade is a success, but is it a directly monetize-able metric?
    In my experience working with executives, a number like this may bring them momentary enjoyment, but the follow-up question is often, “Okay, but how many sales/leads/other goals did that produce?”

  • Josh – It depends on how your Web site is set up. If you’re not selling anything there or driving sales from the site, your grade probably doesn’t matter. But the grade does a few things: It helps with SEO and social marketing optimization, it drives more traffic, and it drives sales. Even if you’re a professional services firm, like we are, you can measure spikes in traffic from Webinars, podcasts, white papers, ebooks, or anything else you might “sell” online. You can even drive traffic to a “free” white paper that requires a person’s name and email address that then goes into Salesforce for the sales team to follow-up on. The Web site grade helps drive traffic. The better it is, the better you’re positioned with Google.

  • This is right on target! I especially appreciate the part about why ‘the company can’t afford NOT to participate’.

    This is quickly becoming part of the social fabric of a company and clients are expecting them to be there.

  • AND Michael, 93 percent of Americans EXPECT the companies with which they do business to have a social media presence. It doesn’t matter if it’s a consumer or a B2B company, it’s EXPECTED!

  • Remember the “balanced scorecard?” I think we’re about six months away from social media measurement being part of the balanced scorecard at any customer-centric organization. Which should be just about every business, but I digress.

    As always, GREAT stuff, love reading the stuff from a visionary, and you owe me a cup of coffee.



  • You mentioned on your Vistage Webinar on Social Media that it is best to have the Blog and Twitter come from the person that is doing the bloggin and tweeting (me in this example). I currently have a Madisonpension twitter account (i keep the tweets strictly to retirement info and interests). I also have my personal twitter account (as Heidi Goldstein, managing director of madison pension, mother of two and a karate/cycling enthusiast). I update them both (exhausting) as well as manage the Madisonpension blog on wordpress (and my karate blog). You said it was best to have the company twitter come from me (the person) and not Madisonpension (the company). Currently the madisonpension twitter has our logo as the picture. What if I ditch the madisonpension twitter account and replace it with the Heidi Goldstein twitter account and then I leave the company at some point. isnt this a liability to the company? Isnt it best to leave it more generic in that case? I am really struggling with this. I basically run our social media and I have so many things to update! My karate blog, my twitter account, madisons twitter account, madison blog, my LinkedIn account, my facebook account – its crazy! I did link my LinkedIn account to our company because I couldn’t duplicate the following so that’s not a problem. It’s the other social sites I am getting stuck with. Any suggestions would be hugely appreciated. thanks! ~ Heidi

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