The Reluctant Social Media Client

I’ve been hearing a lot from fellow Web workers about their long-term clients who are resistant to change.

“They don’t want to start a blog,” one says.

“They are afraid of RSS feeds,” says another.

“They don’t even know about MySpace or Facebook,” declares yet another.

Are we all just too “into it” to remember that our clients are often way far away from it?

I’ve been lucky in the last year or so to have some clients who trust me implicitly to lead them down the right path toward enhancing and augmenting their online communications with social media tools. Others, however, dismiss it because it is just so far out of their realm that they would rather put off the discussion than try to understand the implications of a blog or a Twitter account to communicate their message. In some cases, I’ve been able to sneak in a few social media tools with positive results, however, I admit this isn’t very strategic.

Here are some things I’ve thought about or observed in terms of handling the reluctant social media client.

Factor in the education and handholding

If you have a great client you’ve been working with who is resistant to social media but willing to trust you, make sure you factor in the educational process you will have to go through to bring them to a more comfortable place. I’ve had to create special PowerPoint presentations and hold one-on-one sessions to help empower some of my clients so they can embrace a social media strategy instead of looking like a deer caught in headlights. From a business standpoint, you have to account for this additional time and effort and fold it into your consulting fees.

Take only clients who get it

As I look over the web sites of other consultants, I’m struck by how some of them flat out state that they only work with companies who understand that social media is an essential way to communicate online these days. They do say it more elegantly than “we won’t work with you if we have to convince you that our way is important and the smart way.” Quite frankly, while I could find this sort of “pre-selection” language a bit off-putting, I actually applaud them for going for the upper echelon of potential clients who already get it. That cuts out a lot of the convincing and cajoling.

Don’t push social media on everyone

Personally, I can find a good business reason for every company or nonprofit organization to have a blog or a social media presence, but there will always be a capacity issue that could kill any well-intentioned blogging effort. Many companies and nonprofits still don’t realize they can hire a pro-blogger or social media specialist to do the job. They cringe at any suggestion of an additional expense even though the expense is often quite reasonable and manageable or in the case of nonprofits, they could enlist volunteers perfectly willing to participate. If a company or organization is still struggling to get their e-newsletter off the ground, sometimes no amount of explaining that the blog and RSS feed is the “new” e-newsletter will convince them to ditch the old way for the new. Either suck it up and provide them the Web 1.0 service or refer them to someone reliable who is willing to do it for them instead.

Keep the conversation going

Just because you have a client reluctant to embrace social media doesn’t mean the conversation stops there. Keep the dialogue open. Send them links to articles and blog posts that provide further information to increase their understanding. Point them to campaigns you are conducting for other clients to demonstrate what you can do for them. Invite them to local presentations you give where you discuss social media topics. Convince them to just join one social network and then send them referrals through it to show them how powerful it can be for their business.

Just don’t give up.

How do you handle the client or potential client who is still stuck in…2005?

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