Preaching Beyond The Choir: Get Clients Jazzed About Social Media

bullhornThough I couldn’t attend OMMA Social San Francisco (I’m so far away, and my travel budget is currently non-existent), I did enjoy this article from MediaPost summarizing five key takeaways from the social media conference. The article’s author, Catherine P. Taylor, makes a number of good points, but what interests me most is the impression she got that social media, while still white hot with professionals working in the space, has yet to catch fire with clients.

The problem is a familiar one. Those of us who champion the use of social media tend to be fairly zealous about its use, but trying to transmit that passion to others, especially to key decision makers, can be a trying affair. For instance, I’ve had recent experience with a Managing Director who actually didn’t use a computer, so you can just imagine how easy it was to convince him of the value of having a corporate Twitter account.

Of course, it’s to be expected that senior executives exhibit a degree of technological inertia. Luckily, they all still speak the same basic languages: Return on Investment (ROI), Brand Recognition and Corporate Image. Even if they don’t speak all three (take a small consulting firm, for example, which depends on word of mouth rather than aggressive branding), they will understand one of the above: ROI, which is what I’ll be covering in this post. Social media is a hard area in which to gather solid ROI figures, but it’s not impossible. Plus, it can be very easy to sell on the expenditure side, since most of the time the only cost involved is the labor of the resource tasked with setting up and maintaining your social network accounts. That alone is a convincing argument in a business climate which is shy with its advertising dollars but eager to maintain a public presence.

You can show ROI by gathering info on click-throughs from links posted via Twitter, or on Facebook, on profiles, groups, and pages. I find Twitter especially useful for attracting clicks, since your tagline, not the URL itself, is the seller, thanks to URL truncation. If you can write clever copy, users will click, and they won’t necessarily feel as “marketed” to if they don’t see your corporate address in the URL.

Providing the decision-maker with comparable examples of successful social media program implementations in your space is probably the best, and easiest, way to show verifiable ROI. If you can’t find any examples in your specific field, collect near misses and play up the fact that you’ll be a pioneer in your area. Mashable has a great article on establishing ROI for social media that talks about setting a success metric, and benchmarking competitors will help you do that.

If they’re not sold on the fact that online presence makes good money sense, you might want to sell them on the business card metaphor, which goes as follows: You would never leave a business meeting, lunch, coffee, etc. without exchanging business cards with the other party, would you? Even if it’s a sales call that wasn’t particularly promising, you leave the card, and hope your name comes to mind when they need something down the road.

Imagine the cumulative time your company spends doing work online as a business meeting, and then imagine that, to date, despite all that time spent with prospective clients, you’ve been leaving them with nothing but a hastily scrawled phone number on a bar napkin (your email signature, for the purposes of the metaphor). That wouldn’t fly in the real world, and it shouldn’t be allowed to suffice on the Web, either.

Of course, your boss or client could counter with the fact that you have a web site. Explain that just having a web site is like leaving a business card tacked to a public bulletin board and hoping people will take interest. Social media is the handshake, the lunch meeting, the phone call during which you ask about the family. In other words, social media brings that priceless “people” factor online.

It may seem silly at this point to still have to sell clients on the value of social media, but it only seems that way because we live inside that world every day. Impossible as it may be to believe, there are still some, like that Managing Director I mentioned before, who dictate their emails to their assistants. Talk about someone who needs the perspective of a helpful evangelist!

What strategies do you use for convincing clients of the value of social media?

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