Selling Social Media To Senior Execs: Tips For Making The Case With Data

For many senior executives, the jury is still out on social media.  They want proof in the form of hard numbers that show business value.  Budgets aren’t likely to grow until they get it. Unfortunately, the data needed to make the case are dispersed, and analysis takes time (something social media marketers don’t often have).

So, what’s a marketer to do?  Here are five tips to help you work with the data you have, get the data you need, and make your case effectively.

1. Translate

While it is certainly true that marketers don’t usually have all the information senior execs are looking for, part of the problem is simply the way things get communicated.

Take some time to translate what you are trying to achieve with social media, as well as your metrics, into language senior executives will understand.  For example:

  • If your goal for social media is focused on customer service, don’t talk about improving customer satisfaction. Talk about driving new sales from existing customers.
  • If your goal is awareness/exposure, don’t talk about reach. Translate reach into a cost metric (cost-per-impression, cost-per-visit) and focus the conversation on comparative cost savings.

2. Shift Your Focus

Don’t lead with a losing hand. For most companies, social media isn’t going to compare favorably with channels like PPC on the basis of last-click transactions.

So, turn your attention toward measuring social media’s contribution to filling up the prospect funnel, the quality of a social lead, and/or how socially connected customers differ in terms of value and purchasing habits.

Yes, this will require connecting the dots between data sources, but if you really want to measure business value, you will eventually have to do this. You might as well get started now, even if you can only take baby steps. (Note: For a thorough discussion on this topic, see Nichole Kelly’s excellent new book, How To Measure Social Media.)

3. Sell Them On Staged Investments In Measurement So You Can Give Them What They Want

Instead of asking for budget to execute more programs, ask for a small investment in measurement. You aren’t likely to get a green light on anything that is expensive or resource intensive (at least in the beginning), so the key here is to start small.

Remember that the perfect should not be the enemy of the good. The goal here is to get enough data, and enough connected dots, to show progress.

4. Avoid Questionable Data 

The last thing you want to do is create more uncertainty — or worse, mistrust — so, don’t ask for trouble. Make sure the data you present are defensible.

For example, if you are using conversion (goal) values, base the values on a data set of past performance that is statistically significant (e.g., 3% of Request a Price Quote submissions convert to a sale based on an analysis of many sales over time), and validate that number frequently.

If you are dealing with a skeptical audience, you may only want to present this type of data alongside details of your last validation attempt (e.g., “Last quarter we presented goal value estimates based on a 3% close rate; we validated that 3% number at the end of the quarter so we are comfortable that goal values based on a 3% close rate are accurate estimates.”).

5. Don’t Try To Redefine ROI

Metrics like “return on conversation” may be interesting and even useful to some stakeholders, but they won’t be accepted as a substitute for ROI (not by this crowd, anyway).

These types of metrics raise more questions than they answer and can divert the already short attention spans of the people you need to convince. And, at the end of the day, you will still be left with the difficult task of defining the value piece of “creative” metrics in hard, financial terms. This can be just as difficult and time-consuming as chasing the elusive ROI number. 

Measuring the business value of social media can be difficult, no doubt. On the other hand, it is likely to be easier than talking senior executives out of a business value assessment.

Senior executives are focused on sales, revenue and costs — and, most importantly, on the two or three things that are most likely to move the needle on sales, revenue and costs. Trying to talk them out of that focus simply won’t work, so why not take the bull by the horns and start working on getting the answers they want? Even if you aren’t completely successful, it may help your cause to demonstrate that your approach is squarely focused on business outcomes.

Image from Istockphoto used with permission.


Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Analytics & Marketing Column | Channel: Analytics | Social Media Marketing


About The Author: has over 25 years of communications experience touching almost every aspect of marketing, including conventional advertising, public relations, and digital. Her current company, Social Snap, focuses on social media measurement, providing marketers with a powerful social analytics platform that combines data from social channels, web analytics, and social media monitoring tools.

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  • Adriel Michaud

    Great article Nan. Olivier Blanchard also has a book on measuring social media that I found to be really well thought out.

  • Jack N Fran Farrell

    Social media are all about Andragogy (teaching adults). Adults are past being taught by pedagogues (teachers of children). Be careful you don’t fall into the trap of thinking people have forgotten what they have learned on their own. Sooner rather than later Facebook will adapt to adults lack of tolerance for PR aimed at teenyboppers.

  • Uche

    Amazing article Nan. A lot of social media managers tend to loose the trust of executives easily when they try to redefine a the social media ROI or worst case scenario exaggerate their success.

  • ndawkins

    Thanks Uche, and agreed. I think what happens is that marketers are being pushed for data they often don’t have and so the urge to provide something wins out. And sorry for the late response…I’ve been on the road for a few days.

  • ndawkins

    Yes, I like Olivier’s book! I don’t agree with absolutely everything in it but he makes some great points and he has a wonderful way of boiling things down. Wish he would write a follow up! That one came out a couple of years ago.


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