“If you doubt that social media is effective or delivers ROI, count the business owners who have flown to Social Slam 2011, in Knoxville, Tennessee, at our own expense. We own marketing/PR firms and generally bill by the hour. What’s the cost of a firm’s time? What’s the value of engaging on a panel of social media practitioners? Is there a business case? We are your proof.” – Anne Deeter Gallaher
“Strategy is all about how to deploy scarce resources.” – Dale Evans, CFO, The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company
CFOs are thinking about how to create shareholder value: tell them how social media will help with better communication, investor relations, wiser investments, better returns, more referrals, more press, and stronger communities.
How can you better communicate social media intentions to your CFO or CEO?
1. Know how business works—there’s a cost associated with time—someone will pay. There’s often a clash between “Everyone deserves clean drinking water” and “Who pays for clean drinking water?” If you’re providing a service, like advertising, how much of social media research for education purposes can you pass on to your client? Not much. What’s the cost to understand, ramp up, and engage? Shorten the learning curve by finding smart people on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
2. Think like the business owner. If it were your money, would you pay someone like you to dive into social media channels?
3. CFOs are risk-averse. Have a digital policy in place before you take the company and its reputation online. CFOs are quantitative and comfortable with fixed costs. Social media is time-intensive.
4. Understand operational expenses vs. revenue-generation. How can you use social media to generate revenue? If you use social media for an event, is there an opportunity to showcase your skills to the attendees? Are they C-levels who can hire you? If so, then it’s a good investment and worth the risk.
5. If the government is in the channels, then it’s a good idea for business to be in them.
6. What’s your goal? Be specific with the CFO. Give examples:
- Determine your goals. How will you measure success? Comments on your blog, a DM and phone call, a sale, a retainer?
- Who really cares if you’re drinking Starbucks? Starbucks cares how many times they’re mentioned on Google, and the commercial real estate owner who is leasing the space to Starbucks cares how often people talk about and visit the coffee shop, which would indicate that the store is healthy and will renew their lease.
- Finding the right people: @Hal_Good—an opportunity for federal procurement information and referrals to @GovLoop.
- Political influence?
- Find influentials much quicker: Learned that Ford CEO Alan Mulally was chair of the March of Dimes from Twitter; discovered Allan Schoenberg from CME Group and was introduced to Mark Ragan and ultimately attended a NASDAQ closing ceremony; made contact with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a non-profit engagement; met Col. Douglas Wheelock, from NASA, and Microsoft’s Paolo Tosolini videographer. Each has enriched our work and influenced our messaging.
- Competitive intelligence on LinkedIn/Twitter—“I heard that Toys R Us is moving.”
- Find what works. In 2009, I saw Ford CEO Alan Mulally on a YouTube video explaining the automotive industry concerns and Ford’s response. I was so impressed with his demeanor that I called a Trust Company client to invite him to do the same for his website.
- Find and engage the media 24/7; create content and give them something to cover.
- Find the value in social media and go where it takes you—even to Times Square. A market closing on NASDAQ MarketSite Tower in Times Square is visible to 750,000 people; the NASDAQ Tower is the largest stationary video screen in the world, standing 7 stories tall!
- Google Juice as David B. Thomas, of New Marketing Labs says.
- What will happen if you don’t enter social media? Is your competition blogging and sharing online?
- Focus group—brain trust
- Find partners to collaborate with and learn from— @TheSocialCMO, #SoSlam
- Create a community to support and protect you should a PR crisis arise
- Content creator—an industry go-to: The M Files
- Social media is a tool that puts PR on steroids
7. This is the Age of Participation and Contribution
8. 80% of U.S. companies are using social media for marketing
9. 5.6% of marketing budget is spent on social media; 25% of marketing budget is spent on digital for Ford Motor Company
Deeter Gallaher Group LLC Examples
Dan Kerr in the energy space—PPL reads everything, papers picks up his information, he turns his blog posts into an op-ed, reaches out to WSJ, find competitors and they engage him, is asked for regional and national speaking opportunities! Puts the blog and social media contact information on his emails.
Richard E. Jordan II—Hosted FORD CEO, engages on Twitter, puts properties and experiences on YouTube, share existing website information, a positive voice on Twitter for commercial real estate.
Want to be prepared to talk to C-levels about social media?
Start reading what they read: Harvard Business Review, Strategy + Business, IR Magazine – understand how clear communication affects the bottom line. Then you can talk their language.
A Note of Caution
While every executive wants to know the ROI of social media, it’s important to remember that it’s difficult to determine the influence of a tweet or an In Flight magazine ad. Some companies are invested heavily in recruitment videos on YouTube and some companies are advertising on bi-planes. If it works for you, then continue using the channels.
In our sea of information and How Tos for every social channel imaginable, I recommend you read a few posts for education and then begin using Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. You will not know what an expected goal or outcome is until you jump in. I advise against reading social media How To and What Not To posts for 6 months before you begin. Iteration is part of the learning curve. It’s time to join the conversation!
Anne D Gallaher