Social media still isn’t viewed as viable by senior management at some organisations.
My research has demonstrated that official organisational use of social media does not always equal acceptance and support from decision-makers. When social media is not seen as a valid communication tool by senior management its lack of acceptance can result in a lack of governance, in terms of upholding social media policy, and a scarcity of resources (funds and staff) allocated to social media activities.
Despite the view that social media is an inexpensive communication channel, my research has also shown that it performs significantly better (e.g. greater social media presence, more content being generated and uploaded, increased stakeholder engagement, faster response times to stakeholder queries, and better integration with traditional media) when an organisation allocates specific resources support it.
It shouldn’t be surprising that organisations with a staff member/s devoted to social media (content development, monitoring, measurement, relationship and community management) perform much better in terms of social media than an organisation that allocates the same tasks to a staff member with a number of other competing responsibilities. Of course, some budgets can’t facilitate a social media resource. Yet, others can but such an expenditure is not viewed as a viable investment.
However, therein lies a catch 22.
If senior management does not rate social media as viable enough to provide ample resources, policies, and processes to support its success, how can it ever perform strongly enough for social media to ever be seen as a legitimate (and necessary) communication and relationship management tool?
Public relations and marketing professionals with limited social media support from senior management can proactively campaign to improve the situation by using the following three techniques to build their case:
1. Providing proof of Return On Investment (ROI)
Public relations and marketing professionals must appeal to what senior management rates most highly: results, or proof of ROI. This in itself may present a challenge. It may be difficult for organisations to achieve results using social media without the resources to support their efforts. It may also be challenging to communicate results to senior management if current social media activities are not valued enough to be closely assessed. For public relations and marketing professionals to present a case to senior management for increased social media resources, it is essential to provide evidence. This could be achieved through a number of methods:
Improving social media metrics within the organisation.
Improved measurement of current social media activities could include the most commonly used metrics such as “likes” and “shares”, using free tools such as Facebook “Insights” or Hootsuite, but should also attempt to track conversion rates or propinquital elements. For example, when an offline event is promoted on social media, how many people who attended the event chose to do so after being influenced by that social media content? Other metrics that may also be helpful include a rate of conversion, measuring how social media interactions convert into tangible outcomes such as donations or sales, the number of people who saw the post and did not attend the event, and how stakeholders viewed the original post (on the organisation’s page, on their newsfeed, shared by a friend).
Leveraging the success of other organisations (particularly direct competitors) by exposing senior management to successful case studies could also assist in increasing support, and would show the returns that can be achieved through social media when ample resources support its facilitation.
It is also essential to show how these metrics and case studies help to achieve the organisation’s business objectives.
2. Social media training as professional development
Many organisations allocate funds annually towards professional development courses for their staff. If this is the case at your organisation, request that these be used for social media training.
An increase in staffing dedicated to social media would not improve performance unless they are adequately trained and receive ongoing training. My research highlighted a lack of formal social media training (university, TAFE, workshops, conferences etc) by the staff responsible for social media management. The majority were satisfied in using the knowledge that they had gained through their personal use of the technology.
This approach may have provided limited knowledge from a very narrow perspective. Using social media to represent an organisation and engage with its stakeholders is very different from personal use. With social media technology evolving so rapidly, it is essential to have an ongoing training strategy so that knowledge remains current. Also, training a greater number of staff about organisational use of social media may also assist in addressing the issue of staff scarcity.
My research also suggested that the few organisations with staff that had received social media training performed at a much higher level than the others. While it may be because they had also dedicated social media staff members, the level of expertise gained through formal training may have also played a part in this success. Increased and ongoing staff training may directly improve social media stakeholder communication.
Increased social media knowledge and skills can only improve an organisation’s performance and in turn can assist in building a stronger case for greater support from senior management.
3. Don’t be discouraged
Social media must be validated by senior management before the likelihood of an increase in resource allocation will be achieved. Culture and attitudes do not change on their own. It is largely the responsibility of the public relations and marketing professionals as the social media experts within their organisations to assume the role of change agents.
To do this they must focus on improving senior management’s understanding and support of all aspects relating to social media stakeholder communication and engagement. The aim of increasing support is to improve resource allocation in terms of staffing and training, policies and processes that will assist in improving social media stakeholder communication. Keep trying.
With improved measurement and greater support from senior management, organisations may be provided with a stronger foundation on which to base their social media activities, and in turn improve stakeholder communication and relationships.
What other methods have you used to increase support of social media within your organisation?