This post is by Kaukab Jhumra Smith.

If you’re in the middle tier of your organization and having trouble convincing senior leadership about the wisdom of adopting social-media tools for your mission, consider the following techniques put forward by Allison Fine and Beth Kanter at the recent Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference in Washington, D.C.

“Organizational change is the most difficult thing you can do,” said Fine, who co-authored the book, “The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change,” with Kanter. “You’re going to need courage and patience to do this well.”

Here are some steps they suggested trying:

Identify people who influence senior management. Who are the people respected by your company’s top leadership as a source of ideas or guidance? Help them understand how social media can further your organization’s mission. “Looking at individual board members as influencers is a good strategy,” Fine said. Influencers may even include younger family members who are into technology and who can convince managers to try new tools out of personal interest, Kanter added.

Draw attention to your competitors’ social-media activities. “The C-suite gets influenced by stories about peer organizations. If you say rivals are doing this, you get their attention pretty quickly,” Fine said.

Take a test flight under the radar. You could try a “stealth” approach and share content on social-media sites without running it by senior leadership in advance. Watch your numbers grow and prepare a case for how they add value to your organization before taking the experiment to management, Kanter said.

Become a guide instead of a guerrilla. On the other hand, Fine said, “I’d love to see young people switch their mindset from doing stealth social media to becoming internal guides and teachers for organizations.” She suggests organizing weekly brown-bag lunches to show skeptical colleagues how Twitter can add value to their work and to share examples of how other companies are using social-networking sites.

Be patient — this could take a while. You have to think of this as a process of social change within your institution, Kanter said. “It takes years to change a culture.”

Image credit: CDH_Design, via iStockphoto

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18 Responses to “How to convince skeptical managers to invest in social media”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sarah Davis, Buckeye Innovation. Buckeye Innovation said: RT @sbosm: How to convince skeptical managers to invest in social media http://bit.ly/9SJJr5 [...]

  2. Lindsey Sparks says:

    I think the tip about sharing what competitors doing is especially helpful. In my previous position we pushed for putting more of a focus on social media for several years to no avail, but as soon as our competitors started using it social media suddenly became a huge priority. While it was a little frustrating to go from hearing "No, social media is a waste of time" to "Why haven't we been doing this?" it was nice to finally have a focus on it. And we actually did the under the radar thing to, since it didn't require any budget approval we just started in. That was nice when responding to the "why haven't we been doing this?" question, since we were able to show that we had in fact been using social media!

  3. @PlayOffense says:

    Perceptions Rule and Everything Communicates:

    Whether it is dealers, customers or regulatory officials, you must recognize that their perceptions create your market reality. And you must also recognize that every detail is important in communications. A brand is the sum of thousands of tiny details; every aspect of operations and communications … every interaction with every constituent group—and they all count.

    In almost any contest of any kind, speed wins. This is why discipline is so important; because it creates speed and focus on the right things. We learned from successful political campaigns that one core strategy must drive all others. One set of proven themes and messages (the “3X5 Card” in political campaigns) drives all communications to all audiences. Put simply: Strategy is boss of every action and interaction. This is the discipline it takes to win.

  4. @rcopacia says:

    I have seen people get burned by the stealth approach to social media so be very careful. I like risk takers personally though.

  5. 40deuce says:

    Great tips!
    It may take some time, but if people think that it would really be worth it for their organization to get involved in social media then it probably is a good idea. These are some great steps to try and get the c-suites on board with them.

    Cheers,

    Sheldon, community manager for Sysomos

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  8. Courtney says:

    I have to agree with Lindsey that competitors are a huge touch point for most companies on getting into social media. It also can help if you have some customer service issues as well, you can turn the situations around very quickly or at least try.
    I saw a blog post about customer service today on White Horse. It talks about how companies need to act like people in social media and not too business like because otherwise people may feel like they are talking to retweet robots.

    Here is the link if you are interested: http://bit.ly/9AS1Jf

    I should say I work for White Horse but I thought you might be interested in the related information.

  9. Beth Kanter says:

    Thanks so much for writing about the Networked Nonprofit. The bottom line is that change is hard – so it is natural for organizations to resist change and it comes in different ways including skepticism. My position is that many organizations treat social media skepticism as if it was the Black Smoke Monster on lost – or the killer tomato plants or the blob (pick your boggy man) And, people shut down, they get afraid to have the difficult conversation to address the skepticism. I think we need to treat skepticism as conversation starters, not stoppers.

    Here's a post with some more suggestions http://www.bethkanter.org/wallow-in-fear/
    My recent post By- Social Media Fears Midnight Son Designs Design Solutions for a Digital Age

  10. Beth Kanter says:

    Thanks so much for writing about the Networked Nonprofit. The bottom line is that change is hard – so it is natural for organizations to resist change and it comes in different ways including skepticism. My position is that many organizations treat social media skepticism as if it was the Black Smoke Monster on lost – or the killer tomato plants or the blob (pick your boggy man) And, people shut down, they get afraid to have the difficult conversation to address the skepticism. I think we need to treat skepticism as conversation starters, not stoppers.

    About showing what competitors are doing – here's a methodology that helps you do that http://www.bethkanter.org/action-listening/
    My recent post By- Social Media Fears Midnight Son Designs Design Solutions for a Digital Age

  11. I am in the process of convincing a large corporation to start a corporate blog (they don't even have a marketing department!) and it's been a great experience. I am guiding them to see how they can reach their customer base and future clients, employees and future prospects. Proposed interviews with senior Management for the blog has also been a strong selling point, as has interviews with our top clients.

    My recent post First Blog Post

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  13. Nice list of information. Thanks for sharing . It is nice indeed. Social media is the fad today but the power to convince all people that are skeptical with it would be a very difficult task. But with this post and the helpful article you posted, I don't think that it would be hard considering that you have all the tools of giving us more information.

  14. Great article. I attended a book event for The Networked Nonprofit back in June and here is video: http://themikejohnson.com/2010/06/30/allison-fine
    My recent post Stats Time – US Internet Users Who Use Social Media- Top 10 Social Networking Sites

  15. [...] 5 ways to turn skeptics into social-media true believers Skeptical bosses are the bane of any social-media effort, but with a little determination it’s usually possible to win people over, say Allison Fine and Beth Kanter. Identify the people who have influence with key decision makers, highlight your rivals’ social-media successes, and don’t try to rush things, they say. “It takes years to change a culture,” Kanter says.  SmartBrief/SmartBlog on Social Media [...]

  16. [...] Jhumra Smith has a good post on how to persuade management to invest in social media using principles from Allison Fine and Beth [...]

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