You know that skeptical marketing manager, brand manager or even CEO you’re kind of intimidated by? The one who rolls his or her eyes when the word, “blog,” is used in a sentence. The one that is constantly asking for the ROI of his or her social media spend in a tone that makes you certain you won’t be included in next year’s budget? I think I’ve figured out how to win him or her over.

Last week I had a meeting scheduled with that guy. It was supposed to last an hour. Two hours into it, he had to leave for another meeting but wanted to stay and talk more. He was getting it. And here’s why:

While at first it seems like you need to talk philosophy and theory on what and why social media is and how social media works, that’s not always the right approach. Sure, the 30,000-foot, strategic thinker needs to have that perspective and it makes sense that going there first will help them understand  social media is a communications channel they can use strategically for their brand. But much of social media is mired in tools those high-level thinkers don’t understand. So, with this individual, admittedly after some false starts with different approaches, I started with the tools. The light bulb went off when I reached specific one.

“Let me show you ooVoo,” I said. “It’s a video conferencing tool that allows you to call people over the Internet, but also see them, share files with them and even conference in up to five others to have a group chat session. And it’s free.”

The client got agitated.

“Why haven’t you shown me this before now? I have a number of people around the globe I need to talk to regularly. I feel much more comfortable looking them in the face. Why are you just now showing me this?”

I thought for a brief moment and realized the answer.

“Because I don’t live in your world.”

The tools we in social media take for granted and use to make our own personal experience more efficient are likely those that can change entire business systems if they’re incorporated on an enterprise level. When smart marketing managers, CEOs and CMOs see what the possibilities are through technology and tools, they are better equipped to see applications that will help their business.

This marketing manager has a distaste for communicating with people sans visual context. He wants to see  your face. While ooVoo is a rather easy thing to download and use and it’s even a stretch to call it “social media,” it was the one piece of technology that made that client sit up and take note that I had a little sliver of knowledge and understanding of something that could really help.

I won’t stop preaching that social media isn’t about the tools. It is a method of communications, a channel not unlike or more or less important than public relations, customer relationship management, advertising, corporate communications and the like. But I am going to start people out on a slightly different path from now on. I’m going to show them how the tools can make a difference in their day.

How do you win buy in? Is this a better route? Is it dependent upon the person in question? A penny for your thoughts?

IMAGE:Light Bulb” by Jeff Kubina on Flickr.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.priorcommunications.co.uk David Prior

    Really valid stuff Jason. Twitter is a classic case of people only understanding it through usage – my attempts at explaining it to a client yesterday were greatly helped by a big screen and my own Twitter account. It is easy to forget that some people do not have the first clue about SM.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed David. Twitter is perhaps the most puzzling concept to just talk about it. When you see it, you get it.

  • http://thelostjacket.com Stuartfoster

    You can't have a tangible business grasp of social media unless you actually use it. So simple…but so under utilized. I totally agree with your sentiment that Twitter is the gateway drug to social media…it's infectious, easy to use, and people can see real time ROI. Definitely the best thing to introduce to a CEO or brand manager first.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Not sure where that sentiment comes out, but you're right. Twitter can certainly get you hooked on social media pretty quickly. Now I must go re-read what I wrote. Don't recall even mentioning Twitter. Gettin' old, I guess. Thanks for the comment.

      • http://thelostjacket.com Stuartfoster

        Haha…I just read ooVoo as Twitter for some reason…I must be decaffeinated at the moment… But glad you liked my sentiment :)

  • cheapsuits

    testing to see if commenst work

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Much appreciated. They apparently are.

  • servantofchaos

    Showing people how to use tools in their own context always helps. When they can clearly see how it can change the way that they work it really does make a difference.
    Oh … and it seems Flock was the culprit ;)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Gavin. Glad you got your comment through. Much agreed.

  • BGleas

    Totally agree Jason. You have to find a way to relate how social media tools can directly benefit the executive, which can be a difficult thing to do. But, once their on board then the flood gates can open.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Now we just have to be ready for the high waters!

  • http://www.dontdrinkthekoolaidblog.com Indra Gardiner

    My experience is the same as a couple of the other people commenting, You have to show people. I made two presentations yesterday about social media and demo'd Twitter both times. Explaining Twitter and the connections made with blogs, sites, Facebook, etc. can be tough for newbies to grasp. You can't really picture Twitter in your mind if you've never seen it. Show it to them and they start to get it.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      True, true. Thanks Indra.

  • http://swanthinks.wordpress.com Swan

    Great insight!! This is the same challenge that requirements analysts face when planning a system that is outside the users' frame of reference. The only way to make it work is to simulate some use cases and see if they appeal to the stakeholder. Once you are on the right track, you can ask questions to help shape the requirements, but the initial direction usually has to be visually use oriented.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good to know some other vertical uses the philosophy. I was pretty certain this wasn't a completely original idea. Heh. Thanks, Swan.

  • http://www.suzemuse.ca Susan Murphy

    Hallelujah, Jason!
    I too had this realization a short time ago and have been blogging and talking to people about it a lot in the past little while. We are too mired in the buzzwords and lingo. I'd love to stop using the words “social media” altogether.

    I think that the way people are using the Web is evolving before our eyes, and what we are trying to communicate to our clients is that there are strategies and techniques they can employ that will enable them to be successful within this new medium.

    As you say, we need to figure out what it's like to “live in someone's world”. That means getting to know how our clients communicate and build relationships currently, and helping them to find the right solutions for them.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks Susan. Similarly, I've almost all but replaced the word “blog” with “content management system” just so people don't dive under the rock. Good point on massaging the terminology to supplement the show don't tell points. Thanks!

  • http://www.directmarketingobservations.com marc meyer

    Jason we have just been engaged in a lively debate on twitter about when to move on when a client does not get it. It was spurred by a blog post I had written earlier today but you have brought a whole new angle to not giving up on the person that either doesn't get it or is being negative to your pitch or to what social media can do for an org.

    thank you for that

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Glad to help. Wish I had been on to participate.

  • http://www.budgetpulse.com CraigK

    I think it's a good approach to combine the two. Introduce the tool first, then head straight into the communication and proactive approach that engaging in the community can do. The tools and names and jargon are so left field to most business folks that just addressing the tools isn't enough. There should be the balance. I agree with David. Twitter is so confusing. I have so many problems trying to define it to my friends, and haven't really found a good approach yet, they lose interest early. I need to work on them for the fun approach. For businesses it's a little more clear and can be easier to define when you directly show. I have never used oovoo.com but have read that the tool impresses people the most. So maybe start with that more often.

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Fair points. Good to consider a combination of approaches. Thanks as always Craig.

  • http://www.momcentral.com Kara

    I completely agree that there are different social media tools for each company. One tool might work perfectly for one, and not at all with another. It comes down to how their company is organized and where their clients and customers are living online. I think the buy in is very dependent on the person utilizing the tools and the methods in which they are comfortable communicating online. Once you are able to figure out how to make social media “work for them everyday” and become part of their routine, they will see how it can impact the way in which they conduct business.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Good points Kara. Thanks for chiming in.

  • http://www.steigmancommunications.com/wordpress Daria Steigman

    Hi Jason,

    Great perspective. In my experience, “show and tell” really helps people wrap their minds around how these different tools can help them be more productive, build their business, communicate with employees and customers, and so forth. Once they “get it,” then we can help them develop strategies for using social media effectively.

    Best,
    Daria
    I

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed Daria. Thanks for the comment.

  • http://blog.clearcastdigitalmedia.com Matthew Chamberlin

    Being a video guy, I always come down in the “show, don't tell” camp. You're quite right to rely on a tool, as long as that particular tool makes sense in that person's world.

    Another thing I will sometimes do in a pitch meeting is find an analogous business and show them what they did that was successful. Admittedly, this can be tougher since there aren't always enough success stories to go around. But the minute you remove something from the theoretical to the practical, you have nearly won the battle. I remember when I was first introduced to RSS and Google Reader. While it has completely ruined my life (kidding, people) when I had that “a-ha” moment, it changed everything.

    FInd your client's “RSS moment” and you're golden.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      The RSS moment. I love it. I had that, too. Thanks for the input Matthew.

  • http://blog.lightninglabels.com Peter Renton

    Jason,

    I would focus on their customers, people in management can get that concept. What if you said I can show you are tool where you can eavesdrop on what your customers are saying about you in real time. You can then join in the conversation. A Twitter search or even a simple Google Alert can do that.

    These days most businesses have some customers using Facebook and Twitter – use these tools to find out what they are talking about within their peer group. Never before have we had the tools to listen in on the conversations of our prospects and customers. Social media now makes this reality.

    Peter

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Excellent approach, Peter. Thanks for the perspective.

  • http://www.theviralgarden.com Mack Collier

    Great post Jason, I think most business people can get excited about social media IF You can show its capabilities in terms that they can appreciate.

    For example, back in April I was speaking at Small Business Marketing Unleashed. The attendees were small biz owners, and Jennifer Laycock and myself were telling them all about Twitter and how amazing it was. Most of them had never heard of Twitter and there were plenty of eyes rolling when they listened to us explain why Twitter was so amazing. We told them to get on Twitter and we could tell they were basically agreeing to sign up just to get us to leave them alone.

    Then the sessions started, and of course Jennifer and I jumped on Twitter and started twittering. The attendees got on Twitter and discovered that while there was a discussion happening at the event in the session, that there was a completely different conversation happening online, on Twitter. And they noticed that not only were attendees discussing the session they were in, some of the attendees in another session were ALSO on Twitter at the same time talking about the other session.

    Then the lightbulbs went off.

    Jennifer and I had explained why Twitter was a great communication tool, but when the attendees saw how information was being exchanged, how attendees were relaying and discussing a live event, then they realized the significance. By the time the conference ended, over half the attendees were on Twitter, and when the second SBMU was held in September, 40% of the attendees came from referrals via Twitter.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Excellent example, Mack. Twitter certainly reaches stratospheres other tools cannot at conferences. I can't imagine being at a conference without it now. Of course if I'm going to the right conferences for new business, no one there will be on it. Heh.

  • http://www.jimkukral.com Jim Kukral TheBizWebCoach

    Nice work Jason. We're all so far ahead we take this all for granted. The only real way to stay grounded is to go out and speak and meet with people and really, truly understand how they have no clue what the heck we're all talking about. hehe.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Agreed Jim. Thanks for swinging by, man. Good to see you here.

      • http://www.jimkukral.com Jim Kukral TheBizWebCoach

        This is one of my favorite blogs. I'm here all the time! Coming to the affiliate summit in Jan in Vegas? More frozen drinks!!! On me this time :)

  • isfan

    Though I agree your example is not really social media, you managed to get “that guy” to pay attention and realize business as usual doesn't make sense. There are so many tools that can improve the way you work. You used an example that pressed a button with him which he understood. He is now open to listen. Good job and thanks for sharing this advice.

    @isfan
    http://twitter.com/isfan

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      You're welcome and thank you!

  • http://www.whatbillthinks.com bill

    You're probably familiar with the popular book Selling To VITO (Very Important Top Officer) The points you make are right in line with Ch. 1 of that book. How what you are “selling” is going to make a difference in that person's day is critical.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I am not familiar with that book, but will look for it. Thanks for the reassurance I'm not nuts. Heh.

  • http://www.conversationagent.com Valeria Maltoni

    Jason,

    How do you overcome concerns about confidentiality with tools such as ooVoo? Some of the biggest implementation opportunities for a company may be inside its walls…

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      True Valeria. Right now I haven't faced those issues. But that is definitely a good place to start looking for concerns. Thanks for the idea.

  • Pingback: Justifying Social Media to the Big Wigs | Social Media Strategery

  • web20blog_org

    I totally agree with social media as a set of communication principles. I am applying that approach to developing new tools and it helps me have guidelines about what will, might and won't work. Getting the decision to use it as a way to enhance their own communication with their communities seems like a great idea for a wedge into sometimes what is a wall of 'Why should I care?' -Ken

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Great Ken. Thanks for the input. Glad we could provide something to validate your thoughts.

      • web20blog_org

        Hi Jason,
        I would be curious what you thought my take on the underlying reasons social media solutions work. I am trying to start a conversation on identifying them and using them as a guide for innovation.
        http://web20new.wordpress.com/2008/11/10/lesson
        Ken

  • http://technologygoddess.com Technology Goddess

    Jason, this is so true. There are so many times I am talking about some Social Media app or method that to me, is just second nature, but to the business owner or CEO- what I know and do naturally is like a foreign country to them. I once mentioned offhand a new social media free tool that was coming out and got the same reply from a CEO; “WHAT!!!?? And WHEN were you going to mention that to me, since it effects my entire business?”

    We need to remember that we do indeed live in a different world in the social realms, and where it gets REALLY interesting, is where the social or free line and the market / business line converge. Those of us who can master that, are able to live in multiple dimensions or worlds at once.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the validation. Ms. Goddess. Hopefully, this post can remind folks of all that and keep us on the path to providing value to our clients. Thanks for commenting.

  • http://everythingcu.wordpress.com Morriss Partee

    First of all, I arrived here from a retweet from @GSnyder: RT @michaelgass: How To Win “Buy-In” For Social Media … it isn’t about the tools http://tinyurl.com/5kyjxe

    Secondly, I completely agree. Many executives don't see the value of social media or social networking sites, and may actively block Facebook its brethren as time wasters…. until THEY themselves get on Facebook and start experiencing the magic of connecting with dozens of old friends, near and far. THEN all of a sudden they “get” social media.

    So YES, don't talk to them about it, GET THEM USING it.

    @Susan Murphy: Instead of social media, use “customer engagement.”

  • http://everythingcu.wordpress.com Morriss Partee

    First of all, I arrived here from a retweet from @GSnyder: RT @michaelgass: How To Win “Buy-In” For Social Media … it isn’t about the tools http://tinyurl.com/5kyjxe

    Secondly, I completely agree. Many executives don't see the value of social media or social networking sites, and may actively block Facebook its brethren as time wasters…. until THEY themselves get on Facebook and start experiencing the magic of connecting with dozens of old friends, near and far. THEN all of a sudden they “get” social media.

    So YES, don't talk to them about it, GET THEM USING it.

    @Susan Murphy: Instead of social media, use “customer engagement.”