How to Talk Social in the C-Suite

Opinion: Breaking social media out of the backroom and into the boardroom is a crucial first step

It’s every social media professional’s greatest fear: Asking the C-suite for an increased social budget without a clear return on investment to show for it.

The social media department is often walled off from other departments, which makes it even more challenging for social media managers to rally support. It’s a daunting task even if you speak the language of the C-suite, but recent advancements in marketing technology have made it possible for companies to break down the walls of their internal structures and give consumers what they expect.

More than 90 percent of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising, and today’s typical internet-using consumer lives in a social-first world. Studies show that the average customer has seven social media accounts, and they aren’t shy about telling friends and family how they feel about your brand via social media.

The customer journey is changing. Corporate behavior and priorities are unfortunately playing a game of catch-up with both technology and consumers’ use of it. While social media is driving this change, it’s also the best solution to closing the gap between consumer and brand communication.

Social impact on the bottom line

Here comes the hard part—convincing the C-suite that social can drive ROI, match sales or marketing efforts and help push the company out of the past and into the future. So, how do you make them listen?

Present clear social strategies and objectives

Clearly outline how social fits into the company’s overall marketing, sales or public-relations strategy. This will look different for each organization depending on key audiences, overarching goals, etc., but weaving social into this process will help the C-suite understand its relationship toward similar strategies and objectives.

It’s important that social is recognized as a separate entity, but explain how it can belong to the larger ecosystem of marketing communications goals.

Report data that the C-suite can easily digest

Based on the amount of social media metrics available, it’s easy to get tied up in what the C-suite really needs, compared with what is “nice to know.” While it’s gratifying for any company to have thousands of followers, likes and shares, that isn’t what the C-suite will be the most interested in learning.

To avoid overwhelming and losing your audience, keep metrics that are directly related to your main strategy and objectives you set out in the beginning of your presentation. This might include more granular details on engagement rates, sentiment figures and total share of voice compared to something simple like the amount of posts created. Get more analytical in your reporting and try to follow the “less is more” mindset when it comes to basic numbers.

Compare directly to marketing and sales data

Stand-alone social data without an obvious ROI often makes little sense to the C-suite, since most of their time is spent determining impact on the bottom line. As they make key decisions, combining or comparing social data to marketing or sales activities will paint a clearer picture in their mind.

While it won’t be an “apples to apples” comparison, there are ways to tie in website traffic or sales data so that it becomes easier to prove the value of social activity.

Identify additional departments that could benefit

Open application-program interface marketing technology stacks are creating ecosystems where this social data can have a positive impact on business activities elsewhere.

For example, by pulling up social data and placing it alongside other metrics in a custom dashboard, the analytics team will be exposed to new insights to act on.

Moreover, most units within a company—from e-commerce to content distribution—will benefit from a free, two-way flow of data with social media sources.

Data exchange aside, the ability to pull and display social activities on company dashboards or intranets represents a unique capability in social media marketing.

What’s next?

Breaking social media out of the backroom and into the boardroom is a crucial first step to help meet the challenges that the new customer journey brings. All of the software in the world won’t compensate for poor strategy and tactics, but social media and the data it pulls are there to help, not hurt, that process.

The C-suite doesn’t need to pour massive budgets or resources into mapping the new customer journey. Because of free-flowing data between martech stacks, the door is already open: You just need to take that first step.

Ulrik Bo Larsen is founder and CEO of social media management software-as-a-service platform

Image courtesy of Cecilie_Arcurs/iStock.