If Your CEO Doesn’t Understand Your Social Strategy, You Don’t Have One

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In my job, I spend a lot of time talking with Fortune 500 CEOs about their industries–what is working, what isn’t, and what challenges are on the horizon. The biggest topic today: social. It’s been widely embraced, yet it is not fully understood in the world of business-to-business marketing to date. Your company no doubt has a presence, but is it truly working? Is it driving revenue?

If you look at the data, with 61 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs not active on any social media channel, and fewer than 12 percent active on more than one channel, they likely don’t personally understand how your social media strategy supports business objectives.

So now we know two things. First, these CEOs are not overly familiar with how social platforms work, and second, they are busy focusing on running a successful business. To get them on board, you need a clear, succinct message that ties back to financial realities of the company.

It’s been more than one decade since social forever changed the balance of power, giving consumers a voice and enabling them to reach other consumers in real-time and at scale. Most recently, you can think of Chewbacca Mom’s Candace Payne and the free advertising Kohl’s received, or Alex Hamberger and the goodwill American Airlines earned by showing compassion.

Your brand needs market validation, and today, that comes solely from social engagement with consumers. The risk is real: If you’re not listening and participating in the conversations your business loses, you’re losing ground to competitors and, more directly, you’re losing credibility in the boardroom.

Marketers are only recently embracing the fact that their brand messaging is a shared proposition. Peer-to-peer conversations make traditional digital advertising obsolete. If you want to resonate with your consumers and the boardroom, here are a few tips to build a social strategy that your CEO understands.

Explain audience behavior: Even in the B2B world, people use each social platform for a different reason. Messaging must be targeted to each. A table that showcases audience targets in rows and social platforms in columns can provide the CEO with an easily digestible visual that shows how the brand messaging is consistent and how each platform is optimized contextually.
Provide context: Illustrate how social is integrated into every marketing initiative. Whether it’s an eBook, a whitepaper or a product launch, social is a key driver of distribution. Illustrate how it’s baked into every program you run. This provides a framework for not just why social is important, but how it actually help drive inbound leads.
Define measurable key performance indicators: B2B decisions require multiple touch points; it’s not realistic to think that social media alone will drive a purchase decision. Social should provide content that delivers value. The goal is engagement and leads. Providing information or education that makes people feel and look smart will not only ensure they engage with you, but also encourages them to share with others. Create KPIs around your social messaging that measure the actions people take and the number of new leads generated.
Correlate results: Looking at social numbers in vacuum misses their overall impact. It should go without saying, but you should be measuring everything you’re doing. Assuming you are, you have a good baseline of how each channel performs. During each campaign, how are these numbers affected? Is there a correlation when social is active? Measuring this impact not only ensures you have optimized your message, it allows you to predict future success through causality. Believe me, CEOs love nothing more than a marketer who can deliver predictable, sustainable growth.
Demonstrate use of proceeds: Remember, CEOs are focused on the big picture. Social is a key element of the marketing mix and typically requires external support. Whether you’re working with an agency partner or paying for a social customer-relationship-management platform, make sure you demonstrate how you’re leveraging third parties to increase return on investment.
Build a data dashboard: Finally, provide a weekly (or monthly) dashboard. You literally can’t be too data-driven. Getting your CEO on board with your social strategy is not a onetime exercise–show engagement and conversion trends over time. To gain credibility for social, every decision moving forward must be informed by data. This provides a clear ROI to your CEO on social activity.

For your social channel to have an impact, it’s critical that you get alignment internally. If the CEO doesn’t get it, you’re just experimenting. Social is a key element of your marketing strategy, so make sure you have clearly articulated the strategy, defined the KPIs and demonstrated that you are measuring and optimizing every week to deliver better results.

Promise Phelon is CEO of influencer marketing company TapInfluence.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.