, ,

How-To: Convince Your Leadership To Use Social Media

In the true spirit of “wisdom of the crowds,” I’d like to ask GovLoop members one simple question:

If you had to choose one reason why leadership must use, and embrace, social media, what would that one reason be? And why? (OK, two questions)

I’m really curious about this. We [social media practitioners] often hear many reasons for why leadership needs to embrace social media and why they need to be using it themselves. We go to conferences with our peers (often without our leadership) and continue affirming why social media is beneficial to our organization, it’s culture, etc.
However, while you can work from the ground up to encourage change, your organization still needs full support from your Leadership. But when you’re called to a meeting with your Leadership to talk about embracing social media, and you’ve got limited time, a potentially uninterested audience, and one chance to encourage a change movement…you need to be able to enlighten your Leadership with the same information. This could be your defining moment! What do you say?
Convince me. Convince them. Go!
Note: This post is of my own opinion and is not endorsed by any organization.

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Ines Mergel

I agree with the question and the context – would love to know the answer too. In addition, why were the current channels of communication with citizens not (transparent, participatory or collaborative) enough and what would it take to come up with a better way? Why didn’t we do what we do know with social media before? From what I observe, a lot of agencies use the additional social media channels in relatively conservative ways (almost as additional one-way communication channels).


So first I would think of the audience and try to gauge what these people care about in order to frame the argument. Are they people trying to make their mark and willing to try new things? Are they super cautious?

1 – Show them it is already happening – A slide or demonstration on your agency’s key words in Twitter, YouTube, relevant Facebook groups really opens peoples eyes.

2 – Show them other similar agencies who are doing it and what the ROI they got out of it. Even if simple like TSA – # of hits on blogs, reach more people, etc

3 – Focus on the mission of the leaders and how social media can help. Better feedback? Reach more people? Cut costs? etc?

Sarah Vroman

Agree with GovLoop comments – it often helps to show what similar agencies are doing and show statistics of who is really using social networks. There is still the myth of only kids and college students using social networks.

In addition – I would recommend showing how this is part of the overall outreach plan. Reassure that all other channels are not being abandoned just because you are starting to use social media.

Also, be sure you have a solid plan of who is going to manage the social networks. There needs to be a person or team that will be adding/updating on each of the sites you choose to use. Determine an editorial calendar of sorts that shows what topics you are going to cover and who is going to be charged with gathering that information and distilling it. It is important to show that it is a well thought out plan, not just a quick fix to join the crowd on the social networks.

Scott Horvath

Great comments so far! The idea of showing them what is already happening (@GovLoop #1)…the conversations that are already happening around your agency…seems like a powerful way to convince leadership to be involved…or get the agency involved. Focusing on the mission is also a good idea, of course. Would showing Leadership the conversations really get them to accept the use of social media for an agency and/or themselves?


Convincing people often has to do with affecting their emotional side and telling stories. Not just the rational side of it.

One example I had with a senior leader is he saw a website that was aggregating all the news stories about his agency but just the negative ones. That made him one to create his own social media aggregation w/ both good and bad.

Depending who the leadership is, the conversation going on is perfect. If too scared, they might not work.

Depending who it is, the reach approach may be good. Can compare how many people attend, receive traditional information and cost. And show how with social media how many more people you can reach and associated cost.

Scott Horvath

@GovLoop: Agreed on the cost perspective. They always say that if you want to make change happen within management, you need to hit them where it hurts the most…the wallet. Granted, some people have bigger pockets than others which can make a difference. But, if you can clearly show some real examples, or estimations with your own agency, of how much it costs to do “x” with “y” service and show how the reach potential…that will always be helpful to show. The question, then, becomes HOW do you bring those numbers together?


Depending on what it was I’d ballpark them…

For example,
Employee User Group to Get employee feedback – 20 people to DC for week from field – 20X$2k = 40k
Uservoice/Ideascale Employee Feedback type site – $1k (or whatever for tool) and some hours

Michael Vallez

Scott, I wanted to share with you an awesome book that someone turned me onto, it is called Open Leadership: http://www.amazon.com/Open-Leadership-Social-Technology-Transform/dp/0470597267/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277303028&sr=8-1 . I got this book and have read through the first 3 chapters. This is a great book to help convince and change the mindset of leaders who do not yet see the value of participation in social media.



P.S. I am not the author, just trying to share.

Connie Clem

“This is the right time to start building an online community that cares about our issues.” and corollary, “By taking our place online, we can catalyze that formation of that online community, to the greater good.”

Subtle emphasis: things will develop over time, not overnight – therefore perceived risk is lower.

Keith Moore

Great comments and information sharing. Fantastic question.

Appropriate and timely subject.

Thanks for asking,…

Scott Horvath

@Connie: I like this comment “things will develop over time, not overnight – therefore perceived risk is lower.” That’s key. If it can be couched as developing overtime (tip-toeing into it) then the fear may be lowered significantly. Thanks for that.

Heather Coleman

Because ultimately its about achieving your mission and why wouldn’t you want to utilize every tool at your disposal in order to do that.

People don’t want to buy (products or services) from companies, they want to buy products and services (or get referrals to them) from people they trust. We’re turning more to our networks for our information, so its critical to engage communities and be sure you are a part of that conversation in a positive way. Same can be said for the government, which many do not trust or count on to be effective, but by getting to know the people behind it and forming relationships, it will help change that perception.

Henry Brown

Yes I know it is bad to answer a question with a question but…

a somewhat old, but IMO, still valid response to these question(s). What is the return on investment?

This question, if answered properly, will provide, probably the most compelling, tailored to the specific organization, answer for implementation and if done properly will provide a tool for measuring progress.

Gary Berg-Cross


How about appealing to Crowdsourcing solutions and the Widsom of Crowds itself.

Such approach should, of course, always address the gerneal interest (something of value) of the “crowd”/group and there several conditions that are needed (like diversity within the group.,

But givern this there is evidence that there are 3 classes of problems that crowds solve very well that can be used to enhance performance. These are:

Cognition problems, which have a distinct correct answer, such as when data sets need to published or how long a particular policy is in effect;

■ Coordination problems, which require large groups of people to coordinate their behavior, knowing that everyone else is trying to do the same thing, such as communication in times of crises, traffic congestion and reactions to new agency rules; We see some of this in recent crises.

■ Cooperation problems, similar to coordiantion but where each person’s narrow self-interest would normally prevent them from cooperating with others, such as pollution control.