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Social media – To be or not to be…How to get management “to be”

Many public and private organizations are already using social media tools as part of their communications planning to advance their missions and reach target audiences. For organizations still relying primarily on traditional media to get their messages out, curiosity about how to incorporate social media tools are high. Facebook, Twitter, Wikis, YouTube, blogs, podcasts, forums, etc…there are so many tools to be used. How should one go about using them wisely? Better yet, how does one get the “buy-in” from key staff in their agency to successfully launch such communication efforts?

Management skepticism: If management doesn’t believe in social media, then employees who have been told for years that public communication needs to be filtered will be hesitant to try out a new medium which requires them to speak openly. In this scenario, management needs to encourage and reward participation to make social media work. If they don’t, it will fail.” Unfortunately, passion for social media alone won’t get the job accomplished. All your wonderful and enthusiastic ideas still need to pass the litmus test for the go ahead.

How can you help introduce the use of social media in your organization?

1.) Understand the “resisters” and “doubters”: Know what the true concerns of those who are not yet receptive to the use of social media tools. Is it a fear of change, lack of understanding of these tools, etc? Identify what the sources of resistance are and address them accordingly.
2.) Educate: Educate your audience on what the tools are and how each is used. Provide supporting evidence on how similar organizations are successfully using social media tools to help get the creative juices flowing on how your organization can adopt these ideas to suit its needs.
3.) Do your homework: There is nothing worse than presenting a case for something without having done your homework. Research the tools, know your facts, anticipate potential questions or comments, and be prepared to respond to questions or concerns. Bottom-line: present a solid case to your audience.
4.) Pilot Projects: Start off small with some demonstration projects in a part of your agency that is willing to experiment with a tool or two. Hopefully, these pilot projects are successful and you can use the results to help gain support.
5.) Present benefits of the tools: Back up your suggestions with some benefits that are important to management, such as efficiency, effectiveness, furthering the organizations missions, etc.
6.) Be honest- Don’t over “hype” the use of social media to win support. Be sincere on the pros and cons and limitations of tools.

Making the transition from “filtering” communication to engaging in the “open” arena of social media may seem like a daunting task for some organizations. However, with some preparation and the “good ole” power of persuasion the transition can be positive and valuable. Have any additional tips or success stories on how you introduced social media and new tools in your organization? We’d like to from you. Please share how you overcame the “resisters” and “doubters” in your organization.

Marie Ulysse is with the Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration. You can connect with her on GovLoop.

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Jeremy Ames

Good advice. It’s also helpful to note to risk averse managers that the cost of failure is fairly low. Most social media tools are free or very inexpensive. The lack of “top down” message control is still a scary prospect for many managers, but there are enough case studies now to allay many of those fears.

Kevin Gunn

And remember that, at it’s core, all this communication is “marketing” for the agency or company–it’s about image and branding. I know it’s a tougher sell, but there is a cost to NOT participating, as well: you won’t be where the action is, and you won’t be where your customers/constituency/citizens are…

Bill Finnerty

I think that one of the main items to address early is the number of tools. IT, or the supporting group, is only going to be able to effectively know a certain number of them.


Thanks for your contributions.. all great points to be considered when trying to “sell” the use of social media!

Social media and marketing- an interesting dichotomy, whereas you want to put a personal touch on your socmed message while promoting your agency’s goals at the same time.. I think this is one of the harder transitions to make for folks who are used to controlled communication (especially since its less formal and more personal in nature).