MAD Perspectives Blog

 Can You Initiate a Social Media Plan Without Executive Support?

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, March 30, 2011

I was in Silicon Valley meeting with various companies, two weeks ago, to talk about their social media strategies (or lack thereof). I want to share my learnings from two of these companies as they both reflect the importance of having executive support. I will not share the names of these companies as I do believe that I may not have the full story in either case. However, each left a lasting impression.

I met with the VP of Marketing for Company A, a provider of video delivery solutions. I had casually met him at an industry event and was connected to him on LinkedIn. However, I pursued the meeting via the VP of Sales for one of their divisions, as I had a very strong relationship with this individual. The VP of Sales clearly understood my goals to discuss the value of the customer insight that is found through social interactions and other online behavior. Company A has grown through acquisition over the past few years and their customer base is growing as enterprise companies produce and distribute increasing amounts of video content. 

The VP of Marketing has a very busy schedule and was kind to give me some time to discuss their use of social media and how social media can provide them with competitive intelligence. It was an interesting discussion where I found out that the company does not integrate social media into their marketing plans.  They feel they already know who their customers are and what they want. Their only goal is to streamline the sales cycle. This company is monitoring the social networks using Radian6, yet they are not actively participating. Monitoring tools like Radian6 are dependent on selecting the most relevant keywords.  Pursuit of this discussion to understand how they selected their keywords (I was thinking about the importance of long tail keywords) was a deadend. In summary, this VP of Marketing is currently unimpressed by social media's value for B2B companies. He is concerned about the investment of people resources to manage any social media agenda. Thus, for now, this company will not officially pursue a social media marketing strategy.

The second company I met with, Company B, is in the enterprise content delivery space.  Again, I was introduced to the VP of Marketing through the VP of Sales.  We had spoken several times in 2010, but his social media efforts never materialized.  He was open to discussion when I indicated I would be in the bay area.  We had a fascinating conversation.  His challenge, in developing the marketing plan for this small technology company, was a CEO who was watching and second guessing every decision.  He was unable to put a comprehensive marketing plan together, that would have included social media, due to lack of empowerment.  As a result he chose to focus on a narrow scope that proved to be challenging yet successful in increasing industry awareness and perception of the company as a market leader.

As Company B's market expands beyond large enterprise companies, they do understand that traditional offline marketing efforts may not be enough to broaden market awareness and understanding of their solutions.  Fortunately, there has been a change at the top and the new CEO is supportive and empowering of the VP of Marketing's efforts.  It's challenging in a small company to find and align resources, but now there is support from the "top" and they will tip-toe their way into social media.

I share these experiences as you may be facing similar challenges in your company. It is critical to have management support for your social media efforts. There is a strong focus on the ROI of social media in 2011.  I have ambivalent feelings about ROI as numbers can be manipulated to appear to meet goals. That said, it is important to understand your business goals and how social media can help you achieve them. For example, Company A wants to streamline its sales cycle. It would be important to understand what information customers need that would allow them to make a buying decision more quickly. Could influence be established via a social network?  Possibly. Do potential customers seek advice from other buyers and seek casual interactions to uncover their experience with Company A?  Possibly. Establishing a plan, really thinking through the activation and delivery of the plan, and taking the time to understand and define meaningful metrics will keep efforts focused.  And, given the right time frame, results will follow

Winning executive support is a must for entering the B2B social media space. Social media takes time and people. Without clear direction and understanding of the rules of engagement marketing, customer support, sales or product teams cannot engage to drive awareness, customer satisfaction, revenue or innovation.   Are you facing challenges getting executive support for a social media strategy? Let me know your challenges. We can all learn from each other!

What's your perspective?