How to sell Social Media in your organisation

Posted on January 25th 2010

Why don't they understand that social media can help us working more efficiently? Those stupid corporate drones! I want to get it more widespread in the organisation but every time I hit this frustrating wall!

Sounds familiar?

It's a frustration I've experienced myself and I see it often recurring during client engagements where some people inside a large organisation see value in adopting social software (whether it is client-facing social media or Enterprise 2.0) and they are trying to get more widespread acceptance. Their enthusiasm often drives the adoption of these tools but at a certain point it hits a wall because the legal department, PR or corporate IT starts to ask questions about this successful "under-the-radar" product that violates numerous "company policies".

So now you've reached a point where you have to sell this social software inside the organisation. And here's the point where many people crash and burn and see their efforts vaporising.

I've been studying this "phenomenon" for quite some time and what you see is that super enthusiastic people are going on and on about the benefits of social software but get frustrated about those "irrelevant" questions from for instance the legal department.

Very coincidentally, I read the book "Life's a Pitch" which explained that there are two kinds of pitches in life: one where you want to get a yes and one where you want to avoid a no. THAT is exactly the key take-away to solve our problem in efficiently selling social software inside our organisations!

When you are selling Social Media or Enterprise 2.0 inside your organisation, it is very important to understand what kind of pitch you are doing. Are you going for a yes or are you avoiding a no? That choice will depend on your audience. If you are pitching to your CEO or chief strategy officer, most likely you will go for a yes approach. You want to make them enthusiastic about all the potential how we as an organisation can disrupt the market, how we can accelerate innovation, etc. etc. There you have to bring you're A-game and throw in your charms where applicable.

Unfortunately, many people fail because they haven't anticipated the "avoiding a no" pitch. You don't need to convince the legal department how we can sell 40 % more or how we can achieve 20 % more efficiency. That is not their task. They are extremely good in protecting the company from lawsuits. So the approach to avoid a no here is to try to understand what keeps a corporate lawyer awake at night? Try to identify what potential legal risks a company has when adopting social software. Can they be sued by their employees? Can sensitive information leak to the public? Identify each concern and try to reassure them with very valid arguments why they shouldn't worry about it and what you are going to do to avoid these messy situations. Be completely open and transparent, pro-actively point out the potential dangers and tackle pre-emptively their concerns.

Same story when pitching an "avoiding a no" to your people who are concerned about the brand and PR. Their main tasks is not to worry about huge sales, their worry is the company's professional brand and reputation in the market. Identify what kind of potential PR or brand disasters can arise and pre-emptively tackle them with valid arguments and solutions.

And that is the key to selling social software in your organisation. Everyone is focused on selling the benefits and ROI, but it's mainly risk-mitigation that will help you avoiding the big frustrating corporate walls.

Need some help in pitching? Drop me a line: lee.provoost@headshift.com.