As a community advocate, you know that the key to growing any successful business is creating an engaged community of users and fans. The fact is, sometimes it's hard to get executive buy-in for a community strategy.
This article will layout 3 steps to getting executive buy-in for community management.
Getting Executive Buy-In
While some executives in the business world are now realizing the difference between a social media manager and a community manager, not all have come to this realization yet. Sometimes, you need to make a case to obtain the resources you need for a successful community.
It's more likely than not that you will need to obtain executive-buy; according to the Community Roundtable’s SOCM 2016, only about 1 in 4 companies have a dedicated budget for community. Further, only 21% had an approved strategy, 26% had a full-time community manager, and 29% had regular executive participation.
What those findings suggest, to me at least, is that there’s a slew of companies out there who will need some convincing. You will need to make a good case as to why your community deserves what any other marketing initiative would normally get—a dedicated budget, a codified strategy, and a full-time manager.
So how do you do it?
There are 3 steps to making a convincing case to obtain executive buy-in for your community.
- Figure out who you should be talking to
- Show your accomplishments and what the competition is doing
- Lay out a strategic plan for success
In what follows, I’ll layout these 3 steps.
Step 1: Learn Your Audience
The first thing to do is identify the relevant stakeholders in your organization. Who has the authority to sign off on a new strategy, allocate budget resources and designate personnel?
Make a list. Those are the people you want to target.
Next, ask yourself a few questions about your targeted stakeholders. What business needs do they face? What problems does the organization have that a community can solve? Think like the marketer that you are and present your plan as a solution to those specific problems.
While you’re doing that, find a personal advocate within the organization to function as a change agent—someone who believes in you and has enough clout to advocate on your behalf. This will help give your plan some authority when you present it to your executives.
Step 2: Show Numbers and Results
If you haven’t already, you need to start measuring your community’s analytics and correlating your activity with real results within the company. Something like, “we’ve been doing X, and it's been contributing to Y,” is a powerful formula for getting executive buy-in; money and results talk.
But what if your community is relatively new, or worse, not yet in existence?
If that’s the case, use industry studies to benefit from the experience of others. A short romp on Google will help you develop a cache of community success stories ready to be applied to your community pitch.
But you can’t just point to others. The question the executives will want to know is, how will you make their success your success?
Step 3: Write a Clear Plan
Alright, so you’ve identified key stakeholders and dreamed up a compelling vision of how you can solve all their marketing woes with a community. That’s hunky dory, but you won't convince anyone to do anything if your vision isn’t coupled with a clear strategic plan.
Your plan should, at a minimum, answer the following questions:
- What specific actions must you take to build a community?
- What resources do you need to take those actions?
- What results—concrete and abstract—do you hope to achieve?
- How will you measure your results against your actions?
- How will you quantify the value of this process?
- Are your expectations realistic? Prove it.
- What are your performance deadlines?
Bonus Step 4: Never Stop Making Your Case
If the stakeholders bite and decide to get behind your push for a bona fide community initiative, don’t take that as the last word. Make it a point to track your progress and provide regular updates to your superiors.
What you’ll find is that, as long as you measure and celebrate your wins in full sight of your executives, you'll never have to justify your value. They'll see it every day.