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As a social-media consultant, I often deal with a company's "social media guy" who's trying to sell social media to a skeptical boss.

These folks are passionate about social media and want their company to "join the conversation." But the problem is, when they go to their boss to sell him on using social media, they often talk about the importance of "the conversation" and engaging with online customers.

The reality is that in many cases the skeptical bosses don't care about "the conversation." They don't care about interaction and comments because they don't understand why these things are important.

So if you approach your boss with "the conversation" as the main selling point for why he should use social media, odds are you will be quickly shown the door and told to get back to work.

If you want to sell your skeptical boss on why he should use social media, you have to find ways to remove his skepticism and speak in terms he understands. This article offers six tips for convincing your boss that social media is right for your company.

1. Speak in terms your boss understands

The quickest way to kill the chances of selling Skeptical Boss on social media is to tell her that she needs to "join the conversation." Skeptical Boss is skeptical for a reason: She can't see how her business would benefit from using social media.

She doesn't understand why "the conversation" matters, so save that for later. Instead, speak in terms she understands. Talk about how social media usage can help her company grow awareness for its products and services. How a well-positioned blog can increase inbound links (which might make it possible to stop outsourcing SEO work to that pricey firm), and how it can be leveraged as a tool to drive traffic back to her company's website.

Then, after she has taken the earplugs out and is listening to you, show her how interacting with customers via social media can help improve the company's online reputation, which can lead to even more incoming links, and likely more positive endorsements of the company. Which is also a big benefit when it comes to search results.

Key point: Frame your social media sales pitch to your boss in terms that are important to her. Look at what your company is already measuring, such as website traffic, incoming links, etc., and show her how social media can help improve those efforts. Your boss might not understand social media, but she likely understands the importance of search engine optimization. Work with that, and point out that social media can help with SEO. Just make sure you frame your argument from her point of view, not yours.

2. Tie your proposed efforts back to measurable metrics that matter to your boss

This tip is in line with the previous one. If your boss doesn't understand the importance of averaging three comments per blog post, then don't focus on that. Focus on what happens as a result of those extra comments, such as the commenters' becoming more likely to subscribe to the blog, to visit regularly, and to link to the blog.

And if you get your boss's buy-in for your social media efforts measure everything from the get-go. Because most social media efforts take a while to get rolling. Your boss might not understand this, so when he calls you in after a month and wants to know what's happening with the blog, you'd better be able to point to some numbers. You'd better be able to show how traffic is growing, how more traffic is being sent to the website, how emails from the blog are increasing, etc.

Key point: Measure the metrics that matter. Look at you company's online communication efforts to see what your boss is tracking. Does he place a premium on traffic? Incoming links? Emails from visitors? Newsletter subscribers? All of these metrics can be measured as a result of your social media efforts as well. Even if you start measuring things like comments per post or the number of RTs (retweets) a post gets on Twitter, make sure that your boss understands why those metrics are important. (Make sure you understand why, as well.)

3. Show your boss how social media will affect the company's bottom line

Yes, there has to be a bottom-line impact to your social media efforts. Comments and interaction on your blog or RTs on Twitter are great, but how will that ultimately sell more stuff for your company? That is exactly what your boss will want to know. He'll want to know how you are going to justify all the time spent on the social-media efforts you are proposing. Again, you'd better understand what metrics you need to be tracking and what results your boss wants to see from your efforts. When you do understand, then you can justify the time and money commitment to social media that you're proposing.

Key point: Trace your proposed social-media steps back to your company's bottom line. Also, when you show the metrics that will be measured (from tip No. 2), explain the ultimate impact on your business. If your boss knows that for every 100 visitors to a product landing page 10 will convert (buy), show how your proposed strategy will increase visitors to that landing page. Because your boss understands that if visitors increase, sales will likely follow. But remember that you should be speaking in terms and concepts that your boss understands.

4. Show your boss what customers are currently saying about your company online

Consider this tip your secret weapon against a skeptical boss. If you've done all of the above and your boss still isn't sold on why you should be using social media, show her what your current and potential customers are saying about your company now, online.

Point out that if you were interacting with those customers, you could have a say in the conversation that's happening about your company that very moment. But don't stop there. Show your boss why that's important, that interacting with customers online increases your online reputation and makes your customers more likely to blog/tweet more favorably about you. Which increases your positive search-engine presence.

Key point: Before you talk to your boss about social media, use free tools such as Google Blog Search and Twitter Search to see what people are saying now about your company. Also note what they are saying about competitors and about your industry. Point out to your boss that if you can interact with and engage these people, it will make them more likely to talk about you company—and in a more favorable way.

5. Show your boss how your competitors are using social media

This can be a real eye-opener, especially if your competitors are already using social media successfully. Nothing sells a boss on the importance of a solid blogging strategy, for example, than seeing that her top competitor using a blog to grow his business.

Key point: Search to see what your competitors are doing with social media, and show the results of your search to your boss. Point out to her that your company can probably replicate, and even improve upon, what the competitors are doing. If your competitor is using social media successfully, your boss will see that your company probably can as well.

6. Understand up front what your boss's objections to social media are, and be prepared to counter them

Figure out what your boss's objections are, and have your response ready before you talk to him. If your boss thinks social media will take too much time, show him the value he will get from that time. If he thinks his company isn't ready for social media, remind him you can bring in a consultant to help him get started. If he doesn't think social media can work in his industry, show him how his competitors are already using social media to build their businesses. If you need help, find someone in your company to help you craft the possible objections your boss will have, and figure out how to counter each of them.

Key point: Play devil's advocate: Understand why your boss doesn't want to use social media. Then, counter those objections with sound reasoning that makes good business sense. If you can both make a solid business case for why his company should be using social media and counter his objections, you greatly improve the chances that he'll OK your ideas.

Tying it all together

If you want your boss to commit to using social media, you have to show him how it will benefit his business, and you need to do so in terms he understands. You have to show him how his business will benefit, how that success can be measured, and how it impacts areas he values.

Looking for more ammunition to convince your boss? Check out more than 30 social media case studies as well as Twitter Success Stories and Facebook Success Stories for real-world applications of social media.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Mack Collier

Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

Twitter: @MackCollier

LinkedIn: Mack Collier