3 Tried and Tested Ways to Sell Social to the C-Suite

By Alexandra Ostrow The ways in which we encounter social media on a daily basis are endless: restaurant windows featuring "Check in on Foursquare," in-store prompts to download exclusive apps, share messaging on just about every website ever created, and live streams of tweets when we attend events (and this list doesn't even account for the frequency at which each of us glances through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, and more).

While the prevalence of social media in the marketing world is undeniable, it's still not uncommon to hear some version of "What's the ROI?" or "Why do we need to be on social media?" when approaching the C-Suite with social media marketing proposals.

Here are three of my favorite ways to approach such questions while improving marketing efforts in the process:

Customer Service

The Social Habit conducted a survey of consumers who had ever attempted to contact a brand via social media for customer support. 32% expected a response within 30 minutes, 42% expected a response within 60 minutes, and 57% expected the same response time at night and on weekends as during normal business hours.

Since no one can deny that revenue is lost when customer issues aren't appropriately addressed in a timely manner, customer service is a priority for companies of any size. With social media listening and response strategies, companies have a pulse on consumer conversation, a chance to combat customer attrition, an opportunity to limit the reach of negative reviews or customer complaints, and ultimately, a chance to drive repeat purchases.

Still not convinced? Check out the results of this survey assessing the reported impact of social listening:

Full infographic on visual.ly via infosys and Column Five Media

Product Development

Ask your CEO this: What is the cost of producing a product in mass quantities that no one will ever use? Would he/she be willing to invest in a focus group or controlled study to determine potential customer interest in an upcoming product launch? What about learning how to increase customer satisfaction with a current product? For all intensive purposes, social media can be thought of as a massive focus group.

Take Coca-Cola as an example: In 2011, it released a white holiday soda can that quickly resulted in consumer outrage across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogs. Customers felt that the can too closely resembled Diet Coke and therefore caused confusion. To prevent further negative press, Coca-Cola was forced to remove the product from shelves... but what if the brand had gauged consumer interest prior to ever releasing the packaging in the first place?

A similar situation arose when Barclay's launched its mobile banking application, PingIt. Not only did the bank use real-time feedback to inform immediate changes necessary to ensure the app's success, but Barclay's learned of another app opportunity after observing positive customer sentiment surrounding the ability to check a bank balance.

Link Building

For brands with an eCommerce enabled site, demonstrating ROI via social media can be as straightforward as adding a short code to the end of a custom link or checking the back-end analytics of the company website. With the assistance of tools like Google Analytics, Omniture, and Hubspot, marketers can quickly and accurately determine traffic, conversion rates, and--dare I say it--SALES! Plus, they can learn what's most likely to resonate with their consumer.

Have you convinced your company's C-Suite of the benefits of social media? Share your insight below!