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How to convince skeptical managers to invest in social media

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Social Media

This post is by Kaukab Jhumra Smith.

If you’re in the middle tier of your organization and having trouble convincing senior leadership about the wisdom of adopting social-media tools for your mission, consider the following techniques put forward by Allison Fine and Beth Kanter at the recent Nonprofit 2.0 Unconference in Washington, D.C.

“Organizational change is the most difficult thing you can do,” said Fine, who co-authored the book, “The Networked Nonprofit: Connecting with Social Media to Drive Change,” with Kanter. “You’re going to need courage and patience to do this well.”

Here are some steps they suggested trying:

Identify people who influence senior management. Who are the people respected by your company’s top leadership as a source of ideas or guidance? Help them understand how social media can further your organization’s mission. “Looking at individual board members as influencers is a good strategy,” Fine said. Influencers may even include younger family members who are into technology and who can convince managers to try new tools out of personal interest, Kanter added.

Draw attention to your competitors’ social-media activities. “The C-suite gets influenced by stories about peer organizations. If you say rivals are doing this, you get their attention pretty quickly,” Fine said.

Take a test flight under the radar. You could try a “stealth” approach and share content on social-media sites without running it by senior leadership in advance. Watch your numbers grow and prepare a case for how they add value to your organization before taking the experiment to management, Kanter said.

Become a guide instead of a guerrilla. On the other hand, Fine said, “I’d love to see young people switch their mindset from doing stealth social media to becoming internal guides and teachers for organizations.” She suggests organizing weekly brown-bag lunches to show skeptical colleagues how Twitter can add value to their work and to share examples of how other companies are using social-networking sites.

Be patient — this could take a while. You have to think of this as a process of social change within your institution, Kanter said. “It takes years to change a culture.”

Image credit: CDH_Design, via iStockphoto