Often, the questions are framed in terms of getting [older executives] to understand the value of technology. I would contend that it’s not so much a generational gap as gap in the business orientation of the two groups. Selling social media is much like selling any other business idea, you have to appeal to your audience. Since the social media enthusiasts are doing the selling, it is their responsibility to create messages that resonate with the execs.One of the most common questions I see asked on marketing forums is how to get the executives in an organization to see the value of social media. While social media isn’t as inherently expensive as other forms of marketing, it is time-consuming. Even hiring a full-time social media specialist isn’t unusual for companies that have seen the value. For those that haven’t, however, marketing gets more than its share of criticism for engaging in activities that are seen to have little business value.
I see a lot of social media enthusiasts who love the technology so much that they lose sight of the business goals of the company. They talk about building communities, engaging in conversations, “following” people, getting hits, and many more of the valuable (and semi-valuable) objectives of social media efforts. They need to tie these back to real company objectives. Can the blog help you reach out to the media and gain more exposure for the company and show industry thought leadership? Can an online community help you increase customer satisfaction, retain more customers, or increase repeat business? Understand the objectives of the business and then tie your social media efforts back to these objectives.
I am a marketer and I love the technology too. But, I also have accountability for reaching key metrics tied to the overall objectives of the business. As someone who has had the social media idea pitched to me, I can tell you it's a lot more convincing when you can tell me how it's going to help me reach my goals. It's not hard for me to make the leap. However, if your management is old school you are going to have to try a bit harder to help them make the connection to core business objectives. Explain it to them in their terms, and based on what's important to them, just as you would for a customer of any of your products or services.
Finally, we as marketers love to talk about what we’re doing. Many social media projects are rolled out with great fanfare. I would caution you against talking about everything. Not every social media initiative has an immediately recognizable value, even to us. For example, many of us are still playing around with Twitter to determine if it’s a social media stroke of genius or a complete waste of time. Until they are ready for prime time, some things are better left to discussions between marketers and the already converted.