Building the Case for Social Business: Appeal to the Mind



If you’re on this site, you’re probably a believer in the idea of social business. You probably have some knowledge on the subject. You have probably even read a book or two (maybe more).

Chances are also pretty good that at least some of you reading this are not the decision maker for whether or not your company proceeds down the path toward becoming a social business.

But just because you believe in the extraordinary opportunities that social tools and processes can provide a company, doesn’t mean that you know how to get buy-in.

Today, I’m going to provide the first part of a framework for getting the social business buy-in that you need to transform your company.

The First Step To Getting Social Business Buy-In: Appeal To The Mind

There will be three steps necessary to getting buy-in, and the first is to engage the decision maker’s mind.

We do this most effectively by walking them from the past into the future, making stops along the way to build a case that the world is changing, in some cases gradually and in other cases explosively.

We need them to see that the world is smaller, faster and more connected. We need them to see that information is right at our fingertips and that connectivity is part of our everyday lives. It has forever changed how we communicate, complain, promote, seek help, find information and share information.

The key is to get them to see inevitability and change. To open the conversation for social business is simply to open the conversation for re-examining how we do things based on how the world has changed and (likely) will change.

Here are the two interrelated factors to focus on:

  • The Evolution of How We Communicate and Find Information
  • The Changing Face of the Workforce and Consumers

How We Communicate And Find Information Has Changed/Is Changing

One of my favorite ways to illustrate this is to talk about services and to engage the decision maker directly.

“In 1995, let’s say you were looking for a *plumber. How would you find one?”

Inevitably, the answer is always the same. I’ve asked the question over 50 times and gotten “Yellow Pages” as the answer all 50 times.

“Now, in 2004, you’re looking for a plumber. How would you find one?”

The answer is always one of two things: “the Internet” or “Google.”

In just 10 short years, our collective behaviors changed in this country. The decision maker will see this because they know it is true; they’ve experienced it.

“How would you find a plumber now?”

The truth is, they may not even know. They may say, “Google,” again, and that’s not wrong, but it’s worth showing them several other possibilities.

  • Run a search on Twitter.
  • Go to Yelp, run a search and sort the plumbers by rating. Then ask the decision maker which plumber they’d choose.
  • Go to Facebook and run a few graph searches for “my friends who work as plumbers” or “my friends that like plumbing.”
  • Pull out your iPhone and ask Siri or pull out your Android and ask Google.

The key is to show them how many other options have emerged. Make sure to reinforce that this is about more than just technology; this is about human behavior.

*Obviously plumbing is just an example and might not be the best way to make your case. So find the right example to make your case and walk them through the steps.

The Changing Workforce and Consumer

Here’s where the case really gets made in conjunction with the last points. According to research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a full 72 percent of online adults use social networking sites; and when you break that down by age, you get some very interesting stats:

  • 89% of 18-29 year olds (millennials)
  • 78% of 30-49 year olds
  • 60% of 50-64 year olds
  • 43% of 65+ * 

Note that the 43 percent of 65+ individuals represents an increase from 13 percent in 2009. The 65+ crowd is using the Internet more and more. Everyone is getting involved.

But let’s back up.

Did you know that 56 percent of the current workforce is between 16 and 44? And did you know that by 2025, 75 percent of the ENTIRE workforce will be made up of millennials?

Millennials are different, and what they expect from the companies they work for and the companies they buy from will require companies to re-examine internal processes, policies and methods of communication with the outside world.

All of this data points toward widespread adoption of the technologies that are changing the way we communicate and find information (see above). It also points to the necessity of understanding how these shifts will affect a business in the coming years.

The genie will not go back in the bottle. This train will not stop.

But Wait…There’s More!

This is only Part I. You’re not going to make the case purely by anecdotes and stats about behavior. You’re going to need to make this case from several perspectives.

Next, we’ll appeal to the wallet. Stay tuned!

Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Cozumel

About the author: Jeff Gibbard

Jeff Gibbard is the President of True Voice Media, a Philadelphia Social Media and Social Business Agency. Over the past 5 years, Jeff has established himself as a forerunner in the world of Social Business by sharing his insights on strategy, policy, relationship-building and how human behavior is changing as a result of technology. Jeff Gibbard is also the lead blogger and editor for Social Media Philanthropy.

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