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How to Sell Upper Management on Online Community Management

Many online community managers speak of clashing with upper management who isn’t sure that there’s a need for their role or even for the brand to be so active on the social web. Having superiors who don’t “get it” or don’t want to put much energy into their online campaigns is frustrating and can lead to a stressful situation.

Don’t worry. If you’re dealing with resistance from your superiors, it doesn’t mean that you can’t put suggested practices into place or start some new programs. It simply means that they’re yet not convinced your ideas are good ones. It’s up to you to change their minds.

  • Dazzle them with facts or case studies. Upper management may not know online community or the social web, but they’re sure to understand numbers, facts, and figures. Arm yourself with the data required to show your campaign will be successful. Discuss your idea and why you feel it will succeed. Research notable online communities and how their campaigns and community building efforts led to more sales, buzz, and signups.

  • Provide links and screen shots. If community feedback gave you the idea for the campaign, link or show images of their discussions. If your superiors don’t feel an online campaign or social media presence is necessary, show them why you know they are and especially show them it’s what your customers are clamoring for.

  • Show other communities who have had success with similar ideas. Research other communities who have successfully implemented the same or similar ideas in the past. Discuss how they presented their own ideas and the results.

  • Remain cool as you plead your case. No matter how frustrated you come by the lack of cooperation, don’t lose your cool. Staying calm will help you present your ideas without getting flustered.

  • Provide several examples. If you’re showing case studies, screen shots, or facts, bring more than one item to the table. The more data you have to back up your way of thinking, the better chance you have of bringing it to fruition.

  • Keep cost as low as possible. When presenting an idea to upper management, especially if it’s an idea they’re not feeling, it’s best to keep cost as low as possible. The less likely your bosses are to open their wallets, the more likely they are to go with your idea. Plus, if this idea is successful, they’ll be more likely to spend money on special programs in the future.

  • Seek support from someone with seniority. It always helps to have an ally. If you can, seek backup from a well-respected coworker to see whether she can help you get your point across.

  • Implement deadlines and timelines. Give a timeline showing how your idea will take place and when you expect the different aspects to fall into place. Be as specific as possible since vague ideas with no game plan are rarely accepted.

  • Be confident. The conference room isn’t the place to have doubts about your idea or ability. Practice what you’re going to say and have a couple of private run-throughs so that you’re self-assured when it’s time to present.

  • Ask for a trial run. If you’re sure your idea is a winner, ask for a 30-day trial. Discuss what you hope to achieve in that time and what will happen if the results aren’t as you intended.

  • Compromise. Your superiors may not like all aspects of your idea, but they might see potential in parts of your idea. Be willing to compromise. If things work out, they’ll be more likely to run with more of your ideas later.

  • Give worst-case scenarios and their solutions. Your bosses may ask what will happen if your ideas won’t work. Be prepared to answer with the worst-case situation, but also figure out how you would rectify each of those scenarios. Turn negatives into positives.

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