1-2-3 Buy-In for Social Commerce – From the C-Suite and Beyond

Today, nearly every C-level executive has heard about social media. CEOs, CIOs, and, of course, CMOs know their companies need a social strategy. Social commerce programs deliver real sales, so it should be simple to sell a social commerce strategy to the C-level executives in your company, right? The only problem is, many executives haven’t heard about the profit and loss measurability of a social commerce strategy. They may be wary to launch “yet another” social initiative that will be “hard to measure” just like all of our other “social experiments.”

But getting initial executive-level buy-in to launch a social commerce program – and maintaining that buy-in across all levels of the company once you launch the program – isn’t that difficult. Like many things, it’s a simple and obvious approach that can make progress. And the simple answer is focusing on business results. For example, instead of presenting your boss with a report on how many Twitter followers or Facebook friends you plan to amass, lay out a clear roadmap for which marketing methods you’ll use to attract those people; which exact promotions and messages you’ll use to turn those people into buyers; and how you’ll integrate social programs with larger marketing and business goals.

What’s more, buy-in doesn’t stop with your boss. You need to get everyone in your company – from the marketing department to operations, information technology, merchandising, store employees, and anyone else who directly impacts the company’s bottom line or interacts with customers – to embrace the social commerce agenda. What’s more, you need to get customers to “buy in” to your social activities over time, because without customer participation, your social commerce program is dead in the water.

There are three perspectives to look at to ensure your social program gets the buy-in you want:

  • Get buy-in from C-level executives. Start with a project that has the best chance at sales impact. For example, an online contest you launch and market through Facebook and Twitter is going to have a bigger impact on bottom-line sales than simply launching a corporate blog. If you start with a calculated plan that results in revenues, executives will more readily accept future projects.
  • Get buy-in from employees. Everyone in the company should feel a part of your social commerce project. To make sure every employee is engaged in the program, democratize the ongoing data. By allowing broad access to the success metrics of the program, employees will feel more involved in the program and see first-hand how their participation is helping drive sales or reach specific business goals.
  • Get buy-in from customers. You need to bake in a participation plan for your social commerce program from the start, figuring out how to get customers to your social sites and how to keep them coming back. There are several strategies you can take to encourage ongoing participation, which I covered in this blog post on the participation chain.

The Container Store presents a great example of how to get buy-in for a social commerce program. When the marketing team wanted to take the plunge into social marketing in early 2009, they didn’t just slap up a Facebook Page and wait for the masses to friend their brand. Instead, they put together a concrete proposal that not only got buy-in from top executives, but from the entire company – down to store employees.

To get executive buy-in, the team mapped their proposed social programs to measurable business goals (sales, merchandising, marketing, customer service, etc.), but also made sure every manager and employee was comfortable with the social tools they planned to use. Before launching a Facebook Page, for example, the social commerce team trained the entire company on Facebook, holding Facebook 101 classes in office and distribution centers, and sending communications to store managers.

The Container Store started with Facebook, launched Twitter 10 months later, and then two months ago, added customer ratings and reviews on containerstore.com. At each stage, the social commerce team presented measurable results from the program before recommending new initiatives.

“Our social commerce program has helped get every employee behind our brand in a really concrete way, and, of course, customer participation has helped drive a boost in sales we never would have anticipated just one year ago,” said Catherine Davis, direct marketing director at The Container Store.

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