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Selling Your Boss on Social

Why leaders often don't listen, and how to make sure they do.

Is your boss completely sold on the fact that your agency is using social media? While many cities across the country have had a presence on social media for years, I still hear from staff at agencies who are having a hard time convincing their managers to let them fully engage on social media.

Even agencies that are active on social media need trust from leadership to fully embrace the platforms and to get the resources they need to operate a well-run program. Why is leadership sometimes so hesitant to authorize more than using the platforms for one-way information blasts?

While government leaders may be great at what they do to improve their communities, some of them just don’t realize the importance of social media in providing a valuable customer service resource for the people they serve. And more often than not, they’ve seen some very public social media fails and they’re afraid of what could happen.

The good news is that many agencies have been down this road before. Here are some tips for gaining boss buy-in.

Walk Through #SocialMediaFails 

Inevitably, another government agency will be highlighted in the news for a social media fail. This type of thing makes managers very nervous. Use this time as an opportunity to explain why the post failed in specific terms (e.g., not simply that the agency “was trying to be funny,” but that its attempted use of humor failed to consider its audience and the context of the situation). Show your boss that the reason for the fail isn’t a mystery, and illustrate that you can be articulate about what went wrong for the other agency. Finally, remind them that social media training is important — both for social media managers and agencywide staff.

Break Down Your Asks

Asking your boss to trust you on social media is very broad. It may be difficult for them to wrap their head around exactly what you want them to do. The reason behind their “no” may be that they actually appreciate your efforts, but they’re concerned that giving you the green light means you’ll be doing some major avant-garde social media experimentation.

Instead, break it down to more specific requests by articulating what their support would look like. For example, if you want to break away from simply spitting out press releases and move toward promoting two-way communication, you might ask for their support in a series of posts designed for engagement related to a particular topic. Maybe you want them to help you internally route questions and feedback from the public to the appropriate department, or maybe you want their assistance with getting your summary report to specific agencies.

Always make sure to show your boss the success of their buy-in, including the impact and engagement with your constituents.

Finally, it’s always easier to get your boss to listen to your advice if you can show that you have solid social media management experience as a practitioner in the field. Hone your skills with membership in relevant organizations, participate in educational conferences, learn from webinars and get any other training you can find.

Kristy Dalton is known as "GovGirl" in the government technology industry. She has been called on as an industry influencer and has a passion for social media, technology and digital strategy. Kristy is the founder & CEO of Government Social Media.
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