To the Point: Is Your Boss Facebook-phobic?
So you've done your homework, and you're convinced that your organization should dabble in social networking. You're not alone — according to ThePort Network, Common Knowledge and NTEN, 74.1 percent of nonprofits have a presence on Facebook, and 30.6 percent have social-networking communities on their own sites.
You might be pretty excited by your new insights. But you might well run into resistance from above. Maybe your boss is a Facebook-phobic, social-media skeptic. What do you do to persuade your stone-age executive director to embrace Web 2.0? Assuming social-media initiatives make sense for your organization, here's how to go about persuading your boss to let you experiment.
1. Change the subject
If you're having a debate over the value of social media, you're having the wrong discussion. The goal should not be to convince your boss that social networking is great. Your objective should be to show what you want to achieve for your boss — with Web 2.0 being the means, not the end. (See No. 2 below.)
2. Make it about what your boss already wants
Don't position your Web 2.0 idea as a social-media initiative; frame it as your initiative to support your boss's goals, in your boss's language. Show how you're going to help raise the money, build that e-mail list, change your audience behavior or generate media interest.
3. Make it about the audience
A good way to depersonalize the Web 2.0 debate is to make it about your target audience's preferences rather than a philosophical tug of war between you and said boss. A little audience research is great fodder for advancing your agenda. Show how many of your donors already use Flickr, or share e-mails from supporters asking how they can find you on Facebook. If you can show demand from existing supporters — or interest from new ones — you'll have a better case.
4. Get your boss into the loop
Set up Google Alerts and TweetBeep for your boss, so she or he can see that there already are many discussions about your organization online. Once this is apparent, two things are likely to happen: It will become clear that your organization no longer controls its message online — so it's not worth worrying about social media causing a lack of control. That day is already here. And it'll be hard not to want to join those conversations online, which is what Web 2.0 engagement is all about.
5. Set some ground rules
By taking step four, the need for step five will be clear. When should you react to what you're hearing? Who reacts? How? What do you do when people are saying bad things about you online? Lots of questions will be raised, and answering them with policies you create with your boss will do much to dispel any fear of experimenting with Web 2.0 — as well as prevent misunderstandings that can derail your efforts down the road.
6. Start clear and small
By now, you might have a tiny bit of support for doing something on Web 2.0 — or at least monitoring online conversations. If you're going to start an initiative, make it a small one with clear goals. What are you going to do, and how will you measure success? That second question — the end goal — is essential to answer at the start. Make sure you and your boss are on the same page with the goal, because "raise money" vs. "build awareness" vs. "grow our community" all have very different measures of success. The other advantage of starting clear and small is you'll avoid spending excessive amounts of time or resources on your project, thus enhancing its ROI.
7. Report, report, report
Share every little bit of progress, and give your boss credit for it! Provide lots of information on what you're learning. The more your boss is part of the journey and congratulated for the progress, the better off you'll be.
Lastly, a word of caution: Don't think you have all the answers. This isn't a crusade; it's a learning experience for everyone. Your boss's recalcitrance might be well-founded. Make sure there is a good case for your initiative, and if it does fail, share and learn from what went wrong. There is no shame in gaining knowledge from mistakes — for you or your boss.