How to talk to managers about social media

I’m constantly asked “how did you convince your management to let you do this stuff?”

That’s when I get a little sheepish, because my management has been pushing me for at least two years, not the other way around (have I told you the story of how, two years ago, our web team told our Deputy Administrator no, he shouldn’t do a blog?).

But I do get to talk to groups of managers around EPA and elsewhere to help them understand why they should, at minimum, be learning about social media.

Two key points when talking to managers:

  1. Focus on mission. Managers have a job to do. Help them understand you’re not pushing for a cool toy, but rather for them to incorporate useful tools into how they achieve their mission.
  2. Be clear this is a culture change, not a tech issue.  We’re changing how we trust employees, how we invite the public into the conversation, and the way we write.  All the emotions normally associated with change apply here: fear, confusion, wariness, excitement, anticipation, worry about doing it “wrong.” People will make mistakes, and you must be up front about that.  But the benefits far outweigh the occasional mishap.

And here are some tools I use:

  • The presentation I use when briefing EPA mgr groups about social media. Feel free to use any of it. You can even download it from that site and edit it.
  • Blog post from Marie Ulysse of the Social Media Subcouncil: “Making the transition from “filtering” communication to engaging in the “open” arena of social media may seem like a daunting task for some organizations. However, with some preparation and the “good ole” power of persuasion the transition can be positive and valuable …”
  • I also like two engaging videos that either I ask them to watch ahead of time, or show them during the presentation:
    Information R/evolution
    : discusses and demonstrates how the way we think about information is changing.  I especially like this one because it doesn’t rely on specialized knowledge

    Did you Know? Current version is 3.0. Provides several facts about how the world is changing, esp. online.  Some folks still prefer version 2.0, although the stats are now a little outdated

    Also good is The Machine is Us/ing Us, but I don’t think it’s as useful unless you know some technical info like what RSS is.

What tools do you use when talking social media to managers?

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5 Responses to “How to talk to managers about social media”


  1. 1 Scott Horvath May 13, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Great post and clear simple rules to follow.

  2. 2 AJ May 13, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    I agree with your ideas on how to engage managers. They are often the hardest group to shift because they are so busy. The trick is definitely focusing on how these are tools they can use to save time, decrease email, win business, become more efficient etc..

    Sometimes it’s pertinent to break down your managers by level, market or event tasks to really customize the messaging to the group. It’s all baby steps towards fully engaging them in social media so all you need to do is get a small hook and ask them to play around.

  3. 3 Paul Davis May 19, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Excellent primer for reaching managers, Jeff. Thank you. Public or private, large or small, all organizations have varying comfort levels with new media tools (and varying misperceptions about do or don’t connect to objectives). The “customized” approach with different teams, departments and execs seems like the way to go. Thank you!

  4. 4 clementmunns November 2, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Given that much of the manager’s task set is communication, the upside for their productivity is enormous.


  1. 1 links for 2009-05-20 « riverrun meaghn beta Trackback on May 20, 2009 at 11:06 pm

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I’m on Twitter @levyj413

  • @MeghanJG Wow! Yep, I called into Science Friday when they had Tim O'Reilly on to discuss social media and gov't. 3 weeks ago
  • Just realized I've been doing social media for the gov't for 10 years! 3 weeks ago
  • @ariherzog Hi Ari. I've been pretty quiet on Twitter for a while now. Just focused elsewhere. 1 month ago

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