Making the Business Case for Social Media

Posted: March 29, 2009 in Business Planning, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , ,

Many organizations around the world are demonstrating the business value of engaging in social media, from large multi-national corporations using social media for marketing activities, to small firms engaging their clients more directly, and governments seeking new ways to connect and interact with constituents.

socialmedia-businesscaseDespite the growing adoption rates of social media around the world, many organizations are still reticent, and fail to see the value of it. Governments in particular are struggling with the potential benefit of participating in social media in contrast to the potential for employee abuse. There are many examples of governments using social media while banning access for employees. There is also a perception that websites and tools like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs or wikis are intended strictly for personal use, are time-wasters and not only provide little to no value for an organization, but distract employees or take away from business operations.

Not everyone has the benefit of jumping into social media as an experiment or pilot activity, so here is a simplified framework for developing a business case for social media. This is intended to sketch out some of the key arguments for introducing social media in your organization, and to help you develop a sound business case to present to decision makers. The examples are very brief, while providing rationale, examples, and support to generate an understanding of the argument.

1. Rationale

Describe why the organization should use social media, and the goals and objectives that you’re trying to achieve.  Provide details of the problems, challenges, opportunities or shortcomings that will be addressed by using social media.

Ex: Our clients are complaining about us on blogs & twitter, and not contacting us directly. Goals – increase the satisfaction levels of our clients by establishing a more direct link with our clients and putting a human face on our corporation.

Define the specific details of what the initiative will achieve, change, or impact; and how success will be measured.

Ex: Success could be measured by reduced complaints on blogs & twitter; an increase in sales, or reduction in product returns or complaints.

2. Client-centric perspective

Provide an understanding of how people currently access the organization’s information and services; and how they want to access your information and services (ex: through a survey, or market research).

Get metrics & statistics on your website usage, and search terms used; any supporting general Internet usage statistics; and any statistics and information from competitors. Compare the way you do business online with other organizations (not just your competitors).

3. Risks

(a) Identify the risks associated with the initative, including what could go wrong, and a description of the worst-case scenario.

Ex: Lots of bad comments and reviews on your website.

(b) Identify the risks association with not undertaking the initiative, including what could happen if you don’t engage in social media.  Know your client, and get an understanding of the perception of your business if you do/don’t engage in social media.

The conversation is happening out there anyways – with or without you – the degree to which you engage is optional, but you should at least be aware of the conversation and monitoring it.

4. Business Intelligence

Define the type of functionality required to meet your goals and objectives; meet your client’s needs; and reduce the risks.  Research and describe possible solutions.  Include reviews, case studies, and comparisons.

  • What are others doing?
  • What are the industry best practices?
  • Who are your competitors, and what are they doing?
  • What is popular or trending?
  • What relevant technology advances are happening?

5. Stakeholders

Identify all the key stakeholders who need to be involved in the process of introducing social media to your organization, including:

  • Business clients
  • Communications
  • IT
  • Legal
  • Accessibility
  • Clients, etc

6. Investment

Provide a breakdown of the costs involved, including:

  • People
  • Money
  • IT infrastructure needs, etc.

7. Process, Roles & Responsibilities

Identify the steps that need to happen to introduce social media to your organization.

Developing, piloting, testing, soft launch, public launch, etc?

Identify roles and responsibilities for various aspects of the initiative.

Who will provide support (technical, training), monitoring, facilitating, engagement, etc?

Include a plan for how to monitor and evaluate the success of the initiative – related back to the goals and objectives.

  1. Brian Beehler says:


    I believe that Social Media Tools should not be banned strictly on the premise of productivity. I work in an environment that banned Facebook and Twitter and over the past few months I have slowly convinced them to reconsider their decision.

    I’m currently in the process of developing an internal version of Facebook that would help enable employees to connect, communicate, collabrate, and cooperate with each. I hope that by introducing this new application I will breakdown some peoples thinking that employees should not use social media tools at work.

    Great piece Mark and I’ll continue to return to your site…


  2. Very thorough and well thought out Mark.
    Nice job.

  3. PennySue says:

    I can say from experiences, that internet viewing on the job has become a real problem. You have ones would take advantage of being able to be online at work, then you have the ones who would use the social media for the proper use. There are too many on the web and not performing their job. In any case it should be monitored. If I had the choice I too would strictly banned in all social media tools from a productively place of business.

  4. Chris Wightman says:

    I agree with Brian on the banning of tools. I think the lack of broad deployment of these tools in an organization hinders its ability to keep up to pace with competitors and customer expectations – the business case for that is pretty basic. With less direct competition in the public sector and mismanaged instances of abuse, adoption has been slower unfortunately.

    The best way to encourage public sector growth is healthy peer vs peer competition and awareness – with the minimal costs associated with social media and their tools, even the smallest hamlet can be an innovator and they’ll probably have a easier and better chance of pulling it off.

    Being tuned in and ready to pounce on an opportunity or act proactively is priceless. Trying to bring an organization or worse yet a bureaucracy, up to speed after the fact – what a needless waste of time and money – good luck with that.

  5. There is some research available that shows the importance of social networking on particular information workers. IBM has completed some academic research which demonstrates the value of social networks for business consultants.

    Have a look at this research here:

    Also a summary view is included within this presentation (delivered to a a University)

    Good post.

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