I’ve written often about the challenges B2B marketers face in turning the crank to generate social ROI. Specifically, how important it is to build quality social channels, set the right social media goals, and create compelling content — and how mobilizing your employees and brand advocates can help you get social traction much more quickly.

But maybe there’s more to it than that.

Organizational Buy-In

What if another big challenge is getting organizational buy-in? For instance, even if you’re a smart social marketer, there’s only so much you can do without the necessary budget, headcount, and organizational commitment for your social initiatives.

This issue bubbled up during a conversation with Simon Poulton, digital strategist at WPromote. The Economist Intelligence Unit identified Poulton as one of the top 25 social business leaders, so he clearly knows how to leverage social technologies to engage buyers.

Yet he stressed that not everyone in B2B organizations views social media as a positive thing. Some think it’s a distraction for millennials who want to spend all their work hours on Facebook and Instagram. Plus, many senior executives can’t grasp what all the fuss is about, and they remain unconvinced that there’s an ROI at the end of the social media rainbow. The result? Meager budgets and a short leash for social media programs.

And when I asked Scott Hirsch, head of content strategy and the executive who oversees social media initiatives at Neustar, for his thoughts, he added:

“There is a big generational shift that will be happening in executive suites in the next five years… and it’s not the ‘age’ of these executives that will drive the change, but rather their digital ‘nativeness.’ I think most executives when exposed to the power of social media in their personal lives easily make the connection to how this media can impact their business. Fact is, the more years of exposure executives have to social media, the more likely they are to buy-in. It’s why tech startups don’t have trouble with buy-in… Their leaders are already tech-native.”

Championing Your Social Media Initiatives

So whether your company leaders are digital natives or not, here are six steps to champion social media at your organization:

  1. Educate on why social media is important. Take the time to explain the role of social media, as it’s important that the C-Suite understand what social is and what it has done for other companies, before selling them on why your organization needs to engage.
  2. Make them realize they’re already doing social. Get company leaders to realize they’re already active on social media since they read blogs, post on Facebook, and most likely have LinkedIn accounts. Also, make them see the connection between email marketing and social media in terms of reaching target audiences.
  3. Prove that buyers are turning to social media. Leverage research data to prove that target buyers are turning to social media to discover solutions and evaluate vendors – and to show how customers now expect B2B companies to respond to them on social media. There’s lots of social research available, so do your homework before you pitch.
  4. Show competitors have gone social. It can be a loud wakeup call when you show a nay-saying executive that your main competitors are active on social media even if your company isn’t. Nobody likes to think the competition has a leg up, let alone feel left behind.
  5. Bring social to life with examples. Update them on target buyers that follow the organization’s handles on Twitter or LinkedIn. Show them customers that have shared the company’s blog posts or that have favorably mentioned the firm or its products on social media. Start a “social wins” deck, and keep it current so you always have it at the ready.
  6. Explain the business value. Whether it’s growing the size of the company’s social audience, engaging prospects and influencers, or driving more website traffic or leads, you need to be sure to talk business metrics and value when looking to get sign-off on social media initiatives.

But how do you handle a senior executive who isn’t willing to engage in a real discussion about social media but instead is quick to pull out the “Where’s the ROI?” to defend foot-dragging?

Poulton suggested:

“You can show the value by aligning social profiles with real-world engagement. Just like asking, what is the ROI of attending a networking event? Or working at a tradeshow? It’s hard to quantify, but being active on social media ultimately reflects positively on the organization as a whole.”

Hirsch pointed out:

“The ROI of earned media is undeniable. When leaders see that building a brand’s social presence can juice up SEO, PR metrics, brand awareness and lead generation with little or no ‘paid’ media buys, they become very willing to sign-off.”

Now It’s Your Turn

Why do you think it can be hard to get executives to sign-off on social media initiatives? And what did you find works best to get social initiatives signed-off on? Share your comments below.

Editor’s note: This article was first published on CMSWire.