Video and Social Media Marketing: Getting C-Suite Executives To Lead

I recently spoke at a social media marketing conference at my alma mater, The University of Southern California, on the topic of how social media and other marketing professionals can best get their C-level executives involved in, invested in, and taking leadership roles in video and social media marketing. I identified three areas that I feel are most important: education, integration and return on investment (ROI). 

Many senior-level executives are reluctant to make the jump into video and social media marketing, and with good reason. Launched without proper planning, expectations, or without full support, social media campaigns can carry risks to the success of their brands, products, services and to their very jobs. 


• Familiarization: Point out the strengths and weaknesses of social media, video and viral marketing, including what's possible, what's working, what hasn't worked -- and why.

• Trust: Teach executives to trust their teams and let them run with the responsibility. Allow them to experiment, share in the successes and failures and learn together. Encourage them to rely on the teams they have assembled and let them do what they do best. 

• Staying Current: Encourage them to start subscribing to and reading industry newsletters and informational publications like MediaPost, ReelSEO, Mashable, ClickZ and AdAge. 

• Perspective: Impress upon them that social media is another valuable tool in their marketing toolbox, not a complete paradigm shift. Marketing is still about influencing behavior and selling more stuff. Social media is yet another way of accomplishing that goal.


Social media marketing shouldn't exist in a bubble. There should be a larger strategy at play. Including these points will help when presenting social media as an option to senior leadership.

• Mixing It Up: Mixing social media with existing advertising, PR, and sales initiatives increases the reach of each initiative. To a C-level executive, this may mean the difference between total buy-in or back-shelving social media for now. Also, the point of video marketing is to create conversation about video assets and spread the brand message in that space. If you are not working with a viral marketing agency, internal PR teams should be consulted during campaign conception and not alerted as an afterthought.

• Real-Time Interaction: Social media allows brands and businesses to interact in real time as an extension of other media initiatives. Reactive engagement is key in establishing and maintaining a consistent flow of communication between your brand and the influencers and consumers who support the brand. Social media is also invaluable in trouble-shooting and problem-solving.

• Manage Expectations: (Paid vs. Earned): Many C-level executives are still under the impression that social media is free. Clarify that paid placements including TV ads, video banners, blog and publication outreach and other initiatives should be at play to jump start social media success. The idea is to go from paid marketing to earned marketing as the campaign progresses. Earned is the free part. 

• Purposed vs. Repurposed Video: Encourage executive buy-in for branded entertainment and original online video by planning ahead and producing content that can be repurposed as TV ads, outdoor advertising, banners and PR assets.


Social Media campaigns are all over the map in both return and measurement of return. That's enough to make any executive nervous.

• Soft return vs. hard return: Soft measurables like hype, buzz, awareness and brand lift are important, but can often fall flat in front of a C-level executive staring down the barrel of a sales spreadsheet. Eventually, no matter how much brand awareness we can generate and measure, the bottom line is still about selling stuff. This point must be addressed before significant buy-in can be expected.

Predictive ROI: Establishing a favorable return on investment prior to approving, developing or launching a campaign is key. Once you have measurable goals in mind, back track to map out a social media strategy that will achieve these goals. If the cost of the social media initiative is less than the predicted rewards of achieving the goals, then launch away!

3 comments about "Video and Social Media Marketing: Getting C-Suite Executives To Lead".
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  1. Michael Murray, May 5, 2011 at 2:17 p.m.

    David -

    Great post!

    I agree with your approach completely. I do think the very first step is understanding what social media can and can't do - this is partly managing expectations and partly the predictive ROI concept you mention. The key is that the C-suite is only going to be convinced to do this if you can prove the long-term profitability and value of it. The best way to do this is answer 'WIIFM' in terms they can understand - dollars - not in to so-called 'soft return' metrics.

    The other major downfall I've seen is a lack of integration, and your points here are spot on! I've written a guest blog post recently on that you may be interested in - all about getting people to use social media effectively within organizations.

    Thanks for the great content!

    Michael Murray

  2. Sue Czeropski from Valin Corporation, May 6, 2011 at 11:36 a.m.

    David- Enjoyed reading your post.

    My company is on a mission to go down the Social Media path (SoMe) and we have so much to learn. Your perspective on SoMe being another valuable tool in a marking toolkit is very valid in the marketing domain.

    In the training and employee development domain it is a paradigm shift. As we move from being instructor centric to participant centric, SoMe will be used for both formal and informal learning. We need to teach existing workforces how to contribute, communicate and collaborate. These three c's will be the keys for the generation mix in the workforce.

    Thank you for the discussion

  3. Jay Levin from Kerr Hill Inc., May 8, 2011 at 3:01 p.m.

    Nice solid, practical, fundamentally sound approach here David. As someone who speaks daily to both tier 1 LNA advertiser and agencies I can attest to the value of your recommendations.

    I also agree with MM above. Included in the long term profitability and value assessment should be tracking the influence of social programs on other components in the current media mix.

    As both a current producer within an online studio and a former C-Level executive who ran a tier one performance based direct response cross media ad network I know that dashboard agreement is critical to long term sustainable success.

    Ditto SC and MM, thanks for the great comments!

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