Social Media: How to convince your boss

Mug image for blog post: How to convince your boss about using social mediaEvery week or so, I get a question like I did last night. It was basically, "How do you convince your boss to let me use social media?"

So being a social media geek, I immediately posted the question on LinkedIn's "Answers" tool. You can see the question and the answers here:

Three basic approaches

The answers are boiling down to three basic categories:

  1. If they need to be convinced, they're too stupid/old/out-of-touch,
  2. Ask for forgiveness rather than permission, or
  3. Show them results

I was honestly shocked to see people answering in the tone of #1. Weird. Insulting your boss or your nonprofit board isn't very productive. And let's face it, social media can be an incredible time suck. It takes time to learn anything worth learning.

My answer was inline with the #2 group. Just start doing it. Begin personally so you get to know the platforms without dragging your nonprofit's brand into it. But just get out there and do it.

But I loved the #3 group. My favorite so far is from Todd Buker:

From the viewpoint as an ED in my own organization, social media sold me on two points: 1) Amplification/reach and 2) SM's impact on SEO.

Granted, we were late getting into it (less than one year ago). However, we have had two big events since we began seriously implementing consistent SM (Facebook, Twitter, Vimeo/YouTube and WordPress), and both events have seen noticeably higher attendance and dollars raised. Not to mention our web traffic has improved dramatically, most of it coming from Facebook. There are no lingering doubts!

Show them results

So jump and and create results. Or show them studies like Blackbaud's annual survey.

Here's an idea of how you might get buy in:

  1. Start yourself: Social media is social. It is virtually impossible to be "successful" on social media without having a personality. Practice being a person before you get your organization on there.
  2. Look for interesting people to follow: Follow people interesting to you, not necessarily people you feel you should be interested. Definitely follow people in your cause space to see how they are using the tools. But if you have an interest in bocci ball, follow them too. Social media is much easier to learn when you enjoy the people you follow.
  3. Set goals: You need to know how to measure success. Define it. Tip: Do not anticipate raising much money with social media. It's possible. But it's far more helpful to set engagement goals. Or attendance at events. Use a link shortener like so you can measure how many people click on your link. If you have access to your own site analytics, use those too. also helps you see what posts get shared the most.
  4. Don't be "that guy": Resist the urge to be incessantly telling people how incredibly cool you or your organization is. Instead be interesting. How do you know if you're interesting? People will start following you. And retweeting you. And +1'ing your posts. And liking your updates.

Do that and you'll be off to a great start!

How do YOU convince people?

Tell us how you convince people! Leave a comment here or over at:

For a step by step guide to using social media for nonprofits, check out my book
About Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman is the CEO of The Concord Leadership Group, the author of Ask Without Fear! and director of The Nonprofit Academy. A coach to leaders around the world, Marc's expertise and enthusiasm engages audiences and has caught the attention of media organizations as diverse as Al Jazeera and Fox News. Marc’s experience also includes pastoring a Vineyard church, managing a gubernatorial campaign, and teaching internet marketing and fundraising at colleges and universities. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook.
To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to


  1. Way better to take action than grumble about the constraints. But make it action that shows some impact of the power of social media...for ex. get the board excited about increasing the LIKES on your fan page and post helpful reads there with stories of clients or startling stats about why your work is important.

  2. Interesting results! I'd guess that most of my auction clients take approach #2: "Ask for forgiveness rather than permission." In the case of some clients (schools moreso than nonprofit auctions), they'll have multiple FB pages floating around until the school's powers-that-be start to reel them in. 🙂 Thanks for sharing the results, Marc!

  3. Thanks you two!

  4. GREAT post! I have been down this road in another company, and it can be incredibly challenging. One thing that worked for me - connections.

    I found that social media was a great way to make connections with people who might otherwise be out of reach, particularly people of influence within your business category. Through social media I was able to connect with some very influential people, some of whom my boss knew of as icons in our industry. Through the natural progression of things, we ended up being mentioned in a couple of their blog posts, which was a huge boon for our company. He never questioned it again.

    I think one of the biggest hurdles is that many CEO's fear the loss of control, for lack of a better term, that comes with allowing someone to put their brand out there like that.

    Great post!

  5. Great stuff Marc! My suggestion to folks is to have a plan. When you know what you want from social media, it's a lot easier to make it happen.


  6. It's not always easy to get going on social. My post from last year has a few benefits that can be used to help get execs on board:

What would you add?