How to Sell Your Boss on Social Media, PC Upgrades or Practically Anything.

Not too long ago I was asked to share how Intel adopted its approach to social media. Now stay with me here because this is relevant, I promise. I thought about all the great work my peers had done before I came along and realized our adoption followed a familiar pattern–a pattern my friend and colleague Ken Kaplan had also charted about a year ago. Thankfully–since I do work at Intel, after all–the approach conveniently follows an acronym: G.R.O.W. OK well maybe I stretched it a little. But it fits, regardless.

The cool thing about this approach is that it also applies to other projects as well, whether it’s the implementation of social listening software or rolling out a new fleet of PCs or Servers in order to drive down costs.

Phase 1: Grassroots (“G”)

Every great idea begins somewhere. And some people are more likely than others to teeter on the cutting edge of new ideas. When Intel first began dabbling in social media, thankfully it was these forward thinking early adopters who embraced the new tools and technologies way before the company was ready. Since many of the social tools out there are free, it was inexpensive and easy for folks like Josh Bancroft, Bob Duffy, Bryan Rhoads, and Ken Kaplan to sign up and try them out. They didn’t wait for anyone to tell them to do it…they saw an opportunity and jumped in.

Not everyone possesses a natural proclivity to be first to discover something. Personally I thought Foursquare was dumb until my colleagues tried it out and showed me the value of the platform to users and brands. But all too frequently companies don’t value the contribution these folks make.

These grass roots early adopters are the same folks in firms or IT departments who constantly consume articles, blog posts, discussions, and Tweets–anything that helps them stay on top of new things–to learn about the latest applications or technologies that will take their business to the next level. It’s important that executives embrace the grassroots, early adopters among us and challenge them to test their ideas to truly comprehend their value.

Phase 2: Results-Testing/Pilots (“R”)

Most of the greatest new software implementations, web projects, or social media programs began as an idea that went out for a test drive. It is in this test–or pilot–phase when the driver checks to see how things would work in the real world and learn what results to expect if the project were to be implemented in full. This pilot or testing phase is critical to determine the value of technology or platforms and then demonstrate that value to others.

When creating pilot programs to test the business value of new technologies it is important to choose a limited group of participants to serve as a microcosm of the environment so the learnings can be more easily digested. There will also be less disruption to existing processes and infrastructure if the project fails. And don’t worry if it does fail; plenty of projects don’t emerge from pilot because the potential value was overshadowed by the cost of the project.

To optimize learnings in this phase it is critical that the objectives you hope to achieve are clearly articulated up front. This provides more data points to test whether the goals were accomplished. And make sure to measure the results. There is no greater show-stopper than when you can’t deliver measurable results to executives when sharing the outcomes of your test or pilot.

Phase 3: Operationalize (“O”)

Intel’s Social Media Center of Excellence–my team–was implemented as a result of Intel’s desire to “operationalize” social media best practices across the company. Our charter, and that of many other centers of excellence, is to help pave the way for others at Intel to engage in and leverage social media on the company’s behalf. We put together guidelines, training, invest in tools, share best practices, and help social marketing programs scale across business units and geographies.

This phase is probably the most difficult because it’s all about process, documentation, planning, and many things that social butterflies and idea junkies don’t find terribly fun. But in order to maximize investment of resources these guard rails are important to help scale ideas to broader groups. And if your supporting efforts are successful, your project will be too. One of my favorite sayings at Intel: “Don’t judge your success by what you personally accomplish but by how many people buy in to your idea.”

Phase 4: Wide-Scale Adoption (“W”)

Ahhh, this last phase is the holy grail–that of widespread adoption. It is at this stage when ideas have been tested; shored up by proper infrastructure, investment, and executive support; and rolled out to a broader audience. Many elements of Intel’s social media program, like our training program and our listening efforts, have reached this phase of the adoption curve. And some are still in testing mode. It’s highly unlikely that every program you are driving will be on the same curve and time schedule. But isn’t that what makes working at a large company interesting?

Many executives fear social media and larger technology investments simply because they believe those efforts will jump from the “G” – grassroots phase to this phase of widespread adoption. But if you help your stakeholders around you understand the process by which you plan to roll out individual programs, their fears are often assuaged.

So the next time you want to roll out a new software platform, open a new Twitter account, or invest in a fleet of money-saving Xeon servers, simply plot out your plan and follow this model. You’re at least guaranteed to get attention if the not mass adoption we all strive to reach.

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