The Fighting CMO offers five ways to sell social media to your business leadership, without the need for hard return on investment proof.

Social media is everywhere and is here to stay. As much as we CMOs can agree, we still need to sell that theory up the executive ladder. Social media happens whether you want it to or not, and I’m surprised by how many CEOs still don’t get that.

In fact, only 33 percent of all companies surveyed have a social media strategy, according to the Marketing Leadership Council. This could mean big trouble because, if our bosses can’t buy into this investment, social media work can be an uphill battle.

While looking for social media ROI throughout my career, I discovered that social media is great at customer service and maybe even for building brand. We’ve all heard the stories of how social media was used to calm irate airline travelers or to solve computer problems. That’s great, but where is the great lead generation story? Seriously, have you heard of anyone using Facebook or Twitter—without paying for an ad—to generate a large number of highly qualified leads for their enterprise sales team? The answer is probably not. I just haven’t seen it, at least not yet.

Regardless of the ongoing debate of whether social media is a viable lead-generation tool or not, you need to show that it has some value to the company. So, if you can’t fully paint an ROI picture, there may be another way to ease your boss into social media.  Try these five arguments to buy time and gain the favor of your boss until the true ROI materializes:

It’s a great way to build a presence for your CEO. Yes, that’s right. Stroke his ego. But there are other benefits. First, having the CEO (and other company thought leaders as well) actively engaged will increase the visibility of the program and the entire organization. As a result, you’ll have more people (customers and prospects) engaged than you would otherwise. Second, your CEO gets to see the power of social media firsthand, especially when their children or grandchildren see them on Instagram or Vine.

It’s a great way to amplify existing content. You’ve already written a bunch of cool articles, but you don’t now how to share them with a larger audience, other than the five people who read your blog. Why not tweet about it? This gives you a chance to reach influencers and spread the word. With Twitter, you can even promote your tweets to those not following your account. What do you have to lose? You’ve already written the piece anyway. This just puts it front of more eyeballs.

It’s a great way to spy on the competition. There is a chance that your competitor or its employees have Twitter accounts. People use these accounts for all types of reasons. They announce customer wins, new product features and share their content. With a good social monitoring tool, you can get a good lead on what your competitors have to offer.

It’s a great way to listen to your customers. As I mentioned before, social media is not a great lead-generation tool, but it can be an excellent way to reach customers. Often, customers will praise or complain about a product through social media. They will wish for new products and compare your newest feature(s) to the competitions’. If you strongly believe in the voice of the customer, this is a great way to listen to the customer and gain valuable insight.

It’s a meaningful customer service tool. If you can’t justify social media with your marketing efforts, there’s plenty of evidence that it has real customer service applications. Work with your customer service team to implement a robust social media strategy. By seeking wins in the customer service field, you can convince your boss to take chances with social media in marketing.

Some day, if Silicon Valley has its way, we’ll have the ability to track social media ROI confidently. Social media is here to stay whether we do or not, and marketers can’t live without it. Let’s convince other business leaders of that and use the tools we have available.

As always, let me know below if you disagree. Or share your story on how you achieved ROI with social media. I’d love to hear it!

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