December 12, 2016 / by Jeff Barrett

There is one very obvious reason why social media and influencer marketing do not make up the majority of a brand’s communications or advertising budget.

I’ll get to that. But first, let’s bust some myths.

Stop me if you’ve heard this said in your office, in casual conversation or at a board meeting.

“We’re having a hard time selling the higher-ups on social media. They know there’s a need for it, they know there are obvious benefits, but we can’t get them to increase the budget.”

The decade-old dilemma, whether you work for a brand or agency, is a limited budget. We’ve seen social media start revolutions, win elections, raise millions for ALS, make Rick Astley great again and turn Justin Bieber into the biggest pop star of a generation. Social media has massive power.

The first mistake is to think that age limits what you can do with social media. It doesn’t. While most people in decision-making roles didn’t grow up with social media, they are smart enough to know how great a role it plays today, and evolve with the times.

It’s easy to point to generational divides in technology. But we are at the point in social media’s lifecycle where nothing one does with it is a surprise anymore.

The second mistake is to blame an unwavering reliance on traditional media. Brands are not married to the idea of TV advertising, print media, billboards, etc. They go where they find results. They go where they can obviously measure success.

And that leads me to measurement. The game changer has always has been measurement. But not how you think.

Making the case for social media with follower count, retweets, live streaming hearts and potential impressions does nothing to convince a board room. Why should it? They are social-specific in nature and do not tie back to business metrics. Multiple steps and a strong tie-in is required for decision makers to make the case to spend more money on social media.


The third mistake is providing incomplete solutions. We know decision makers are busy. If what you propose requires them to do additional work, it’s easy to see why they don’t make a stronger case for social media.

This is especially true in larger organizations where decisions take months of planning and require layers of approvals. Sticking one’s neck out for an unproven method can be problematic for their career.

The key is tying the performance of social media to conventional metrics like sales, brand affinity, business value and ROI.

There are a lot of people, just below the C-Suite, in larger organizations that want to make a greater case for working with influencers. There are CMOs who want to drive more of their brand through social media rather than making social a reactionary tactic. There are organizations that have strong waves of belief that social media is where they will eventually sell most of their product.

But you have to give them the tools to convince and convert.

Lately, we have seen great strides in social attribution, being able to explicitly show increases in business value from social media. That’s a great first step. Use those tools.

But if you work in social media, get out of your echochamber. You don’t have to make the case for social media. You have to make the case for social media over other forms of media and over other budget concerns within an organization. How does social media stack up versus other media? How does it create returns? How does it achieve both short and long-term brand goals?

Answer those questions and we will stop having this conversation. Time is ticking. Go out there and grab some budgets!

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(Photo Credit: Pexels

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About Jeff Barrett

Jeff Barrett is 2015’s Best Business Blogger (Shorty Awards), one of the 50 most influential people on social media (Forbes), the #1 Ad Executive on Twitter (Business Insider) and dances like Drake. Find him on Twitter @BarrettAll.