Integrating Social Media- A Middle Up Down Approach

Nordstroms Looking Down In talking with Jess Krywosa yesterday, I realized that I hadn’t explained much about my take on how I get traction on social media projects in companies. The way we do it at New Marketing Labs more often than not is with what I call the middle-down, middle-up approach. Okay, that might take a few sentences to explain for some of you.

Essentially, it’s this: someone in the middle tier of the organization comes to us and asks about a project, maybe something like content marketing or community management. We talk with them, discuss their goals, make sure there’s some kind of alignment, determine if we both see eye to eye on the loot it’ll take to get the job done, and then we initiate a project. Here’s what we see happen more often than not.

The middle-level person has a faint blessing from someone on high, but a vague one. They have enough power to convince the folks lower in the hierarchy to go along with this. We work to make that middle-level person successful, and to make the experience for the folks a bit further down the hierarchy feel like it’s a good project and that they’re participating.

Then what happens is that someone higher up almost always gets excited about what the person has accomplished, and gets into it, wants to champion it, and throws some more fuel on the fire.

The middle-down, middle-up approach. That seems to be how we’re getting it done.

You? Does this make sense for your organization? Have you seen similar (or different) experiences to getting new things implemented where you are?

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  • ekochman

    Sounds so simple when it gets explained! This works not just with social media, but with any kind of initiative – get the people doing the work excited about it, and everyone else jumps on board to be there for the success.

  • http://blog.owengreaves.com owengreaves

    Chris, I think that approach has merit and can have a wider sense of buy in overall, especially once someone with influence at the top get's fired up.

    My experience here on the west coast of Canada takes a more strategic approach from the stand point of gaining upper management confidence. It's more a sense of control I think, if upper management has trouble understanding the general concept or how it will work, it doesn't get sun light. There is considerable skepticism still here in my part of the world.

    It's different with each prospect / client but I have found it boils down to the relationship you have with them that determines whether it hits the priority list of projects. #5 with a Bullet, meaning it's has merit.

    Thanks for the insight yet once again, hope all is well.

  • http://www.leader4hire.net Leader4hire

    With companies (and organizations) with multiple initiatives, I find that latching on to one initiateve (or project) and demonstrating how that single project can be successful with these tools is a great way to introduce these disciplines. Then it opens up (and gives permission for) other projects to use these tools as well. Success begets success.

    The trick is to do it right the first time with one project and show how it's scalable and can either work apart from the rest of the projects or how it can work inside another, similar, initiative. From there, it becomes easier and easier to gain traction within the same organization.

    Usually this means that a mid manager or project manager can approve this “one time” project without much grief. I find this is usually achievable by starting with basic objectives to develop thier platform and 'connectedness'. Most upper managers see it as obvious and dont push back. From there, I work on layering more sophistication into the project once the foundation is in place and we have traction. This means repeated request for approval of another, similar, but different project, but again it's easy to see the value of it and doesn't get a lot of push back – especially when the earlier efforts have shown results.

    By the end, your simple project looks rather sophisticated and the project manager looks good and you look good. This usually gets the attention of upper management who are usually quick to take credit for the work too :)

    That's my two cents. Start on one project. Pitch the foundation, not the full ball of wax. Show the foundation works, then build it out. Make the project manager look good and you'll have plenty of more work to do with them.

  • http://www.doblerwins.com davidnc

    I'd say pretty similar. especially when you help lead the guys higher up down a path of self discovery. having them understand the why, and the folks further down understand the how and why.

    Do you see that more often than not the folks lower on the hierarchy already want to initiate but need the credible third party (you) to validate the resources and value to the higher ups? Thereby almost working as an advocate and facilitator between the multiple rungs of the food chain

  • http://www.leader4hire.net Leader4hire

    Hi Owen,
    An earlier article talked about our perception of a person wanting to build us a house, but couldn't show a blue print or artist rendering. I've found that to be true – more plans and visual proofs of concept make for an easier yes than other things. I think this is why a lot of Advertising Agencies will buckle down and demonstrate an entire ad campaign on spec with great headlines, art, and call to action – plain as day. It's hard to say no when you are LOOKING at something good. It's easy to say no when you are having to visualize it in your mind.

    Maybe your clients in Canada need more visuals?

  • http://www.mikeslife.org Mike CJ

    Interesting approach, and not one I've used, but having said that I've only worked with one really big corporation, and I was lucky enough to get an intro to a main board director. All the other businesses I'm currently working with on social media are quite small and I've always started at CEO level.

    I'm going to try this approach with the next big one, although there is an inherent danger in creating middle management superstars.

  • http://www.culturalelements.com/Table-Runners-Linens Table Runners

    I agree with ekocham. This approach works well in every aspect. I even use it with my extended family!

  • iancleary

    Hi Chris, You're probably talking to the middle tier of very large organisations. I work with large organisations but in Ireland large is probably not so large in the US. So it's easier to get the guys at the top. I think you can convince them about social media as long as the message is different than the middle guys. They want to hear about figures and stats, how much is it going to save, how much is it going to cost and what will it make them!

  • http://www.newmediaphotographer.com/ Rosh – New media Photographer

    This makes sense if you think about looking forward toward the changes in the corporate world and culture – as the new social media based collaborative process and models evolve.

    Verses the harsh top down approach – something we know well here in Detroit.

    Rosh

  • http://blog.owengreaves.com owengreaves

    Visuals always work better, the stronger the presentation the easier the close. Not to sound sexist, I have found that the visuals matter more with men because they think in singularities (boxes) where women are more emotional and tend to feel much deeper and wider. I am bottom line oriented, my wife is not but when it comes to presentations visuals give you a better chance for sure no matter what your gender.

    Here in Canada we tend to lag well behind you folks in the USA, even hit songs are 6 months behind, technology is actually longer. Some business owners hear about technology and want it, only to learn no one here knows how to do or use it. Shame on us as business owners but that's an issue for sure. Also, business owners are far more complacent and conservative. We aren't as willing to take risks as our friends to the south.

    Anyway, thanks for your reply.

  • http://www.hallicious.com Hallicious

    Chris, if you didn't have it already I think you've got the subject of your next book. :) Groundswell talked about bottom up but I think that starting in the middle is a more accurate representation of the model. Best Buy has bottom up, but a lot of the cool stuff they've done has come from the middle.

    It perfectly describes what we're trying to do at [my place of employment] with the Social Media Chamber of Commerce and #hcoc.

    Love it. :)

  • http://twitter.com/scornelissens Sander Cornelissens

    this is the way we works as well. Sounds like a new way of multi level selling, but in this case the social networking approach. Very strong way of getting a prospect to a customer

  • http://www.seorank.com.au/ Social Media Optimization

    In talking with Jess Krywosa yesterday, I realized that I hadn't explained much about my take on how I get traction on social media projects in comp.

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  • newmediajim

    I've been rockin' the bottom up, ask forgiveness rather than permission thing myself :)

  • jackiecameron

    When I speak about social networking for business attendees often come up at the end to ask if I will speak to their “senior team” about it ( the answer is “of course” but I have yet to be invited in…) Having read this post next time I will suggest I work with them instead to use this approach. It has worked for me in previous business situations – thanks for the reminder!

    PS – first time logging in using Disqus so if this comment appears twice please accept my apologies!

  • http://twitter.com/Brandon101 Brandon Sutton

    Right on Chris. This is exactly what I was looking for back at the #nmatl conference when I asked about selling in social media to traditional agencies. I'm sort of in the throws of this myself so it really hits home. Onward and upward… :)

  • http://shearinglayers.com/ Nick

    Whether we go middle up/down or not, I think the key take away is “we work to make [our customer] successful.”

    That's the real secret source.

  • markpmsg

    Chris — in my experience, we have had difficulty getting the middle up as far and as fast as we would like. The key to success has been when we can get our efforts to clearly contribute to the metrics that the senior person is evaluated (and compensated) on. Then the actions have clear merit :), and can be driven up in the organization.

    When we have been involved in a “nice to have” initiative that may be a passion of a middle manager, we have struggled to get buy-in when push comes to shove — when the planning turns into an effort that requires work on the part of support groups or sales.

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  • Ray

    As I can see, I believe this will only work “wonders” to middle tiers. Sometimes those people above the chain doesn't really need “excitement” to do business. Although I know making such “excitement” could provide more revenues, all I want to say is that they can survive even by just doing the traditional means.

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    I agree with ekochman.

  • http://twitter.com/FaceFile Rob Wilcox, CEO

    We've found it's a continual system of feedback. Naysayers get validation, indian chiefs get blessings and direction, project managers get…to wait for next month's results! As CEO, I had to get a grip on social media and have the team managing that keep me up to speed. It's that consistent circle of feedback that keeps us going and fine-tuning our direction all along.

  • simpliflying

    Quite an interesting perspective Chris. At SimpliFlying, we've been going top-down. I mean really top – CEO or SVP level for airlines/airports. It may be peculiar to this industry vertical, but we've realized airlines to be very siloed organizations. Moreover, anyone who's not in the Top 30% of the workforce seldom seems to control any budget, even though he may hold decision-making power.

    In fact, we've either been working with those right at the top (who control the budget) or those right at the execution level (with whom we can work on a tactical level). And it's a constant value-add that does the work, as opposed to a one-off sales pitch. What're your thoughts? Sustainable practice?

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  • http://www.zoombits.co.uk/christmas-gifts christmas stocking fillers

    Totally awesome post here with superb examples! This is one of the most effective presentations of the point that the social media juice strengthens when integrated with other marketing efforts.

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    thanks

  • pikasso

    In relation to this, I ran into this interesting social media website which can sync and integrate (to some extent) other major social networks like facebook, twitter, flickr, embed youtube videos etc… http://www.omiigo.com.au – pretty neat community with blogs, forums and groups too…

  • http://www.pacebutler.com/ used cell phones

    When I speak about social networking for business attendees often come up at the end to ask if I will speak to their “senior team” about it ( the answer is “of course” but I have yet to be invited in…) Having read this post next time I will suggest I work with them instead to use this approach.

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    Has been the key to success when we clearly that the matrix senior person (are evaluated and compensation can contribute to efforts to achieve) at. The action clearly has merit:), and can be operated in the organization.
    When we have a “nice to have been involved in” initiative which is a middle manager can be an obsession, we have struggled to get to purchase when push comes to shove – when the plan is an effort need to work on turns or sale is part of support groups.

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    Thanks for the insight yet once again, hope all is well.

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