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In one corner are the social media enthusiasts, who are more than willing to loudly praise the benefits.

In the other corner are many bosses who still aren't convinced of the merits of social media.

Why not? Chief executive officers are accustomed to measurable results. When you start moving into marketing efforts that cannot be so easily calculated, where success may not necessarily mean company growth, it is very hard to get them on board.

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When you look at it from their point of view, that's completely understandable.

Social media can lead to business growth, but must be used wisely. You have to have a set process with some measurable goals that can be quantified.

Whether you're trying to convince your own CEO to adopt a social media strategy or you are on the fence on the value of social media, these steps will help make it clear how social can benefit you – measurably.

Determine objectives for your social media efforts

If you go into the social media world without having a set of objectives and a strategy to achieve them, you'll just be drifting along with the flow. That's not the way to grow your business.

First, you'll need to see what you want to do with a social media campaign. Do you want to increase leads for a certain product or service? Are you trying to connect with a community base to drive attendance to an event?

Create clear objectives for using social media to maintain a laser-like focus on what it is you are trying to accomplish.

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To ensure your CEO understands how this ties back to business value, be sure that your marketing objectives are closely aligned with the company's overall growth objectives.

Once you have a clear understanding of the objectives, you must decide whether social media has a place in your marketing mix. Will social media, in combination with a multitude of other marketing tactics, help to meet these objectives?

Define your strategy

Strategy seems to be the most elusive aspect of marketing, when it really is quite simple. I have seen many variations of a marketing strategy, but the points below are what I believe are critical to a marketing strategy, whether it's for direct mail or social media:

  • A clear definition of your target market
  • A clear understanding of the problems you solve, and the benefits of your products or services
  • A description on how you will position your products or services
  • Your company’s unique selling proposition; what sets you apart from everyone else
  • Marketing tactics – direct mail, advertising, social media, etc.

Win over your audience

This is where your company growth is going to come in. It's going to take some time, but if you've followed the plan so far, you're well on your way to using social media effectively and demonstrating to your CEO that social media can be used to drive business.

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Use social media as a communication tool to discuss, debate and share opinions with your target market about new tools, products, services and approaches you have in your business. Use content you are developing from blog posts, white papers, reports or articles as the basis for each discussion.

The key is keeping your social content fresh, interesting and valuable. Hard sales pitches fall on indifferent ears in the social world. This is the time to be clever and create a desire to learn more about what you do and what you have to offer.

Also, ask people in your target market questions about something in their company that your product or service can address. Then connect back to something you have to offer.

Once you have this established, an increase in demand and leads will follow as a natural part of the process.

Utilize analytics

The belief that you can't measure the return on investment of social media is largely false. You can, but you have to know what you're doing and you have to be using the right tools to do it.

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Before you even begin to think about your social media campaign, you've got to have a reliable analytics program that is going to help you track more than just the number of visitors to your site. You need to track where people are clicking to get to your site; what they are downloading; and what social media postings are pulling in the most interest.

There are numerous services that allow you to track these metrics and many more. HubSpot, for instance, is a paid subscription service that allows you to track all of this data so that you can adjust your strategy to bring in better results.

Putting everything together

Your company's CEO likely isn't interested in the number of clicks or downloads; he or she cares about the leads that the sales team can follow up on. So if you're looking to use social media and don't want the CEO to quash your plans, follow these ideas to approach social media in the most strategic way possible. Your CEO will thank you for it.

Special to The Globe and MailRyan Caligiuri is a Winnipeg-based growth strategist who works with companies in hyper-competitive marketplaces that want to increase leads and demand to fill their pipeline, that need help breaking into or taking control of already established markets when there's a need to create more revenue streams, or to become more influential in the marketplace.

Engage with Mr. Caligiuri onTwitter.

Join The Globe's Small Business LinkedIn group to network with other entrepreneurs and to discuss topical issues:http://linkd.in/jWWdzT

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