To Be a Social Leader, You Need to Be a Change Leader – Part 1

In the early days of social business (almost 10 years ago ), I would open a meeting with the question: “How many people here use social media?” A few hands would go up.

Over time, that question became redundant, and I had to ask a new question: “How do you use Social Media?” The biggest challenge was no longer getting people to use social media; it was helping businesses connect the dots between social networks and their business objectives. Once leaders had that “aha” moment, they started to think of all the ways social media could be applicable to their businesses.

Today, being a social leader is not about being an expert in social media and digital communications (we are all continuing to learn in this space). Rather, it is about change management – driving both organization and people change. Being a social leader means going beyond best practices; it means going beyond investing in the right tool that supports the change and new behaviors. Being a social leader means instilling new mindsets and putting new processes in place – ones that will create lasting change across the organization.

So, if you are looking to build a social selling program – and entrench a change in behavior with your sales reps and employees – you need to build a change management plan. So, what does that look like? Here are the key components:

  • Having a clear purpose that makes sense for your business.
  • Executive sponsorship & engagement.
  • Stakeholder engagement & alignment
  • Governance
  • Enabling the organization
  • Engaging the organization
  • Communications
  • Managing & sustaining the change: a programmatic approach

In today’s post, we’ll take a closer look at the first four components.


There needs to be a clear business driver or purpose for the change. Sales organizations should not create social selling programs because social selling is the latest buzzword or the latest shiny object on the top marketing trends list for the year. There needs to be a business case that demonstrates the reason for the change and why it is important to the organization and the sales team.

For many sales teams, the need for social selling stems from a dramatic shift in the B2B buying journey. Buyers are making decisions before we have a chance to engage with them, which means that we need to change the way we sell.

Keep in mind that the purpose or business objective needs to resonate and be meaningful to the organization, as well as the sales reps. Salespeople need to know what is in it for them (e.g. stop losing deals to the competition, exceed sales quotas, build expertise, demonstrate thought leadership, etc.)

Executive Sponsorship and Engagement

Executive sponsorship is key, but this needs to go beyond being a figurehead. The executive team needs to help bring the right stakeholders to the table, support alignment and collaboration, and lead by example.

Early on, executives need to buy into the change and be fully engaged. That means they must use social media.

Hopefully, they are already on social. If not, train them. Get them comfortable using social media platforms and help them experience the value for themselves. One-on-one training is a great approach. You may want to consider a reverse mentoring program where social savvy employees train the execs on social and reinforce the importance of using social for business purposes.

It is amazing how much you can accomplish when executives are helping to remove barriers, champion the program, and help drive adoption by demonstrating best practices.

Stakeholder Engagement and Alignment

Engaging stakeholders across the organization and gaining their alignment and support is critical for driving the change required for success. The first step is identifying all the key stakeholders: those who may be concerned about risk, those who have the potential for business value and those who will be critical to enabling success.

Identify them and take some time to think about their perspective on the change, especially what questions they may have.This is your stakeholder analysis. Do your research ahead of time, anticipate their questions, and come prepared. Remember there is real value to be gained for these stakeholders and they have the expertise to help you to be successful.

Here are some I have found critical based on experience:

  • Legal is a critical stakeholder in understanding the unique risk to your organization and industry. Engaging them at the right time is important. Engage them too early, and they may kill the project by identifying too much risk. Engage them too late, and you may not have all of the information you need to understand, mitigate, and manage risk.
  • Compliance plays a key role in understanding the regulatory environment for your organization and what needs to be considered for content and engagement.
  • HR is vital to your success. HR’s role might look different for every organization. They may be key to adapting policies and providing guidance on change management. They also have huge value to be realized through social recruiting and employer brand.
  • Learning & Development or Training – Training and learning are critical components to building your social selling program. Engage this group to ensure you are taking the best approach in training. Over time, you will want to look for opportunities to integrate.
  • Marketing – In many organizations, marketing is driving social selling. You’ll need the support of your marketing team, especially as you build your content strategy.
  • Sales Leadership, Sales Enablement – For a social selling program, engaging these teams is critical to championing the change with the sales team and enabling them to be successful.

Choosing the right time to engage stakeholders is critical. If it is too early in the process – before you have the business case, for example – it might kill the momentum. Do the research to understand the risk and also the opportunity. By doing this work up front, you will set yourself up for success. For many stakeholders, it is about helping them understand the value, listening to their expertise and harnessing that to build a better program.


Through your stakeholder engagement, you will have identified risks and had discussions on how to manage and mitigate the risks. Ultimately, your goal is to build a governance plan for your social selling program that protects your brand and enables sales teams to be great social sellers.

This will come to life through your social media policy and the supporting training and processes. The policy should be clear, with examples of simple dos and don’ts. Your sales teams should already understand your brand, as well as your regulatory environment. So, in many ways, they are already operating with governance. Training and communications can help to bring that to life in the context of social selling. Remember you don’t want to scare your sales team; you want to boost their confidence to be great social sellers.

6 Building Blocks for Creating Your Company’s Social Media Policy

You now have a clear purpose that makes sense for your business, your executive team is on-board and “social,” stakeholders are engaged and aligned, and you have a strong governance in place. This is your foundation that will set you up for success. Check out part two – with some thoughts on enabling and engaging the organization, change communications, and managing the change.

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