Even though more companies are adopting social media and becoming a social business, not everyone is convinced. Whether they’re concerned about privacy, think it’s an unproven concept, or are simply overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, the social media skeptic still exists, armed with questions about your “job.” So if you find yourself at a conference, client meeting, or even a family dinner with your Great Aunt Edna, here’s how to explain the value of your work to the next social media skeptic you meet:


We’ve all attended functions and met a loud contrarian who is very opinionated about his beliefs. If you want someone to really listen to what you’re telling them, don’t get condescending or defensive. Instead, next time someone questions the value of social media, put on a smile, make eye contact, and utter a little chuckle as you explain that you get this question a lot. They most likely feel insecure about their social media knowledge, so it’s important to make them feel like they’re not alone and speak in an encouraging tone.

Educate to Empower

If someone is a social media skeptic, it’s probably because they just don’t understand social media. Educate them about the industry as a whole, and depending on their skill level, you might need to start at the beginning: what is social media? Teach them how social media is so much more than just a personal Facebook profile, and then educate them about how social media is now being used by businesses, not just people. Draw from personal examples in your career, like a sale you closed from a lead you got on Twitter, or how Facebook brings more customers to your website than a Google search.

Speak in Plain English

Sometimes it can be a challenge to explain social media using plain English that anyone can understand. Avoid common industry jargon like “hashtag,” “retweet,” “engagement,” etc. As elementary as these words seem to you, remind yourself of your audience and tailor your conversation to their knowledge level. Remember that to some people, a “tweet” is still a noise that birds make, so take the time to explain that it’s also what a post on Twitter is called.

Show, Don’t Tell

As much as you can talk about why social media is important, a skeptic won’t really “get it” until you show them the value. Take out your phone, open your apps, and show them how you work. You don’t need to dive deep into analytics and charts, but simply showing them your mentions on Twitter or the amount of likes you get on an Instagram photo may be enough for them to see that working in social media is, well, actual work.

Next, think of an example of how their business or work could benefit from social media. Are they an out-of-touch CEO? Explain how they could leverage their expertise and influence to become an industry thought leader by writing posts on LinkedIn. Or if they’re looking for new clients, point out how Twitter searches can be used to find people asking friends for referrals to the best clinic or salon in town, and how they can use Twitter to reach out to potential customers. If they run their own small business, describe how they can tap into a new community by creating a Tumblr blog or use Instagram to build a community of engaged customers.

Finally, explain how not being on social media could have a negative effect on their business. Do a quick search for their competitors and show them how others in their industry are already using social media. Peter Aceto, CEO of ING Direct Canada, says that “shareholders, employees, government, community, customers will all be at the table in the future. They are talking about your business anyway. Why not be included in the conversation?”

Following these guidelines will help you explain the value of social media to the next skeptic you meet, and who knows — you may even leave them inspired.