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CMOs: It's Time to Take Social Data to the Boardroom and Beyond

By Will McInnes, CMO, Brandwatch

Will McInnes, CMO, Brandwatch

Ask any Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) in almost any industry if they consider themselves “data-driven”, and I dare you to find one that doesn’t respond with a resounding ‘yes’. Yet if you ask them how much or which data is utilized when fueling marketing activities, undoubtedly they’d be fuzzy when describing the exact connection.  

“For a CMO to truly confirm that they’re data-driven, they must be leveraging actionable social intelligence to make smarter business decisions”

Take it from me, a data-driven CMO. Data is taking the front seat in business and directly driving sales, marketing, and other functions of the enterprise. CMOs and senior marketers have always been data-driven; from calculating the number of direct leads, to email campaign open rates, and even the measurement of media coverage. In the last few years, a different source of data is making its way to the head of the line in the C-suite and to the forefront of CMO minds.  

Social Intelligence

Social intelligence refers to the concept of applying knowledge and insights drawn from social data analysis. For a CMO to truly confirm that they’re data-driven, they must be leveraging actionable social intelligence to make smarter business decisions within the marketing team and beyond, yet the fact remains it’s often relegated to just the social media team and utilized only in crisis communications scenarios. Certainly social data and listening technologies are vital during a crisis, yet there’s so much more that can be done with the valuable information held within social analytics.  

Think about how you yourself use social media—to get the fastest customer service from an airline, to air your grievances about your go-to coffee shop, or to ask a question of your favorite fashion brand. Social media data holds within it an often untapped plethora of consumer habits, preferences, and flat-out exclaimed opinion. Hours and thousands of dollars spent on market research can’t always uncover the kernels of truth visibly posted on the public web, arguably the world’s largest focus group.  

In its most basic function, social data serves as a way to monitor how a brand, spokesperson, or topic is being discussed online. It can provide impression numbers and act in a purely quantitative way if that’s all you need. This article is intended to show you that social intelligence is also about gaining qualitative information that can help you do your job better, and extend this data to other parts of the company for maximum benefit.

Social media monitoring is absolutely vital to the community managers, PR professionals, and event marketers in your team. In the last three years, social listening and analytics tools have innovated and added categorization and filtering features so marketers can have a highly sophisticated analysis capability right within their reach to dive deeper into networks and not only speak to their customers in the right places they’re chatting online, but better understand what they want and how best to give it to them.  

I want to share several ideas for how to leverage social data throughout your organization, even outside of the marketing team. It’s a haven for data that consumers regularly contribute to without being asked. This fits in perfectly with a growing number of major conglomerate companies hosting a consumer and market insights team that is reliant upon social data. 

Consumer and Market Insights

Moving past the basic functions, the next step comes when CMOs dig into the nitty-gritty of social data, which can mean categorizing specific sentiment-based mentions, or looking at social conversation within a specific city or country, or in a group of like-minded people. For the marketing world, this very specific monitoring can mean the difference between a home-run and a flop as campaigns are strengthened through the power of knowledge.  

When you look past marketing to other areas of the organization, manufacturing for example, it can mean actionable information about which geographies preferred sneakers over blue (affecting inventory), high-tops over heels (affecting production), and so on. So you see, social listening is not just a nice-to-have. Done right, it can produce very real and very actionable decisions within the boardroom and beyond, with a direct effect on revenue.

The True Meaning of “Influencer”

It’s not what you know; it’s who you know (as the old adage says). In this case, it’s both. While it’s critical to know how to find the right data, we’re only as good as the reach of our networks. For so long, marketers have tried, and subsequently failed, to engage with the right influencers. Celebrities and socialites may draw a huge following in real life and online, but the truly influential people are those that affect decision-making, spur intriguing conversations, and speak directly to customers, prospects, and the media in your industry.  

This is especially true for B2B brands, who sometimes fall prey to the siren song of “a million impressions”. A blogger may only have 5,000 subscribers and 2,000 Twitter followers, but the quality of that following is more susceptible to “word of mouth marketing” (WOMM) and more likely to make purchasing decisions based on that influencer than if Kim Kardashian orders them to go buy a new perfume. In fact, in recent years WOMM has been dubbed “the most valuable form of marketing—the one that consumers trust above all others.”  

A fact that has to be accounted for in a well-rounded social program. The Bottom Line

The most data-driven CMOs combine powerful insights from social and also blend it with other intelligence. This data can answer important questions that equip decision makers with the vision and confidence to make better decisions. As a result this can directly impact an organization’s revenue.  

Imagine how dangerous (to competitors) you could be if you put this together, at scale, to inform decisions both within the marketing department and beyond. Chances are it will become clear that data is one of the best assets, and if applied smartly, can result in much needed change throughout the organization–and have a huge impact on the bottom line. 

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