CMOs Putting Social Data to Work, Seeing Results | Social Media Explorer
Has Social Data Finally Escaped the Lab?
Has Social Data Finally Escaped the Lab?

Marketing mad scientists have predicted that social data will reach its potential as a business resource for years. But CMOs have been hesitant to trust that social data could help fuel business transformation at all levels.

For the impact of social media to evolve into social business, three things will need to happen. Decision makers will need to trust and absorb social data. They’ll need to act on the implications of social data. And social data will need to escape the marketing silo. A new report from The CMO Club and Bazaarvoice indicates that these three things may be happening to a much greater extent than some people think.

It seems social data has finally escaped the laboratory, and put the rubber to the road, with CMOs firmly behind the wheel. For those obsessed with demonstrating the ROI of social media, according to these early reports, over three quarters of them believe social efforts are driving sales. That’s a pretty impressive warm-up lap.

Chief Customer Advocate: How Social Data Elevates CMOs surveyed Chief Marketing Officers to find out the extent to which they trust and are using social data. Among CMOs, social data is now considered a trustworthy source of real-time consumer insight.  Even more encouraging, social data is crossing the bounds of marketing and brand management, providing consumer intelligence that can be put to work across the organization.

One of the most encouraging items in the study for me is the level of buy-in that CMOs are claiming in social data. Only a few short years ago, it was a struggle to convince brand managers that the potential business value of social data met or exceeded  that of social content. While many were instantly sold on the idea of “free advertising” that social content represented, years of relying on traditional consumer surveys and measurement methodology seemed to make CMOs a little gun-shy when it came to the validity of social data.

CMOs Trust Social Data… Maybe Too Much?

That period of reticence seems to be over. According to the survey, social data impacts decisions for 89% of CMOs. Any CMOs still ignoring social data as a rich vein of business intelligence are officially behind the bell curve. Specifically, CMOs believe that social data is at least somewhat effective in indicating:

  • Consumer sentiment toward products (80%) and companies or brands (72.8%)
  • Influence of individuals or groups on purchase decisions (78%)
  • Trends that will impact business (83%),

To that last point, I’m most excited to see that rather than using social data reactively, CMOs are increasingly applying social insights with an eye to the future. Almost half (47%) have used social data in forecasting.

I do find it a little concerning that so many CMOs have a level of confidence I don’t share in influence measurement tools like Klout. The C-suite is making decisions based on a belief that social data can estimate influencers’ ability to drive purchases. I worry a bit that in this particular case, the data may not live up to expectations.

Social Data Escapes the Marketing Silo

On a more encouraging note, social data is filtering across the entire enterprise. CMOs report that sales (36%), product development (35%), and customer service (25%) teams are accessing social data. That’s fantastic news, because it signals increased consumer focus in the areas of business best poised to reap rewards from it. Businesses may begin anticipating consumer desires, as much as reacting to them. I’d love to hear more stories of product innovation and improved customer retention rates inspired by social data.

I’m a little discouraged when it comes to executive management, since less than 10% of the responses indicated the executive suite was checking out social data.  One would hope that the departments most removed from the consumer (IT, the executive management team) would take greater advantage of having this clearer view of the consumer. Unfortunately, the data is being utilized heavily by those areas of business already closest to the consumer, and rarely by those who could probably use the additional insight. Bummer.

That relative disinterest is apparently not for lack of trying on the part of CMOs. According to the study, 97% of them share insights from social data with other C-level executives at least annually, 67% monthly, and 25% at least weekly. When CMOs can show performance gains in key business metrics like sales, loyalty and awareness tied to social data, hopefully even the cynics in the  C-suite will sit up and take notice.

For years, social media professionals have complained that CMOs were sitting on an embarrassment of untapped riches in social data. Now that they recognize it’s a valuable resource, our job is to help them extract the most valuable consumer insights to fuel their business.

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About the Author

Kat French
Kat French is the Client Services and Content Manager at SME Digital. An exceptional writer, Kat combines creativity with an agile, get-it-done attitude across a broad range of experience in content strategy, copywriting, community management and social media marketing. She has worked with national brands like Maker's Mark, Daytona Beach Tourism, CafePress and more.

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