Good habits for social CMOs

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Clara Shih, CEO, Hearsay Social
Clara Shih, CEO, Hearsay Social

With the wealth of customer preferences, referral networks, and opportunities to engage on social networks, there's never been a better time for marketers to drive awareness, branding, loyalty and sales.

A billion consumers connect with their family, friends, and favorite brands on social sites: over 800 million on Facebook, 200 million users on Twitter, 130 million on LinkedIn, 60 million on Google+ and 10 million on Foursquare.

Last decade, the Web gave us tremendous power and productivity gains with email marketing, search engine optimization, search engine marketing and retargeting. Today, the social Web gets us even closer to reaching the holy grail for marketers of delivering the right message to the right person at the right time, resulting in the highest conversion possible.

Profile targeting enables marketers to segment based on demographic and psychographic preferences. Social targeting provides marketers with a platform for word-of-mouth campaigns. Location targeting enables retail marketers to engage customers who are already at their store with compelling calls to action.

Businesses can no longer ignore the social media explosion. And they know it: 73.5% of U.S. companies consider social media a top priority, according to Forrester Research. Over the next 18 months, these same companies will be shifting from social media prioritization and strategization to actual social media execution.

Where are you on the social media maturity curve? Are you still planning or are you ready to execute?

For today's CMO, getting a grasp on social media can seem like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Success on social boils down to seven key habits:

1. Establish a home base
Brand pages on Facebook and other social networks have become the new website. Businesses realize they need to be where the customers are. Many small business owners are now foregoing having a website altogether in favor of a Facebook Page, which is simple to create and maintain, while large brands leverage social pages to supplement their main website with test campaigns and offers. When Internet users spend over 22 billion minutes each day on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, it's obvious that the new currency of the Web is comments, likes, and engagement.

2. Claim your pages
While it's important to establish home base on social, it's even more important to support the grassroots conversations that are already taking place about your brand. While it may be tempting to shut down fan- and employee-created pages, it quickly becomes an un-winnable game of cat-and-mouse.

In actuality, rogue pages might currently be the biggest missed opportunity on social media today. Recognizing this, truly savvy brands have embraced the open nature of social media and are celebrating rather than fearing these pages. With some governance, monitoring, and a minimal level of support, they have been able to harness customer and employee enthusiasm as a powerful channel for distributing brand campaigns and ultimately driving brand evangelism in the most authentic way possible.

3. Get local to drive sales
Whether you sell gym memberships, apparel, or coffee, the most visceral retail brand experiences happen in-store. Generally, it's at the local level where customers can most powerfully experience your product, form brand impressions, and develop relationships with store employees, representatives, or agents.

For brick-and-mortar retailers, there is nothing more important than driving up same-store sales through increased basket size and frequency of store visits. 24-Hour Fitness, one of Hearsay Social's clients, realized that their members' check-ins at local gyms on Facebook and Foursquare was a huge missed opportunity. It took swift action and now when members check in, they are rewarded with content and offers, providing positive reinforcement to check in again next time. Consider that when a customer checks in, they are not only in your store, they have chosen to tell you about it — a prime opportunity for the brand to engage. They are also telling their friends — another prime opportunity to amplify through word of mouth.

4. Integrate social media across the marketing mix
Personally, I like to think of social media as a spice. Like salt and pepper, social media must play an integral part in every marketing dish you cook up, be it an email or print campaign or something else entirely. It's not just another layer, it's not a separate division, it is a pervasive spice that should flavor everything you do in digital and across traditional offline media such as TV, radio, print and billboard ads.

5. Learn and live by the new metrics
A decade ago, when I was working at Google, we had to invent new metrics such as click-through rate and cost-per-click to capture the new set of customer interactions which were taking place in the Internet era. Today, we have to come up with new metrics for the Facebook era. It's meaningless to just measure engagement — number of likes, comments, posts, tweets — unless you can tie it all to the bottom line.

In my book, The Facebook Era, I also defined a new metric of “social customer lifetime value” that takes into account a consumer's influence and level of participation on community forums, feedback sessions, and the like when calculating his or her overall value to the brand.

6. Corral the chaos
With all of the moving parts, people, and regulations, it's critical that your organization can scale automation and do a lot with a little. Farmers Insurance, one of Hearsay Social's customers, recently set a Guinness record for having the most “likes” on a Facebook page — and all with a social media team of one.

Instead of assuming that you need a massive social media team, partner cross-functionally and engage multiple departments at your organization, from IT to legal to compliance to customer support as well as external partners such as your digital agency, strategy consultants, and software vendors.

7. Prepare for the future
As we saw a decade ago in the Internet era, the rules of marketing today are going through a sea change. For the CMOs and marketing organizations who master these habits, the wealth of customer and social data and new engagement opportunities across every stage of the marketing funnel will be game-changing.

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