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4 Ways CMOs Can Use Social Media Intelligence to Act Like CEOs

Positioned between sales, IT, customer relations, operations, and strategy, CMOs can be the most exposed members of the executive team—with responsibilities to many areas of the business, but not always a budget to match. In fact, a report by consulting firm Spencer Stuart found that with average tenures of just two to three years, CMOs are often an early target if growth goals aren’t met. Successful CMOs, however, can not only weather this exposure, but can actually thrive if they’re able to leverage their unique position at the intersection of these diverse groups to show value and drive improvements across all areas of their organization.

In many businesses it’s the marketing department that has the closest connection with customers on a day-to-day basis—and that represents big bucks. The average online mention is read by anywhere from 250 to 25,000 viewers, and in the service industry, people visit up to 11 review sites before making a decision to buy. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor, and OpenTable have in the past been tools for branding, advertising, and engaging with customers. But now these platforms can also provide feedback on customer experiences from across all areas of the business—including operations, sales, HR, IT, and research—for a holistic view of the organization that gives marketers new power among the executive team.

Using social media intelligence, marketers can mine this social data for actionable insights that can empower them to inform strategy and operations across the company—just like their CEO. Here are four ways that CMOs can use social media intelligence to lead through influence.

1.     Inspire your team and hold them accountable

Nothing is a better motivator than honest feedback. Be sure that customer reviews reach every level of your team and use the data to spark a passion for excellence. Set the expectation that customer feedback will be an important part of performance evaluations, training, and goal setting, and use it as a gauge for success. And remember, one-star reviews, which can sometimes unnerve even the most experienced managers, are actually a CMO’s best friends. After the initial angst wears off, use negative customer feedback to engage directly with guests and show your attentiveness to their issue. Then fix the root cause: Use that feedback to make operational changes that will improve the customer experience and guide your business strategy going forward. Remember, each customer’s experience helps CMOs know exactly what went wrong—so take the lead and help your team fix problems.

2.     Look for trends and get strategic

CMOs should regularly examine their organization’s social feedback and see if any patterns emerge. But most are focused on their area of influence only, which normally consists of marketing programs and campaigns. Look more broadly. Are there common themes in service, product, value, or the overall customer experience? Are those trends specific to one location, or do they apply across the board? Use this insight to determine if action is needed on the ground at one site or needs to be addressed as part of a broader corporate strategy. Remember to compare the customer sentiment to the revenue numbers. After all, your bottom line tells you whether your business is successful, but your social intelligence tells you why. Direct, unbiased feedback from customer reviews can help shape your decisions on opening new locations, adapting or closing underperforming locations, piloting new product concepts, and more. In the end, your goal is to drive programs focused on increased sales and loyal, repeat customers.

3.     Compare and contrast

Sure, knowing your data is good—but knowing your competitors’ data is even better. Monitor how your reviews compare to your top competitor’s at brand, regional, and local levels, and use this information to focus your own company’s continuous improvement. Use your customer reviews to help identify soft spots and capitalize on opportunities to take market share from competitors. You can inform strategic decision-making, assess growth plans, and more using firsthand data directly from your existing and potential customers. By learning what draws customers to your competitor, you can use that insider knowledge to guide the rest of the executive team.

4.     Show results

Your CEO is on the hook for showing results to investors, partners, and employees, and CMOs need to demonstrate accountability, too. Be responsible for your own results by tracking the impact of your marketing budget in a way that shows real business value. Plenty of self-proclaimed social media “gurus” will preach about all kinds of nebulous, intangible ways to measure marketing ROI—but the smartest CMOs look to their social media data as an additional gauge of success. Rather than measure the ROI of social by what business it’s bringing you, consider measuring ROI by what people are telling you in social. If you can win over a group of irate customers on social media, it’s real ROI and it’s based on actual customer sentiment, not anecdotes or numbers in a spreadsheet that tell you “what” but not “why.”

When it comes down to it, social doesn’t—and shouldn’t—belong to marketers alone. It needs to be a central part of the organization and used by every department to better serve customers at every level. CMOs that take this holistic, CEO-like approach to collecting, mining, and sharing social media data and customer feedback will find more long-term value for themselves, their leadership team, their customers, and their bottom lines.

Susan Ganeshan is CMO of newBrandAnalytics

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