Meet the social CMO

Social media has its tendrils in every market and buyer journey, from the most ephemeral consumer goods to complex sales of business services. It’s so entrenched that the Content Marketing Institute considers “social media whiz” one of the five distinct CMO candidates of the future.

If that sounds like too far and narrow a reach for your organization, your definitions may be too limited. Marketing chiefs with a strong performance focus and background need to understand social today in order to track its evolution into still-bubbling channels of the future. Today, it’s an important channel for direct communication at all stages of the buying process—something that matters to virtually everyone with a stake in converting leads into sales.

“The CMO’s responsibility in 2015 isn’t just to use money to get the largest ad purchases possible, but to use technology to create distinct one-to-one messaging to their target audiences,” says Joe DiNardo, director of marketing at Blue Fountain Media.

Strategic eye on social

Allison Lowrie, CMO of HomeAdvisor, shares her views on social media as a four-pronged tool, delivering presence, customer service, insights, and acquisition.

On presence: “People today use social media like a search engine. You have to be present.”

On service: “Social isn’t our biggest support channel, but it’s really critical for us to make sure users and potential users have a voice.” As CMO, Lowrie helps bridge the strategic priorities of marketing with those of social customer service, where reputation management is a key job requirement.

On insights: “Social gives us a richer profile on the people who engage with our brand.”

On acquisition: As a direct acquisition marketer, social media doesn’t top Lowrie’s list of favored channels. “Other channels convert better for us and just yield overall better metrics,” she says. Her research found that some focused social tactics deliver the hard ROI necessary to her business model. “Retargeting and remarketing through social can be very effective—it’s the low hanging fruit, the people who have already expressed interest in your brand.”

Fertile ground for B2B CMOs

Consumer brands are fighting to be heard in social, but in the B2B world there is still plenty of room for visionaries to establish a clear advantage over the rest of the pack. Only about one-tenth of all B2B marketing spend is done through social channels, according to the 2015 CMO Survey.

“The use of social channels is pretty nascent at the B2B level, where you tend to find a more old-school approach,” says James Quin, senior director of content at CDM Media. Change is already underway, however: respondents said the share of social media spending will increase to over 22% over the next five years.

The social CMO in a B2B context is one who fosters a strong culture of networking and trust. Because B2B purchases can be considered over a long period of time by a large client team, reputation and peer endorsements are vital to success. Social is just a new channel to deliver the message that businesses are already thriving with the services on offer.

“Social media is about leveraging influencers—people willing to speak on your behalf,” Quin says.

Social as new leadership territory

The social CMO has a unique opportunity to flex mastery of a marketing channel into broader business leadership and an internal reputation as an indispensable resource. “We’re starting to think about utilizing social media not only to acquire new customers on both the B2B and B2C side, but to recruit new employees,” Lowrie says.

Each social channel is an opportunity waiting to be explored by both creative and performance-minded marketing teams. Finding the way to tell compelling stories through each new social platform should delight any CMO with an itch to innovate. “For example, Snapchat isn’t a ‘social media’ app, it’s a photo sharing app that allows brands and advertisers to engage with potential customers on a one-to-one, at-scale level,” DiNardo says.

The biggest challenge for the social CMO isn’t finding ways to monetize a particular platform or establish credibility, but to weave the social touchpoints into a broader brand strategy. Breaking down silos isn’t just a matter of transparency and efficiency anymore, it’s a must in the omnichannel world.

“Advertising isn’t a channel-specific game anymore. User behavior has shifted so much that we are consuming multiple channels at the same time, and our plans need to reflect that new behavior,” DiNardo says. “Organizations need to be everywhere all the time, and the CMO’s responsibility is to bring their organizations out of their comfort zones and into these new experiences and consumer mindsets.”

Post by Jason Compton

Jason Compton is a writer with over 15 years of experience covering marketing, sales, and service. Based in Madison, WI, he is a regular contributor to Direct Marketing News, previously served as executive editor of CRM Magazine, and has been published in over 50 outlets.