The CMO Survey Blog

12 Tips for Integrating Social Media into Your Marketing Strategy

This post was co-authored with Becky Ross and Shannon Gorman, both MBA students at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University.

Social media is an increasingly important tactic in companies’ marketing strategy and yet results from The CMO Survey continue to indicate that many companies manage social media as a separate activity. Asked how effectively social media is linked to their company’s marketing strategy on a 1-7 scale where 1 is “not integrated” and 7 is “very integrated,” the average level of integration was only 3.9. Although we see companies planning to increase social media spending as a percent of marketing budget from 9.4% to 13.2% over the next year and 21.4% over the next five years, the level of integration has not changed in the past four years (see Figure).

Figure. How effectively is social media linked to your firm’s marketing strategy? (1=Not integrated, 7=Very integrated)

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We interviewed marketers across industry sectors for insight into what actions they are taking to improve social media integration. Here is what we learned.

  1. Choose strategy over tools. Social media is still in its infancy, so change is constant and new tools are being introduced at lightning speed. Using the latest and greatest technology may benefit the company, especially when its target audience includes younger and more media-savvy customers. However, it is always important to judge the value and impact of a social media tool against the company’s marketing strategy rather than its innovativeness. Will the tool help the company design or develop a more effective marketing strategy? If not, leave the shiny object on the shelf for another day.
  1. Drive social media actions against marketing goals. If social media actions are undertaken without a clear customer objective, integration is likely to be elusive. This means that marketers should always identify a specific customer objective when employing social media tactics. One common approach we observed was marketers using social medial to help move the customer into and through the purchase funnel.
  1. Be forward looking. Like traditional media campaigns, social media is often used to generate brand, product, or company awareness. If awareness is the goal, marketers must have a clear understanding of what happens next in the company’s marketing strategy to convert awareness into purchase intent. Likewise, if building brand advocacy is the goal, marketers should be clear about how to use these evangelists to amplify the company’s message and increase customer loyalty.
  1. Align social media channel to marketing strategy. While practically every brand is on Facebook and Twitter, there are many other social media platforms, such as Instagram and Snapchat. Brands typically do not have the resources to be on every social media platform, so how do marketers prioritize? They should choose the social media platforms that fit the company’s target audience and brand positioning. For instance, Facebook and Twitter tend to reach a broad demographic, while Instagram and Snapchat have a younger user base.
  2. Create social media toolkits. Brand toolkits have become standard procedure for many companies and are effectively used to guide local markets on how to portray global brands by providing templates and guidelines for tailoring content. In a similar way, some companies are starting to create social media toolkits which include templates for Facebook and Twitter posts. These kits can ensure strategic alignment and create a more cohesive brand image across geographies and platforms while reducing the time and resources required to develop social media content.
  1. Put social media experts on brand and customer teams. When social media operates from a separate group or from a separate location, there is a greater probability of poor integration. Instead, social media experts should be closely linked to the brand and customer teams so they are involved as soon as communication objectives have been established. This involvement pays off because social media experts are tuned in to the latest platforms and know what approaches generate interest from current and potential customers, fans, and enthusiasts. As a result, these experts can guide brand teams to the most effective results.
  1. Balance in-house and agency expertise. With so much to learn and social media moving at such a fast pace, many companies outsource social media activities to multiple agencies. This structure threatens the integration of social media because agencies rarely understand the totality of a company’s marketing strategy. This concern leads some companies to move more social media activities in house or utilize deep partnership models with their agencies.
  1. Convert to purchase. Social media is one of the very few places where companies can engage with their customers in an ongoing, personal, and real-time manner. As such, it can serve as a key touch point that brings the company’s marketing strategy to its raison d’être— If, for example, a follower posts she is going shopping for a particular item, companies can respond with a tweet containing helpful information or personalized discounts, and/or promotions.
  2. Be willing to say no. Given the buzz surrounding social media, every brand or customer-facing function likely wants its own Facebook page and Twitter account. Marketing leaders need to hold the line and decide which social media platforms are ideal for a given brand from a strategic and customer point of view. Controlling social media access through a social media group ensures that someone is accountable and knowledgeable about the best ways to use it as part of a company’s or brand’s marketing strategy.
  3. Champion integration. For integration to be valued and sought, leaders need to share success stories throughout the organization. Success stories can become part of the company’s ethos and organically influence the integration of social media in marketing activities.
  4. Sort out attribution. If social media is part of a company’s marketing strategy, questions will be raised about its contribution to sales revenue and how it works alone and in conjunction with other tactics. These are worthy questions and steps must be taken to understand and measure the effects of social media in order to integrate it with the company’s marketing strategy in the most efficient and effective manner. Marketers shouldn’t let these attribution questions keep them from pursuing social media, but instead consider them an opportunity to demonstrate its value.
  5. Learn from failures. Because it is much easier to experiment with social media than traditional media, companies can test and learn quickly. Also, social media execution costs tend to be much smaller than traditional media, so the losses from failures are less severe. By experimenting with social media, companies can more accurately determine which social media posts and campaigns have the greatest impact on their marketing strategies—helping to further integration efforts.

When social media is integrated with the company’s marketing strategy, the company’s management of its customer and brand assets is seamless. Strategic elements such as segmentation, targeting, positioning, and all go-to-market activities reflect a clear and consistent understanding of the value the company offers to its customers and how the company seeks to capture value from attracting and retaining these customers over time. The result of social media integrated into marketing strategy is improved efficiency and effectiveness in all aspects of the marketing plan.

Measuring Social Media ROI: Companies Emphasize Voice Metrics

The influential economist Albert O. Hirschman argues that customers can have a disciplining effect on companies and markets through their exit and voice behaviors. Instead of simply “quitting” a product, Hirschman urged customers to voice their complaints so companies could improve and learn. Hirschman would be a happy camper these days because social media puts a megaphone on the voice of the customer. Results from The CMO Survey® show that companies, in turn, are also starting to see the value of emphasizing voice-based metrics.

The CMO Survey investigated which metrics companies are using to measure the impact of social media investments. In August 2010 and then again in February 2013, top marketers were asked to share which metrics they use to evaluate social media. Looking across the results, we can see which metrics companies most often use. The survey did not, however, ask respondents to rank or rate each metric in terms of importance. (more…)

Six Reasons Marketing Budgets are on the Rise

Marketing budgets as a percent of overall firm budgets and as a percent of firm revenues are both on the rise as noted in my prior post. Why are firms spending more on marketing? Here are six reasons I see in The CMO Survey™ data and in my research.

  1. New jobs: Marketing appears to be taking a leadership role in managing social media activities in companies. Given social media spending as a percent of marketing budgets is expected to rise from 7.6% to 18.8% over the next 5 years, this means new funds are flowing toward marketing.
  2. New skills: Companies plan to increase marketing training by 3.7% in February 2012 to 7.2% in August 2012. In particular, I see many companies in investing in programs to build marketing capabilities. A good example is GE’s Experienced Commercial Leadership Program, which develops cohorts of young marketers for the company. Another example is Becton Dickinson’s Marketing Excellence Initiative, which provides non-marketers with a big dose of training in key marketing tools and processes.
  3. New knowledge: Big Data has captured the imaginations of leaders in companies big and small. The ability to leverage information about customers in order to deliver and demonstrate value opens the door for marketers to fill the role as analysts and “data whisperers” as McKinsey calls them. As noted by McKinsey in its Chief Marketing and Sales Officer forum, “Data whisperers are those analysts who can coax meaning and insights from the increasingly sophisticated and massive data sets available today.” (more…)

Investing in Social Media

The August 2011 CMO Survey reported that companies are increasing spend on social media (from current levels of 7.1 percent of marketing budget to 10.1 percent over the next year and to 17.5 percent in the next five years). These are big numbers and they have been waved around a lot on the internet. What’s striking to me is these same companies report that they employ, on average, only two people dedicated to actually doing social media (standard deviation 4.8). Houston, we have a problem—well, maybe three problems. (more…)

How Much Firms Spend on Marketing

The August 2011 CMO Survey reported that companies spend, on average, approximately 10% of their overall budgets on marketing. That figure is up from February 2011 where it was reported to be 8.1%. Using a 95% confidence interval, these numbers are not statistically significant from one another. This is important; but it is more important to note that marketing budgets did not decrease during this period of great economic turbulence. (more…)

Social Media and Strategy: How to Integrate

In the social media integration report card, I offered a set of company behaviors that we can use to diagnose how well a firm integrates social media into its strategy. These behaviors range from integrating social media with customer management, brand management, and innovation management to monitoring information flows within the company. (more…)

A Social Media Integration Report Card

Is your company being strategic about social media?

The August 2011 CMO Survey reported that companies are increasing spend on social media (from current levels of 7.1 percent of marketing budget to 10.1 percent over the next year and to 17.5 percent in the next five years). (more…)

Marketers to Spend Despite Tumultuous August: Smart, Crazy, Saviors?

While the general public can be accused of having short memories, it doesn’t take much for us to remember the volatility the financial markets experienced in the month of August. Standard & Poors’ downgrade of US credit and a tumultuous battle in the US Congress left many frazzled as their stocks moved in various directions. The words “double-dip recession” inundated the headlines and prognosticators’ outlooks. (more…)

Fasten Your Social Media Seatbelts: Marketers Ready for Full Take-off

Is social media just a tool kids can use to communicate with their friends, or is there some marketing advantage? For years, marketers have been grappling with if and how social media should be deployed. Numerous findings are showing a definitive answer: marketers are embracing social media in major ways—most notably their budgets. (more…)

Marketing Metrics: What CMOs Report

The August 2010 CMO Survey included a special section on marketing metrics. Seven important facts stood out when I analyzed the responses from the 574 marketing executives who participated in the survey.

1. Revenue metrics dominate: Revenue metrics (sales, market share) are the primary means they use to evaluate marketing activities. Unfortunately, few link marketing actions to critically important firm outcomes, such as customer retention (15%), profits (14%), brand value (11%), net promoter score (7.5%) and stock market performance (2 percent).

2. The quality and use of market insights not evaluated: While market insights are very important drivers of innovation and growth, only 25% of the firms surveyed use metrics to evaluate the quality of these insights, and only about one-third evaluate how market insights influence managerial decision making.

3. Marketing metrics examine the long-term impact of marketing: 72% of marketers report that metrics focus on the long-term impact of marketing. This number is much higher than I expected. Although I don’t have information about this metric over time, I asked this question because I thought it would be lower and a big press splash. Bravo marketers!

4. Marketers fail to account for revenue and cost information across channels: 53% report below average integration of cost information about customers across channels and 33.4% report below average integration of revenue information about customers across channels. It is no wonder marketers also report elsewhere in The CMO Survey that the highest level of marketing spending is going towards integrating what they know about customers.

5. Metrics fail to assess competitor reactions to firm marketing actions: Only 24% of firms use metrics that assess competitor reaction to their marketing programs. The casinos online focus is on customer reaction, which I agree is central. However, firms appear to be largely ignoring how competitors’ actions might interfere with customer reaction.

6. Social media metrics focus on hits, page views, and repeat visits: Instead, firms are measuring the number of followers or friends (25.4%), sales levels (17.9%), revenues per customer (17.2%), buzz indicators (15.7%), customer acquisition (11.8%), profits per customer (9.4%), customer retention costs (7.7%), and net promoter score (7.5%). Firms use an average of 2.4 social media metrics.

7. C-suites use an average of five marketing metrics to guide decision making (95% confidence interval around the mean—3.6 to 6.7): This number is higher than I expected and it shows increasing influence of marketing in the firm. The average number of marketing metrics used by the C-suite was highest among companies in the B2C services (10.4) and B2C product (7.4) sector and lower among B2B product (3.9) and B2B services (3.2) companies. C-suites of companies that sell products on the Internet use more marketing metrics (7.4) compared to companies that do not (3.2).