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Social media has proven itself an invaluable venue for businesses promoting their products and specials, but its value doesn't end there. The direct and unbiased feedback customers share via social media opens a universe of possibilities for CMOs who want to blow the doors off of the competition while driving measurable results.

The first step in this process is to operationalize social media feedback for a more informed strategy, more engaged customers, and increased market share.

Here are five ways CMOs can start getting more out of social media today.

1. Look for brand impact

Marketing teams know their company's brand mission and brand promise best. When looking at social feedback, keep a keen eye on how the brand promise is aligning with operational delivery—on the ground, every day. Look for reviews that provide insights into whether your business is meeting, exceeding, or falling short of customer expectations. This is a key metric that few CMOs consider. If you're missing the mark, work with your operations team to put a solution in place that addresses the issues.

"An important part of our business model is to seamlessly integrate into the local community," says Jeremy Morgan, senior vice-president of marketing and consumer insights for the popular gourmet burger chain Smashburger.

When entering a new market, the company develops specific menu items that reflect the culture and cuisine of the region. "We've set the expectation that guests are going to get a unique experience when they choose us, and our social intelligence tools to let us know if we've hit that bull's-eye—or not. If their experience [shared online] is not aligned with that brand expectation, believe me, we'll hear it and adjust."

2. Share the wealth

Social media has clear value for marketers, but the data and insights it produces are useful to the rest of the business, too.

As quickly and as often as possible, CMOs should share that information (even in the form of a weekly alert) with operations, product teams, merchandisers, and suppliers for timely "gut checks" and insight into whether the organization is delivering on its brand promise.

Morgan is a huge advocate for sharing social intelligence within the organization. Smashburger executives get daily emails with guest reviews, so they can quickly identify patterns at specific locations or across the business, and the marketing and operations teams meet regularly to review overall trends in guest feedback.

"The marketing team is ultimately responsible for the customer experience, and we serve as the central hub for guest feedback. So it's critical that we get that information into the right hands, whether it's operations, IT, packaging, or personnel," Morgan says.

Consumers don't care about your corporate silos; they care about their experiences. So break down the walls and share your wealth of knowledge.

3. Redefine your approach to marketing strategy

You're a marketer; clearly, you've mastered the 4 Ps. But maybe you didn't realize that there is a wealth of information on your products, pricing, promotions, and placement hiding in your online reviews.

Products, locations, and customer personas vary widely from region to region, but don't let that complexity hold you back. Use the location-specific insight from social media reviews to drive regional strategies and shape targeted marketing plans.

Know that not every promotion or customer engagement strategy will be worth the effort. Find out which ones work best by using social media feedback to gauge the response to your offerings, both in-store and online. Says Morgan, "Social feedback drastically reduces the time it takes to gauge customer sentiment. It's a direct line between the guest and the business that's open 24/7."

4. Don't just listen—act

This one may seem obvious, but few companies do it well. Start by putting a priority on social media feedback across all review and social sites, and then assign people on your team to actually engage with customers. When you communicate with a personal touch, you turn positive reviewers and commenters into brand advocates—and, often, earn a second chance from negative reviewers.

Since its launch in 2007, Smashburger has been vigilant about communicating with guests, making a commitment to respond to questions and comments within 24 hours. "We were born in the age of social media, so those tools have always been an important part of the way we do business," says Morgan. "What we try to do now is take that guest engagement to the next level, reaching people who are not just talking to us but about us. That's where we have a real opportunity to differentiate."

5. Steal market share

Customer experiences aren't happening in a vacuum: You're constantly being compared with your competitors, and simple brand loyalty isn't going to be enough to keep customers coming back. Turn social media into a competitive advantage: Use others' potential gaps or missteps and maximize your own successes.

If you know where your highest and lowest satisfaction ratings are coming from, you can help shape your operations and long-term strategies to reflect the most lucrative opportunities.

According to Morgan, everything comes back to the brand expectation: "Different restaurants are evaluated by different standards based on the expectations they set for their customers. You have to decide where you want to really outshine your competitors—ingredients, variety, value, service—and then commit to exceeding those standards. Your bottom line will tell you if you've been successful, but your guest reviews will tell you why."

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image of Susan Ganeshan

Susan Ganeshan is CMO of newBrandAnalytics, a social intelligence firm serving food and beverage, hospitality, retail, and public-sector organizations.

LinkedIn: Susan Ganeshan