It's no secret that the marketing landscape continues to evolve, including the modern CMO's approach to accelerating his or her organization's "buzz," lead generation, and content engagement efforts.

However, one additional crucial element of marketing that all CMOs need to be addressing right now is social listening and analytics.

Social data has the ability to transform and better inform the decisions CMOs make within their organizations every day, and it can heavily influence long-term marketing tactics.

Social intelligence can provide tremendous value, but if the modern CMOs don't start acknowledging (and acting on) the value social data provides—they risk losing brand relevancy and losing touch with their consumer base in a hurry.

So, how can CMOs begin to factor social intelligence into their business approach? What do they need to understand to fully take advantage of social data?

Here are some tips that can help CMOs take the first important steps toward factoring social listening into their overall agenda—and leap data-first into the future.

1. Hiring for social data success

First item on the CMO's agenda for 2016: hire data analysts within the marketing department. Creating and expanding a group of data analysts can only help deepen social insights throughout marketing (and companywide).

You need to have a set group of people who are constantly focused on social media monitoring for your brand. For example, data analysts will pay attention to your brand across all social platforms, able to capture brand mentions (or anything relevant—brand, topic, competitor, etc.) found online.

However, the real value of this work lies in how the information is used.

Social listening provides a CMO with a glimpse into what consumers are talking about and expose their sentiments regarding the brand's products and services. CMOs can learn where they need to improve to meet consumers' expectations.

Ultimately, when used properly, this data can guide CMOs toward more strategic decisions inside the boardroom.

2. Identifying benefits of social

CMOs must understand how broad the benefits of social listening are, reaching beyond just the marketing and sales departments. CMOs need to be well versed on how social intelligence can influence all departments.

  • Social listening can be used to find new hires, deal with customer service issues, and connect with key audiences to build deeper relationships. It truly allows for a communication line between a brand and its customers.
  • Social listening can help brands craft social posts and other public statements in ways that move beyond simply promoting and pushing out the brand name to actually addressing consumers' concerns.
  • It provides companies with the insights to influence the performance of core business operations, such as product development and customer service.
  • Arming a company with knowledge about the topics consumers are tweeting about to the media can also serve as a valuable precursor to topics that may end up in the actual news; that allows brands to better plan for or predict headline risk.

For all those reasons and more, social listening undoubtedly provides companywide value and insights—and why every CMO needs to understand and address it for his/her brand.

3. Finding the right audiences

CMOs need to understand HOW to start using insights collected from listening. It's not JUST meant to help people get to know their audience; it's about finding connections with them and gleaning insights about them, then targeting and personalizing future communication.

Marketers can pinpoint numerous attributes to each member of their consumer base to help them truly understand their audience better. For example, gender, interests, and professions of social audiences can be fairly critical information for any brand. That information can help brands create targeted content or products for those consumers.

Recognizing the demographic makeup of a social audience can provide value to an overall marketing strategy: Are there certain products or types of content that activate certain segments of a brand's audience on social? What are those products? And how are people talking about them? Knowing the answers to the questions can help CMOs better understand their own campaign efforts and help them strategize to reach specific audiences, depending on the brand goals.

Beyond simply listening socially to an audience, there are resources available to CMOs that enable them to track instant social insights from their audiences—identifying trends and content in real time. With the right tools, CMOs can create and customize desired social audience segments, pinpoint influencers within those segments, and see what content is being shared by those influencers in real time.

Social listening is undoubtedly enhanced by technology, and CMOs should be aware that they have the access to help target their desired customers with the right content at the right time.

4. Meaningful social measurement

CMOs must begin focusing on measuring meaningful ROI metrics during and at the end of campaigns. Meaningful ROI are the numbers that can follow you into the boardroom and to business end goals, exponentially increasing their value. Ultimately, though, it is nearly impossible to attribute hard numbers to the ROI of a social listening campaign, so it's best to establish well-thought-out goals for the campaign and check to see whether they are achieved during and at the finish of the campaign.

* * *

It's ultimately every CMO for him/herself. But with social media platforms probing the world's largest focus group every second of every day, the modern CMO would be foolish to think he/she can maintain success without tuning into the social world—the desires expressed there, trends, popular stories, and what the collective social Web says and feels about their brands.

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Win With Social Intelligence: Vital Tips for CMOs in 2016 and Beyond

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image of Will McInnes

Will McInnes is CMO of social intelligence platform Brandwatch. He's also a board member of the Big Boulder Initiative, the mission of which is to establish the foundation for the long-term success of the social data industry..

LinkedIn: Will McInnes