Social Media is Growing up, Good News for CMOs

Next horizon for CMOs

Every second, 11 new people sing up to use social media. Think about that for a moment. The world has four billion Internet users#, and more than three quarters of them are active in social media, thanks to more affordable smartphones and mobile data plans. 

    Nearly a quarter of a billion new users came online for the first time in 2017. In the U.S., where smartphones, tablets, and desktops have been ubiquitous, the people tuned into social media are approaching 70 percent of the population#.

    It's a mature market. And a well formed habit, with frequent check ins in fact, daily for about three-quarters of users on Facebook and 60 percent on Instagram.

    This is good news for CMOs who are tasked with the creative and more recently the analytic aspects of company's growth. Social commerce is bringing together aspects of branding and relationship building with transactions.

    It's also creating the need for new skills, and capabilities ― risk management and leadership are likely a new addition for CMOs who have been expanding their role to include business innovation, customer experience, and financial savvy.

    A look quick at the landscape.

Where and what are people doing in social today?

    On the desktop# they're on:

  • Facebook (46 percent) reading news and checking in with friends/family (9 percent posts, 5 percent interaction), which means that organic reach is a pipe dream.
  • YouTube (20 percent) connecting with influencers and product reviews
  • Reddit (18 percent) in online forums, think word of mouth
  • Instagram (1 percent) because it's mobile native, though Stories are becoming desktop friendly. What's interesting is that though mobile posts are still hovering at around 10 percent, interaction is hovering at around 94 percent.
  • Twitter (8 percent) on desktop sees a total activity at around 81 percent, but interactions have dropped to 1 percent.
  • Pinterest (2 percent)
  • LinkedIn (1 percent)

    Visual engagement dominates. Instagram's is quite high with relatively little posting. What looks best? Beauty ― 27 percent of posts and 32 percent of interactions ― Auto and active wear also have a favorable ratio of interactions to posts. Brands that use user-generated content and influencer tactics do well.

    Brands with limited product assortments and those that are less enticing visually ― such as explain why sectors such watches & jewelry and CPGs have a smaller interaction to share of posts ratio. Retail brands likely invest in channels where the conversion is more proven.

        In 2015, Pinterest introduced buyable pins, and brands found that the average order value what the highest of all social networks at $50 per order#. Because brands make it easy by highlighting popular products, featuring sales, and explaining shipping, 68 percent of users shop or find a product in 2018#.

    With such good penetration of social media, especially in the U.S., it's not surprising that people are starting to shop using Instagram’s shoppable accounts (41 percent of brands adopted them) or Facebook's Shop Now button (17 percent of brands use it).

    In addition to product discovery, potential people are also looking for customer service.

What are brands doing in social?

    The categories taking advantage of the content/commerce integration are retail, beauty, fashion, active wear, and consumer electronics.

    In customer service Twitter is still king. Having a team there is a good investment for brand management. 67 percent of people have used a company's social media site for service, compared with 33 percent for social marketing#.

    Just like with site's uploading times, people reward prompt responses. Poor social media practices impact brand image, and the bottom line. Leading brands have created a proven process to know how to handle inquiries in social ― private vs public ― and have the power (and evidence) to make things right.

    Positive wins over negative. The customer is always right, even when the details may be fuzzy. Responding to feedback is a good way to build relationships. After all, we like positive reviews. They have power. Mobile conversion increases by 133 percent.

    Brands that have been consistent in using social to improve their overall customer experience, make every customer special… and count.

    Though it's convenient to use Twitter for people and brands alike, many still experience how customer service in social is not fair, and may get expensive for problematic issues. T-Mobile is an example of a brand that reaches out to answer questions, concerns, or to address disparaging tweets.

    Brands selling consumer electronics, active wear, beauty products, retail, fashion, and auto have upped their customer service activities on Twitter between 2016 and 2017. While CPGs, and beverages have decreased them.

    I still remember when eCommerce site social discovery went mainstream.

What are the key social commerce trends?

    Sales revenue from social media were greater than $30 million in 2015#. In February 2016, US retailers surveyed by RIS News and Gartner attributed just 2% of their revenues to social commerce. But the estimated $50 million sales in 2016# tells a different story.

    “Social media is growing up. Which is why I'm writing about social again ― it matters to business, and even more to brands.”

    Below, I highlighted some trends I've seen in the last couple of years.

    It's a small world. Product reviews have sway ― think Amazon, where 90 percent of people check them before buying. 67 percent of women still consider online reviews very influential when they purchase from a brand they know. 43 percent of people check then for an item they purchased, to compare their experience to that of others#.

    Social targeting has a dark side. Those pesky retargeting ads that follow you around can be spooky. But some companies have been doing it well.

    Brands like Wayfair are dependent on digital media to drive traffic to their mobile apps and websites, because they're online-only brands (business model.) In 2016, Wayfair, the home good retailer that gets 10 million unique page views every month in the U.S., sold more than 7 million items from over 12,000 brands.

   Targeting becomes easier after product discovery. For that, they used Pinterest. They were one of the first retailers to use the pin it button on their site. It also helps that they have a sound understanding of target customers, perfect for Pinterest. The company upped its game in 2018 with AR/VR collaboration#.

    Online relationships are becoming more personal. Brands that do well here solve a real problem. It's the problem that drives who is attracted to the brand. This makes it much easier to get to know the people you serve, including the reasons why they use social media/each channel.

   “This is why Instagram is doing so well. It's simple… and relatable.”

    User-generated-content (UGC) has a role here. Brands that focus on showcasing how their customers experience a product or service, or their lives are better (engagement) with a curated appearance (accessible) are very appealing ― at the tune of millions of followers.

    Influencers play a role. But brands need to become savvy about who is influential for their customers. It's 2018, we're been talking about this at least since 2011… yet so many are still getting it exactly wrong. It's the brands' responsibility to figure out what works. (This conversation deserve its own post.)

What are the implications for CMOs?

    The role of the CMO has been expanding in the last several years. Technology has been a trend for a while, but it wasn't until recently that it really became a focus for marketers. Data and analytics is the reason. In 21015, Scott Brinker said:

The “marketing technologist” label is simultaneously a big tent and an emerging field. It’s a big tent because it includes people from digital marketing, marketing operations, IT, software product development, ad operations, and agency creative technologists. Their official titles, backgrounds, and job descriptions vary tremendously.

Yet there’s a unifying bond between them — applying technical talent and capabilities in the pursuit of brilliant marketing. […] It’s an emerging field because, as a percentage of people working in marketing and IT, these hybrids are still relatively rare. But they’re multiplying, rapidly.

    We're all familiar with operational types of technologies ― email, enterprise resource planning (ERP), networks (including security) ― and the need for CMOs to have a good working collaboration with CIOs and CTOs who have been on the front lines of operational tech for decades.

    Strategic technologies may cover manufacturing and distribution, but also involve the systems we use to find customers, service clients, and optimize the product/service value chain. Building efficiencies is part of the work. The more important part is to keep connecting all technologies to solving a specific problem.

    Over the last decade, corporate leaders have been expecting CMOs to elevate their activities from brand and marketing campaign management to business growth and revenue generation for the whole organization#.

    CMOs expanding skills and capabilities. This means:

  • becoming a customer expert ― do we have an understanding the whole customer journey? Are we partnering with other leaders to execute strategy?
  • making marketing that makes business sense ― how does marketing support the goals of other groups and executives? How does it translate into financial language?
  • complementing the art with the science ― does the team have the right capabilities and skills? Are digital/quant people collaborating with traditional/qual people? Are different points of view being heard?

    To these I would add a more specific consideration for leadership skills ― they come into play not just with growing and running the team, but also with a C-level mindset to run the company.

    Finally, especially due to social media's revival ― and its usefulness as a testing ground for product innovation and community building (not just reach) ― risk management seems not far on the horizon. A few years ago, it was about developing an understanding and appreciation of risk communication.

    With social media taking on a bigger role in commerce, the ability to analyze risks and expected value. Social media keeps people connected, especially in extraordinary circumstances… and today, much of Twitter and other social networks qualifies for surprise. CMOs can make this good, or it could be bad news.


Additional Resources:

Understanding Audiences in a Connected World

The Many Faces of Marketing

How a Culture of High Performance, Radical Honesty, and the Motto ‘we’re not family’ Drives MarTech Choices