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The CMO is on an upward trajectory with no signs of slowing. Three years ago, Gartner predicted that by 2017 CMOs would spend more money on IT than CIOs. This divination appears to be right on track. Marketing technology is “white hot” with clouds, stacks, innovation, deals, and VC funding commandeering news cycles and tech psyches. Empowered by budget, new technology, and crazy-huge amounts of data, some have even said that today’s CMO is tomorrow’s CEO.

If you are a CMO with your eye on the corner office, then one huge asset you already have in your arsenal is social. Any marketer worth his or her job knows that social is a defacto part of the marketing mix: an important channel for buzz and awareness, content marketing, lead generation, and for some, commerce.

The ambitious CMO should also know that, beyond simply mastering tweeting, social intelligence offers a path up the career ladder. The “social CMO” understands that social data equips his or her team with the insights to strategically, proactively – and even predictably – influence the performance of other core business operations like product development, customer service, HR, and finance. Armed with social intelligence and a strategic action plan, the CMO no longer answers to ‘just’ the sales organization; it can pave the way to the boardroom. Here are four examples:

Ensure your new product launch doesn’t bomb

It is estimated that over 250,000 new consumer tech products launch every year, and 95 percent of them result in failure (remember 3D TVs? No? No one else does either). The social CMO can help ensure success from the early days of product development, through to the big launch, and well beyond a product’s settlement in the mainstream.

Using data gleaned from social listening platforms, the CMO can pinpoint the precise online platforms and forums where discussions are happening and engage with target audiences to learn what they really want. It’s also incredibly valuable to tune into “white space conversations”: the chatter around a specific product or industry that doesn’t directly mention your brand or competitors. By analyzing this data and finding patterns, you can provide colleagues in R&D and product management with strategic insights into user needs and illuminate a clearer picture of the customer journey – even identify the best timing for a product release. Of course, the job’s not done once the product is in market. Using social listening, you can gauge — both at a macro and micro level — the effectiveness of your messaging, tune into your audience response, assess buying patterns, and listen to and strategically address customer complaints.

Convert complaints into loyalty, even $

Like it or not, your company’s social presence is also your customer service channel. A study by Lithium Technologies found that 53 percent of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within one hour regardless of when they tweeted, with that percentage rising to 72 percent if it’s a complaint. Sadly, not all companies do a great job of responding quickly. Another study found that only 11.2 percent of retail brands respond to questions within one hour; in fact, most take 24 hours. The outcome? At best you’ll have one disgruntled customer who won’t buy from you again; at worst it can become a disastrous and negative trending Twitter storm that does more damage to your reputation than you can imagine. Shudder.

But just as social media gives dissatisfied customers a bigger voice, it also bestows the opportunity for brands to turn a disgruntled customer into an even more loyal one – and here’s where the social CMO can add value. By collaborating closely with your customer service team, not only can you flag complaints in real time — and even anticipate them – but you should also have the processes and campaigns in place to turn complaints into future revenue. Research suggests that customers who receive great service via social media will spend 21 percent more money. Consider also that customer care via social substantially reduces call center costs, and that’s money you can take to the bank. And your CFO.

Turn employee negativity into engagement

Monster recently studied more than 1.1 million tweets to analyze when, where, and why people talk about their jobs on Twitter. The research found employees in the western half of the U.S. tweeted about loving their jobs at a higher ratio than hating their jobs, whereas almost half of all those tweeting more negatively about their jobs were located in the Northeast. While we can debate whether it’s wise to complain about your job or your employer on Twitter at all, this data reveals insights and patterns that can be invaluable to HR and recruiters. Working together, the CMO and HR can analyze potential triggers that prompt workers to take to Twitter to complain, as well as create campaigns and programs to re-engage those employees – or anticipate imminent hiring needs.

Anticipate share price fluctuations

Twitter is good at quickly gauging public opinion, and there’s evidence to suggest that social sentiment can have an effect on share prices as is displayed by the study results below. Twitter can show “whether a story is reactive or not” and therefore whether it will have an effect on share prices. Armed with social intelligence, the CMO and his/her team can deftly work with counterparts in finance and investor relations to understand and even anticipate the impact of real-time social conversations on the investor community and take the actions needed to protect shareholder value.

Here’s how I look at it: Social data tells you what’s happened and what’s happening. (And we’re on the verge of being able to use social to tell us what’s going to happen next, watch the predictive social analytics space over the next two or three years.) Turning social data into insights that drive strategic decision-making and action will be what separates the career-savvy social CMO from the average marketer.

Will McInnes is chief marketing officer at Brandwatch, a social intelligence firm.

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