When most marketers use the word ‘data’, what springs to mind are large sets of numbers, Excel spreadsheets, cloud-based IT systems and complicated algorithms. Big data speak is the mot du jour. There is even a big data Week in London called the Festival of Data.
The functional silos persisting within marketing teams, as well as data disconnect between marketing, IT and customer support, are inhibiting a CMO’s ability to leverage social effectively for competitive advantage.
That’s the view of Lighthouse 3 founder and social media strategist, Mia Dand, who will be speaking on the subject of ‘making social data sexy again’ at this year’s Data Strategy Symposium in Sydney’s Hunter Valley from 17-19 November.
Dand worked in the corporate space for a decade helping organisations such as HP, Symantec, eBay and Google create and scale strategic social media programs. At HP, she pioneered the vendor’s first social media centre of excellence and inaugural social listening and analytics program, and she was also the lead for global social media strategy at Symantec.
More recently, Dand has launched her own agency in San Francisco, Lighthouse3, focused on helping global brands use new social media tools and platforms by first organising internal people, processes and technology.
According to Dand, social media has become a key business contributor thanks to three intersecting trends. One is the rise of social media networks as platforms over the past decade, and their evolution in terms of function and feature set.
“As the social networks have evolved, the technologies supporting them have also tried to keep up, and we’ve gone from rudimentary data gathering, to monitoring and listening, which was a big deal,” she told CMO “Today, we have a new model where there are a host of great technologies available to do sophisticated analysis, manage multiple accounts in multiple languages, for example.”
The third contributor is how companies and brands perceive and utilise social as part of marketing and business operations.
“Some companies are evolving because they’re being forced to, but there are a number who are trying to be innovative and look ahead, and who are leading the pack,” Dand said. “They’re taking a more proactive role and building something in the shifting sands.
“It’s an exciting space right now. Businesses are realising it’s not enough to just say you’re doing social as it’s no longer a choice, it’s how well you do it that is giving them competitive advantage.”
The problem is many organisations still have highly fragmented views of social data internally. This, in turn, prevents marketers from being able to pool social insights together in a way that can really improve customer engagement, Dand said. It’s also stopping them from proving just how valuable social is to the bottom line.
“There is still a question mark for CMOs about social, but it’s not a question around whether social is worth doing, but how you prove the value,” she claimed. “It’s instinctive, and you know it’s working when you talk to customers, but connecting the dots between social media and the business returns is still in its infancy.”
One snag is that social strategies are not being clearly defined. Social data strategy, for example, is non-existent in most companies, Dand said.
“How you deal with the social data and use it to prove the value is one piece of the problem,” she said. “The other piece is the technologies needed to help you connect the dots between what you’re doing in social and your business results.
“A lot of these solutions are point solutions – they can show ROI in one function or area, such as influencer marketing, or media attention from Twitter. But there’s gap in connecting that to the bottom line. This speaks volumes about how siloed we are functionally, and also where the data sits – we are unable to paint a complete picture today.”
The other problem is that even the savviest of organisations still have functions existing in silos, and situations where marketing has its own budget, as does customer support, social media, PR and IT.
“Everyone is responsible for a piece of that social data and everyone owns some of that marketing data. Yet they are not talking to each other and working together,” she said.
Dand’s first piece of advice to clients is to do a comprehensive audit and look at what’s in place not just in social and digital, but across marketing. Key to this is understanding which activities and customer touch points are important through customer journey mapping, along with how the organisation is interacting with those.
“One question we always ask our clients is: What are your business objectives? Marketing is meant to support your business objectives – if it’s to create a clear positioning, grow market share or grow adoption, then those are clear objectives and marketing need to support that,” Dand continued.
“There is a hankering to use the latest and greatest technologies out there, and look at a specific platform, but it all comes back to the basics. What do you want to do with that technology and what it is helping you achieve? It’s like having a fancy car but you’re a lousy driver or don’t know how to drive it. The strategy and business objectives have to come first.”
Dand also stressed the importance of people, process, and how activities are organised, as well as the programs required to support and apply your strategy. Only then does she advise looking at what technology is needed.
“It’s about creating a very cohesive strategy which answers that fundamental question, which is why,” she said. “Are you trying to drive more product adoption, or change your position in the market – for example as a more interesting or engaging brand? Or are you rebranding? That’s the first step. Then you look at what types of data you need to gather and what’s most meaningful.”
Marketers also need to ensure buy-in for their social strategy from across the organisation.
“You need that buy-in organisationally, because unless everyone is aligned and brought in, your strategy is just a piece of paper,” Dand said. “The larger the organisation, the most critical it becomes.”
While she saw CMOs as very much leading the social data charge, Dand said building a strategic social capability will only succeed if it’s done in partnership with the CIO/CTO.
“While social might be ‘marketing data’, it has to be managed, secured and utilised in accordance with privacy and regulatory compliance,” she said.
“I envisage CMOs taking more of a leadership role, setting the path and vision for how this data should be used, but in partnership with the CIO/CTO, who is ultimately going to be responsible for maintaining that technology, securing the data, and making sure everyone has access to that data.”
Dand added social data utilisation is a reflection of the wider big data trend that’s driving marketing.
“Data just by itself is not very valuable, it’s what we do with it that makes it so special and powerful,” she said. “Without the right technologies to analyse and put to use, it’s just big noise.”
Our coverage of the 2013 Data Strategy Symposium
- Not all big data is created equal, warns marketing scientist
- How Supercheap Auto used big data to model customer loyalty
- Big data presents unprecedented privacy challenges for marketers, says Havas chief
- Using big data analytics to power customer lifetime value at HotelClub
- Iterview: Facebook’s Helen Crossley on data-driven insights
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