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As social media matures, marketers have been working to figure out how to harness the channel for financial gain and data gathering. Online marketers know that social media is a great way to engage customers and that it plays an important role in customer insight. An interesting January comment from research analysts at Gartner goes something like: “By 2017 the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) will spend more on IT Than the Chief Information Officer.” Given that so much of today’s marketing takes place through online channels, this comment seems entirely believable as IT is increasingly called upon to help not only with things like implementations, systems management, uptime, and compliance, but also with data management, collection, and analysis.

Bazaarvoice, whose social software helps big name clients like Best Buy, Costco, Dell, Macy’s, P&G, Panasonic, QVC, and USAA,  and The CMO Club recently conducted a survey of The CMO Club members to ascertain how marketing executives are using social data across their organizations. 

The survey, which includes all sizes of business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) organizations, found that almost half of CMOs use social data to make predictions or forecasts, and nearly nine in 10 say this data has influenced their decisions. CMOs also report driving this data beyond marketing, sharing data with other C-level executives (97.3 percent) and with functions, including sales (36.8 percent) and product management and development (35.1 percent).

Social data performs important functions. Nearly all CMOs (89.4 percent) say social data has impacted at least some of their decisions. This includes 21.3 percent of CMOs who say social data affects at least one in every five decisions they make. Social data can also hint at future consumer sentiment and campaign success. Because of this, nearly half (47.3 percent) of all CMOs have used social data to make predictions or forecasts, most commonly to project sales.

Social data is also driving smarter decisions beyond marketing, say The CMO Club members. While marketing teams and agencies most often extract the data, insights from it are used in product development, customer experience, and sales. Social data is also fueling C-level discussions. Almost all CMOs (97.3 percent) say they share findings from social data with other C-level executives at least annually, and most (67 percent) report to the C-level on social insights at least monthly.

In general, CMOs think social data reveals consumer sentiment and can improve brand awareness. Most CMOs (83.3 percent) believe social data is at least somewhat effective in indicating discernible trends or patterns that may impact the business. And 77.9 percent find social data at least somewhat effective in analyzing the influence of individuals or groups. The information is being used to identify consumer traits and patterns that impact brand loyalty and awareness.

“Nearly all CMOs now use social data to drive decisions,” states Erin Mulligan Nelson, CMO, Bazaarvoice. “As the business world re-centers around serving and delighting consumers, social data is turning CMOs into customer champions and heroes within the C-suite. As an industry, we have just started to tap into the potential of social data.”

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