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If Your CMO Isn't Social, How Can You Have a Social Business?

If these CMOs can't become social media influencers themselves, how can they expect to lead their companies in this crucial area?
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A general view of social networking apps on an iPhone.
A general view of social networking apps on an iPhone.

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have been with us for five or six years and have totally reshaped how the world communicates. Millions of people are active in the social universe every day, and are receiving less of their information from traditional media. Major magazines like Newsweek are going digital, local newspapers are shutting down the printing presses, and television networks are competing for face time with smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

It would seem obvious that businesses need to jump on the social bandwagon. Obvious to everyone apparently, except the CMOs that is. Chief marketing officers, those executives who should lead their companies into the next communications age, are instead holding back and refusing to join this revolution. Many are being downright stubborn about it. Harvard Business Review interviewed 2100 organizations for a white paper entitled, "The New Conversation: Taking Social Media from Talk to Action." Some of their astonishing findings include:

Those who use it see social media as a one-way channel to promote their activity; they aren't capitalizing on the ability to engage consumers and find insights that could affect their bottom line.

  • Only 7 percent have integrated social media into their marketing activities!
  • After five years, 61 percent still believe they have a significant learning curve to overcome.
  • 29 percent felt it was difficult to see the benefit of social media for their business purposes.

A full 11 percent responded that the use of social media for their business purposes was only a "passing fad!" Why yes, and the automobile is only a passing fad, too! The reason behind these dismal results is that these corporations are taking their marketing cues from CEOs who aren't even social themselves.

Mark Fidelman is the conference director for BusinessNext Social and author of Socialized! How the Most Successful Businesses Harness the Power of Social. In his Forbes blog he discusses an analysis that BusinessNext Social conducted where he was the lead author. Their research uncovered the fact that only 20 percent of the Fortune 100 CMOs are active participants in public social networks.

Some CMOs "get it," but very few. BusinessNext Social compiled a list of the top twenty most social CMOs based not just on popularity but on a multi-dimensional holistic formula from Mark's book that takes both subjective and objective factors into account. Topping the list was General Electric's Beth Comstock who believes that social will play an increasingly important role in shaping the way people connect. Beth has over 13,000 Twitter followers and a social score of 2650. Many on the list were in computer-related companies such as Google, Apple, IBM, Dell, Microsoft and Cisco. Unexpected companies in the top ten included ExxonMobil and Raytheon. FedEx and PepsiCo came further down, with Sears, UPS, Aetna and Humana only rating an honorable mention.

Where are the CMOs of other consumer companies that could benefit from a strong social media presence? On the other end of the spectrum the analysis also found that 76 percent of the CMOs at these Fortune 100 companies have no Twitter following at all. A paltry 15 had at least 100 Facebook subscribers and only 12 even rated a Klout score higher than 30. Most seem to be waiting for this fad to pass. If these CMOs can't become social media influencers themselves, how can they expect to lead their companies in this crucial area? Corporate recruiters looking to bring in top marketing talent shouldn't check Facebook pages to learn about the personal lives of their job applicants, but to find out whether they really know how to be social themselves.

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