Six questions every CMO should ask their social media marketers (Column)

Shelley Pringle is principal of Polaris Public Relations, a Toronto marketing and PR company. This column originally appeared on her company’s blog, Polaris B. A few weeks ago I asked one of my good friends and a former client what questions she had about social media. “We still need to understand the fundamentals of marketing,” […]

Shelley Pringle is principal of Polaris Public Relations, a Toronto marketing and PR company. This column originally appeared on her company’s blog, Polaris B.

A few weeks ago I asked one of my good friends and a former client what questions she had about social media.

Shelley Pringle

“We still need to understand the fundamentals of marketing,” she told me. “Social media is not the answer to everything and it definitely does not trump marketing basics. When I’m speaking to [social media marketers], I wish I had a roster of questions I could pose to them to demonstrate I also had a knowledge of social and force the conversation to a deeper level.”

Her question is a good one. It boils down to what questions a senior marketer should ask to ensure the company’s social media efforts are meeting its business goals.

Useful conversation is essential between traditional marketers and social media marketers (SMM). When it doesn’t exist, the SMM potentially loses their department’s resources since the CMO controls the purse strings and decides on whether to fund the organization’s social media effort.

When the CMO and the SMM do not speak the same language, the former potentially loses, too. The SMM may not be able to answer the CMO’s questions adequately. Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean the social media marketing effort isn’t contributing to the business in a meaningful way.

So what’s preventing these conversations from happening?

While there are certainly exceptions to the rule, most CMOs are not active on social media networks. They likely have a Facebook profile where they share photos and kibitz with friends. However, a Facebook personal profile is a very different animal from a company brand page.

On the other hand, the SMM may not be familiar with the way a CMO looks at the business. The CMO is most concerned with brand awareness, lead generation, conversion, revenue and profit. The SMM, on the other hand, has their head down managing multiple platforms and conversations. They are likely tracking reach, amplification, engagement and site traffic.

When the CMO looks at the SMM’s Twitter stream, they likely see noise and chatter. Yet this Twitter stream may accomplish important business goals, such as addressing customer service issues before they escalate to the company’s call centre.

The CMO does not see what the social media marketer sees and vice versa. And while their two views of the world are different, they are not mutually exclusive.

The CMO needs to ask questions of the social media marketer—the same questions they ask of their sales promotion, advertising and public relations partners. In turn, the SMM needs to do their best to answer the questions and understand the rationale behind them.

Here are the questions every CMO should ask of their social media marketers:

What social media platforms are you using to help us reach our business goals?

An appropriate answer to this question requires the SMM to understand the business’ goals. The CMO, and others in the C-suite, are responsible for communicating these goals throughout the entire company.

The onus is on the SMM as well. They need to truly understand the company’s goals, not simply pay lip service to them. They also need to know how to connect the dots between their Twitter stream (just as an example) and the CMO’s goals of brand awareness, lead generation, conversion, revenue and profit.

The CMO also needs a rudimentary understanding of the major social platforms. While they’re likely already familiar with Facebook and LinkedIn, they should also know a little bit about the others including Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus and Instagram.

Why did you pick these particular platforms?

This question is a no-brainer for the SMM. Their answer should include an understanding of the potential audience they can reach with a particular platform, what they hope to accomplish and why that platform is suitable for the brand.

For example, a visual brand targeted to women will be on Pinterest. One with a B2B audience will be active on LinkedIn. And a company that wants to position itself as a thought-leader in its industry will be sharing relevant posts and engaging in conversation with others on Twitter and Google Plus.

How are you using each platform?

This question is another softball pitch for the social media marketer. It should be easy to explain how they’re using each platform, what type of information they post, the type of people with whom they typically interact and the content of those conversations.

What metrics are you using to measure the results?

Here is where things get tough for both the SMM and the CMO since “followers” and “likes” simply will not cut it. This question may also mark the turning point in the conversation, becoming less an inquisition of the SMM and more of a collaborative discussion.

To illustrate how the SMM could answer this question, let’s use a B2B company as an example. Their goal is likely lead generation and conversion. The SMM should show the CMO how the company’s blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus activities help generate leads and move these leads through the sales funnel until they become a customer (or even beyond until they become a brand advocate).

Important metrics include:
• Visitors to the company website from each social media platform
• Number of blog visitors
• Site visitors who convert and become a lead by downloading an offer or taking a similar action
• Number of leads who become a customer

Have the results met your expectations?

Sometimes it’s difficult to outline expectations clearly since it takes time to build a baseline of results with social media marketing. The SMM should be regularly sharing results with stakeholders, including the CMO, inviting thoughts on how results compare to their expectations plus how they compare to competitors or companies in similar industries. In other words, the SMM should not be operating as a lone wolf in this aspect of their job description.

What are you doing to change course and correct?

Adjust and repeat is an important mantra in most aspects of marketing execution, and social media marketing is no exception. The SMM should be able to explain how they’re planning to improve in these areas and the changes they’re testing to make those improvements.

If you’re a CMO or a traditional marketer, what other questions do you ask of the social media marketers in your organization to help you engage in a deeper conversation about their work? And if you’re a social media marketer, what questions do you think CMOs should ask to ensure your efforts contribute to the organization’s goals?

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