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How to break social media out of the backroom and into the c-suite

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“Silos” is a bit of marketing speak you hear a lot these days. Borrowed, for some reason, from the farming storage lexicon, this term crystallises the idea of departments within a company being cut off from one another. And, despite the omnipresence of social media today, social media departments remain among the most siloed of all.

It’s a vicious cycle. The challenge of proving their activities’ worth to the rest of the company is one of social media professionals’ biggest frustrations. Meanwhile, the c-suite is reluctant to allocate more budget to social for lack of a clear return on investment (ROI).

Thankfully, this impasse is finally being broken thanks to recent developments in marketing technology. It’s now on companies to update internal structures and mindsets in line with what’s now possible – and what their customers expect from them.

A situation completely at odds with consumer expectations

Even if a company struggles to grasp the precise role of social media within it, today’s connected consumer has a far clearer take on things.

With an average of seven social media accounts, the typical internet-using consumer lives in a social-first world. They are now far more likely to find you via a social ad than a banner or Google AdWords. And they see absolutely no difference between the brand on their Facebook feed to that they meet on the website or helpdesk.

So, if they don’t, why still do so many brands?

Right now we are in one of those in-between moments where our corporate behavior and priorities have yet to catch up with both technology and consumers’ use of it. Social media is both largely the cause, and solution to, a massive shift in the brand-consumer dynamic; one in which consumers expect real-time, personalised communication on whichever channel they interact with a brand.

This is broadly termed customer experience management and it is fast becoming the key differentiator between brands. In fact, Gartner found that 89% of its respondents believed customer experience would be their primary basis for competition by 2016.

Social media is key to this. In fact it is the oil this transformation runs on. All it takes is the means and intention to share all that lovely real-time data around.

Technology is opening the door – it’s the mindset that’s trailing behind

The Walker Sands State of Marketing 2017 states that around half of marketers are now using integrated marketing technology stacks. What that signals is acknowledgement of the need for free data flow between the many software solutions it now takes to be competitive.

Notably, Walker Sands also found that social media marketing tools are the most popular martech pick for 2017, with 32% of respondents planning to add one to their stack this year.

This growing emphasis on data flow via open Application Programme Interfaces (APIs) is the badly-needed floodgate for the true integration of social media into business.

Enriched insights everywhere

Think of social media as a continuously refreshed source of people data. Here we are not talking about vanity metrics. Sure, it is gratifying for any company to have thousands of followers, likes and shares. But these aren’t very helpful to people in other departments.

What is helpful, is customer and prospect behavior. And no channel provides a better window on this than social media. Open API martech stacks are creating ecosystems where this uniquely social data can seed and hydrate business activities elsewhere.

Take, for example, your customer relationship management (CRM) system. This has been a mainstay of companies for decades; but these days static lists of customer monikers, emails etc. just don’t cut it alone. By plugging a social listening tool into it you can add an entirely new dimension in the form of dynamic, continually updated social data.

This can include instances this individual has engaged with your brand on your owned channels, such as a tweeted question or a like. It can also include any interaction outside your owned channels involving a topic or hashtag you are tracking with social media listening. The possibilities here are many and under-utilised. The upshot is a customer service department empowered with a more personalised customer profile.

Not surprisingly your analytics department has a lot to gain here too. By pulling up social data and placing it alongside other metrics in a custom dashboard they can have an entirely new layer of insights to act on.

In fact, most units within a company – from ecommerce to content distribution – will benefit from a free, two-way flow of data with social media sources. Data exchange aside, the simple freedom to pull and display social activities on company dashboards or intranets represents a giant leap in the affirmation of social media marketing.

Head towards the light

Breaking social media out of the backroom is a necessary first act for companies in the customer experience age. It is also the most tangible break yet from the siloed past we have all been seeking escape from. Granted, all the software in the world cannot compensate for poor strategy or tactics; but here too social media and the insights it makes possible are an enabler and a democratiser.

It no longer takes massive budgets and resources to crack what makes your audience tick. With free-flowing martech stacks the path is open – we just need to take that first step.

Chris Sugrue is a senior content strategist & copywriter at Falcon.io

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