The marketing department used to be the mouth of an organization – developing content and communicating messages to help sales. I remember my beginnings on the ground and my role was creating cut sheets, creating presentation decks, planning events, and helping to support promotional and awareness goals. Now the role of marketing has fundamentally evolved, changed and grown.
At Sprout Social, marketing is not just about supporting sales teams, it’s also about empowering sales. Marketing is the linchpin of sales and our overall business strategy. However, as the digital transformation increases, more marketing directors will find that their departments are not only responsible for customer acquisition, but also influence customer loyalty and growth, customer service and product development.
We know that our buyers want to get involved digitally and that they increasingly prefer an end-to-end digital customer experience – only the marketing team can deliver this on a large scale. For 55% of consumers, this experience starts on social media.
With the power of social media, marketing teams are now the eyes, ears, and heart of an organization. As we look to the future of marketing it will depend on our ability to understand, use, and in many ways start with the social.
Marketing strategies should start with social
In order to serve our customers better, we have to listen to them.
Social media teams are at the forefront, targeting our audiences and customers on a regular basis. The insights gained should influence our campaigns, our content and our marketing plans as a whole. Social can’t be the team we go to after a campaign is created and say, “Here, post this.”
When we work proactively with social networks, we can test new ideas, creative resources and campaigns and use the results to become more strategic marketers.
We can’t limit ourselves to just listening to what our audience is saying about our brand. We also need to listen to what they are saying about their own lives and experiences outside of the brand. It is also important now to read the room, keep an eye on the culture in general, focus on customer values while reflecting on our own values.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven the value social media can deliver, even if your strategy is on hold. When the pandemic broke out in March 2020, our team decided to pause all of our social content so we can reevaluate it. We immediately looked at social listening data to answer questions such as, “How can we most effectively serve our customers at a time of this uncertainty? What do you need from a product point of view? What are the necessary steps we must take to manage this incredibly difficult change? “
The social data we found changed everything. We ditched most of the campaigns we planned to prioritize more educational, supportive content. We hosted a digital event where we knew our customers needed community and a network of support. We offered our customers a free COVID-19 listening theme so they could benefit from the same data we used to control our pivot points.
By leveraging social media to pause, listen, and connect with our audiences on a deeper level, we have been able to expand our influence and support our key business goals amid global turmoil. However, it shouldn’t require a pandemic to use these insights in our campaigns. It should still last. It should start with social.
Customer experience is more than a catchphrase
Beyond campaigns, the greater chance is in how we, as marketing directors, perform our role in managing an end-to-end customer experience. We have the power to ensure this doesn’t become the next buzzword or empty promise.
Companies don’t know if they’re delivering a great customer experience if they aren’t talking to their customers. When you have hundreds, thousands, or millions of customers, one of the only ways to capture customer insights and actionable feedback at scale is through the social network – the largest real-time focus group.
Social media is a mirror for your company so that you can see where you are falling short, how you compare yourself to the competition, opportunities to innovate your products and much more.
The power of the social has yet to be recognized by many marketing directors and CMOs. We only had social media in our professional careers, so there is often a misunderstanding about what brands can help with. As a result, we’ve seen social media descend into entry-level marketing roles and digital natives who grew up on social media. Unfortunately, their work is usually silenced, keeping the perception of the social only as a lever for brand awareness and not as strategic capital for all business functions.
In order for brands to see social media differently and use it as the powerful tool we know, marketing leaders need to bridge the gap between social media and the rest of the company. With greater visibility and collaboration, there are better business results.
The keys to unlocking the power of the social
If the guiding principle of marketing is to be the manager of the customer, social media managers are our experts in this field. Social media has become the passageway through which every customer interacts with your brand, so social media managers can see, hear, and act on all of those interactions.
Under the guidance of social media managers, we enable our companies not only to market better, but also to develop products and experiences that can improve the lives of our customers.
Today, CMOs are on the table to share profits, meet goals, and seize opportunities for improvement with our colleagues across the company. Going forward, we need to strengthen our social media teams by giving them similar access to stakeholders outside of marketing – both to broaden their understanding of the business and to enable them to share their unique expertise and valuable insights.
In addition to creating Facetime, we need to encourage our social teams to regularly deliver social insights to other departments, be it sales, customer care, product or otherwise. This ongoing training is an important step in unlocking the value of social media across the company on a day that not just social media managers sign up for social media management platforms.
The future of marketing depends on the social sphere
We’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to harnessing the power of the social. However, if marketers are to be increasingly responsible for driving sales, the only way to succeed is to unlock social contributions in our businesses.
The good news: in the last year alone, we’ve seen an increase in companies investing in social networks. A majority of 91% of executives say their company’s social media marketing budget will increase over the next three years. And I firmly believe that these investments will pay off.
Would you like to learn more about how the future of marketing and social media will intersect? Download our latest research to take a closer look at the state of social media after a year of transformation.