The 3 social media issues that keep CMOs up at night

Savvy marketers are quickly adapting their strategies and allocating resources to new online channels, but a number of uncertainties remain. How to balance the opportunities with the risks

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As the buzz around the importance of digital and social media grows, Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs) are trying to come to terms with its impact to their own industries. Is one business less susceptible to its vagaries and benefits? Once considered the domain of the consumer, can businesses expect to succeed without a coherent digital and social media strategy? How much does one take on, and how quickly? In times of increasing budgetary constraints, how can all these be tied into tangible revenue results? Here is a brief look at three trends that keep the CMO awake.

“Earned” vs. “Paid” and “Owned” media discussions have been rampant in marketing circles for a while now. Most marketing dollars are still largely spent on paid and owned mediums. Print and television advertisements are good examples of paid media. Company websites, blogs and micro-sites fall under the owned media category.


Digital and social media, as overlay to traditional public relations channels, have become crucial to brands vying for customer loyalty and advocacy. Customers engaging with companies through brand reviews, word of mouth recommendations, Facebook” likes” and Twitter “re-tweets” form the basis of an earned media strategy. As per the recently released 2013 Edelman Trust Barometer, social saw a 75% increase as a trusted media source. However, earned media cannot be fully controlled or measured. Allocating resources to the appropriate marketing media can be a tricky exercise for the CMO.

Social Listening as a strategy to improve public relations and customer service is slowly beginning to gain mindshare in business circles. From a company’s perspective, social listening involves tracking digital and social media mentions and references that pertain to its brand. Using listening platforms and tools, companies are able to glean and react to customer sentiment, PR issues, sales opportunities and competitors’ activities. A well implemented listening strategy can not only help diffuse unforeseen crises situations, but also identify and engage brand influencers who act as an extension of the Marketing organization. A high profile listening command centre launched by Cisco Systems in October 2012 takes social listening to the next level, by providing the company access to Cisco related conversations on the social web. In the face of competing priorities, implementing a dynamic and sustainable listening strategy within the existing marketing organization will pose a challenge to the CMO.

Social media gaffes can happen to the best of brands as evidenced by the recent fiascos involving brands like KitchenAid and Gap and, more recently, HMV. The prospect of dealing with a simple, but costly mistake can be daunting for any company. Social media disasters are not typically part of an organization’s disaster recovery plan. As HR departments review and tweak their social media usage policies to promote employee engagement and empowerment, Marketing holds its collective breath hoping that the users follow guidelines. The fact that employees are sometimes social media superstars in their own right, and have their own personal brands and followers, add another dimension to this scenario. Scott Monty of Ford Motor Company, Carlos Dominguez of Cisco Systems and Christopher Penn of Shift Communications are notable examples. From the perspective of the CMO, this is indeed a tough nut to crack! A sound policy, a comprehensive social media disaster recovery plan, and common sense can help companies control such crises situations.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that the opportunities offered by social and digital media significantly surpass the pitfalls associated with it. The changing face of customer service, resurgence of the PR department and reallocation of the marketing resources are just par for the course. No industry is immune from these new realities. It is exciting times for marketing!

Take the next step: Download our white paper, How to Transform Your Company Into a Social Business — Seven Steps to Success, from Frost & Sullivan.

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  1. Great post, Dax.

    Given the growing importance of tapping into digital and social media tools to support customer service and marketing objectives, what do today’s CMOs need from IT? I can’t imagine that legacy IT infrastructures are prepared to support these growing demands from the business.

    Anne / 10 years ago
  2. Yes! Finally something about midwest social media group.

  3. Good post Dax..Like it or not, social media is increasingly becoming a part of our professional lives as well as our personal lives. With brands taking to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat, it begs the question, where is the line between personal and professional life on Social Media?

    While the line becomes increasingly blurry, brands and organizations are introducing social media policies for their employees in order to prevent such mishaps and guide employees’ behaviors online.

    To many, acting the same way online as you do offline is a no brainer. Others however, can get taken away with the idea of anonymity and the prospect of having a platform to share all of their feelings, thoughts, concerns and complaints. This is where their association with a company becomes problematic. An employer may not share the beliefs of its employees or vice-versa.

    No matter the size of your organization, a social media policy must be included in the initial training. Companies like IBM, Coca-Cola, Kodak and Intel have extensive policies covering everything from transparency to engagement policies as well as tips and tricks for brand ambassadors. A clear policy presenting straightforward consequences for abusers will go a long way in preventing a social media crisis.
    Mike Werber

    Mike Werber / 9 years ago


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