Almost half of marketing executives have used social data to make predictions or forecasts, and nearly nine out of ten said that this data had influenced their decisions, according to a survey of chief marketing officers (CMOs) by Bazaarvoice and The CMO Club. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

The survey, which represented brands worth more than US$1 billion in annual revenues (56%) as well as smaller business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) brands, also found that CMOs are also pushing social data out beyond the marketing team, sharing it with other C-level executives (97.3%) and with corporate functions such as sales (36.8%) and product management and development (35.1%).

The 2012 Global IBM CEO Study found that customer centricity has become a priority for CMOs and CEOs alike, with 61% of CEOs saying that they must exhibit "ustomer obsession". And, against this backdrop, CMOs are continuing to invest rapidly in new technologies to help achieve that goal. In fact, according to a Gartner webinar in January 2012, "by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO."

As the business world re-centres itself on ways to serve and delight consumers, the study observed that CMOs are now seizing the opportunity to use social data to help transform their roles and organisations.

Among the key lessons learned from the study:

  • Social data impacts decisions for nearly all CMOs. CMOs are turning to social data for insights into consumers, products, and brands that traditional market research and focus groups can't.
  • Nearly all CMOs (89.4%) say social data has impacted at least some of their decisions. This includes 21.3% of CMOs who say social data affects at least one in every five decisions they make.
  • Social data can also hint at future consumer sentiment and campaign success. Nearly half (47.3%) of all CMOs have used social data to make predictions or forecasts, most commonly to project sales.
  • CMOs use social data to drive smarter decisions beyond the marketing function. While marketing teams and agencies most often extract the data, insights from it are often used in product development, customer experience management, sales, and C-level discussions.
  • Agencies are most commonly responsible for reporting to CMOs on social data (50.9%), followed by marketing research (45.6%), and marketing communications (45.6%) teams.
  • Brand management teams make the most use of social data, according to 59.6% of CMOs. Other teams that access the data marketing collects include sales (36.8%), customer experience and web design (36%), and product management and development (35.1%).
  • Almost all CMOs (97.3%) share findings from social data with other C-level executives at least annually, and most (67%) report to the C-level on social insights at least monthly.
  • CMOs believe that social data reveals consumer sentiment and improves brand awareness. CMOs also believe that social data reflects business trends and most use it to identify consumer traits and patterns that impact both brand loyalty and awareness.
  • CMOs are most confident in social data's effectiveness in analysing consumer sentiment toward individual products and product lines, rating their confidence level 6.4 out of 10, on average.
  • As a whole, 83.3% of CMOs believe that social data is at least somewhat effective in indicating discernible trends or patterns that may impact the business, and 77.9% find social data at least somewhat effective in analysing the influence of individuals or groups.
  • Most CMOs (82.3%) are at least somewhat confident that their brands' social efforts have a measurable impact on brand awareness, while 81.5% are at least somewhat confident that their social initiatives have a measurable effect on brand loyalty.

"CMOs have historically been the closest to the customer, and they are now the ones who are leading the charge to use this data to evolve and elevate their brands and business," concluded Brett Hurt, CEO for Bazaarvoice. "With word of mouth being digital for the first time in history, CMOs can listen to their customers like never before and bring that insight to the entire company. This will change businesses by creating more customer-centric processes and companies."