CMOs are doing more with social media and may be increasing their influence within their organization as a result. This is the third in our series of posts on social business in the C-suite.

Is the rise of social media in marketing making the CMO function stronger?

Recent surveys and research — including early results of our own Year 2 survey currently in progress — offer findings that point in the same direction. Within the C-suite, CMOs are most likely to be heavily utilizing socially-generated data in their operations and expressing high levels of optimism about the growing importance of social business for their function and for their business as a whole.

An important implication of this increased reliance on social data is the potential of growing strength and influence of the CMO function within the enterprise.

Several specific findings speak to this growing connection between CMOs, social data and a stronger function. For instance:

  • In a survey of 100 CMOs last year of members of the CMO Club an organization of marketing executives by software vendor Bazaarvoice 89% of respondents reported that social data has influenced their decisions, and 82% said it has had a measurable impact on brand awareness. The report’s authors noted that CMOs were using social data to “drive discussion in the C-suite”, and thereby were elevating themselves as owners of the brand-consumer relationship. We reported and commented on this study in our September 20 blog post, Chief Marketing Officers See True Value in Social Media.
  • According to Data Rich and Insight Poor, a research study of 700 marketers who attended the DMA2012 Annual Conference and Forrester Research eBusiness Forum, almost 80% of marketers plan to make greater use of customers’ social media data to drive marketing campaigns in other channels in 2013.
  • The CMO Survey, a nationwide poll of chief marketing officers conducted twice annually by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the American Marketing Association surveyed 3,778 top marketing executives at Fortune 100, Forbes Top 200 and CMO Club companies in early 2012. When asked whether leading social media for their company was considered to be one of their functions, 77% of respondents answered affirmatively. The proportion of CMOs who agree has grown over the last few survey years, from 71% in 2010 and 73% in 2011. Respondents also reported that marketing budgets have been increasing as a percentage of the firm’s overall budget — from 8.1% in February 2011 to 11.4% in August 2012.
  • Analysts in the marketing profession are expressing optimism about what these trends mean for the CMO. Brian Kardon, CMO of Lattice Engines and a blogger at iMedia connection, comments in his post 5 signs CMOs are becoming more powerful that this function used to be seen as practically irrelevant in the organization because in the past, marketers could not measure the impact of marketing efforts. Now, Kardon says, “the signs are everywhere that the CMO’s position is increasing in importance.” To back up this claim, he cites data showing a longer tenure among CMOs: in 2006 the average CMO tenure was just 23.2 months, whereas by 2012 CMOs generally have tenure of 43 months. Kardon also points to many companies’ growing technology budgets.

Some early data from our Year Two update of MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte’s report Social Business: What are Companies Really Doing? released in 2012 also demonstrates the strong relationship CMOs are creating with social. For example, the CMO function was far and away the leader in the C-suite (and among other functions) in reporting that insights from social data and tools were being used to understand market shifts as well as to improve strategy development

Of course, it’s not just social alone that’s helping fortify the CMO function. Some of the strengthening can also be attributed to how that function is increasingly becoming the hub for the collection and analysis of all sorts of new data and measurement activities — whether via social media inputs, internal data generation, predictive analytics work, or other data-rich sources and activities. Research is also suggesting that some of the increase in CMO strength may be coming at the expense of the influence of the CIO. Our next installment of social in the C-suite will specifically examine the CIO’s role in — and relationship with — social business.