5 Social Media Strategy Questions Every CMO Needs to Answer in 2021

Social media hit historical highs in the CMO budget this year.

In fact, spending on social media marketing spiked by 74% to reach 23% of marketing budgets according to The CMO Survey, and marketers anticipate spending will remain close to this new high level as we enter the new year.

With fewer events, tighter budgets, and changing customer demand, CMOs are looking to their social media programs to deliver more than ever. But is your social strategy up to the task?

Our 2021 Social Trends report—based on a survey of over 11,100 marketers and in-depth interviews with top experts at agencies, brands, and social platforms—uncovered strategies and tactics that are setting top organizations apart on social.

Here are 5 questions to see how your approach compares.

Download the full Social Trends report to get an in-depth analysis of the data you need to inform your social strategy in 2021.

1. Are you using social to recreate lost customer experiences?

As pressure increases to recover revenue lost in the wake of the pandemic, it’s no surprise that marketers ranked customer acquisition as their top objective on social in our Social Trends survey this year.

social trends data

However, it’s interesting to note what has slid further down the list. Only 23% of respondents cited “improving the customer experience” as a top goal, despite the fact that the pandemic has completely uprooted so many of the experiences that brands relied on to differentiate and drive growth.

How are B2B organizations connecting their sales team to prospects without events and conferences? How are retail brands driving incremental revenue without in-store displays that spark discovery and impulse purchases?

Organizations have been left scrambling to adapt their online presence to fill the void. The problem is that online experiences tend to be very transactional and task-oriented. Click this ad. Buy this product. Fill out this form. These tactics were meant to supplement in-person experiences—not replace them entirely. And transactions alone don’t create memorable brands, boost loyalty, or drive long-term growth.

So, while the shift to driving quick customer acquisition through short-term tactics is understandable (and in some cases, very necessary), CMOs need to be building for the future. Forrester predicts that spending on loyalty and retention marketing will increase by 30% in 2021 as CMOs assert control over the full customer lifecycle.

Social media revolves around discovery, connection, and fun. And leading organizations have been using live streaming, short-form video, social commerce features, and peer-to-peer selling to reinvent the customer experience with social at the core. These innovative experiences are helping organizations drive ROI, boost loyalty, and stand out in a rising sea of online advertisers trying to win wallets in a retracting economy.

2. Are you pulling customer intelligence from social listening?

Marketers have long turned to social listening to monitor keywords, track sentiment, and find opportunities to insert their brands into trending conversations. But the crises of 2020 have underscored the importance of using social listening as an intelligence tool, giving organizations the real-time insights they need to be agile and adaptable in a world moving at warp speed.

66% of marketers say social listening has increased in value for their organization over the past 12 months.

Source: Hootsuite 2021 Social Trends Survey

Brands that regularly gather intelligence from social listening are able to quickly pivot their offerings to adapt to changing customer needs. At the start of the pandemic, one of our customers, Clarins—a French luxury skincare, cosmetics, and perfume company—analyzed customer conversations using Hootsuite’s social listening partner Brandwatch and realized their previously planned campaigns were going to miss the mark.

Interest in makeup had faded rapidly, but the insights revealed a new opportunity: people were focusing more on their self care routines while in lockdown. Based on trending conversations in search and social channels, the team worked with Hootsuite to develop a social advertising strategy. With consumers facing growing economic uncertainty, the team decided to focus on highlighting deals on existing skincare offers that would appeal to cash-strapped customers.

Clarins UK Instagram

Source: Instagram

The strategy was a resounding success, with social ads quickly becoming one of the key media investments for the Clarins brand. By the end of the quarter, social ads drove 30,000 website visits, with a low cost per click and click-through rates well exceeding their benchmarks.

3. Are you ignoring baby boomers in your digital marketing?

The past year has been a tipping point for baby boomers online. Increased time with social media, digital video, gaming, and mobile payments have yielded new forms of digital literacy and habits set to outlast the pandemic.

70% of internet users aged 55-64 have bought something online in the past month.

Source: Hootsuite and We Are Social, Digital 2020

While traditional TV advertising is still one of the most effective ways of reaching this demographic, cord-cutting reached historic highs in 2020. In fact, eMarketer is forecasting that households without cable TV will outnumber those with it by 2024.

Meanwhile, there’s been a 66-point increase in baby boomers discovering new brands and products via social media over the past four years, according to GlobalWebIndex, and over a quarter of baby boomers are spending even longer on social platforms now as a result of the pandemic. While Facebook remains key to reaching this demographic, boomers are also embracing newer platforms as well. The #over50 hashtag on TikTok exploded in 2020 with boomers adding their unique voices to the cultural conversation, resulting in nearly 800 million views (and counting).

Marketers that diversify how they reach this increasingly digitally-savvy and lucrative demographic can leapfrog other organizations that are still blinded by ageism and stereotypes, but smart segmentation is key. Instead of targeting baby boomers by age alone, target them by passions and hobbies and you’ll be more likely to attract a cross-generational audience, which can lead to new revenue opportunities.

4. Are you integrating social data into the rest of your business?

Our data shows that organizations of all sizes are becoming more and more confident in their ability to accurately quantify the ROI of social media. In fact there’s a similar curve among SMBs, midsized, and enterprise organizations—the majority are somewhat confident in their ability to quantify ROI, around 20% are very confident, and the top 10% are extremely confident.

And according to The CMO Survey, the contribution of social media to company performance increased 24% from February to June this year, reflecting the first major increase in the history of the survey.

But how are organizations actually measuring this impact?

  • Good: The average organization only uses native platform data collected from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and so on. According to our Social Trends survey, 62% of organizations are measuring their social performance this way.
  • Better: More mature organizations use third party tools to integrate social data with web analytics.
  • Best: Those ahead of the pack have a holistic view, integrating social data with web, CRM, and other business systems—and this data integration leads to the highest levels of confidence in social ROI.

measure performance

Data integration leads to higher levels of confidence in the ROI of social media because it gives marketers a clearer view of who they’re talking to on social and how that top-line engagement is paying off. According to our survey, 85% of organizations that integrate social data into other systems are confident in their ability to quantify the ROI of social media.

One of those organizations is our customer, Pierre & Vacances Center Parcs Group. With more than 275 holiday destinations, the Group is a leader in the fiercely competitive European tourism sector with a loyal community of highly engaged fans on social media. To build on the value of these relationships, the Group set out to design a strategy that would create a more nuanced understanding of customers at each stage of their journey—leading to new insights and opportunities to engage more effectively with customers before, during, and after their stay.

Pierre and Vacances

Source: Instagram

They decided to unite the social media team with the CRM division under the sales department, to better integrate social into their overall business strategy and develop its strength as a customer acquisition and loyalty channel. By sharing tools and data between social and CRM, both groups were able to gain greater visibility into customer touchpoints across their journey—and create new commercial opportunities.

Pierre & Vacances Center Parcs Group has seen measurable and impressive business results from their efforts, with a 150% year-over-year increase in web traffic from social networks generating more than 62,000 leads. Lead quality from social has been equally impressive, with conversion rates four times higher than those from external capture operations.

5. Are you driving brand purpose from the boardroom, or letting it fall to the front lines of social?

The shift toward purpose-driven, socially responsible capitalism that had begun well before 2020 was certainly sped up by the events of the past year. But this isn’t something you can fake or simply mimic on social media—and this is where a lot of brands stumbled in 2020.

The (understandable) desire to respond to public pressure and participate in important cultural conversations ended up manifesting in knee-jerk reactions, many of which were quickly called out as hypocritical. These efforts came off looking especially inadequate when viewed in the context of brands like Patagonia or Ben & Jerry’s, who have been doing this work for decades and have the track record to prove it.

Ben and Jerrys Instagram

Source: Instagram

If CMOs aren’t actively working toward creating a truly purpose-driven organization, they can’t expect their marketing and social teams to create the veneer of purpose on social media.

Now more than ever, CMOs must be the voice of the customer in the C suite, helping other executives feel the force of these cultural and customer changes that frontline social teams experience every day.

Speaking at the Festival of Marketing recently, Professor Scott Galloway urged CMOs to become chief intelligence officers, highlighting the fact that CMOs are usually gone within two years if they fail to immediately establish credibility. “The CMOs who are thriving and potentially become the next CEO are the ones who say, ‘I’m your link to the market.’”

Strong CMOs will use intelligence gathered by social media teams to help the organization adapt to new buyer beliefs and new ways of doing commerce, and lead the organization to a new path to growth that requires balancing the twin demands of building a better business and a better world.

How mature is your organization on social media?

Hootsuite’s Social Maturity Assessment is a benchmark of over 1,000 enterprise organizations in 12 industries and covers every aspect of how organizations use social to create business value, including attribution practices, use of social data in customer journey mapping, integration of social data into CRM systems, employee advocacy, paid media and influencer strategies, and workforce education programs.

To complete an assessment of your own organization’s social maturity, start here.

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