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Social Marketing Needs a Rebrand: How We Graduate to the C-Suite

In the late nineties, LEGO was a struggling toy company on the verge of bankruptcy. It’s hard to imagine when you think about LEGO as it is today, but at that time, the company was having trouble attracting new kids.

2016 Social Marketing Planning Guide

The majority of LEGO’s loyal customers were adults who’d grown up playing with the classic brick sets. We loved LEGO with a sense of nostalgia, but that wasn’t gaining the company any new customers (read: kids). They now found themselves competing with shorter attention spans, flashier toys, and the new kid on the block: video games.

So what did LEGO do? They rebranded. The didn’t change their logo or the iconic LEGO brick, but instead they started partnering with properties like Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and Harry Potter to create custom sets, their own video games, and movies. They found a way to give their audience what they wanted while staying true to what they do best.

The Lesson for Social Marketers

Many social marketers are finding themselves at a similar crossroads with a similar need for a re-brand. While our CMO’s can appreciate social media as “something our companies need,” they struggle to find it as relevant as other channels, or define what that value actually is.

Until we get buy-in from our CMO’s, we won’t be able to grow social programs the way we want, get the budget we need, and ultimately, become marketing leaders ourselves.

This disconnect is not surprising, for a few very specific reasons:

  1. Most CMO’s came up through a product marketing or performance marketing team. Very few senior leaders within the marketing organization came up through social.
  2. Other digital marketing channels (email, web, paid) have a more linear progression and are tied directly to revenue generation.
  3. Most importantly, we’re terrible at communicating our value.

Addressing these issues head-on and changing the perception of social marketing is the key to our rebrand. Just like LEGO, we’re not hitting our target audience with what they care about, but we can easily pivot and become a staple of their marketing toy chest by mapping out a plan for each of those three issues.

Creating Alignment

Meeting with other teams
Interact with your marketing colleagues as often as possible.

Social media has the potential to serve every aspect of your business, from informing product direction to impacting revenue, but we also rely on these teams to inform our own programs.

In order to do that, we have to stop living in a silo. By doing so, we’re limiting awareness around what we “do on social,” but even more importantly, we’re limiting our ability to learn about how the broader marketing organization functions.

  1. Ask your product marketing team which meeting would be most valuable for you to join. Learn as much as possible about the roadmap, and the thought that goes into their decisions, strategy, and execution. How can you tie this into your plan, and how can you help inform their process?
  2. Sit with each of your performance marketing colleagues to learn about their day-to-day work, how they plan their programs, and how they measure success. Create alignment with each of them, and be the driving function behind integrated campaigns that are truly integrated. Social has the ability to be the connective tissue for your marketing team — don’t let this opportunity go unnoticed.
  3. Find a mentor who┬áis a senior leader in the marketing stack. They don’t need to be a social specialist, but you want someone with a broader understanding of marketing best practices. The biggest challenge social marketers have in growing our careers is thinking outside of the social vacuum. You may be a social media specialist, but you need to be a digital marketing generalist if you want to grow.

Measure in Context

Identify how social media contributes by moving prospects and potential customers to the next stage of the buyer’s journey.

Take a lesson from your performance marketing counterparts. They’re tying their activities directly to revenue, and as a result, when they optimize, it has a direct impact on the business. Find out how they’re doing this, how they’re measuring, and how they connect systems.

I mentioned earlier that social has the ability to impact the business in a variety of ways: Brand awareness, insight from the market, and enabling revenue-generating teams by fueling acquisition and retention.

Work to connect your social programs to web, email, and search. This will create alignment and a better understanding of the customer path to purchase.

As a marketing function, that final piece is crucial for measurement. How are you adding business value through acquisition and retention? If you can frame your measurement in that regard, you’ll create better alignment with your performance marketing counterparts.

Operate Transparently, and Communicate in Like Terms

Perhaps the biggest of our issues is the ability to communicate, measure, and report in terms that our CMO understands and cares about. Sharing engagement metrics isn’t always valuable to your CMO. What does that mean to them? Is any other team reporting on Likes and comments? No. They’re reporting on conversions, leads, sales, etc. (and, in the case of paid media, impressions; but in general, that is a secondary metric, as well).

As our ability to attribute business value to social improves, you need to be the expert that drives the conversation. Your CMO will see this as a leadership trait, and you’ll set yourself up for career growth that would be impossible otherwise.

The social metrics map will help you determine the correct metrics to report on, based on where social is contributing at your business.
This social metrics map will help you determine the correct metrics to report on, based on where social is contributing at your business.

Social’s rebrand starts with each of us becoming our company’s recognized expert at social marketing, but also learning from each of our marketing counterparts to become digital marketing experts as well. Once we do that, we’ll start seeing more social marketers graduate to the C-suite.

Get everything you need to analyze the metrics that matter

The Social Media Metrics Map


Kevin Shively

I lead marketing for Simply Measured. Recovering journalist. My team is embarrassed of my hilarious jokes. Firm believer that the best marketers are the best storytellers and the best storytellers use the best data.

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