Why Most CMOs Are Getting Their Social Media Strategy Wrong
By Alistair Norman

Why Most CMOs Are Getting Their Social Media Strategy Wrong

CMOs need to evaluate their processes of building business reputation, enabling growth and establishing brand awareness through social media.


A recent study in the Journal of Marketing analysed the impact of social media content on customer spending, cross-buying, and profitability. Not only did this content have a significant, positive effect on customer behaviour, it also worked in synergy with other marketing channels.

Despite its benefits, social media can feel like an impossible-to-tame beast, with seemingly endless platforms, content, hashtags, livestreaming, GIFs, algorithms and metrics.

Throwing out some content and crossing your fingers isn’t the answer. With a clear social media strategy, you don’t have to leave online success up to chance.

As daunting as it may seem, you can tame social and get the ROI metrics you need. The answer is to position your brand within a community.

1. Creating an integrated social media strategy

Brands are now recognising social media is about engaging with their audience. And this means viewing social media channels as communities as opposed to a place to broadcast a product.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to social media strategy. So there’s a degree of testing required to see what channels will best meet your business goals and what types of content appeal to different audiences.

A study by TrackMaven found that while LinkedIn attracts the largest B2B audiences, it doesn’t fare so well for engagement compared to Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. Meanwhile, even further down the engagement scale is Twitter, with B2B brands seeing less than two interactions per post per 1,000 followers.

Of course this doesn’t mean you should avoid certain social media platforms altogether. It does however mean engagement will be much harder to achieve on some platforms than others.

Crucially, these findings emphasise that social media strategy shouldn’t be developed in a silo, but rather as a part of your wider marketing strategy.

Simply being active and gaining followers on social media won’t produce the results you need. Instead, you should focus on producing a variety of content that appeals to your audiences on each platform, and works in harmony with your other marketing channels.

2. Creating content that drives engagement

Your social media strategy needs to integrate with your content marketing strategy. After all, without content to share, you won’t have anything to contribute to the communities on social media.

However, any content you create needs to encourage audience engagement. The right content starts discussions, answers questions and builds communities. You want to keep the conversation flowing – not have a one-sided monologue.

With all social media channels, a hard sell isn’t the answer. On Instagram for example, it’s about creating imagery users will want to engage with.

Instagram captions allow brands to add hashtags – an easy way to join in the conversation with relevant communities. Plus, creating a hashtag encourages user-generated content – nurturing a community around your brand.

The latest Global Trust in Advertising survey by Nielsen revealed 83% of people trust recommendations from those they know. When people use your hashtag, they’re effectively endorsing you to their network.

User-generated content can also be aggregated and curated to exhibit the good relationship between your brand and online community.

Generating great content on social media isn’t enough though. Measuring the effect of your content is vital to help you understand what’s working and what isn’t.

Simple metrics including shares, retweets and views can give some indication of whether your content is effective, but these metrics say more about distribution and brand awareness.

This is why brands like Upworthy and Medium use other complementary measures, including time spent reading content.

By matching your business goals to the right metrics, you can calculate the ROI of your social media content. Valuable metrics include:

  • Social reach
  • Traffic to target URLs
  • Leads
  • Customers
  • Conversion rate

3. Using a distinctive tone of voice

In public forums like social media platforms, people only positively interact with brands they feel represent themselves or their business.

It’s up to CMOs to influence how a brand is perceived on social media. The CMO is the influencer who lives and breathes that brand – and, of course, this needs be translated to your marketing strategy on social media. Unless your audience identifies with your social media content, they won’t engage positively with your brand.

According to Forbes, “having impact via social media is challenging, especially at the C-level. And it’s becoming more difficult as social media adoption escalates, increasing the number of users and the volume of tweets, posts, blogs, and content.”



Part of creating relatable content is having a relevant and distinctive tone of voice. Your tone of voice on social media should still make sense with the rest of your marketing efforts so your brand image is consistent across the board.

The B2B brand, Mailchimp has a distinctive tone of voice, which is adapted slightly on their various marketing channels. This flexibility means they can modify their tone of voice depending on their customers’ needs and feelings across different social media platforms.

It also ensures they always convey the same positive image of their brand, without being too rigid and missing the needs of customers at different stages of the sales funnel.

4. Engaging with customers in a personalised way

A social media strategy isn’t a one-way conversation. To establish your brand as part of an online community, you’ll need to encourage genuine, one-to-one engagement with customers using a persona-led approach to nurture them and ensure their needs are understood.

A persona-led approach begins with social listening to understand your target audience. It’s then possible to identify the content they’re interested in and where best to engage with them. By truly understanding your customers, you can understand their needs and nurture a trusting relationship.

Heathrow Airport interacts with customers in a personalised way on Twitter. Instead of simply posting real-time updates, they speak directly to followers and ask questions, encouraging natural conversation.

Rather than using boring stock answers, they interact in a manner that comes across as genuine and interested. When a customer checks in at Heathrow Airport via the Swarm app on Twitter, they’re greeted with an entirely personalised reply tweet.

These tweets include extra pieces of personalised information, often asking where the customer is flying, referencing specific details, offering to help and replying in multiple languages when relevant.

Customers are frequently engaged in a short, friendly exchange – strengthening the brand’s standing in the community and improving customer experience. As a result, Heathrow Airport’s Twitter following has nearly doubled since January 2014, from 200,000 to over 378,000.

5. Reputation building

Every piece of content shared on social media should support your brand’s image. Your social media strategy can enhance your reputation, but it must align with your business values.

The software company Slack ensures their business is closely aligned to their tone of voice. Their goal? With every interaction, they want to emphasise their brand values of empathy, courtesy, playfulness and craftsmanship. Their reputation is built with each small interaction on social media and this in turn reflects well on their brand.

Across all their social media channels, blogs, customer support and even technical writing, they consistently communicate using content that represents their brand values.

When something goes wrong and they’re aware the reputation of Slack hangs in the balance, they turn this into a positive experience. Using social media, they talk directly to their customers, showing empathy and transparency. Frequently, this means an unpleasant problem becomes a reputation building exercise.

To successfully grow your brand’s reputation on social media, it’s essential to plan a strategy that aligns with your other marketing efforts. Earned media, including social media marketing, influencer outreach and content placement, complement your other paid and owned media efforts. Tools like Oktopost help you track the success of your content and track the ROI of your social strategy.

Creating engaging content and interacting positively with customers on social media can position your brand at the heart of online communities. Done right, a social media strategy can enhance your other marketing channels and have a positive effect on customer behaviour.


  • Social media content has a significant, positive effect on customer behaviour
  • Social media strategy should be developed in synergy with your wider marketing efforts
  • It’s better to join in with the community, rather than overtly sell your products
  • Maintaining a distinctive tone of voice helps reinforce a positive image of your brand across channels
  • Every interaction is an opportunity to engage personally with customers and build your reputation

A thriving social media strategy leads to an engaged user community. Build a place for your users, nurture them, engage them – convert them.


Download “The CMO’s definitive guide to online B2B community building”.


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