Giant Social Media Red Flag: Is Your CMO Tuned Out?

Anyone committed to driving social and digital media innovation from inside the marketing machine of a midsize to large company understands well the pressures of proving the value of your efforts. Now, two new studies provide sharp insight into the CMO mindset that must be considered when plotting a course for growth, along with your own internal online video sales pitch.

Here’s the first bit of eye-popping news: According to a new survey by social business software company MindTouch, only 15 out of 143 Chief Marketing Officers and Chief Communication Officers (CCOs) in Fortune 100 companies have active Twitter accounts. Moreover, 15 percent of these executives have a net zero social footprint—in other words, they’re not personally engaged with emerging social media trends at all.

While this represents a relatively small statistical sampling of the total number of CMOs today, it’s nonetheless an astounding snapshot of the low social media use among top marketing leaders. And this info is especially relevant considering social media budgets—including online video—are growing at unprecedented rates. Of course that means that we’re also seeing the accompanying demand to demonstrate an appropriate return for a communication concept very few actually comprehend. But more on that point later.

According to MindShare’s Mark Fidelman, the message from his study appears to be “do as I say, not as I do.” As Fidelman writes, “Marketers have always been taught to “go where their consumers are” and still the Fortune 100 Chiefs seem to be personally absent. The giant red flag here is that, if the Chief Marketers and Communicators do not understand how social media can be part of an integrated marketing/communications strategy, then how will the rest of the organization?”

So with that alarming study as a backdrop, now consider this February CMO survey by Bazaarvoice, the social commerce software company. According to their survey, Chief Marketing Officers are looking more closely at returns from social marketing initiatives than ever before, with 93% of marketers now planning social media campaigns in 2011, much of it incorporating video and other custom content. To that end, 81% of respondents say they intend to track how social media impacts revenue in 2011. But—and here’s the kicker—most marketers are still uncertain about how they’ll actually measure that impact. That means many will be deciding how to measure return without actually using the medium themselves.

Let’s review: CMOs are spending more on social and digital media than ever before. CMOs intend to provide a more critical look at social media ROI. CMOs, by and large, do not use or actively engage with social media.

Does anyone else see a disconnect here?

What This Means for Your Online Video Agenda

If you are involved with creating and promoting an online video strategy, this is incredibly important data to understand. Online video is social media, and as such, is completely intertwined and interdependent upon YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other sharing platforms that together represent the most fundamental shift in marketing and communication in our lifetime. The MindShare survey especially should serve as a wake-up call for all marketers to not take anything for granted when it comes to measuring and communicating the value of your efforts to your top executives.


If you’re not using social media everyday, it’s likely that your understanding of the benefits of this new communication medium is of the textbook variety, gleaned from articles, conferences, and word-of-mouth from other users. But nothing can provide a sense of the true value—the real return on investment, in other words—than actually using, living and engaging with the idea yourself. For example, just ask a first-time parent where they did most of their learning. Regardless of the fact that the moms- and dads-to-be may have spent countless hours reading all the parenting guides they could get their hands on, most will tell you afterwards that the real learning and innate understanding came from the actual child-rearing experience itself, from watching, engaging and learning inside the baby bubble. Before you’re actually changing the diapers, it’s all just words on paper.

It’s also important to understand, as Gary Vaynerchuk explains in his new book, The Thank You Economy, that the term “social media” itself has caused confusion and misconceptions in CMO circles, leading some marketing executives to believe that they can use social networking sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter to spread their message in a way similar to traditional media platforms like print, radio, outdoor, and broadcast television—and expect similar results and returns.

And why wouldn’t they think that, considering they are not using the media themselves?

But “social media” is bigger than that. It’s not simply another advertising lever to pull, it’s a major cultural shift in how we engage, talk, and trade information. To apply old world ROI thinking to this equation is like applying an ROI equation to the telephone. It doesn’t compute.

Assume The Disconnect

While you may understand that video and other social media connections are part of building trusting, one-to-one relationships, it’s very possible, or likely, as the MindShare survey would seem to indicate, that your CMO has a very different view of social media than you do. As someone who engages daily and incorporates these channels in an everyday fashion, you understand their nuances and possibilities, and the benefits are internalized. But if you CMO or supervisor doesn’t use it, chances are their understanding of the benefits are not inherently understood. Knowing this, it’s incumbent on you to use this knowledge to your advantage.

So how can you leverage this awareness? First, do not assume that digital media story is being communicated appropriately. Provide frequent updates about success stories, and share examples of human connection as part of your ongoing updates. Pass along stores of sales and revenue gains, no matter how small they may seem. Share links from other company’s success stories, along with your thoughts on how you can incorporate lessons into your own video and social media strategy. Regularly share the list of Top 20 Social CMOs of the Fortune 100 with your CMO.

Going forward, its’ likely that the social and digital engagement level of top CMOs will increase, but it doesn’t make sense to wait for that day. While we evolve toward that eventuality, it’s your responsibility to be more aggressive, more communicative, and more specific in describing and showing the benefits of this new medium in a context that can be understood by those with a textbook understanding of this communication shift.

Rich Fahle
is the founder of Astral Road Brand Media, a brand platform marketing agency for authors, artists and content creators of all types. He is the former Vice President of Content, Digital Outreach and Entertainment for Borders. Follow on Twittter @richfahle. More info at