Why Social is Falling short: the hidden answer in CMO's survey

CMO Insights just released their perspective on why social media is falling short. To quickly recap their workings:
  • Marketers are challenged with proving ROI and integrating social across their organizations
  • Social media is a highly valued channel for marketers as it: helps engage with consumers, share content in real time, and promote their brands in inexpensive ways
  • Social media spending has jumped from 3.5% of budgets in 2009 to 11.7% of budgets in 2016 but, marketers projected it would have been 17.5%.
The looming question CMO set out to answer: what happened?
Christine Moorman, T. Austin Finch Senior Professor of Business Administration at the Fuqua School of Business and Director of the CMO survey, cites 4 reasons social is falling short:
  1. The “bandwagon effect” (expectations for rapid growth rates to continue)
  2. Marketers discounted the impact of competitors also increasing social budget spend (saturated market resulting in decreased impact)
  3. The spend might actually be there but it’s coming from another budget: IT or other areas within the company
  4. Most likely: companies haven’t realized the ROI they anticipated from social media, dampening the desire to invest in the channel
 The survey goes on to explain that:
  • Nearly half of marketers (44.1%) say they have not been able to demonstrate the impact of social media on their business
  • Just over one third (35.6%) say they have good qualitative sense of impact but can’t quantify it
  • Only 20.3% of marketers say they have quantitatively proven the impact of social on their business
In conclusion three categorical points were made:
  1. It’s hard to show impact
  2. More integration is needed
  3. Social spending is projected to increase to 22.2% over the next five years
Albeit, the above synopsis holds merit, Ms. Moorman made only 1 mention of a key factor that must be explored if marketers want to actually see benefit from social:
“The best [brands] have started generating content their customers find valuable.”
(emphasis added)
I sincerely mean no disrespect to the survey, its authors or any of the participants but this effort concretely points to how marketers are yet again strategically looking at digital through the wrong lens. The lens of the brand and not the lens of the consumer.
Parallel to CMO’s recent work, Forrester too has published work on digital engagement. In their work, Forrester evaluated 11.8 million user interactions against the top 50 global brands (Coke, Nike, IBM, Toyota, etc.): although social media follower counts have skyrocketed over the past year, interaction rates with the actual content on social media are plummeting. (see Forrester.com)
  • Instagram’s interaction rate is barely half of what it was in 2014
  • Per-follower interaction rates on Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter also all fell in the past year
  • Facebook’s rates went up but Forrester attributes that to paid promotion
So yes, CMO and Forrester, marketers are yearning to establish ROI in social but the fundamental truth remains:

More words + more volume ≠ more engagement.

What does this tell us?


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