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Social Media Pioneers: 4 Leadership Profiles

Posted on  6 July 10  by 


MLC’s survey data from 200+ companies shows that executive leadership of social media is critical to success.  Indeed, 57% of brands with CMO leaders of social media see strong returns on their social efforts, compared to just 18% of companies without CMO leaders.

The reason?

Social media enable brands to build strong customer relationships that deliver value to multiple functions e.g., new product ideas (NPD), answers to customer questions (Customer Service), or advocacy (Marketing).  Managing these shared relationships requires strong cross-functional collaboration, which only a leader with significant clout and authority can achieve.  As the customer champion, the CMO is uniquely positioned to play this role.

To drive firmwide collaboration on social media, CMOs tend to share the following core behaviors:

  • Invest significant time in learning about social media and its business impact (e.g., ask youngest staff members for regular updates on emerging trends; set up extra monitors to show live feeds of social media chatter)
  • Widely communicate a belief in (and rationale for) the importance of social media
  • Set bold goals to encourage firmwide social media experimentation
  • Align multiple functions around social media strategy

Beyond those core behaviors, however, there are many different approaches to getting executive buy-in on social media and silo-busting.  Some CMOs are personally active in social media, while others lead from behind the scenes.

Below are 4 profiles of CMO pioneers of social media.

The Challenger: Drives action by pushing the boundaries and fuelling debate.

Example: Jeff Hayzlett, former CMO, Kodak: Jeff drove Kodak to explore social media opportunities by challenging the status quo and taking risks.  When internal processes nearly prevented social media experiments, Jeff would find creative ways around restrictions. As he puts it himself: “My job as CMO is to create tension.”  

Achievement: Jeff crowdsourced a name for Kodak’s new camera, saving $250,000 on nomenclature and creating so much buzz that Marketing didn’t need to buy a single piece of advertising for 6 months.

The Inspirer: Drives action by sharing passion and spreading excitement.

Example: Barry Judge, CMO, BestBuy: Barry gets buy-in on social media by promoting its importance in both one-on-one conversations and firmwide communications, as well as by leading by example (e.g., blogging regularly). As John Bernier, Best Buy’s Social Media Steward, puts it: “Without Barry, this [social media] stuff doesn’t happen.”

Achievement: Barry prompted Brian Dunn, Best Buy’s CEO, to engage in social media and put his capital on the line to set up Twelpforce.

The Reassurer: Drives action by overcoming fear of the unknown.

Example: Susan Lavington, SVP Marketing, USA TODAY: Susan got peer executives onboard by reassuring them that the USA TODAY brand was strong enough to stretch in social dimensions.  She commissioned a brand equity study to clarify why consumers like the USA TODAY brand and to demonstrate the brand’s ability to evolve.  She also boosted journalists’ confidence in using social media by putting one member of her team in charge of training and support.  For six months, that person became a full-time social media adviser and individually taught each journalist how to tweet or blog.

Achievement: Susan turned 100 journalists into regular Twitterers within one year, helping deliver a meaningful boost in Web traffic.

The Tie-Breaker: Drives action by resolving cross-functional disputes.

Example: Robert Brown, CMO, Eli Lilly: Rob appointed a social media ringleader with the persuasive skills and authority needed to get cross-functional consensus on new strategies. Where necessary, he also steps in to champion decisions and get action.

Achievement: Rob set up a central team to consult each business unit on how to make the most of social media and work together effectively.

MLC members, learn more about the CMO’s role in social media at our 2010 meeting series, “Closing the CMO Leadership Deficit in Social Media.” Register here.  Or, attend the webinar on July 14 with your team, where we’ll share some of the highlights from the research.  Webinar registration here.

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