2016: The Year Social Intelligence Makes Its Way To The Boardroom

Are you socially savvy? Contributor Will McInnes says this year we'll see social intelligence driving more boardroom discussions, as marketers discover the power of analyzing social data.

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Now that we’re a couple of weeks into 2016, we can easily draft post after post about what went right or wrong in 2015. Alternatively, we can look at predictions of what’s in store for the marketing world in 2016.

But there’s one thing I am certain of: For the new tier of CMOs who understand that data is their best asset, 2016 is looking mighty fine.

These marketing mavens recognize the power of all forms of data — especially when blended — to inform and drive their organizations. They make up the class of CMOs who will define the new marketing landscape and dominate the boardroom.

As a marketer myself, my particular passion is social data. Nothing gives me a greater buzz than talking with other savvy marketers who have figured how to strategically build finite value from social. For them, it all starts with listening.

If you are a marketer making your way up the food chain, mastering social intelligence may represent your road map to the corner office. Hopefully, you’re already aggregating and analyzing social data to inform and improve your organization’s buzz, reputation, content engagement, lead generation and sales.

If not, there’s a key component missing from your marketing foundation.

You also know that social media extends beyond mastering the science of the tweet on your personal or brand handle. Social intelligence offers a swift path to highly strategic decision-making and targeted marketing for increased business results (which may accelerate your path up the career ladder.)

The Social CMO Gets It

The “social CMO” gets that social data equip marketers with the insights to influence the performance of core business operations like product development and customer service — even HR and finance.

Equipped with social intelligence and a strategic action plan, the CMO no longer answers simply to the sales organization; this combination of tools brings previously unearthed insights to the boardroom — not a minor detail for any business.

If you’re not a fast-food fan, you may change your mind upon learning that a savvy marketer at Wendy’s (disclosure: client) found out from social listening that people loved its new Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger. Wendy’s took the data to the next level and created a brilliant online ad campaign — posting videos to Facebook and YouTube — combining comments from across social media and the collected audience insights.


The company tracked viewer sentiment (positive), and the response encouraged it to keep releasing videos as the conversation spread.

The result? Wendy’s stock price increased by 41 percent during the campaign, built solely on the power of aligning marketing activities based on social data and insights.

By leveraging the power of social intelligence, real work is getting done. Real value is being created.

Beginning with passive activities like monitoring and listening, organizations are gleaning insight into everything from customer service issues (before other platforms are alerted) to product preferences and consumers’ “wish lists.” It’s a good start.

Then we add firepower to these insights by blending social data with other business and third-party data — cross-pollinating for richer data.

What Kinds Of Other Data?

Take inventory, for example. With inventory, companies can combine robust demand models based on their own evidence from investigating the relationship between intent-to-purchase buzz (from social insights) and actual sales, which allows them to manage inventory much more intelligently (and for bonus points, to estimate competitor successes and failures).

Imagine how dangerous (to competitors) you could be if you put this together, at scale, to inform decisions outside of marketing — in sales strategy, distribution, supply chain risk, product R&D and customer experience.

The most powerful data derive insight from social and also blend with other intelligence. The data answer important questions that equip decision makers with the vision and confidence to make better decisions. This, in turn, can impact the organization’s bottom line.

But where to start? Here are a couple of tips to make sure your marketing department is functioning with the times:

  • Hire data analysts within your marketing department. This will help deepen social insights throughout marketing and company-wide.
  • Understand the influence of social intelligence across all departments, not just marketing, sales and social.

So how would I answer the question, “What happened in 2015?” CMOs and marketers woke up and realized they needed to become socially savvy to get in the game and stay ahead of the competition.

And what’s in store for 2016? Expect to see more ROI and board-level discussions powered by social intelligence.

Simple, really.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Will McInnes
Will McInnes is CMO of social intelligence platform Brandwatch. His passion is social data and how it can shape industries, policies, research and innovation. He's also a board member of the Big Boulder Initiative, whose mission is to establish the foundation for the long-term success of the social data industry. Previously Will co-founded and ran NixonMcInnes, a consultancy which pioneered in early social media marketing and went on to change how more than 30 major corporations, charities and governmental departments behave, particularly in response to social and digital. He authored Culture Shock, a 21st-century handbook for business with an average review of 4.5 stars on Amazon and was a TEDx speaker in 2011.

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