Social Media and the Challenge Facing CIOs

Social media – the photos, videos, posts, and comments generated through the use of collaborative software and shared within and across networks of connected individuals – is now a factor in many businesses. This impacts marketing to be sure: comments, ratings and reviews, and customer’s own stories about their experiences with brands, products, and services are a measurable and manageable driver of purchases. More recently, chief operating officers and senior customer care executives have gotten pulled in as well: cost reductions through shedding customer calls to social channels, for example, have gotten attention as important factors leading to improved results.

The CIO and Social Technology

All of this means the chief information officer (CIO) – long seen as the source of technology and supporting enterprise tools – is being looked to as a key team member charged with sorting out his or her firm’s digital platform and strategy. This new platform is expansive: providing secure and controlled access to social channels in use by the firm’s customers – linking “social” customer care agents with customers in the context of the channels preferred by those customers – as well as ensuring that compliance officers and data analysts have what they need to keep track of, and measure the impact of, social media as it relates to the business and its objectives.

“It’s time for CMOs and CIOs to start forging true, strategic partnerships, so both marketing and IT can begin sharing ownership of both goals and outcomes…the business landscape has shifted, and it’s no longer marketing that drives business growth – it’s digital marketing that drives business growth. CMOs and CIOs alike must recognize that technology and marketing are now inextricably tied.” – Forbes, 2014

The New Platform Requirements

That’s a tall order. It means that the savvy CIO needs to come up to speed quickly on social technology as it relates to business. More than Facebook “likes” and sponsored posts, this means having a response policy for customers who expect contemporary brands to engage with them on the channels of their choosing. It also means protecting the firm from attack via these channels, and from errant statements by otherwise well-meaning employees when responding on public and social channels. Finally, it means CIOs are in a budgeting race with chief marketing officers (CMOs) as both reach for the same end: control of the social customer experience.

Social customer experience – the touch points where businesses and customers interact and thereby create visible conversation on social channels – requires management just as any other aspect of customer experience. This means deploying a well-defined, strategically based technology platform that is both under the control of the firm, and, accessible and acceptable for use by customers as a place to interact with each other and with the firm. This may be a directly owned channel – a branded support site where customers work together to develop innovative solutions – or it may be indirect, picking questions off of Twitter and routing them internally for timely response.

What’s Next?

This all means data, and lots of it. Executive dashboards – a long-standing province of the CIO – must reflect what is happening, what is being learnt, which SLAs around interactions are being met or missed, and all in real-time. This last requirement alone – and it is hardly alone – is enough to warrant attention by CIOs as social media makes its presence felt across the enterprise. The good news? With challenge comes opportunity for CIOs. Just as CMOs are redefining their role, CIOs have the same opportunity.

CIOs, along with CMOs and the senior ops teams, will all find increasing opportunity through collaboration and the design and realization of an effective digital platform: this new platform will span the needs of marketing, customer care, compliance, and data analytics teams. The result is a strategically sound approach to digital media, based in business objectives and held to the same standards as competing business investments. And the CIO is central to the success of this effort.

Image via Shutterstock.

Related reading