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The Evolving Social Media Department: A New Approach to Maximizing Social ROI

As social media has become a more visible part of the overall marketing strategy, it’s worth exploring whether their departments are structured to optimize the full potential of this powerful media channel. With over 80% of CEO’s reporting they are disappointed with their CMO’s (Fournaise Group Survey, 2014), the spotlight is brighter than ever on these executives to perform and demonstrate measurable results to the business. And, with all of the attention these days on ‘Social ROI’, it’s time to reconsider how this communication channel can be managed and what additional resources should be dedicated to it in order to realize its full potential.

Introducing the Social Customer Acquisition Specialist – a new role within the social media department that will be measured less on qualitative metrics like engagement and more on the discovery and acquisition of new customers.

Most would consider the Community Manager as the primary gatekeeper to social media management as they are the one ‘managing the community’ of people who are fans or followers of the brand and owned media channels. These people have backgrounds as writers, marketers, and social media specialists who can find powerful ways to promote content, engage fans in clever ways, and inspire conversation with a legion of people who have a shared interest (the brand). They are true marketing communications specialists with a knack for what can work in communicating one-to-many through multiple social channels whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.

As consumers have started using social media more and more as a customer service channel to command brands’ attention, companies were forced to respond to customers and either train these Community Managers on how to handle problem resolution or move true Customer Service people into the marketing organization to manage these interactions. With customers spending 20-40% more with companies who respond to customer service requests over social media (Bain & Company, 2013), most companies have found that it’s more effective to have trained customer service reps who are armed with answers and knowledge to manage the same inquiries on social media that were traditionally made through email, chat rooms, etc. This has even led to some brands establishing ‘Mission Control’ centers dedicated to social media that combine campaign management, community engagement, and customer service.

Now, the most progressive brands are realizing that social media can also represent a powerful new sales channel that is neither engagement with existing fans talking about the brand (Community Managers) or dialogue with existing customers having issues with the brand (Customer Service), but rather, people sharing relevant emotion through social media at the right place, right time that are qualified sales opportunities but not posts directed at the brand. These opportunities uniquely carry invaluable information about the person, real-time conditions, and often their location to tee up a much more contextual engagement opportunity for someone we’re now designating as the Social Customer Acquisition Specialist. He or she becomes the first person focused purely on those posts that would otherwise miss the radar of a Community Manager or Customer Service Person, but are incredibly important to find and valuable to act upon in real time.

Consider the shopper tweeting right outside a mall about not having a dress for the party that night, the person sharing their new puppy on social media who is the process of deciding where to buy their food from over the next several years, or the person posting about not having a room that night from an airport (think Nordstrom, Petco, or AirBnb in these examples and how they could engage these people). Each of these scenarios represents an opportunity for conversation that transcends the information available for traditional direct customer acquisition whether it’s email, SMS, or even the phone. All are opportunities that are teed up at the right place, right time for engagement where traditional mobile ads might miss an intended target. With 54% of salespeople reporting closed business as a direct result of social media (The Impact of Social Media on Sales Quota and Corporate Revenue), the next generation marketing organization needs to recognize social media as a powerful channel for new leads and shift these responsibilities to the most qualified people based on the use case.

From a skills perspective, this Social Acquisition Specialist will have both the gift for the written word and an understanding of how to use interactions to persuade and empathize. Using clever techniques to educate even when a post may not be directed at their brand, they will be measured on customer acquisition whether that is a real-time transaction based on the engagement or conversion that happens over time as trust grows between the brand and the consumer. They will realize that engagement opportunities don’t start and end when their brand is mentioned but rather, when they can create an imprint of the brand in the mind of a potential customer at just the right time. Much like the original inside salesperson tasked with cold calling and qualifying new opportunities, this person will take pride in unearthing the most relevant posts for real-time engagement and ultimately, customer acquisition.

The most progressive brands will see this massive opportunity and assign a qualified social salesperson to immediately start driving new revenues into their organizations. A recent study indicated that CMO’s whose firms outperformed their peers in marketing had 27% more responsibility for sales so taking this opportunity to harness true revenue generating opportunities with social media is a natural way for CMO’s to demonstrate even more value to their organization.

David Rush (@davidmrush) is the Founder and CEO of Earshot, a location-based engagement and intelligence platform that helps brands discover and acquire new customers at the right place, right time.