If you had to guess, do you think C-suite executives get social? According to a global survey, CEOs get social, but CMOs are failing to implement. That’s a major internal disconnect in securing loyal brand advocates.

IBM’s Peter Korsten said the culprits to blame are marketing managers. “They know they need to change, but don’t really want to change.”

An IBM survey of C-suite executives showed that marketers are still relying on most aggregate data and traditional market research to support sales. Only 16 percent were using social.

CEOs felt, however, that social is now the most important channel – to the detriment of traditional media advertising that had plummeted in CEO sentiment.

In a Social Media Today discussion, Peter Kim, part of the management team at DachisGroup calls this effect “the unfortunate middle.” Blame is laid at the feet of middle management too entrenched to change what they’re doing rather than engaging in a new and sometimes bumpy course that social offers with all of its vast rewards.

Kim, a leading analyst on social business, cites the announcement and sudden death of Qwikster (a briefly lived venture that engendered nothing but consumer ill will for Netflix) as a cautious case study. “If they had only listened to their customers,” Kim said.

Indeed, the social element of consumer feedback – based on Kim and Korsten’s observations – is that many brands aren’t paying attention. If you’re not reading consumer reviews of products, for example, very important feedback may not be funneled to the right ears and eyes of company decision makers.

The IBM report found that 68 percent of Chief Marketing Officers reported that they felt underprepared to manage social media, coming in second on their list of concerns just under data management. Worse, most CMOs pay attention to markets rather than individuals. Only 48 percent reported that customer reviews were a key source of information.

What are the remaining barriers since we know big brands (and small businesses) can harness social successfully?

Seventy-two percent of CMOs cited “cost” and another 61 percent cited a “lack of ROI certainty.” Most likely those barriers will translate into bad purchasing decisions when it comes to vendors and social media strategists, leading to a less likelihood that marketing will move aggressively ahead instead of lagging woefully behind.

As IBM points out, “organizations can no longer afford to write a blank check for their marketing initiatives.”

One of the successful case studies in the report cites Kraft Food, a company that was able to make Oreo the best-selling cookie in China. After testing prototypes, reformulating and trying out new packaging, they finally went to digital. The company tapped NBA star Yao Ming, offered young consumers a change to compete online in “twist, lick and dunk” contest, and created an online diary for participants in the popular QZone social network.

More than 40 million user-generated “Oreo Moments” were shared online and the Oreo now rules.

So how are CMOs coping with case studies like this one? They’re turning to external experts for lead management, customer and data analytics, direct or relationship marketing – and (drum roll) social.

The survey of 1,734 global CMOs conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value should be a wake-up call for CMOs, who need to invest and commit to social—whether they start small or go big. Just be strategic.

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