A common theme emerged from the conversations I had while attending SXSW: How do I get into social media data so I can do more? More precision. More insight. More and better analytics. Both senior business executives and senior IT execs expressed this same concern.

From Measuring Volume to Measuring Impact

Everyone is struggling because they know there is value to be extracted from social data, but the move from measuring volume (e.g., our engagement is up 26 percent this week, we got 270 likes on our big data post), to measuring impact (new leads, propensity to buy, conversions, sales and EPS) -- is still elusive.

This question lingered after the conference. Then I read a great piece by Michael Krigsman, recapping the findings of a recent IDG CIO survey (registration required) sponsored by Hootsuite. The piece outlined some very interesting insights on the role of the CIO in shaping social strategy, and challenged the common narrative that marketing is the biggest advocate of social media strategy. The headlines:

  • CIO and IT leaders are advocating for a strategic approach to social. Surprisingly, 61 percent of respondents consider senior IT executives to be the biggest proponents of a social media strategy.

This last point may come as a shock to some, but I suspect that this is not only more prevalent than the survey indicates, but also foreshadows a revolution that is only starting to take shape more broadly in the market -- the CIO as owner of social data, whose goal is to deliver strategic value within the business.

CIOs Own the Data

When you look beyond the common narrative that marketing owns social, the reasons why the CIO is stepping up start to become clear. They include several trends happening simultaneously:

  • The number one request of all CEOs is for more information and more intimacy with customers. According to the 2013 PwC survey on CEO priorities, 89 percent of respondents listed better information about customers as their top priority to grow the business. CEOs are pressing CIOs for more customer insight now. 
  • Social data and tools have exploded in the enterprise. According to Susan Etlinger of Altimeter Group, an average enterprise has more than 170 social media accounts and as many as 25 different apps and tools to try to manage all the different networks and activities. CIOs are needed to manage the sheer volume of users, processes and costs.
  • Social data and enterprise data live in silos. Extracting real value requires capturing social data and then integrating it with other internal data sources to provide context and make it actionable. If it was not happening before, IT needs to get involved to solve the data problem and bring the picture together.
  • CIOs understand the power of social because many of them are active users and contributors to great social content. From Peter Yared at CBS (@peteryared) to Ben Haines at Box (@bhaines0), many top CIOs are leading in social by example.

With CIOs and senior IT teams responsible for data, analytics and business intelligence, these roles are stepping into the forefront of social. These leaders are starting to assert control of social strategy because they understand the importance that organizations now place on customer-specific information, on the value of analytics, and the true requirements of turning data into actionable information. If this really is a data-driven world, wouldn't you want the data experts in the organization to take the lead?