IBM's Larry Bowden: Social Media, Sentiment Analysis, Rich Media Help Break Down CIO/CMO Silos

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The growing marketing and customer care related trends of social media, sentiment analysis and rich media are helping break down the traditional silos between CIOs and CMOs, according to Larry Bowden, VP of Web Experience for IBM. Bowden discussed these trends and the increasing “de-siloization” of the marketing and IT departments with CMSWire.

Social Media Generates Heat

“Social media is the hottest thing happening,” Bowden stated. “Social interaction gives you entry to robust resources in your company.”

For example, Bowden said social interaction allows a company to drastically improve the quality of help desk services both by externally easing customer communications and internally allowing help desk agents to quickly locate and bring in qualified experts to help resolve customer issues.

“People leave with the impression, ‘This is a company I want to do business with,’” said Bowden. He added that IT and marketing executives are increasingly recognizing the importance of social media to their organizations.

“Forty to seventy percent of CIOs and CMOs say they will have to leverage social applications in the future to be successful. I’m 100 percent on board with that. Leaders in the space are working on second- and third-generation applications.” 

Taking the Sentimental Approach

Although customer sentiment analysis is still what Bowden classifies as a “rudimentary trend,” he sees a bright future for it. “There will be massive amounts of resources available for sentiment analysis from venture capitalists and other sources,” he predicted.

Bowden said sentiment analysis allows marketers to obtain real-time analysis on how consumers feel about their products and “proactively insert the right response” as well as “get consumers on the right blogging trend.”

Considering the vast amounts of social media and other online commentary now available, Bowden said sentiment analysis tools are now being developed to automatically detect when commentary is relevant to a particular brand as well as whether relevant commentary is poisitive or negative.

“They call it ‘Big Data’ and there is a lot of information out there,” said Bowden. “But hidden within are jewels that can help you build more loyalty and you cannot leave it up to randomness.”

In addition, Bowden said the real-time nature of modern sentiment analysis technology provides a significant advantage. “Reports are wonderful, but that’s history,” he said. Bowden clarified that traditional analytical reports on past sentiment will still be useful. 

Show Me, Don’t Tell Me 

The third major trend affecting both CIOs and CMOs identified by Bowden is the rapidly growing preference among consumers for rich media content. “Customer service agents need a library of short videos they can use to provide quick hit answers to answer customer questions,” he said. “They need to deliver the stream immediately.”

Learning Opportunities

Bowden said younger consumers prefer video content to text content by a wide margin. “The new generation is a visual generation. Deliver an eight-page document and they’ll yawn. Deliver a 70-second video and they’ll get excited.”

As an example, Bowden said a customer having trouble setting up a TV doesn’t want to spend time reading a manual. “It’s a stressful 15 minutes,” he said. “It’s very important to get through to the customer in the fastest way possible.”

Bowden expects the adoption lifecycle for rich media-based customer service will only be two to two-and-a-half years. The increasing popularity of smartphones that allow consumers to combine phone-based and online content-based customer service will only hasten rich media’s adoption as a customer service tool, according to Bowden.

‘Super CIOs’ Defeat Silos 

All these developing customer care trends that directly affect both CIOs and CMOs are leading to a gradual breakdown of silos separating IT and marketing, Bowden said. He credits “Super CIOs” as generally leading the charge against silos at organizations which have successfully eliminated them.

“The average CIO is consumed in trying to simultaneously perform tasks like cost-cutting and developing social media and mobile,” said Bowden. “Super CIOs take a business slant to their jobs and view themselves as reporting to the CEO rather than the CFO. They say to the line of business, ‘I have 15 projects, what do you want?'”

Bowden said about 20 percent of organizations currently have a Super CIO breaking down silos between IT and the rest of the business. A close relationship with the CMO is crucial, as CMOs usually make the spending decisions, which ultimately gives them the power.

“When I see an organization where the CIO and CMO have a good relationship, I know are ready to take the next step,” concluded Bowden.