Digital marketing strategist Robert Rose, in a recent Content Marketing Institute podcast with Joe Pulizzi, discussed annoyances that "need to be retired."

One of them: Proving return-on-investment (ROI) as a prerequisite for doing anything in marketing. "That needs to be retired," Rose said.

Even in social, where proving ROI has long been the holy grail for digital marketers who sell social media programs?

Maybe. We caught up with some industry insiders on how enterprises can make social worthy. Not one of them mentioned ROI. Instead, they talked about communication, customer engagement and problem-solving.

The Question

How do you make the most out of social?

The Answers

Susan Perry, Director, Enterprise Product Marketing, Hootsuite

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Perry leads Vancouver, British Columbia-based Hootsuite’s Enterprise Product Marketing team. Before joining Hootsuite in 2013, she was CEO and of Spruik, a cloud-based refer-a-friend platform that she co-founded. She also worked several years at Procter & Gamble. Her specialities include marketing strategy, go-to-market planning, brand management, sales enablement and consumer insight. Tweet to Susan Perry.

Organizations have traditionally considered social media as a broadcasting channel for marketing. The common strategy was to use social to sustain engagement for marketing campaigns, get consumer feedback and build brand loyalty. That is still effective, but it has become too narrow as the influence of social has expanded.

The new normal is to utilize social media as the hub for every stage of the customer journey, from awareness through to advocacy. In addition, brands have been challenged to employ digital strategies that include customer-centric social media campaigns, original and sharable content and utilizing influencers as key customer acquisition strategies.

More and more, brands have begun to utilize their most credible voices into social strategy — that of their customers. Last year, we saw many companies using social influencers across a number of platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, and increasingly choosing to highlight user generated social content over branded advertorials to better create lasting customer relationships.

That will only become more relevant in 2016. Through the use of social influencer programs and user-generated content, brands have been able to create more authentic relationships with customers, drive higher sales and, most importantly, ensure loyal customers.

If your brand isn’t leveraging digital and social channels beyond marketing in 2016, expect to be left behind. To get the most out of social, brands should think differently and be more strategic about how they’re leveraging all these various social channels. Social media is not just an amplifier for marketing campaigns anymore.

Rather, it should now be at the core of every company’s customer acquisition strategy.

Andrew Caravella, VP of Marketing, Sprout Social

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Caravella leads the marketing at Chicago-based Sprout Social, a provider of social media engagement, advocacy and analytics solutions for business. Before joining Sprout Social, he held roles at Performics, DoubleClick and Weber Shandwick. A frequent industry contributor and speaker, he is on advisory boards for the Illinois Technology Association and Social Media Week and is a member of WOMMA’s Education Advisory Committee. Tweet to Andrew Caravella.

We're at a point where businesses finally recognize the necessity of having a presence on social media, but they’re still missing the mark when it comes to meaningful engagement. Although people’s expectations for social engagement continue to rise, brands are failing to respond to that demand.

In fact, according to the Q1 2016 Sprout Social Index, only 11 percent of social messages sent to brands ever get a response. For the lucky few who do receive an answer, they have to wait an average of 11 hours. And to rub salt into the wound, brands send out roughly 3.2 promotional messages for every one reply they give to customers. So as people wait for responses, they're bombarded with promotional messages.

Learning Opportunities

In short, businesses still primarily see social as a broadcasting platform instead of what it truly is: a valuable two-way communication tool. Around 43 percent of social messages people send to brands on social require a response, and brands should prioritize engagement to meet this demand. Make sure to adequately staff your social media teams the same way you would a customer service line, and implement social customer care programs that monitor and respond to customer concerns.

In turn, you’ll reap the fruits of your labor. According to Rosetta Consulting, when brands actively engage with their customers, they buy 90 percent more frequently and spend 60 percent more per transaction, ultimately delivering three times the value to the brand over the course of a year.

Courtney Beasley, Director of Marketing, Walker Sands Communications

As the strategic leader of Chicago-based Walker Sands internal marketing initiatives, Beasley oversees the implementation and execution of traditional and digital marketing strategies. She works closely with both public relations and digital team members to deliver comprehensive digital ecosystem campaigns. Before joining Walker Sands in 2012, she worked at Groupon and Alpaytac Public Relations and Marketing Communications. Tweet to Courtney Beasley.

Courtney Beasley headshot

To make the most of social networks, you must first focus on the individual channels that make sense for the project, campaign or message being executed. An in-depth understanding of the importance of each channel, identifying your top priorities and narrowing your focus saves both time and resources. Dedicating strategic efforts to three or four platforms will yield better results than a less aggressive, more general approach to all platforms.

Like any marketing effort, every social post must have an intention and goal. Ask questions like “who is the audience?” and “what do we want them to do?” Once you have the answers, you’re able to craft content and images to help reach the goal.

Integrating a paid social strategy is also important when it comes to amplifying the reach of your social efforts. With the vast, active audience available on social platforms, it’s likely your targets won’t even see your messages unless you’re paying for it. If your message isn’t seen by its intended audience, all the work put into a post becomes ineffective.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there is a time and place for paid campaigns. Not every blog post should be boosted across all channels. Rather, it’s about finding the balance and understanding what’s most important to your key audience.

John Maver, Founder & Principal, Thought Labs

John Maver headshot

Maver's company, Boston-based Thought Labs, provides consulting services for social media with a specialization in social networking technologies. The firm seeks to help clients get the most from their social investments, with a focus on nurturing brand advocates. Before founding the firm in 2007, he spent more than a decade at Compuware. Tweet to John Maver.

Focus on creating value for both you and your audience by solving their problems and showcasing your strengths.

Become good at digital advertising to combat negligible organic reach and to experiment with messaging variations. Finally, master social support with a defined end-to-end process to handle issues quickly using your brand voice.

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