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A New Media Driver's License Primer
for Chief Marketing Officers

By Derek Mehraban
Adjunct Professor at Michigan State University

Chief Marketing Officers are in the enviable position of controlling the marketing budgets for their companies and managing their social media marketing. It's an important role, and as an academic, I want to share some insights I have learned from teaching the New Media Driver's License course at Michigan State University for the past three years.

These ten ideas are designed to help CMOs better use social media and to harness the power of the Internet and propel their companies to higher sales and increased profits.

  • Try social media in order to better understand it. As a CMO, you need to have a Facebook account and see what it feels like. You should also have Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. Start a blog, and try writing on a topic for a few months. Don't forget to check in on Foursquare and watch some YouTube videos. In order to be an effective CMO, you need to roll your sleeves up and play the social media marketing game. I call it a game because it's fun, and it's ever changing. You have to hustle to keep up.
  • Empower your team to use social media. Lead with your presence and actions in social media marketing. It's also important to empower and encourage your team and your company to use social media. The more people using it for the greater good of your organization, the better. All roads lead to Rome, and if your employees (at all levels) are representing your company in a positive way online, you'll have an army of goodness for your brand. If your team doesn't get it, then provide training for them so they will. It's a great investment.
  • Get top management on board. Having credible social media profiles for the leadership team at your company can go a long way in your success. These top officers don't need to interact all the time, but it's important for people to be able to find them online and know that your company supports the use of social media marketing. This gives your organization huge "cool points," too.
  • Develop tone and messaging for your brand in social media. You need some brand guidelines for use in social media. What tone will you use to communicate with your followers, fans, and community? This is important to establish and share with your marketing team. Then you can easily reach out and create content and interact. It's much easier for your team to play in social media when they know the rules and parameters for interaction.
  • Create a social media disaster plan. Many companies are afraid to use social media marketing because they don't want to hear the bad feedback. The fact is, you can't hide from customer feedback, and if you try, you could be in trouble. Instead, why not expect the best but prepare for the worst? How do you respond when someone leaves a negative comment on your company Facebook page? Knowing who responds, what they will say, and what happens next could save you money and potential embarrassment. If you do it right, you can turn an unhappy customer into your biggest fan. In my experience, the ones who complain are often your best customers who just had a bad experience. Make them feel loved and important, and you may have won a fan for life. Don't hide, engage.
  • Pull out your smartphone and search for your company. You need to understand how your organization looks from a mobile device. This ties directly into local search and location-based marketing. Take a look at Foursquare and Facebook searches and check-ins for your business. Claim your profiles and put some good information there. Encourage people to interact with your company through mobile devices. This is a great place to win fans and have them tell their friends they are doing business with your company. If people can't find you on their phones, it's much harder to help promote you.
  • Develop a content marketing strategy. These days, having a nice website is not enough to succeed in business. Develop a strategy to create content and engage with users where they spend their time, which is often not on your website. This can involve writing articles to demonstrate the expertise of your company. It can involve blog posts, press releases, comments in industry forums, tweets, Facebook posts, and more. You need to be publishing great content online so people can find it, learn more about you, and interact with your company. Great content = larger audience = more sales.
  • Establish goals for your sales funnel. What is a sale worth to you? How many potential customers who visit your website (and fill out a lead form) will convert into a sale? Once you know these two figures—combined with your sales goals—you can know how much traffic you need to bring to your website. Drive traffic through content marketing, social media marketing, natural SEO, and paid search (Google Adwords). Track this entire process and see which traffic-driving methods convert the best, and then do more of them.
  • Know your competition. The most important thing you do as a CMO could be to understand what is happening in your industry and with your competitors. Imitate before you innovate. Take a look at your competitors' social media and Internet marketing strategy. Have your team do an audit to understand every place your competitors are. How are they communicating? What is their tone of voice? You can also do Google searches for general industry terms and see who is turning up in the search results you want to own on Google. Upon doing this, you will see opportunities to differentiate your company. And you will also see some techniques that you may need to emulate, because they work. Do a comprehensive audit every couple of years. And then do maintenance monitoring of keywords to ensure that you know what's happening in your industry and with your competitors. It will pay off handsomely for you.
  • Push the envelope. Some of the best CMOs I have worked with are trying new things to make their companies leaders in social media marketing. Just as the social space is moving fast, so must you. A CMO will succeed more by leading and pushing his or her company out of its comfort zone than by standing still. The wonderful thing about social media marketing is that there is a low barrier of entry. It's easy and cost effective to create content and engage with consumers. Social media marketing is leveling the playing field for companies, and those CMOs who figure out how to play the game the best will win. Learn. Train. Experiment. Fail. Repeat. Succeed. You can do it!

Chief Marketing Officer is a very important and significant title. You are the one who will shape the marketing future of the company and brand that hired you. By reading Social Media Marketing Magazine, following bloggers, training yourself and your team, and playing the social media game properly, you will put your company in the best position for success. And you will be positioned as a leader and pioneer not only in your industry but also in social media marketing.

Derek Mehraban

Derek Mehraban teaches future leaders in digital marketing at Michigan State University through his New Media Driver's License course—a class focused on using blogs, social media, digital public relations, SEO, and SEM to grow personal and company brands. Derek is also the CEO of Ingenex Digital Marketing. He is a past winner of Crain's "40 under 40," a graduate of Michigan State University, and an award-winning copywriter. Derek sits on the Marketing Advisory Council for Michigan State University and is a frequent keynote speaker at marketing conferences on topics related to social media and digital marketing.