Does a Social Score Make a CMO?

A recent infographic published on a Forbes blog ranks the top 20 Fortune 100 CMOs based on social scoring. The graphic poses an interesting question: Should CMOs be judged by their individual social media prowess?

The methodology for the social scores released in the infographic was not released, and there was an incredibly wide disparity between follower counts and placement in the Top 20. It’s hard to consider the scores valid because we don’t know the criteria used for the algorithm.

One would hope Forbes would insist authors provide information sources and research criteria, even when it’s published under the guise of a blog. More on this tomorrow. Today let’s address the question of CMOs and social media scores.

Clearly influencers have become an important part of marketing.

The first group of people to tell you that is the influencer/social media community. That’s because we as a group overvalue ourselves.

As someone who builds integrated marketing strategies that include a wide variety of tactics — including traditional advertising, PR, direct and additional social media in the sense of communities talking about common ideas, content and topics of interest — I would not make the mistake of judging a CMO based on their strength or weakness in one singular tactical tool set. Particularly as measured by any score weighing the CMOs’ public use of social media.

CMOs Manage Disciplines and Practitioners

A CMO’s job by its very nature dictates that they master the strategic deployment of all disciplines and tactics to achieve end results. I did like how the Forbes article noted:

“Frank Shaw, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President, Corporate Communications explains the importance of personal use of social – this way, ‘If we as communicators are going to use these new channels, we have to use them personally, understand the differences in tone, the idiosyncrasies, strengths and weaknesses each offer.'”

And in five years, CMOS should also understand immersive media experiences that transcend online and physical environments. Specifically how the Internet pervades and is used throughout our physical world. CMOs will need to comprehend how big data creates behavioral media customized to the one or the few.

A CMO’s job is not to be a social media expert.

Rather they should know how these media forms can be used. For example, how relationships and grassroots influence work in communities or how social media and can be integrated into a larger marketing campaign.

Frankly, when it comes to actual participation most CMOS simply hire a community manager, or in larger organizations, build out a digital team that includes social.

The Nihilistic Influencer Conversation

Mirror, mirror ... 365 Days, day 17.
Image by Mister Rad
In debating Klout and Kred recently, the general over focus on individual new media voices as super influential can only be labeled as bothersome.

To be so consistently focused on the value of being an influencer shows a level of self infatuation as a group that makes me wonder whether the conversation is completely nihilistic. This makes the individual influencer conversation irrelevant to a CMO who is concerned with the aggregate.

Currying favor from “influential people” is still a highly subjective art that walks between business development brilliance and media relations savoir faire. I have yet to see a social scoring system that matches what happens in the marketplace.

We should move the conversation beyond individual blogger power conversations, and get into wider more important topics about how influence can impact brands, communities and social networks. For example:

  • How do influencers integrate into a larger marketing effort that delivers an effective profitability plan for a company?
  • Influencer or media or community member, which matters most, why or why not? How do they work together in supporting each other in the online information ecosystem?
  • What role should influencers play in societal change, good and bad?

This is the big picture that matters. This is what we as marketing strategists, a society, governmental bodies, and nonprofits need to understand about social networks, influence, and actions. That kind of influence conversation is productive and worthwhile, in my opinion.

What do you think?


  • Yeah, I saw a few people tweet out that article last week and I sort of cried a little. In my humble opinion, CMOs shouldn’t be out there building names for themselves as individuals. They should be out there building the brands they’re responsible for. If your Klout is 47 or 57 or 107, that’s great for YOU, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing your JOB well. Grr.

    • Plus if someone is experimenting personally so they understand what the staff is doing, should their organization be publicly associated with it? Prowess, etc.? I feel like this type of reporting and analysis can create lots of issues.

  • A social score does not a CMO make. That is ridiculous, in my opinion. If that were the case, there would be a lot more “CMOs” running around, whether they were independent or employed by a company. A personal Klout score is just that, a personal Klout score. It has nothing to do with brand, image, etc. Popular brands with loyal followings have built relationships with their customers, not Klout. Most people probably don’t know what Klout is in some cases. They like diet Coke or Bud Lite for the relationship they have with that product, whether it is because their favorite NASCAR racer drinks it or they were raised with it or they like the polar bear commercial. I’ll be quiet now. Short answer to the question is no, for me.

    • It’s maddening, isn’t it? The fact that this thing was well circulated last week was just awful. It just goes to show you the state of the marketing sector.

  • Since influence measurements are fundamentally flawed (my influence scores are higher than my boss’s, and I’m definitely less influential in the real world…), it definitely doesn’t matter.

    IF we could actually measure influence AND that influence was used to the benefit of the brand, it might be a useful metric. Today, neither criteria is being met.

    • Exactly, and by job and function those metrics would change. For a CMO, we are clearly measuring the wrong things. I mean one metric would be size of budget for a CMO, right? Plus then conversion rates, and how many people in her/his department go on to become CMOs elsewhere, etc.

  • Well said. I recently had a similar discussion. There are all sorts of problems with social scoring, especially when you consider that CMOs are followed because of brand they work for and not because they made the brand great. In the process, we’re diluting the real meaning of influence. Ergo, Steve Jobs never had a Klout score, but he sure as heck is still influencing Apple (internally, but even more externally as people keep attempting to insert his name into every critique). Or if we look further back, Christopher Columbus would have likely had a very low social score, but his influence is still being felt today in both the best and worst ways.

    • It really annoyed me to see this post get 1200+ tweets and as well read as it was between the Forbes post and the original source page. It’s just unfathomable to me that people take this kind of ranking seriously and share it.

  • I had a feeling you would post on this. Well said.

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