When I joined Sprout Social in 2018, part of my role as CMO was educating my peers about the value of social media. I remember how executives were unclear of social’s impact on the success of their strategic initiatives or revenue performance.

Fast forward to today and it’s difficult to picture any serious organization operating without a social media strategy. Leading brands recognize social is a goldmine for consumer and industry insights; where else can you get unfiltered feedback from your target audience or see how trends take off in real time? In fact, data from the latest Sprout Social Index™ reveals 76% of social marketers say their team’s insights inform other departments like product, sales and recruitment. That’s only going to continue as social becomes more ingrained in our everyday lives.

In five short years, I’ve seen the narrative around social media shift from it being an unproven marketing activity to a critical source of business intelligence. And while it’s long overdue to see companies invest in their social teams, we’re seeing new challenges emerge in the forms of how connected social marketers are to their colleagues across the organization.

For brands to truly take advantage of all that social has to offer, CMOs need to tackle the silos restricting the free flow of social data across their entire organization and isolating their social teams.

We’ve (unintentionally) put social in the corner

Brands may be all in on social media, but nearly half (43%) of social teams still feel siloed from other departments. This sentiment is felt even more strongly in larger organizations, with 48% of mid-market and 44% of enterprise social teams saying they feel siloed. How we’ve historically structured social media teams and the tools we’ve added to our tech stack are at the root of these feelings.

Data visualization from the Sprout Social Index, showing that 43% of social marketers feel their teams are siloed (even though 65% agree that other teams inform their social efforts and 76% agree that social insights inform other teams.)

Like most organizations, there’s a good chance your social media team currently sits within the larger marketing department simply because that’s where social media got its start for many brands. But with departments like product and sales looking to leverage social data, it begs the question of who should own the function of managing social media. Factor in that 64% of social teams align staff members to a specific network, known as a network-based structure, and those silos within an already isolated team become that much deeper.

These structural divisions don’t just stifle cross-functional collaboration, they also restrict who can access social data. Relying on the team who owns social to disseminate insights that can inform everything from product development to market research is neither scalable nor sustainable. Brands that continue to silo social in one department will find themselves struggling to capitalize on social’s ability to transform the entire business.

Social is for everyone—not just marketing

As CMOs, we have a growing responsibility to understand and empower the end-to-end customer experience. Our customer’s experience, however, is executed by multiple teams within several departments—customer support, success, community, sales, account management, product, etc.

But, we are the clear mirror for whether we are meeting our customers’ expectations and should own the strategy for how that experience is delivered. It’s on us to advocate for solutions that encourage department-wide collaboration and lead by example when it comes to incorporating social data in our decision making. Short of brands restructuring their entire organization, marketing leaders have two avenues they can take to begin dismantling silos.

1. Look beyond single-point solutions

One of the biggest pitfalls marketing executives fall into when choosing a social management platform is failing to think big. Depending on your existing tech stack, your vendor search might be focused on filling a specific need for social listening, employee advocacy or social customer care. But the more important question to consider is what you and your team can gain with a platform that centralizes all of this.

With martech utilization down 33% and CFOs pushing tech consolidation in the name of cost savings, tools that only benefit a single department are prime candidates for the chopping block.

This is where CMOs can and should push for the adoption of a robust, unified social media platform that is not only accessible to every team but also integrates with the tools employees already use (think: your CRM, your business intelligence platform). In addition to democratizing social intelligence, it also creates opportunities for your social team to educate their peers and strengthen relationships across departments. As brands look for a return on their social media investments, identifying tools that empower non-marketing teams to take immediate action on social media intelligence should be a CMO’s priority.

2. Consider an unconventional team structure

Just because social media has always sat with the marketing department doesn’t mean it has to stay there forever. Changing your organization’s structure won’t happen overnight. But you can challenge why a network-based approach is the default, and start to evaluate who your social team interacts with the most to build a case for where social should sit. Aligning your social experts by internal functions or even audience engagement allows your team to stay agile and ensures social intelligence is disseminated on demand to teams when they need it.

Data visualization from the Sprout Social Index, showing that most social teams (64%) rely on a network-based structure.

If your social team regularly consults with your company’s recruiters to discuss employer brand initiatives or Glassdoor reviews, there’s a case to be made for staffing a social expert on the people team. Or if your customer care team frequently leans on social to inform their support strategy, it’s worth considering a team structure based on functions like community management or customer experience. The beauty of staffing your teams by use case is it naturally disintegrates silos and opens up new avenues for social’s impact to be felt more widely across departments.

Start building the social teams of tomorrow, today

Social teams are finally enjoying their moment in the spotlight, recognized by both their peers and executives as a crucial component in accelerating business growth. But as more departments leverage social for their own work, it’s clear social teams still feel like they’re operating in a silo apart from their colleagues. For brands to harness social’s profound business impact, CMOs need to reimagine their social teams to be more agile and embedded across the entire organization.

Ready to take advantage of the evolving social landscape and propel your business to new heights? Download the Sprout Social Index™, Edition XIX: Breakthrough today for the insights you need to inform a modern social media strategy.