Social media channels offer a real-time look into consumer experience, but many European brands don’t bother to listen, according to the CMO Council. Failure to view social engagement as anything but a free marketing push is costing European brands the contextual and personalized engagement they need.

The CMO Council published a new report this week called “Turn Up The Volume: Rethinking Where and How Customer Voice Enhances Experience.” Statistics include insights from 150 marketers across Europe, with 42 percent of respondents in charge of organizations with revenue in excess of $500 million.

Nearly a quarter of European marketers surveyed admitted that they do not have a strategy in place to listen on social media. Just 27 percent said they actively listen for the voice of the customer, while another 36 percent listen with a limited scope.

When asked how their respective organizations view social media channels, 64 percent consider them to be PR amplification tools and just over half—55 percent—see them as a free push for marketing. Just 35 percent see social media as a “critical listening post to gather customer voice.”

“It is sobering to see that even in this age of omnichannel real-time engagement, so many organizations choose to view social as a free push tool and not a megaphone leveraged by customers who fully believe brands are already listening,” noted Liz Miller, CMO Council’s SVP of marketing.

To be fair, not all customers expect social engagement from a brand at all. According to the CMO Council’s own 2017 consumer study, social media was considered a critical touchpoint by just 27 percent of consumers.

Just because a consumer isn’t expecting a brand to listen, however, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. Marketers should not assume that consumers aren’t sharing relevant information. Even if social posts aren’t about the brand itself, customers are having conversations about what matters to them, the CMO Council notes.

Collecting information directly from the consumer was named the top challenge among European marketers at 40 percent, followed by “translating words into insights on intention” at 39 percent. Other concerns included the ability to understand noise vs. signal, managing the flood of data from all touchpoints and adding voice into the customer view across the enterprise.

The solution to this problem may become apparent once brands correct misconceptions around social and data, the CMO Council asserts. Marketers were asked to identify what gaps are holding the organization back from better listening to and engaging with the customer in real time.

Respondents struggled to single out one issue that if resolved, would allow the organization to achieve success. At 18 percent, however, marketing leaders blamed budget more than talent, data, tech and measurement.