Marketers, especially those with a significant presence on social media, now have almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to data and intelligence about how consumers interact with their brands and messaging.

Instead of repeatedly interrupting audiences' conversations with their own messages, brands can use social listening platforms and other forms of data to better understand the things that interest their targets, and then craft content that adds to the conversation in relevant ways.

"Today's social listening and search data are yesterday's demographic studies, but they're better because they capture people in their most natural environment doing what they normally do," says Marcus Collins, chief consumer connections officer at the ad agency Doner. "Data aggregated on millions of people can give you a really good pulse on what is happening."

However, as more marketers are becoming aware, vanity metrics, such as likes, re-posts, and comments, no longer cut it with the C-suite. In fact, CFOs said they are concerned about many of the data points presented by marketers because they aren't based on concrete outcomes like sales and don't show the full picture of successes and failures, according to a March study by Viant. Experts say it's up to the marketing department and its outside agencies to ensure the higher-ups get and understand the right social intelligence.