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Social media marketing is not an Olympic sport

By Dave Stevens

There’s a wonderful carnival atmosphere in London right now as people from all over the world flock to watch the extraordinary performances of athletes at the peak of their fitness striving to make years of training and commitment pay off at the Olympic Games.

Who can fail to have been inspired to see the artistry of USA gymnast Gabrielle Douglas, the diving success of China’s Qin Kai and Luo Yutong, or the convincing domination of the women’s heptathlon by Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis?  Amazing feats of athleticism geared towards the maximum accumulation of points.

Social media marketing is not an Olympic sport.  It is not about the accumulation of points.

But many many marketers seem to be treating it as such.

The dimensions of social media encourage marketers to see it as a game of point-scoring.  Our work on is focused around the number of followers we can accumulate or the number of tweets we can send out; on we worry about the number of friends we can seek out; or on it’s all about the connections stupid!  And all of these sites offer prominent sections counting up our successes here and inspiring us ever onward!  Just as gymnastics scores are given by a panel of judges, taking into account the degree of difficulty and the quality of the execution; so marketers have the likes of to measure the true reach, amplification, and network impact of our efforts.  We derive a score out of 100 that we train ourslves to improve.  And we’ve developed industry tools like to help to manage our performance by cleaning up non-reciprocating followers and machine gun-firing broadcast marketing messages at optimal times of the day.

I think we have this all wrong.

And the clue’s in the name.  Social media.  Social.  There’s a reason why we distinguish the social channel from that of PR and mass advertising.  For in social media, we have a tool that enables marketers to interact with customers, prospects, advocates, and critics.  That’s a really precious thing.  For we have something that enables us to do more than broadcast messages.  Marketing should be about building relationships with people.  And relationships are two-way.  We can use social media to read what our audience is saying, to understand, and to respond.

And of course we need followers, friends, and connections to do that.  And of course we need reach, amplification, and impact.  And of course we need to schedule our messages.  And all of the tools I’ve mentioned above are great ways of doing that.  But they’re not the end in themselves.

The end is a relationship.  And every now and again, we marketers need a prod to remember that.


Categories: b2b marketing marketing social media marketing Uncategorized

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Dave is an experienced global B2B Chief Marketing Officer / Marketing Director with an established reputation for delivering commercial results in start-up, mid-tier, and blue-chip businesses across technology, and business services and professional services sectors.

Dave has worked for major brands such as Telefonica O2, EY, and Barclays and held posts from Chief Marketing Officer to Director of Online, has run his own business, and managed a P&L for a major corporate. He is chair and co-founder of the Business Marketing Club ( - a network of B2B marketers. In 2019, he was named one of the top 100 B2B European marketing leaders ( He is a graduate of Cambridge University, a Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) Chartered Marketer and holds a MBA with Imperial College, London. Dave is a keen cyclist and adventure traveller, is married, and lives in Buckinghamshire. You can read his blogs at

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