By Dave Stevens
I see that B2B Marketing magazine has published its latest IT Marketing Benchmarketing Report (go to http://www.b2bmarketing.net/it-benchmarking-2013 for details). And I’m delighted to report that this survey of 200 technology marketing practitioners (and one day we should get behind exactly what a marketing practitioner is. I’m a CMO and I consider myself to spend an alarmingly small amount of time being a marketing practitioner) contains great news.
In fact I’d go as far as to say this contains the best news for e-marketers for many years.
According to the survey, the least effective marketing channel or technique is…social media. 53% of respondents regarded it as “not very important”. 69% of respondents could not say how to demonstrate ROI on social media. Just 12% currently make any use of it at all.
Those with a big backlog of B2B Marketing magazines or an obssessive recollection of useless marketing statistics – and I leave you to decide which category you think I fall into – will recall that previous surveys have ranked social media much more positively; indeed as a potential game changer.
So this “social media crash” is quite a turnaround. And it is good news.
It’s fairly safe to say that as I write an occasional blog, use Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook regularly, and spend a fair amount of my marketing career revamping company websites at Barclays and O2 and PA Consulting Group, and championing the importance of e-marketing teams within a marketing function, I am an advocate of digital techniques for marketing. Such techniques are faster, more cost effective, provide a better customer experience.
But as with every new entry into the marketing mix of communications channels over the last few decades, social media has been placed on a pedestal as being the marketing techique that changes everything. It can do at least six impossible things before breakfast. And it is true that social media can deliver some amazing things: increased awareness of a business, increased traffic to a website, more favourable perceptions of a brand, the ability to monitor customer and prospect conversations about an organisation, the ability to develop targeted marketing activities, a better understanding of customer perceptions of their brand, improved insight about target markets, and so on. But it is just one part of the marketing channel mix – a neighbour to the rest and not a substitute.
And this IT survey recognises that truth for the first time. If an effective marketing channel is one that delivers you the IT technology sale, you probably wouldn’t use social.
And yes – it’s just one survey. And not a great one at that: the marketing tools that respondents could choose from in the survey is hardly a mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive list. Content marketing hardly sits alongside third party events for instance.
This is not definitive. But it’s the first sign that social media is finally finding its place in the marketing tool-kit. Such an adjustment happened with the web ten years ago as the dot-com crash followed the dot-com bubble. It is beginning to happen now with social media. And that can only be a good sign.