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The Social Media Crash is coming…

By Dave Stevens

I see that B2B Marketing magazine has published its latest IT Marketing Benchmarketing Report (go to 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.


Here goes:-
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.

Categories: b2b marketing marketing social media marketing


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

4 replies

  1. I could be off-base (I’ve been called worse), but I don’t think I am. The first thought I had after reading this was that the respondents to the survey are either misinformed or uninformed on the salient aspects of social media marketing, in particular measuring ROI through these channels. I’d be interested to know what they are using to measure their ROI and over what time frame.

    I’m no expert (and anyone who tells you they are is selling something), but I do know a fair bit about the subject. I don’t feel the need to expand on that here, so take it as you will (like I said, I’ve been called worse). What I do know is that the vast (and I do mean vast) majority of businesses using SM channels only have the slightest inkling of what they are doing, at best. They are trying to use them and measure them as they would traditional marketing, which just doesn’t work. They are also trying to assign the SM responsibilities to existing employees such as sales managers or HR folks, which is usually about as effective as letting the janitor handle the accounting.

    You can’t just set up a Facebook page, pay for ads, and expect returns. It’s much more akin to shmoozing at a cocktail party or convincing your neighbors to come to a neighborhood meeting. It takes relationship building, at whatever level is possible. It is not classic sales or playing the numbers on direct mail.

    Sorry to ramble, but I tend to recognize the ignorant dismissing the unknown when I see it. Not referring to you of course, Dave. Unless you were part of the percentages listed 🙂


    1. Thanks for the great comment wallyp. I agree with you that many businesses are still getting to grips with SM channels. The interesting thing for me about this survey (which I was not part of and am not affiliated to in anyway) is that it is conducted regularly and the belief in SM from the sample interviewed between iterations of the survey is falling not rising.


  2. Only a couple of months behind on commenting here…

    I was involved in a discussion a while back about some similar B2B social media research. The headline in that was the number of marketers who “don’t have a social media strategy”. The implication being that having a social media strategy is a good thing.

    But hopefully as you say we’ll move on from that fairly swiftly, back to a point where people have business strategies, marketing strategies (and maybe positioning, demand generation and customer relationship strategies), and can then feel the real benefit of how social media can support/amplify that where relevant.


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