Aussie marketers: we don’t need social media expertise to be successful

Marketers in Australia and New Zealand say that an understanding of technology and social media are the things they need the least to be good at their jobs, according to a survey of CMOs by IBM.

In answer to the question, ‘What capabilities do you need to be personally successful over the next 3 to 5 years?’ only 12% said social media expertise – the lowest proportion in the survey.

What capabilities do you need to be successful over the next 3 to 5 years?

Technology savviness rated at just 26% – as did finance skills.

Leadership abilities, creative thinking and customer insights rated top.

The survey was part of a global study, which comprised face to face interviews with 1,700 CMOs; 57 in Australia and New Zealand.


  1. someyoungguy
    11 Oct 11
    3:13 pm

  2. Just to clarify, this survey asked CMO’s whether they PERSONALLY needed social media skills. It did NOT ask them whether or not they find social media to be important to their overall marketing plans?

    The two scenarios have drastically different ramifications, so just wanted to make sure.

  3. Shane
    11 Oct 11
    3:37 pm

  4. Surprising (and reassuring) results… if only because I would’ve thought more CMOs have been sucked in by the bells and whistles of a ‘You Need Twelve Corporate Twitter Accounts Or Your Business Is Doomed!’ being spouted by SM consultalts.

    Can’t resist… Commentor #1… “I’ll have the Cream of Summ Yung-Gi”

  5. casey
    11 Oct 11
    3:49 pm

  6. I would be more concerned about the lack of finance & technology understanding/ skills … which is why they clearly see demand creation as relatively unimportant in the business of marketing (which is to drive growth, increase revenue, market share etc)

  7. James D
    11 Oct 11
    6:44 pm

  8. There are a number of other very important skill on this list which they also think they can do without. Who needs to understand finance, products value chain or demand creation in marketing…

  9. Jason
    11 Oct 11
    7:36 pm

  10. No surprise to see technology savviness down near the bottom

  11. Liam
    11 Oct 11
    8:39 pm

  12. Leadership in the nineties? That seems very aspirational.
    Thought search engines might get a look.

  13. Kevin
    11 Oct 11
    11:23 pm

  14. Not surprising that CMOs picked traditional skills like leadership, creative thinking and insights as their top 3. These are the answers senior managers expect to hear from potential employees at interviews. In todays fast paced age, the ability of a CMO to be agile, data driven and digital minded has a direct bearing on his or her departments success, employee motivation and turnover. Only when the top brass embrace these new age skills themselves will we see large shifts in marketing thinking.

  15. Jenni Beattie
    12 Oct 11
    8:43 am

  16. It is interesting that only 12% of CMOs said they need social media expertise capabilities as the survey also said that CMO felt unprepared for the ‘data explosion’ and ‘social media’.

    While CMOs are certainly meant to be leaders and have vision for their teams I would also suggest that they should have a reasonable knowledge of social media to be able to quality check the work of their employees that they hire in this area (or their agencies).

    In addition, many employees that are embedded in this area themselves I imagine would find it disappointing if their CMO didn’t have a reasonable understanding in this area because getting buy-in in their social media projects would be more difficult.

    After teaching Social Media to Masters Marketing students at UTS one of the reasons many students are looking for new role is because the CMO is out of touch in this area and they cannot use their social skills effectively. Many good mktg employees are being lost this way – perhaps employee retention may spur more CMOs on.

  17. Relying on experts?
    12 Oct 11
    10:16 am

  18. You’d expect CMOs to take stock of the situation and hire (young?) guns for social media expertise. Not a skill they personally need. Similarly they’ll use the CFO for financial expertise. I’m sure most PR, ad and media agency bosses would say the same.

    46% of CMOs don’t think they’ll need to collaborate with the rest of the C-Suite. Now that’s a worry.

  19. The Accountant
    12 Oct 11
    10:18 am

  20. So only 1 in 4 said they need finance skills???

  21. BenG
    12 Oct 11
    1:48 pm

  22. The irony being that some of the most desired items can be acquired through (drum roll please)…. social media!

    Consumer insights, competitive insights, creative ideas… all can be sourced from social media.

  23. bob
    12 Oct 11
    1:54 pm

  24. We don’t care much about social media because it creates risk and chews resources

  25. Dee
    12 Oct 11
    2:05 pm

  26. I’m shocked that there’s 57 CMOs in ANZ.

  27. Scott Maxworthy
    12 Oct 11
    2:35 pm

  28. Fact is social media’s not really that hard to understand – it’s just good old word of mouth but online is a hell of a lot faster and a lot more fragmented (excluding Facebook; Twitter and Youtube).

    Today, with more customers time spent online then watching TV, and 20% of that online time spent in social media, then a good basic understanding is basically essential for all organisations.

    Leadership; creativity etc are all skills needed to leverage social media channels.

  29. Jarther Taylor
    12 Oct 11
    2:46 pm

  30. Hi all – I was part of the interview team in Australia & New Zealand and am leading the development of our local perspective on the results. I also run marketing for IBM’s consulting business here.

    Here are some thoughts / responses. Let me know what you think.

    @someyoungguy : We asked what capabilities they need to be personally successful over the next few years

    @shane @Relying on experts? If you don’t get it yourself, how can you think about it strategically or ask the ‘guns’ the right questions?

    @casey @james D @Jenni Beattie @ The Accountant Good points. My view is that marketing has been viewed or performed as Business Lite: All the taste, none of the calories. Our study shows that being able to talk business, finance and social is critical to success.

    @bob While time will tell, I don’t think you can’t “not care” about social media. It’s about building or enhancing relationships, not just getting heaps of twitter followers

    I’m tweeting some more of the findings over the next few days on @jarther_work. You can also ask me a question on twitter, or just post here.

    You can get the global study at: (you’ll have to register first)

  31. Tony Richardson
    12 Oct 11
    4:12 pm

  32. Perhaps a poorly worded question.

    Does ‘capabilities’ mean ‘expertise’ in an area?

    Or does it mean to have a ‘general knowledge’ – sufficient to brief, debrief, discuss, judge and measure success?

    Capabilities could mean both.

  33. bob
    12 Oct 11
    4:47 pm

  34. with all due respect Jarther, time HAS told
    facebook and twitter aren’t new
    if a compelling business case hasn’t been constructed by their acolytes by now, one most likely doesn’t exist
    this is why CMOs do little more than experiement with these things (and mainly so they can respond positively to questions from non-marketing people caught up in the hype)

  35. Robbie
    12 Oct 11
    6:26 pm

  36. Bravo anti social media marketers because they know that Consumers want marketers out of their social media with a vengance- so they are spot on. as if I’m going to “Like” Jetstar, or The Good Guys on a SM site unless they bribe me with a competition. Marketers should get on with re-targeting, good creative, good placement and smart SEO.

  37. Craig
    12 Oct 11
    6:47 pm

  38. How can CMOs effectively hire expertise when they don’t know whether someone is talking bs?

    Lack of financial skills is a real worry. Can we trust these people with budgets?

  39. Jarther Taylor
    13 Oct 11
    2:37 pm

  40. @Tony Richardson The question was intended to capture personal capabilities (rather than organisational ones). You raise valid points around additional questions we could have asked. Given the study was completed as in-depth interviews, we had to draw the line somewhere.

    By the way – you can get a copy of the global study by going to and register. The study is free to download.

  41. Martin Rose
    17 Oct 11
    9:28 am

  42. @bob I think social media is viewed as a risk in some industries more than others, and a few large companies have had their fingers burned for sure. But one thing is certain, it is here to stay. So the choice for organisations is to ignore or engage.

    Engagement can be as simple as listening to what is being said and gaining customer and product insight, or it could involve varying degrees of participation in the conversation. Companies are also going one step further to enable and support social interaction. Telstra recently launched CrowdSupport is an example of a strategic, long term view on social/digital/engagement that might make CMOs take notice.

    But even if you’re just listening in, you need a strategy and a set of tools to help you analyse what is going on in the social sphere so you can learn from it. I’m interested in whether anyone disagrees!

    FYI I lead in Australia and these are the types of issues we help clients with.

  43. Laynie Kelly
    18 Oct 11
    8:27 am

  44. Social media is easy to get started on, but it’s way more complicated than Facebook and Google and YouTube. It depends on your needs, but most businesses are here to get more sales – bottom line. Sharing conversation in your tweets and posts isn’t going to achieve this if that’s your goal. It all depends on what your goal is – listen, brand promotion, or engagement. The latter is more strategic than it looks, takes more planning, and not easily achieved with just a tweet or 2. To engage is to really be involved with your markets. That level of involvement is best not left to a 12%-er on any marketing manager’s priority list.