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  • John Bell

6 Vexatious Truths for Digital Marketing Today

Updated: Oct 11, 2022


Enough has changed over the past two years to cause digital marketers to take a fresh look at how we draft strategies and execute/iterate successful programs. The “trickle-down” effect to main street businesses of big decisions like the Apple IOS 14 update that crippled mobile marketing data and targeting and the constant adjustments to the blackbox algorithms in Facebook, Google, and other platforms continue to be felt.


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There are 6 “vexatious” truths informing digital marketing strategy today. (“vexatious = causing or tending to cause annoyance, frustration, or worry”).


1. Organic Reach is Not Enough

The average reach of an organic post on a Facebook Page is 5.20%. That means roughly 1 in every 19 fans sees the page’s non-promoted content. Claims for how much of your organic followers on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and more see your company’s posts are all over the map. But suffice it to say, its but a small bit. The dream of using social media to reach your customers for free dissolved some years back and now every marketer big and small needs smart strategies to use paid media effectively.


2. Attribution is Hard

“If a user enters through a Facebook ad, for example, but then reads a blog post, then visits your pricing page, and weeks later, buys on a post-click landing page after clicking a retargeting ad, what was the biggest contributor to conversion?”

Attributing impact like sales to a single channel in a multichannel program has always been hard. Each of the most used models are complex and beyond the means of most small businesses. Last-click attribution assigns full credit for conversion to the single, last interaction. Given the way we really behave, how does that make any sense? Other attribution models like time decay or position-based require a lot of fuzzy math, never mind the fuzzy mathematician, that no one seems to have. The models just aren’t all that accessible and practical.


The problem is compounded by the deviation in data we see coming from various channels. The traffic you think you are running from Facebook may be wildly different than the data Google Analytics attributes to Facebook. We used to live with variances of 5-10% between data sources but know it can be far more than that. Ultimately, marketers are forced to choose somewhat randomly what they will use as their ‘single source of truth.’



3. Tracking Efficacy Got Harder

It got harder with the IOS 14 update which made channels like Facebook largely blind to mobile traffic which is often a dominate source of traffic for a marketer. When Google finally disables 3rd party cookies in its browser (2023?), marketers will need to make even greater shifts. Tracking efficacy will just continue to get more difficult.


“Technology platforms marketers rely on including Google and Apple are changing how their technology inhibits or enables marketers to use consumer data… All these changes reflect growing consumer concerns about protecting privacy and data.”


4. Creativity and Relevance Matter…Again

“On average, there are 4.75 billion items shared by Facebook users each day”

There’s a crap-ton of content out there vying for attention. What will actually be “thumb-stopping?” At the same time, the blackbox algorithms in Facebook and Instagram, for example, are less efficient for marketers today than before. It used to be that you just created a bunch of ad variants and threw them all out on Facebook and let the platform pick the winner. It was cheap so you weren’t too precious about the ads. Now it’s much more expensive. Brands have to go back to basics by researching their audience and crafting relevant and remarkable messages to earn their attention.


5. The Big Platforms Continue to Dominate


“Google, Meta and Amazon will absorb more that 50% of all ad money in 2022. Together they accounted for more than $7 in $10 (74%) of global digital ad spending in 2021”

Larger businesses are already diversifying their ad spend to be less dependent on the big channels. But what about smaller businesses? Can they really afford to walk away from Google and Facebook? How many ways can you split a modest media budget to begin with? Still, smaller businesses must find a way to manage a test-and-learn program across 3,4,5 or more channels. They should not expect Facebook, for example to return to the better ROI of a few years ago. Those days are past.


6. Testing & Learning Are Essential

Every business large or small needs to build a capability to continuously test-and-optimize their digital marketing programs as they are underway. This requires strengths in data analytics and the experience that only comes from spending every day in these ever-changing media platforms. Most smaller businesses never hired this capability and may not know how to find it. Plus, they are still poorly served by many agencies who don’t have enough strengths in performance marketing or a business model that makes them cost effective.


“Cost-per-click on Facebook can range between $0.07 to $5.99 depending on industry, ad performance, targeting and optimization criteria.”

That’s a wild range on a good day and can mean all the difference between a positive return-on-ad-spend (ROAS) or one that is wholly unsustainable. Brands need to be able to test their way to success every time. Even lessons learned last campaign can expire demanding that marketers continue to monitor and test to stay ahead.


Your digital marketing strategy needs to build on these new realities. They are vexing but they're not going away.

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