You can't Immunise your Marketing Channels
But that doesn't mean you shouldn't make the most of them. Here is a guide on how to navigate content marketing opportunities and allocate resources.
YouTube star Casey Neistat launched his website only recently. And he made it clear that he prefers other channels. Here it is:
For most of us, though, website and email come first. But the rise of social media came with the promise that there is a better way to reach customers. Using them has become the norm. With the addition of blogging and discussion sites, choosing the right channel(s) is a critical aspect of content marketing.
That promise eventually gave way to the "Law of Shitty Clickthroughs", a term coined by author and venture capitalist Andrew Chen. Whatever channel you use, the resulting Click Through Rate (CTR) will gradually decline. It's not a virus; it's in the DNA of the web.
There is no immunisation against it. However, it is not fatal. We have to adapt and live with it. You will find some advice to do so below.
Chen offers a detailed analysis of why it happens, but what matters ultimately is: How to choose the most resilient channels for your business? And how do you resist degenerating CTRs?
The "Law" is also a reminder that channels are a means to an end. It is not about followers; it is about selling, but not in an intrusive way. Eventually, you need clicks on that "purchase" or "get in touch" button.
Chen's conclusion is to "keep discovering the next untapped marketing channel". Unfortunately, the advice is not very helpful for enterprise fintech. If you work in the industry, you are unlikely to have the budget and resources to explore continuously. Even if you did, your content probably needs to be more educational than entertaining; it won't work everywhere. In enterprise fintech or finance, it's wiser to focus on a few of the more established platforms and to keep CTRs alive by combining paid and organic content.
Personal encounters with the "Law"
I will start with a candid recollection about my business. I experienced the Law before knowing it existed. Here are a few channels that thrived, then faded. Some died.
Two articles on the site were responsible for most of the leads (organically via search engines) for a few years. One was about live streaming. The other was a Youtube channel optimisation desktop app (called YoupTimizer, now defunct). Both used Google Forms for lead generation forms. The live streaming article gradually lost its SEO juice. Changes to the YouTube API killed the YoupTimizer.
I discovered Quora in 2013 and enjoyed it for a while as a place to ask and answer intelligent questions. During 2014-15 it became an essential source of clients for my video production services. I was mainly responding to technical questions about YouTube, analysing the success of popular videos, or providing advice on how to use business videos effectively. Here is my most popular answer:
Quora was an easy SEO hack; the answers would often appear on the first page of Google (this doesn't seem to be the case anymore). There was a lot of interactions on the platform. Conversations that started there could evolve into real business deals.
It worked until marketers realised how well it worked. They then flooded it, and it became too hard to stand out.
The platform where I encountered the most rapid success was also the one that vanished the fastest. It is always a possibility when you build your empire on borrowed land. Vine was a Twitter-owned platform for 6-second looping videos that we started on experimentally as a team. Soon, some of our videos had 10 thousand likes and over a million loops. The account grew to 50,000 followers and became part of a community. We were making new friends and finding business opportunities. Then, Twitter decided to discontinue it.
By the way, if Instagram (bought for $1bn - worth $100bn?) and YouTube (bought for $1.6bn - worth $300bn?) are the best acquisitions of all time. Vine is probably the worst divestiture of all time. It looked a lot like what Tik Tok ($75bn?) looks today. Twitter ( $27bn) bought it a few years earlier but never knew what to do with it.
So I know a thing or two about the Law.
The Enterprise Fintech Channel List and Framework
Linkedin is the most popular platform for B2B marketers, and often the only one they use. But is it the best?
Without judging, I'd like to offer a different perspective. I will rank channels by Monthly Active User (MAU) instead and will consider these 8: 1-Email, 2-Facebook, 3-YouTube, 4-Instagram, 5-Twitter, 5-Quora, 7-Linkedin, 8-Medium.
The missing ones
I will dive into the details of each, but first a few comments about what is missing.
I am not discussing 'website', because it is an obvious one and a much bigger topic.
The rest are too small, or I don't have sufficient experience to discuss them. It's worth linking to some reports that explain how Reddit, Github, or Stack Overflow can be great B2B marketing tools. You could also consider Snap, Yahoo Answers, Reddit, Pinterest, Tik Tok, Byte, Minds, to name just a few. With the explosion of podcasts, audio-only channels SoundCloud, Spotify, may present an expanding opportunity.
To clarify what I mean by channels could also be called platforms or "places where you can post content online". Sometimes SEO, video, content marketing, are described as channels. In my book, the first is a tactic, the second a medium, and the third a marketing strategy.
We are considering the following to do a diagnostic that should be valid for a while, but will eventually evolve.
Organic reach: how hard it is to reach a Fintech audience with marginal efforts
Organic and Paid CTR: the proportion of people who will take action
Paid reach: how much it costs to reach X people in your audience
Targeting: how accurate can you be when setting up an audience for paid promotion. Keep in mind that all platforms allow you to upload your email list.
Cost Per Click (CPC): This is an indication based on our experience in the Fintech space. The cost can vary greatly, so this is a rough benchmark.
Cost Per View (CPV): Same as CPC but for video views, again costs can vary greatly.
Now let's look at each of them in details in order of MAU.
Like the web, email is one of the few open standards we have left. No organisation or company govern its use.
The author and internet entrepreneur Paul Jarvis only use emails and a website. He explains his absence from social media: "platforms own your data and own your social connections, not you. They own the connection you have with the people who connect with you there."
For marketers, email offers two main advantages over social platforms, which make it essential:
Your reach does not depend on an algorithm controlled by someone else
You own the connections
I use Substack because it is free and easy, after having used Mailchimp and Zoho Campaigns, but it's just a tool that I could walk away from by downloading the emails list.
Thinking that Facebook is exclusively for direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketing would be a mistake. Quintessential B2B companies like Salesforce and AWS are big spenders there. I spotted these two ads on my feed, and the targeting made sense if you know me.
The organic reach on Facebook business pages has shrunk. It's probably not worth trying to grow a following there from scratch. If you had built a large audience, you have experienced the full force of Chen's Law from 2015 onwards.
You should still set up a page because Facebook is a great place for advertisers. You don’t really need to post anything there, you can use it as an advertising only account.
You can be accurate for B2B marketing, although it may not be as straightforward and precise as Linkedin. For example, you can target people who work at individual companies and specific jobs, but only for larger companies, and not all the roles are listed. You can compensate by adding criteria.
It's also worth mentioning that the automated ads option tend to work well, so you can let Facebook robots do the iteration for you.
Facebook delivers value to advertisers. If the ad content is engaging enough, you can get a very low CPC. Videos are performing much better than other types of content; some of our ads had a CPV as low as £0.001 (not finance though). This recent fintech-related post had a CPV of £0.03 and CPC of £0.30.
The cost advantage makes Facebook a great place to experiment and test the creative before scaling and using it with better targeting but a much higher cost on Linkedin.
There are 500 hours of content uploaded on YouTube every minute. It makes standing out pretty hard. However, given it search functionality (it's the second search engine after Google) if you post well optimised, niche content using formats it will be found.
YouTube uses the Google Ads platform. If your target audience is too small though there is a risk that the ads will not show. We usually start with a broader, audience-based targeting using financial channels (Bloomberg Markets, Financial Times, etc.) and then refine.
With video advertising, you get views AND clicks. We found that the CPC is lower than with classic Google Ads. The views -or awareness - are a bonus. Below is a recent campaign (CPC £1.5).
I will mention it only briefly because Instagram has established itself as THE platform for many direct-to-consumer industries, where one post from the right influencer can change the course of your business.
There must be excellent B2B opportunities too. The ad platform is the same as Facebook, targeting and costs are similar.
If you are interested in giving it a go, I wrote an article about visual strategies for Fintech on Instagram.
It works for some people. If you are engaged and active in the threads, you can have meaningful interactions. For me (most of us?), Twitter is a place where posts are shared automatically via a platform like Hootsuite or Buffer. It generates shallow engagement, but if the cost is 0, why not.
It's worth mentioning that according to this report, Twitter ads get the highest CTR of any platform (my personal experience differs).
The fact that it has 300 million monthly unique users, almost as many as Twitter and more than Linkedin, means it should at least be on your radar.
It is an example where increased traffic is not beneficial for your marketing efforts (cf. personal encounters with the Law above). They are not just Users; they are other marketers who will crowd out your answers.
I only got started on Quora advertising for this article. The first impression is that you can be somewhat focused on Fintech. One obvious opportunity is to sponsor your answer to a particular question (What is the best product to do x?)
Below is from a test campaign. It's just a start, but the low CPC (£0.12) is promising.
Linkedin is the favourite platform of B2B marketers and for good reasons. We are all on Linkedin. Most corporations have a broader audience (= company followers) there than anywhere else, without putting much effort into it. The other good news is that Linkedin has evolved. It used to be mainly about jobs; it's become a legitimate platform for content.
You can still reach your followers with each post (unlike Facebook) and generate a decent level of engagement. Since 2018 videos seem favoured by the Linkedin algorithm. Our clients typically get thousands of views.
Paid advertising on Linkedin allows you to target very accurately. You can select job titles, seniority, skills AND individual companies. (There is a minimum audience size though. It's officially 1,000, but it works from 700 based on our latest tests).
Only show your ads to a few people who are relevant to you. Don't waste your money on anyone else. Sounds like a marketer's dream?
In practice, very low CTRs (0.06% based on this report) make it much harder than it seems. Linkedin advises using audiences of 100,000+.
Although our ads usually have a better CTR (0.20%-0.40%). The corresponding CPC of £5-£15 is a deterrent. If you know that a proportion of clicks will generate a customer with a lifetime value of ££££, it's a perfect opportunity. But if you are unsure, it can be a quick way to spend your budget without getting much in return. (Video views are cheap though).
I would advise using Linkedin ads selectively:
When the creative, copy, call-to-action have been tested and optimised on "cheaper" platforms first
With potentially higher conversion posts with a higher payoff (i.e. In the SaaS world: not for "subscribe to our newsletter", but maybe for "book a demo" or a "free consultation".)
Deserves to be mentioned here, although it is different from all the above. You can't advertise on it. Instead, you get paid (very little) to write!
It is a place where technical content can thrive. Compared to blog posts on my website, the traffic and engagement rate appears much higher.
Here are a few tips (for more details, request access to my notes on Medium here):
Write for publications: you can use their audience in the same way as you'd do with a guest post to an industry-specific website
Monetise: it's not about the money you make, but it gives Medium and the publication an incentive to promote your content
Write long-form content: it seems to work better with their algorithm
In their early days, digital and social marketing may have been free and easy. They are gradually degenerating, but there are many good years ahead. They are still cheap and efficient compared to alternatives, and you can keep your click-throughs healthy for longer.
There is no miracle pill, but writing this article has inspired me to improve my regime. I will try to be more active on Linkedin (organically only) and post articles there. Facebook will be a test platform with minimum budgets. I am considering to spend more on Quora. Given time, I will try to follow The Economist's strategy on Instagram.
By the way, you can share this article to your favourite channel with one click.