Even though Google and Facebook’s share of the digital advertising market is expected to drop this year, data from research firm eMarketer shows that the so-called duopoly will still control roughly 60%—or about $77 billion.
Within that other 40%, there are a surprising number of alternatives. Traffic may not be as high, but neither is competition for keywords and eyeballs—and, perhaps most appealing, cost is usually lower, too. This makes it easier test out new networks to strengthen your marketing plan with a cross-platform strategy.
We asked industry experts about their favorite marketing channels, and we narrowed it down to these top 10. Here are channels you need to test out if you’re looking to broaden your marketing strategy.
It’s simple: ROI diminishes over time on well-worn networks because users grow accustomed to ads and learn to tune them out, said Ketan Pande, founder of entrepreneurial network Goodvitae.
In fact, according to Jake Mastrandrea, growth marketer at Adobe, marketers should tap into channels where the customer lifetime value is at least three times the cost of acquisition.
"So, if competitive bids have increased and prices are getting too high at your conversion rate, or if you've exhausted search and you start to experience fatigue in that channel, here are three things you can do: Work on optimization efforts to enhance conversions, expand the scope of your search terms, or try a new channel altogether,” he added.
For his part, Roger Maftean, content marketing specialist at career network Zety, noted brands and marketers should consider new or different channels based on forward-looking data and trends.
“So let’s say we are thinking about where digital marketing is headed come 2021,” he said. “How are we preparing for it and what steps are we taking precisely to make our digital marketing strategies ahead of the curve for 2021?”
What’s more, marketers who rely too heavily on a single channel risk losing traffic if, say, Google updates its algorithm or Facebook disables an account, said Nelson Jordan, head of marketing at the Ecommerce Profits, a digital marketing firm focused on ecommerce platform Shopify.
“Figuring out channel product fit is a balance of resources, monetization strategy, and customer interests,” Mastrandrea added. “When thinking about which new channel(s) to prioritize, reverse engineer who your customer is and pick a channel based on where their interests take them. Always test before you lean in and continue to keep an eye on your metrics as you measure efforts.”
But the key is balance between tried-and-true and up-and-coming channels.
“Once an opportunity has been identified, double down and spend 80% of your time working that channel,” said Jeremy Ong, owner the money-making blog Hustlr and other similar sites. “At the same time, 20% of your time should be spent experimenting on media channels that could possibly work for your business to find the next low hanging fruit.”
Ong said his sites generate 60,000 visitors, 3,000 email leads, and nearly 1,000 conversions per month, which results in $600,000 in annual revenue. And 67% of first-time traffic comes from search.
Ben Lund, founder of Rise Marketing Group, is a bit more cautious, recommending advertisers earmark 10% of their ad budgets for testing.
“The expectation of this investment is learning to understand what will and what won't work,” he said. “The benefit is that through testing other platforms you can unlock other revenue channels.”
Testing is important to figure out which platforms will work for you and your business. Here are 10 channels to try out, recommended by these industry experts and more!
If you’re not familiar, Quora is a Q&A site that allows brands to reach users by answering relevant questions and promote select answers—for the platform’s 100 million users. According to Pande, many marketers have yet to tap into this impressive audience.
“A well-written answer, along with a link to your landing page at the bottom, can do wonders,” he said. “Once, I wrote an answer in the business section, which garnered more than 100,000 views and sent 5,000 users directly to the landing page. Also, I found out that the dwell time from Quora users on your platform is pretty much [always] higher, as Quora users have a habit of reading everything in detail.”
Mark Nardone, executive vice president of marketing at PR firm Pan Communications, noted Quora has recently become popular for B2B marketers in particular.
“Quora not only provides a forum for marketers to gain insights, but it allows experts on the topic to link to owned content in their responses,” he said. “Because of these backlinks, Quora has the ability to drive valuable traffic and SEO results for those who leverage all of the platform’s capabilities.”
Jason Thibault, owner of content marketing agency Massive Kontent, agreed Quora is “a great platform to build both subject matter expertise and brand trust,” noting it has added new features like keyword targeting, bulk-create ads, duplicate ad sets, and retargeting.
Mason Mitchell, content marketer with messaging platform Airy, said another bonus is that it’s not a labor-intensive channel: Airy hasn’t touched the site for a few months, but its answers are still driving traffic.
What’s more, Eric Hoppe, director of marketing at content writing service Crowd Content Media, said Quora Ads let marketers target specific questions, which is a great way to target top- and mid-funnel prospects.
Plus, it’s more affordable—Thibault said rates are often a fraction of the cost of Facebook and Google ads.
Ong recommends professional network LinkedIn because in part it has a growing community of high-value users and is less competitive.
“This means that the content creator to active user ratio … is insanely low,” he said. “This translates to higher engagement and lower CPC costs for paid marketers.”
Lund said B2B marketers in particular should pay attention to LinkedIn and its lead gen and sponsored message ads, which “generally work very well.”
Marketers looking for a new channel to push content should consider Reddit Ads, which can connect brands to top-of-funnel prospects, Hoppe said.
Reddit is one of the most visited websites in the world, yet eMarketer anticipates Reddit advertising spend representing less than 1% of total spend this year.
Marketers can target subscribers and viewers of specific sub-Reddits, which gets very precise. This level of audience targeting makes up for lower traffic potential—plus, advertising on Reddit is also much cheaper than more popular alternatives.
Whether it’s Amazon, Google, Apple, or another platform delivering results, voice search is on the rise.
That means marketers need to recognize consumers using voice search will only hear one result, added Nikki Bisel, owner of marketing consulting agency Seafoam Media.
“Cater your long-tail keywords, optimize your meta descriptions and titles for speech and only use important keywords for top search spots,” Maftean said. “It’s a completely different marketing strategy, doesn’t necessarily utilize old-school SEO, but if you do this in advance, you’ll see a massive boost, not just now, but well into the future.”
That’s according to Hamna Amjad, content marketing executive at media outlet Gigworker, who said brands can take advantage of the feature to connect with followers and humanize themselves with content like behind-the-scenes footage, tutorials, and polls.
Morgan Lathaen, marketing and brand coordinator at print and marketing logistics company Thumbprint, agreed Stories can help enhance your online presence and connect with your audience.
“They are increasingly popular among Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube because people are consuming digital video content faster,” Lathaen added. “Take advantage of this feature, because Stories are on track to overtake posts in feeds.”
While it has a smaller audience, don’t count out Bing. In fact, Hoppe said Bing Ads are very similar to Google Ads—and he has found cost per lead to be about 40% cheaper with Bing.
Lund agreed you should move top-performing Google campaigns to Bing.
“You should expect to receive similar performance and an incremental 20% more traffic,” he added.
Alexa Kurtz, marketing strategist and paid ad specialist at digital marketing agency WebTek, said she is prioritizing chat as a marketing channel for her clients, in part because consumers want instant gratification.
“Users have questions and want the answers as soon as possible,” she added. “With [chat messages] being sent directly to your desktop [or] email or via text message, you can reply to your customer in a matter of seconds.”
Robb Hecht, adjunct professor of marketing at Baruch College, agreed users want to simply ask their question and receive personalized responses rather than having to dig through “a huge, impersonal website.”
With some chat tools, there are even options to capture names and email addresses, Kurtz said.
In addition to customer service, Amjad recommends using chatbots to serve as personal assistants and to screen candidates for jobs.
According to figures from Mani Makkar, who handles content strategy for A/B testing and conversion optimization platform VWO, messaging is up to 75% cheaper than other communication channels—and it has an open rate of 80% on average.
While it may seem intrusive at first blush, text messages are actually a great way to connect to consumers who have shared their phone numbers. That’s according to Charlie Worrall, digital marketing executive at web design firm Imaginaire Digital, who recommends texts like daily deals.
John Frigo, SEO lead at ecommerce site MySupplementStore.com, agreed push notifications are an underutilized tactic that are effective and cheap.
“You know they are a target buyer as they had to visit your site and opt in and there’s many push notification apps that have free tiers to get started and see if it’s an effective means of marketing,” he added.
For example, he is spending $95 a month on a push notification service, which results in $300 to $1100 in sales per message.
In order to create an interesting podcast, brands and marketers should use their own networks to find topics and interviews.
“The bigger the names, the more likely they are to generate interest and a following and provide further leverage to secure future high profile guest,” said Kent Lewis, president of search marketing agency Anvil Media. “Industry influencers are also likely to have their own following and market the podcasts to their networks for added reach.”
Marketers should also consider appearing on existing podcasts in their industries.
According to Lewis, Anvil recently helped build a content and marketing strategy for the Craving the Futurepodcast, which netted a global hotel client with a few months.
The rise of platforms like Twitch, Tik Tok, and Linkedin Live demonstrate livestreaming isn’t going away anytime soon—and the channel now has potential for B2C and B2B brands alike. That’s according to Kristen McCabe, senior community marketing specialist at software review platform G2.com.
And there you have it: 10 expert-approved marketing channels to try out for yourself. Remember, set your goals for each platform, start testing slowly to figure out which works for you, and then keep testing often!