Increase_ROI.jpgDave Chaffey is CEO and co-founder of digital marketing advice site Smart Insights. He has been recognized as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have shaped the future of marketing by the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

UnboundID: Social media channels continue to shift. Microsoft just bought LinkedIn, SnapChat is the fastest growing social media app. Twitter seems to be on the downside. How do you view the latest changes for marketers?

Chaffey: It’s important to keep a close eye on the changing fortunes of the main social networks since those that were most effective in the past won’t necessarily work now. Marketers need to change their focus and experiment with the new organic and paid options to influence their audiences. For example, Google has recently introduced Customer Match that allows you to show ads to your customers based on data about those customers that you share with Google. Instagram and Snapchat have also introduced new ad options within the last 12 months.

Three years ago, the order of subscription drivers to Smart Insights from social network visits was LinkedIn, then Twitter and Facebook. Today it’s Facebook, followed by LinkedIn and Twitter. I was pleased to learn about the LinkedIn acquisition since LinkedIn has made decisions in the past that have made it difficult for marketers, such as limiting product features on company pages and reducing the ability to contact members and integrate with lead nurturing. I’m hoping there will be a change to a more customer-centric approach.

Snapchat is in the ascendancy, moving up from 50 million daily active users in 2014 to 200 million today, but the options available for marketers to interact are limited by the format. With recent changes in June, Snapchat has matured its ad offering with an API linking the app to different ad buying services as well as new formats such as expandable ads and inserts between stories. Instagram and Facebook now offer similar services for all sizes of businesses.

UnboundID: How do you view social media opportunities for marketers today? Are social campaigns driving more sales these days? If so, why?

Chaffey: With algorithm changes at Facebook and Twitter that reduce the number of organic status updates appearing in a social stream, organic reach is declining, meaning that social media opportunities are more likely to be paid ad formats. Adobe Insights has data showing that visits from social media among the brands they track has declined. Similarly, the Custora Pulse sales influence data for large U.S. retailers showing which digital media channels prompt a visit resulting in sale, indicates that social media influence on sales is at 2% compared with 22% for organic search, 19% for CPC and 19% for email marketing. Social media conversions are shockingly low, compared with search and email.

While a few sectors, such as fashion and crafts, have higher referrals from social media, most companies are better off using other inbound marketing techniques such as content marketing and SEO to drive leads and sales. At Smart Insights, more than 75% of our 500,000 plus monthly visits are from organic search. We’re active in social media, but our focus is on protecting and growing our organic traffic.

UnboundID: Is social marketing ROI measurement getting any easier or simpler?

Chaffey: Dark social, the social sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by Web analytics programs, has become more of an issue as mobile usage has grown. Many social media apps that drive visits are tracked as direct visits rather than social media visits. Dark social makes up an estimated 69% of all social shares. On the positive side, popular social sharing management tools such as Hootsuite and Buffer make it easier to automatically add the Google Analytics UTM tracking parameters, which will improve the rate at which social media campaigns are correctly allocated. Google Analytics also has its multichannel funnels feature which can help marketers prove the influence of social media in generating awareness earlier in the customer journey.

UnboundID: Let’s move on to SEO. Google continues to be a trend setter in the space. What is the company doing now that matters, as well as other leading search engines?

Chaffey: If you are marketing in the Americas or Europe, Google is THE search platform. Where I’m based, in the UK, Google accounts for 90% of organic visits, so you can really disregard other search engines like Bing or Yahoo! The main innovations in Google for search marketing are support for voice or natural language queries and the use of new formats in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) for answering user queries. Mozcast summarizes the most important SERPs features and it shows that in addition to well-known features such as images and news we are now seeing more related questions (featured in 17% of queries) and snippets (featured in 11% queries). If your business can get featured in this way for key phrases, that can help boost visibility.

There is another trend where Google is receiving more queries of four or more keywords, which means that marketers should think through how they can harness ‘long tail’ queries. This is related to the growth in voice search. More than 10% of search queries today are processed by the Rankbrain machine-learning artificial intelligence system, introduced by Google late last year. Rankbrain is now the third-most important ranking signal. It’s mainly used as a way to interpret the searches that people submit to find pages that might not have the exact words in the search query.

UnboundID: As marketing has become more technologically sophisticated, are marketers gaining more respect and budget within the business?

Chaffey: There is certainly a fantastic range of marketing technology services available. In our latest essential marketing technology infographic we have catalogued over 30 different categories of marketing tools across the customer lifecycle. With online marketing becoming more important, budget responsibilities are shifting.

Gartner is predicting that by 2017 the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO. We are also seeing an interesting new hybrid role of the Chief Marketing Technologist, which helps bridge the potential gap between Marketing and IT in large organizations.

As to gaining respect, marketers have to earn it by demonstrating that their investments in digital media and technology are getting results. This is possible when they use a data-driven approach. Most business people can see the value of data-driven marketing, but it’s difficult in practice to combine the right people, process, KPIs and tools to make it effective.

Success will involve ring-fencing time to analyze digital media investments and online customer journeys and identifying improvements to test that can increase ROI. To gain respect and future budget, the complex stories the data is telling need to be explained in compelling way. If business can get this right, non-marketing colleagues will understand how inbound marketing generates value and the need to invest and test in future.