Marketers are addicted to Google and Facebook: They spend more than half of their advertising budgets on Google and Facebook, regardless of vertical, and they will continue to do so through 2023, an Insider Intelligence report from November 2021 found.
I see overreliance on those two advertising behemoths all the time in companies that come to me for growth help, and there are good reasons for it: maturity, scale, targeting and reporting capabilities, and expansive ecosystems that offer ways to reach customers—from brand awareness to retargeting and retention.
In other words, marketers can choose to invest exclusively in Google and Facebook advertising to find, engage, nurture, convert, and retain a huge base of customers.
But should they?
The Pros of Sticking With Google and Facebook
The list of reasons you should continue to invest heavily in Google and Facebook (specifically, the Google and Facebook ecosystems, which include YouTube, the Google Display Network, Instagram, etc.) is a pretty potent one.
Brands and agencies that have any kind of budget or hiring limitations might be hard-pressed to divert resources away from the channels that bring in the most revenue. Testing is important, but it's an altogether easier proposition to test new functionality in well-known platforms than to test in new platforms.
2. Account Support
Google and Facebook reps are generally good sources of support for companies with a lot of spend on those platforms. Aside from some exceptions, most emerging channels don't have equally robust account support, which can be problematic as you're trying to learn the intricacies (and quirks) of new user interfaces.
3. Channel Maturity
Google's and Facebook's ad platforms are much more established than their competitors', such as TikTok, Reddit, Quora, and even Amazon and LinkedIn. Real, tangible advantages come with maturity, including a huge range of targeting options, more sophisticated ad formats, more powerful auto-tuning algorithms that help advertisers optimize performance as volume and learnings increase, and more nuanced reporting.
Speaking of reporting, Google and Facebook both offer robust channel analytics and measurement that smaller competitors struggle to match. And although both platforms have struggled to track off-platform conversions in the wake of iOS14, any user actions taking place within the platforms' walled gardens can be reliably tracked (with the proper integrations, of course).
The Cons of Sticking With Google and Facebook
All that said, there's an equally compelling list of reasons you should seek to diversify your channel mix (in the next section, we'll get to brand-specific conditions that should make diversification a no-brainer).
Everyone advertises on Google and Facebook, which means engagement costs are extremely high.
Any cost advantages an advertiser can find in that macroeconomy are potentially critical, and there are many more to be found in early adoption of emerging channels or smart targeting of high-value audiences where competition is lower.
If you're trying to reach Gen Z members or younger Millennials, you're leaving a lot of engagement on the table by sticking with Google and Facebook and ignoring TikTok (and even Snapchat). Similarly, you might be leaving a high-value segment of Boomers unengaged if you're not exploring Bing.
No matter the exact demographics you've identified as your highest-value users, chances are they're not limiting their online interactions to Google and Facebook, so consider how you might engage them on other platforms.
3. Overinvesting Risks
Any financial expert will tell you that diversifying your investments is a good idea, and the same principles hold in advertising spend. Diversification is a way to protect yourself against calamity where you're overinvested.
If you don't think that can happen to you, do a little reading on the impact of the Google Panda update in 2011—or, perhaps a little more recently, the impact of iOS 14 on Facebook advertisers, which ultimately led to Facebook's first quarterly revenue decrease.
4. Diminishing Returns
The law of diminishing returns holds that the more you invest in something, the lower the proportion of benefit you'll realize from it. Put simply, turning up the dial on Google and Facebook spend to achieve scale won't be as efficient as finding other paths to growth.
Companies with ambitious growth goals should either prepare to pay increasingly steep CPAs on Google and Facebook or find other avenues for acquisition.
Along with the universally applicable pros and cons, you should be on the lookout for specific signs in your own advertising campaigns that will tell you it's time to look at other channels:
- Decreasing value of engagements with more volume
- Little to no performance effects from creative testing
- Persistently high CPAs for users outside of your core audiences
- Demographic trends leading away from your core channels (see Gen Z and TikTok, above)
- Updated business goals that align more seamlessly with other channels
How to Begin Expanding Into New Channels
I expect that if you've read this far, you're open to the idea of channel expansion and diversification. So, what now?
I've touched on some channel options, but the list of available platforms is getting more extensive by the month (by the time you read this, BeReal may be showing up in headlines for its emerging prominence with Gen Z).
It's vitally important that you select the right channels to test, that you apply an understanding of the position of those channel(s) in the purchase journey, and that you have reasonable expectations for how long the channels will take to show results.
Any channel where you've already gained some awareness and where you can use first-party data (including SMS, email, and retargeting) or where you can assume inherent purchase intent (Amazon, Google Shopping) will produce nearly immediate direct-response data. Any up-funnel channel where you're introducing your brand or product for the first time (social media, display, podcasts, CTV, native) should be evaluated using different KPIs, and they will take more time to properly evaluate.
Picking channels that don't align with your business goals, or evaluating them with KPIs that don't match the channel strengths, will return a lot of false negatives and curtail your appetite for finding new paths to growth—which would do your marketing campaigns a disservice, both in the short term and in the long term.
It's important to note that you don't need to hire a whole new team to stand up a new channel; plenty of freelance experts in today's marketplace can start you on the right path quickly, and for minimal investment. The right talent can help you structure effective testing conditions and set reasonable expectations for channel impact, which is essential to understanding whether a new channel is actually viable once you start spending.
If you are working with an agency, it should have plenty of talent to pull from and it should be able to provide good recommendations on a shortlist of new channels that will work for your business goals.
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Expanding into new channels is sound business practice for companies with long-term growth plans, but it's more than that. Developing the mentality and processes for testing and adoption will equip your organization with critical skills to succeed in an industry noted for its fast pace of innovation.
More Resources on Digital Marketing Channels
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