Digital Marketing Veteran Shares Exclusive Social Media Insights

We asked Digital Marketing Veteran, Mordecai Holtz for his thoughts on Digital marketing, where it’s come from and which trends are only set to intensify in the future. Check out his answers in this free-wheeling interview below.

You've been in the digital marketing field for nearly 10 years. In your experience, what have been the biggest game-changers in the industry? What do you think will be the next big thing?

For decades, marketing tactics were designed to interrupt customers, sell hard, and blindly push content in the hopes of reaching a few customers. Communicating with potential consumers was pure mass marketing and rather unsophisticated.

When Google was born in the early 2000s, the development of its AdWords tools meant content marketing was off to the races - everything changed online. Then in 2004, search engines started integrating algorithmic changes that forced companies to personalize their digital marketing efforts. That was the true birth of online personalization.

Unfortunately, most companies didn’t pay attention to the fact that targeting based on search patterns changed how brands sell and communicate to their audience.

Today, SEO is not a stand-alone tactic but part of a holistic strategy in the greater digital marketing machine, powered by an overall digital strategy that’s interconnected with other channels and platforms.

Aside from search engines developing to what they are today, PR has developed in leaps and bounds. It was only a few years ago that digital PR agencies didn’t even exist. Today, PR companies are being forced to broaden their scope to include digital because of its critical impact on overall earned media efforts.

The biggest game changer of all was in 2004 when people were still using MySpace. From his room at Harvard, Mark Zuckerberg and his roommates disrupted all social media networks and forever changed the landscape.

This was the pivotal moment in digital marketing, arguably more monumental than all other developments. It was then that social media matured from being a simple chat system to being an effective communication tool that broke down many of the traditional marketing barriers. Now, brands could connect, engage, communicate and share content directly with consumers. Social media allows brands to track, measure, analyse and optimize their campaigns in real time.

Today channels like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest, with billions of users, targeted advertising and a digital landscape that never sleeps, have become some of the most vital aspects of any marketing strategy.

Content marketing is based on several core principles: understanding the consumer, appealing to their interests and their stage within the customer journey, and serving them with relevant, consistent, engaging and valuable content.

Brands must now earn their customers’ attention with valuable content, engage in meaningful conversations with their community, and use each platform (based on where their audience is) to communicate effectively.

So where is digital headed? The past year was tough for digital marketers. Facebook scandals, influencer fraud, “the death” of organic reach and Google +. Today, digital marketing means pay-to-play. It was inevitable, especially as digital marketing grew at hyperspeed and the disruptive manner in which it shifted brands’ approach to their marketing efforts.

Here’s how the past predicted some of the future developments of digital.

Personalization

While digital privacy has been top-of-mind for a while, consumers are far more attuned to how and where their data is being used by brands. Sure, customers are willing to share but they are much more discerning in what they consider a return on investment.
In a recent report by Salesforce, 57% percent of consumers said they’re willing to share data as long as the brand delivers personalized content, discounts, and offers. So it’s not a data issue, it’s an issue of brands delivering true value based on customer data. Customers want to see real value and brands have a responsibility to commit to this. As marketers, this means we need to reevaluate how data is collected and how teams can use the information effectively. We need to use data to fine-tune our personas and marketing segments, with the ultimate goal to deliver on our brand promise. 

Thumb-Stopping Microcontent 

Social media is becoming a tough playing field. Instagram and Twitter are quickly turning into places to just blast (spam?) content. We can no longer rely on organic content, so brands need to make sure that they’re able to stop consumer thumbs from scrolling. Thumb-stopping micro-content tells a powerful story in micro-moments. Think 360 videos, 3D photos, great Instagram stories. What efforts is your brand taking to consciously integrate these thumb-stoppers into your content calendar? Remember, quality always rules over quantity.

Chatbots/AI 

Businesses are always thinking up new ways of using AI to engage with customers, make processes easier and drive sales. The popularity and effectiveness of AI-powered chatbots in recent years has grown, and Facebook has integrated artificial intelligence to improve ad campaign results.

Storytelling

We live in an era of content overload. Brands need to rise above the noise, not through resources or talent but through action. Great, impactful stories that are poignant have always held value for humans. 

Email 

Contrary to popular belief, email is still the most effective digital marketing tool. Brands now need to strike the right balance between pushing new sales and providing content relevant to customer interests. Try shifting to sending fun, creative, relevant and valuable email content.

Bold brands

Consumers want brands that matter and have more than just a product to sell. They should stand for something. Brands should use their personas to tell a simple yet sophisticated story. 

Influencer Marketing

despite the bloated data, influencer marketing will play a critical role over the next few years. While already conceptually quite old, the new reality is that digital influencers have a say in how consumers view products. Brands must be careful in crafting clear KPI’s (engagement, awareness, sales) and translate that into guidelines and expectations prior to working with influencers.

Podcasts are becoming huge - but not all marketers are jumping onboard. As an avid podcast host, could you shed light on some of the challenges and benefits you face?

I’m by no means an avid podcaster. I only started my Empathize It podcast a few months ago. The idea was germinating for months. Like with every new undertaking, there are always challenges to overcome. Now, 20 episodes later here’s what I’ve learned. While the consumer market is large, the challenge for publishers is that it’s a) difficult to be discovered, b) difficult to monetize, and c) difficult to source new content opportunities.

In terms of benefits, as someone who is based in Israel, it’s tough and costly for me to attend many of the great events around the world. So, I view my podcast as a series of one-on-one professional training sessions. It would be impossible to get the best entrepreneurs, social media leaders, content creators and engage them in meaningful conversations all in one room. This way, not only do I benefit from their insights but I’m able to share it with the world.



When it comes to measuring your social media campaigns, which metrics do you feel are the most important to track and why?


This is tough but important question. There are very concrete, specific metrics that can indicate how well content is performing but be careful. Vanity metrics exist and they’re distracting. As a general rule, seek out more nuanced metrics, avoid overemphasizing simple counts and totals and look at “rates”.

For me, the most valuable metrics for evaluating the performance of social and digital content that is connected to business goals, include:

Reach: This is a better metric to track over its vanity version, New Followers. Since reach is expressed in percent-change over time, the growth rate reflects momentum on social media, without getting distracted by irrelevant numbers. Reach is great for startups since it allows them to compare the success of growth hacking efforts from the company’s early stages to more sophisticated campaigns.  
Metric to track: Audience Growth Rate.
Tracking benefit: Directly connects social media data with business’ profits.
Related metrics: Audience Growth, Total Followers.

Engagement: As Audience Growth Rate follows a positive trajectory, a brand wants to know and monitor that it’s speaking to the right people and that the audience is listening. This is why the average engagement rate is so important. It’s like taking the pulse of your network and checking the response to social media efforts. This metric compares engagement to the overall number of followers. 
Metric to track: Average Engagement Rate.
Tracking benefit: Make engagement numbers meaningful and actionable.
Related metrics: Reach, Overall Engagement, Audience Growth Rate.

Acquisition: Although total acquisitions from Twitter and Facebook are significantly lower than organic Google search, the Return Visit % actually proves the unique value of this platform to the brand. Sure, Google Analytics can track social media referral traffic, analyze the percentage of overall referrals emerging from social media, and determine the frequency rates of your visitors. This last metric is the key, since it much more accurately proves success in comparison to standard click-through rates (CTR).
Metric to track: Visitor Frequency Rate
Tracking benefit: Optimizes targeting of new and returning visitors
Related metrics: Click-Through Rate, Social Media Impressions

Conversion: Visiting, returning and engaging customers are good but converting ones are even better :) It’s important to note that direct click-conversion metrics might not show the value of trust and social media influence. This is where I set up Assisted Social Conversions. The more specific the conversion goals, the easier it is to follow referral traffic via social channels and track conversions over time. Sure, daily tweets may not directly convert, but if they can be tracked through the customer journey, their success can be reflected in a chart. This chart shows real ROI of social. In the same vein, by comparing Assisted Social Conversions with Last Click (Direct) Conversions a brand can identify which social networks are ideal for engaging customers and which ones are optimal for converting. 
Metric to track: Assisted Social Conversions
Tracking benefit: Directly connect social media data with business’ profits
Related metrics: Last Click (Direct) Conversions

You're not only a digital marketer, but also an influencer writing content for publications such as Social Media Today, Fast Company, HackerNoon, Social Media World. How critical do you think it is for marketers today to invest in their own personal branding? Is it even an option?

As always, people buy from people, not brands. Customers want to know that there is a human behind the brand. They will follow the person throughout their success’, regardless of which brand they may work for or with. As social media marketers, we are always sharing content. While we may not be looking to build a business or find a new job, a personal brand allows you to position yourself, get noticed by the press, impress vendors, attract influential contacts or simply expand your digital network. Being visible beyond the brand or client you represent is critical. It helps in developing your reputation, builds your digital street cred, and creates a place for you to brag about your successes’ or tell your story without limit.

Out of all of the digital marketing campaigns you've worked on, what would you say you're most proud of and why?

I’ve worked on many digital campaigns, many of which have garnered great pride (personally and professionally). Of all them, I’d have to say that my work with the city of Jerusalem is my biggest brag. It all started with one tweet. As the New Media Director, I’ve been part of a team of people working on changing the perception of the city. From 4,000 years old to vibrant and sexy. With one tweet to an influencer, I was able to bring the world’s largest bloggers conference to the city. Imagine hundreds of travel bloggers exploring, tweeting, posting, sharing, snapping about a destination for a week. After that, they go home (or to their next stop) and write long-form content, like blog posts, about their experience in the destination.

Here are the metrics from the 3-day conference. Two years later, bloggers are still sharing content with this hashtag.

Image

Beyond the impressive ‘viral’ social success, from a PR perspective the positive content, strong social reach and impressive content about Jerusalem will influence longer-term conversations and promote positive tourism to the city. Want to prove the ROI of social? How’s $1,038,000 of money spent by tourists (hotels, food, gifts, etc).
This conference was 2 years ago. In December 2018, Bloomberg, based on research conducted by The European Monitor (an independent monitoring agency) stated that Jerusalem is poised to lead growth in inbound arrivals, making the Israeli city one of the world’s most popular travel destinations this year.

So, you see, provable results are the absolute bottom line for digital marketers - that will never change.





Mordecai is the Chief Strategist of Blue Thread Marketing, a boutique Israeli digital agency working with clients that span across 8 countries. He also serves as the New Media Director for the city of Jerusalem's tourism division. Mordecai is an avid blogger and an active contributor to the digital marketing space, including contributions to Fast Company and mentions in Buzzfeed, CMO.com, Forbes & Inc. Mordecai recently launched Empathize It, a podcast focused on entrepreneurship, empathy and the digital economy. Mordecai is also a part of the global network of key opinion leaders for Huawei, China's largest and fastest growing tech company.



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