What Works in Marketing Today?

At the end of each month I do a report for each of my clients. This is to make sure we know what’s working and what isn’t, against tangible targets.

This month I found myself a little disheartened with the results.

I know we did a lot of great posts on Twitter this month but only 1% clickthroughs? Not good enough.

We had 2000 clickthroughs from Facebook ads but only one conversion?….

Organic traffic only increased by 5%? But we wrote 10 articles around that topic alone…

Truth is, marketing got hard.

Yes anyone working in marketing has known this for a while. But this month it was a wake-up call and reminded me how often you need to stop and reassess your marketing.

As a freelance marketing consultant it’s even more important that I can advise the clients relying on my expertise, what’s happening in marketing at any given time. And what the long-term picture looks like too.

So with that in mind, here are my thoughts:

What isn’t working in marketing right now

Social media

Facebook was recently spotted trialing a redesigned newsfeed experience which would move all brand posts out of the newsfeed. If implemented, there would be almost no point in brands posting to Facebook unless they were posting ads.

I foresee this becoming the case across all social networks in the future.

I also noticed this month that clickthroughs on Twitter have massively dropped over the past year. Before, if you wrote good content and created interesting tweet hooks, this was always a good source of traffic. Now, it’s harder than ever to get reach. I, myself, can’t remember the last time I clicked through a link on Twitter.

This is a huge warning bell for any brands relying on organic social media reach for web traffic or conversions.


Content marketing still works (more on this below) but acquiring traffic to your content is  much harder. Companies still using “spray and pray” blogging tactics aren’t going to see the results they want because it’s now so difficult to rank for key terms and to get people to click on links.


I used to do a lot of this where I’d ghost-write a blog from a CEO and get it featured on a big blog or news site.

Trouble now, is that:

1. Most publications have stopped accepting guest posts. They can’t even get people to click on their posts so they certainly aren’t going to spend time getting people to click on yours.

2. Publishers are struggling for revenue. As a result, they’re much more likely to push you down an advertorial or sponsored content piece than allow you to write for free.

3. Many sites won’t allow you a backlink to your own site now, even if you have written them a great post for free, so the SEO element is lost.


Here I’m talking about big tradeshow events. I don’t bother with any of the marketing or content ones anymore. The exhibition part is always a waste of time and you can do much better research about what tools you want to use online. The only part I do find worthwhile is the talks and seminars, but I’d rather go to a more intimate event with less people.

So what does work in marketing today?


I think podcasts are the new blogs in terms of getting reach and building an audience. You can also get quite high visibility more easily as it’s less saturated than other channels. Definitely one to consider for brands who want to gain fans and awareness over direct conversions.

Community building

Facebook groups can still be incredibly effective when used correctly and so long as you keep a tight reign on spam or self-promotional posts. One-on-one community building on channels such as Twitter and Instagram can also be effective. However they do take time and energy so you need to weigh up what the true benefit will be. Once you’ve encouraged people to become part of your online community you’ll also want to try and convert them into a web visitor, email lead or face-to-face connection to safeguard yourself against future algorithm and group-management changes.

Long-term content strategies

Investing in a 12-month content plan will get results. I know, because I’m concurrently working on two strategies that are doing just that. The reason most wont get these results is because they won’t invest in such a long-term strategy. Hubspot says you need to create something like 20 pieces of content around every single topic and there are a whole host of other elements to consider too. But if you can get buy in to a long-term content strategy, Google traffic and search discoverability does still work and can be an exclusive source of lead generation for many brands.

Email marketing

But only when building value. Think newsletters rather than marketing emails and creating something your audience will get value from reading. Email automation is also a big one, particularly for tech tools and companies.

Video & stories

If you are going to do social, only do it moving. Video content can still get good traction on the majority of social channels. Brands can also get double the engagement with Instagram stories over static posts and this is down to the medium. The story algorithm is very much “all things equal” so whether you’re a brand or a person, so long as someone watches your content often enough, the stories will be shown to them.

Campaign marketing

By this I mean old school marketing. Today, many marketers do stuff because “we should be doing it”. Scheduling tweets for the sake of scheduling tweets, writing blog posts to hit a quota. To get results sometimes we need to go back to campaign marketing. Thinking of a really great idea, deciding the audience, planning the methods of distribution and the resulting action you want to get. Whether that’s a workshop, a physical swag product or a report on trends in your industry.

Again, from experience, the big idea does still work, when it’s had enough thought behind it.

In conclusion: should I give up now and go run a dog sanctuary?

No. If you feel like that you probably shouldn’t have started marketing in the first place. It is always a landscape that is going to change and you have to be on the pulse of what’s going on if you are to be successful. But that’s also one of the reasons I truly love it.

I’ll be advising some of my clients this week to stop bothering with social. Or at least to only put 1-2 hours per week into it. I’ll be telling others that if they really want to increase leads month-on-month, they need to begin investing now. Marketing is always changing and as marketers we just need to ensure we stop, take stock, and don’t focus our attention too much on the things that may have no longevity.