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What were the top digital marketing channels used by marketers in 2021?

As you might expect, social media was the top digital marketing channel used by marketers (82%) in 2021 according to this report by HubSpot. The report doesn’t provide the exact details on how each of the channels are being used or if the respondents work in B2B or B2C.

The other channels included in the report was the company website (80%), email marketing (62%), content marketing & SEO (42%), paid social (39%), paid search & display (35%), events & trade shows (32%), Facebook Messenger (25%), customer community (20%) and WhatsApp (18%).

It’s a little unclear as to why these channels are segmented this way or why they are all called channels. I don’t understand the distinction between using the company website and content marketing & SEO. The distinction between the other channels make a little bit more sense to me.

Nonetheless, in the same report, marketers were asked which social media platforms delivered the strongest ROI:

  • Facebook 43%

  • Instagram 32%

  • LinkedIn 9%

  • YouTube 7%

  • Twitter 6%

  • Snapchat 3%

  • Pinterest 2%

It's interesting to see the disparity between the percent of marketers who are seeing ROI on Facebook versus those who are seeing ROI on LinkedIn and YouTube. I would assume that most of the marketers surveyed work for consumer brands more so than for B2B or tech companies based on these results.

It's either that, or perhaps some of these marketers just aren't using LinkedIn and YouTube the right way. In my experience, I have seen YouTube ads out perform Facebook by double digit margins.

These results don’t really surprise me but there is one data point that I would like to drill down on. Only 20% of marketers were using an online community as a part of their marketing strategies in 2021. Also in the report, marketers were asked what their top priorities were in 2022. Less than 10% said that increasing customer retention was a priority. These two data points go hand in hand.

So, the trend continues. Marketers were not focused on customer advocacy in 2021. And they are not making it a priority in 2022.

I think it is a major disconnect for marketers to not prioritize building online communities for their existing customers. An online community is a place that will foster brand advocacy, product innovation, customer love and long-term customer value.

The tactical benefits are also important to consider. If you have ever owned an iPhone or any Apple product, it’s a safe bet that you have spent some time on the Apple Support Communities after Googling something like “reset mac password.”

One of the benefits of building online communities is that customers are asking and answering questions about the product in an open forum. All of these conversations are indexed in Google and will begin to rank in the search engine.

One you get your questions answered and the problem fixed, you don't have to pick up the phone and call customer support. That in itself is a cost savings for brands that are using online communities. Every call that comes into the call center cost money.

At the end of the day, building online customer communities is one of many tactics that should be integrated into your entire omnichannel marketing program.