What Is Digital Marketing?
The term digital marketing refers to the use of digital channels to market products and services in order to reach consumers. This type of marketing involves the use of websites, mobile devices, social media, search engines, and other similar channels. Digital marketing became popular with the advent of the internet in the 1990s.
Digital marketing involves some of the same principles as traditional marketing and is often considered a new way for companies to approach consumers and understand their behavior. Companies often combine traditional and digital marketing techniques in their strategies. But it comes with its own set of challenges, including implicit bias.
- Digital marketing involves marketing to consumers through any number of digital channels, including websites, mobile devices, and social media platforms.
- This form of marketing is different from internet marketing, which is exclusively done on websites.
- Digital marketing is a broad field, including attracting customers via email, content marketing, search platforms, social media, and more.
- One of the biggest challenges digital marketers face is how to set themselves apart in a world that is oversaturated with digital marketing ads.
- Digital marketing comes with various challenges, including implicit bias.
Key Performance Indicators (KPI)
How Digital Marketing Works
Marketing refers to activities that a company uses to promote its products and services and improve its market share. It requires a combination of advertising savvy, sales, and the ability to deliver goods to end-users if it's going to be successful. Professionals, known as marketers, take on these tasks either internally (for companies) or externally with marketing firms.
Corporations traditionally focused on marketing through print, television, and radio. Although these options still exist, the internet led to a shift in the way companies reach consumers. That's where digital marketing came into play. This form of marketing involves the use of websites, social media, search engines, and apps—anything that incorporates marketing with customer feedback or a two-way interaction between the company and its customers.
Increased technology and newer trends forced companies to change their marketing strategies. Email became a popular marketing tool in the early days of digital marketing. That focus shifted to search engines like Netscape, which allowed businesses to tag and keyword stuff to get themselves noticed. The development of sites like Facebook made it possible for companies to track data to cater to consumer trends.
Smartphones and other digital devices now make it easier for companies to market themselves and their products and services to consumers. Studies show that people prefer using their phones to go online. So it should come as no surprise that 70% of individuals make buying decisions (usually on their phones) before they actually hit the purchase button.
Digital marketing can be interactive and is often used to target specific segments of the customer base.
Sources and Receivers
Advertisers are commonly referred to as sources, while members of the targeted ads are the receivers. Sources frequently target highly specific, well-defined receivers like McDonald's did with shift workers and travelers.
The company used digital ads because it knew these people made up a large segment of its late-night business. McDonald's encouraged them to download the Restaurant Finder app, targeting them with ads placed at automated teller machines (ATMs), gas stations, and websites that its customers commonly frequented.
Types of Digital Marketing Channels
As noted above, marketing was traditionally done through print (newspapers and magazines) and broadcast ads (TV and radio). These are channels that still exist today. Digital marketing channels have evolved and continue to do so. The following are eight of the most common avenues that companies can take to boost their marketing efforts. Keep in mind that some companies may use multiple channels in their efforts.
A website is the centerpiece of all digital marketing activities. It is a very powerful channel on its own, but it’s also the medium needed to execute a variety of online marketing campaigns. A website should represent a brand, product, and service in a clear and memorable way. It should be fast, mobile-friendly, and easy to use.
Pay-per-click advertising enables marketers to reach Internet users on a number of digital platforms through paid ads. Marketers can set up PPC campaigns on Google, Bing, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook and show their ads to people searching for terms related to the products or services.
These campaigns can segment users based on their demographic characteristics (such as by age or gender), or even target their particular interests or location. The most popular platforms are Google Ads and Facebook Ads.
The goal of content marketing is to reach potential customers through the use of content. Content is usually published on a website and then promoted through social media, email marketing, search engine optimization, or even pay-per-click campaigns. The tools of content marketing include blogs, ebooks, online courses, infographics, podcasts, and webinars.
Email marketing is still one of the most effective digital marketing channels. Many people confuse email marketing with spam email messages, but that’s not what email marketing is all about. This type of marketing allows companies to get in touch with potential customers and anyone interested in their brands.
Many digital marketers use all other digital marketing channels to add leads to their email lists and then, through email marketing, they create customer acquisition funnels to turn those leads into customers.
Social Media Marketing
The primary goal of a social media marketing campaign is brand awareness and establishing social trust. As you go deeper into social media marketing, you can use it to get leads or even as a direct marketing or sales channel. Promoted posts and tweets are two examples of social media marketing.
Affiliate marketing is one of the oldest forms of marketing, and the internet has brought new life to this old standby. With affiliate marketing, influencers promote other people’s products and get a commission every time a sale is made or a lead is introduced. Many well-known companies like Amazon have affiliate programs that pay out millions of dollars per month to websites that sell their products.
YouTube is one of the most popular search engines in the world. A lot of users are turning to YouTube before making a buying decision, to learn something, read a review, or just relax.
There are several video marketing platforms, including Facebook Videos, Instagram, and even TikTok to use to run a video marketing campaign. Companies find the most success with video by integrating it with SEO, content marketing, and broader social media marketing campaigns.
Companies and nonprofit organizations also use SMS or text messages to send information about their latest promotions or give opportunities to willing customers. Political candidates running for office also use SMS message campaigns to spread positive information about their own platforms. As technology has advanced, many text-to-give campaigns also allow customers to directly pay or give via a simple text message.
Internet marketing differs from digital marketing. Internet marketing is advertising that is solely on the internet, whereas digital marketing can take place through mobile devices, on a subway platform, in a video game, or via a smartphone app.
Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in Digital Marketing
Another key point to remember is that digital marketers use key performance indicators (KPIs) just like traditional marketers. KPIs are quantifiable ways that companies can measure long-term performance by comparing them to their competition. This includes corporate strategies, financial goals and achievements, operational activities, and even marketing campaigns.
The following are some of the most common KPIs that marketers can use to help companies achieve their goals:
- Blog Articles: Marketers can use this KPI to figure out how many times a company publishes blog posts each month.
- Clickthrough Rates: Companies can use this KPI to figure out how many clicks take place for email distributions. This includes the number of people that open an email and click on a link to complete a sale.
- Conversion Rate: This measure focuses on call-to-action promotional programs. These programs ask consumers to follow through with certain actions, such as buying a product or service before the end of a promotional period. Companies can determine the conversion rate by dividing successful engagements by the total number of requests made.
- Traffic on Social Media: This tracks how many people interact with corporate social media profiles. This includes likes, follows, views, shares, and/or other measurable actions.
- Website Traffic: Marketers can use this metric to track how many people visit a company's website. Corporate management can use this information to understand whether the site's design and structure contribute to sales.
Digital Marketing Challenges
Digital marketing poses special challenges for its purveyors. Digital channels proliferate rapidly, and digital marketers have to keep up with how these channels work, how they're used by receivers, and how to use these channels to effectively market their products or services.
It's becoming more difficult to capture receivers' attention because receivers are increasingly inundated with competing ads. Digital marketers also find it challenging to analyze the vast troves of data they capture and then exploit this information in new marketing efforts.
The challenge of capturing and using data effectively highlights that digital marketing requires an approach to marketing based on a deep understanding of consumer behavior. For example, it may require a company to analyze new forms of consumer behavior, such as using website heatmaps to learn more about the customer journey.
Implicit Bias in Digital Marketing
Implicit bias has a way of creeping into digital marketing, even when marketers and companies do all they can to ensure it doesn't. The term implicit bias refers to attitudes and stereotypes people have against or toward other groups of people that occur automatically without any conscious knowledge
Algorithms are a major foundation of digital marketing, which makes them very important when companies craft their marketing strategies. These algorithms are often created with the intention of being unbiased.
Keep in mind, though, that this is all programmed by various individuals, including engineers, developers, data scientists, and marketers—all of whom come with their own implicit biases. This means they may program, input, and manipulate data in certain ways, even if they don't intend to on purpose.
Something as simple as adding stock photos or videos to a campaign can come with implicit bias. For instance, companies may unintentionally use images and videos of heterosexual White individuals while excluding Black, Indigenous, and people of color, along with those of different body types and abilities.
What Is a Digital Marketing Agency?
A digital marketing agency is a firm that deals exclusively in marketing to consumers through digital channels. This includes creating and launching campaigns for corporate clients through social media, pay-per-click advertising, videos, and websites, among others.
What Is SEO in Digital Marketing?
Search engine optimization or SEO is the way that companies are able to increase their traffic through search engines with the goal of pushing their websites and names at the top of any search results page. This can be through search results done organically or editorially. When companies are able to successfully apply SEO in their digital marketing strategies, their names and websites become increasingly visible to more consumers.
What Is Internet Marketing?
Internet marketing is any marketing that takes place solely on the internet. This means it exclusively appears on websites. It is different than digital marketing, which includes internet marketing as well as marketing on social media sites, and mobile apps. These marketing campaigns can take place through smartphones, digital devices, and other platforms.
How Can I Become a Digital Marketer?
Digital marketers require strong writing skills along with data analytics and social media skills. A bachelor's degree is needed for most digital marketing positions, in a business field such as marketing, or a related field such as communications. You may also want to take courses or bootcamps specifically in digital marketing. In addition, completing an internship while in school can be useful. A master’s degree in digital marketing may be useful but is not necessary to get into the digital marketing field.
What Skills Are Needed in Digital Marketing?
You need to be skillful in writing content along with communication skills to effectively tell your product's story to your consumer base. Data analytics skills are important for understanding how well your marketing campaigns are performing and where they can be improved. Finally, social media and other online skills are a must.
The Bottom Line
Some of the world's biggest advertising campaigns were executed through traditional means. The Marlboro Man was very popular in print while Wendy's wowed individuals with its "Where's the beef?" tagline. But changes in the way people consume media forced companies to shift their focus. Digital marketing is now just as big, if not bigger, than traditional advertising and marketing tools. This includes the algorithms used in digital marketing campaigns. When used properly, they can help avoid implicit bias. The main thing to keep in mind is that as technology continues to change, you can also expect digital marketing to evolve.