What Is Digital Marketing?
Digital Marketing is an umbrella term for any type of marketing that occurs online (through digital channels and touchpoints). This includes everything from search engines to social media, email, websites, display advertisements, and more.
With an increase in the adoption of smart devices, digital marketing is becoming a major core of business models today. Traditionally, much of marketing used to happen offline – in radio, television, print and direct mail – but the way people shop and buy today has changed dramatically thanks to the rapid increase in access to technology.
Add to this new generations of consumers (enter “Millennials” and “Gen Z”) and the entire marketing ecosystem is flipped upside down. Why? Well, “in the space of 5 years, more than 40% of [18-24 year old’s] traditional TV viewing time has migrated to other activities or streaming” (Nielsen). So, in the most basic sense, new consumers are migrating to newer channels/mediums, which means that we, as marketers, need to target them in newer and more innovative ways.
If marketing is about communicating and connecting to your audience by being in the right place, at the right time, with the right message, then how do you reach new consumers with completely new habits?
You do it by reaching them where they already are: online.
But it’s so much easier said than done.
The thing is, while reaching your consumers has become more affordable, the entire process has become much more complex. Your customer’s attention has been fractured into a a multitude of touchpoints. So, in an effort to keep up, it’s imperative that you develop, maintain and optimize a strategy that consistently and effectively communicates an authentic brand message through every one of your unique channels.
New habits mean new strategies.
Which means that your media plans become more complex and nuanced in nature.
What are some tactics that I can use today?
If Digital Marketing is an umbrella term for other forms of online marketing, then what are the digital tools that you have at your disposal? Well, it depends on what exactly your business objective is and what it is that you hope to accomplish! But, just to name a few types of marketing under the digital marketing umbrella:
The consistent creation and distribution of valuable and relevant content that is aimed at attracting and retaining a clearly defined audience. The goal of content marketing is to build and maintain an audience that will drive customer action.
Social Media Marketing
The strategic use of social media platforms (such as Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, etc) to promote a product, service or message. Today, the digital world is exploding with a growing user base, and if you’re a B2C (business to consumer) business, you’ll find that most of your audience is actively engaging with regularly scheduled content on social media.
This is probably one of the most effective forms of digital marketing. Many e-commerce brands are able to segment their customer lists by using behavior-driven findings to optimize their messaging in order to appeal to specific people. The ability to segment customers based on purchase behavior also allows businesses to increase their overall ROI by offering up a select group of products that those segments are more likely to buy.
A type of marketing where individual sources receive a commission for promoting someone else’s products/services. Some affiliate marketing strategies pay out affiliates on a CPA commission basis (where the affiliate gets paid a percentage of sales that are made). For brands/businesses that are bootstrapping, this can be extremely beneficial. However, the competition in this area can make it difficult to get any traction.
Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
When armed with a strong content marketing plan and a strategic use of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), SEM can prove to be a decidedly powerful source for organic traffic. Brand bidding campaigns can allow you to own a considerable amount of screen retail space to blow competition out of the water when people search for your brand’s online presence.
Pay Per Click
Traffic generation is extremely important online. While existing online gives you the opportunity to reach a much wider audience, it can also be difficult to get any attention. PPC campaigns can be used to target new customers/prospects, re-target people who have previously engaged with your content, re-market to segmented groups within your audience, etc.
With the introduction of algorithms to social media platforms and advancements in machine learning, it’s becoming much more common to automate tedious tasks in digital marketing. There are huge benefits to automation. The biggest advantage is the virtual elimination of repetitive tasks (like sending tracking information in e-mails). Benefits like free time allow you to focus on more data analyzation in order to further refine your marketing messages.
What are the advantages & disadvantages?
Launch a digital campaign and, almost immediately, you have access to a lot of data that tells you everything from your target market’s demographics (age, income, education) to their psychographics (attitudes, lifestyles, behaviors, interests). This gets even better when you incorporate more tools into your strategy. When you cross reference information from reports in Google Analytics and your website traffic, you can gain a deeper insight on what drives your prospect’s/customer’s initial intent. Plus, you can track your digital campaigns and optimize them as your gain more insight on your target demographic.
Depending on who your target market is and who your ideal customers are (demographics AND psychographics), you need to create an extremely customer-centric approach in your digital strategy that provides both value and a unique/tailored experience. This requires a meticulously detailed media plan for your advertising efforts, as well as an outline of what your goals are so that you can measure the success and/or failure of your marketing campaigns. And that requires research. And time. And money. And data. Lots and lots and lots of data.
From an outsider’s perspective, digital marketing doesn’t seem very complicated. After all, you just post a picture on Instagram or a text post on Facebook, right? Wrong.
While it may be easy to shout into the grand abyss of the Internet, there’s no point to it if no one can hear you (not to mention that what you say needs to be engaging, relatable, and a tailored experience that drives a valuable action). So while it’s seems simple enough, it requires research, constant testing, and creative innovation. It needs an intuitive understanding of human nature, psychology, strategy, and the ability to form knowledge from information. It requires the ability to connect the dots. To think in both macro and micro terms. To leverage the synergy of its simplicity and complexity.