What Is Digital Marketing? A Beginner's Guide to Modern Marketing

What is Digital Marketing

You probably already have some understanding about what the goal of marketing is. Basically, it’s finding effective ways to promote and sell products or services. That may seem simple enough, but there’s a lot more to it.

If you’re researching a career in marketing, you’ve likely heard about digital marketing and are curious as to what it entails. As digital media has become more and more pervasive, so have the opportunities for companies to get their products out there for the world to see. From email to Facebook and online ads to mobile phones, the circumstances have never been better for organizations to communicate their message and promote their services.

Consumers now have access to information any time they want it and the world of digital marketing has become more competitive. If you’re interested in a career in marketing, a strong understanding of digital marketing is a must.

We already did the hard work and connected with some professionals in the field, so you can get your questions answered. Read on for an introduction to the world of digital marketing.

So what is digital marketing?

“From your website itself to your online branding assets—digital advertising, email marketing, online brochures and beyond—there’s a huge spectrum of tactics and assets that fall under the umbrella of digital marketing,” explains Mehmood Hanif, brand strategist at PureVPN.

Digital marketing is the promotion of products and services via the use of digital advertising. This promotion is usually done over one or more forms of electronic media. There are a variety of platforms and tactics that fall under this overarching term. For example, social media, text messages, email, blog posts, online ads, infographics, earned online public relations and eBooks are all part of the digital marketing toolbox.

Companies will often invest in SEO (search engine optimization), a tactic used to improve website visibility in search engine results. Social media marketing is also a huge segment of digital marketing. In fact, one report shows 78 percent of Americans had some sort of social media profile in 2016. With such a high number of consumers online, it only makes sense that companies would shift their marketing strategies toward digital marketing.

How does digital marketing differ from traditional marketing?

Traditional marketing is the promotion of products via avenues that often involve tangible items. For example, newspaper ads, magazines, billboards, direct mail advertisements and commercials on television are all considered a form of “outbound marketing,” which is a form of marketing that pushes products in front of the consumer’s face. 

On the flip side, digital marketing is the promotion of products using anything that involves modern digital technology and the internet. Often, it’s a form of “inbound marketing” and exists for people to find it via media channels they’re already using.

One of the biggest differences between the two techniques of marketing is that it’s far easier to measure the success of your digital marketing campaign with online statistics than it is to get a read on how your traditional marketing campaign went.

“When you're sending out a direct mail campaign, you'll find it difficult to track how successful it truly was,” says Izaak Crook, a digital marketing executive at AppInstitute. “With digital marketing, more or less everything you do results in quantifiable results that can be tested, measured and repeated.” 

Some online platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, come with campaign measurement statistics already built in and are relatively accessible for beginners. Website tools like Google Analytics can also provide valuable data that helps measure the effectiveness of complex multi-channel advertising campaigns.

Measurability provides a huge advantage to digital marketers. In the past, advertisers could get a rough estimate of how many people saw their message. Now, they can see the exact numbers for an ad campaign that led to a sale.

What are some of the jobs that fall under the umbrella of digital marketing?

“There are a wide variety of jobs that fall into this line of work, including analytics roles,” explains Brady Keller, a digital marketing strategist at Atlantic.Net. “[Common job positions include] account managers, pay per click (PPC) managers, search engine optimization (SEO) strategists, content marketers, social media coordinators, graphic designers, web developers, copywriters and many more.”

As technology continues to become more widespread, and digital media becomes central to how society operates, it’s natural to expect digital marketing job demand to grow. New platforms and technologies force digital marketing professionals to learn and adapt. Because of this, an appetite for lifelong learning will benefit you. Marketing has significantly changed from even ten years ago, and staying up to date on online user trends is important.

“The people who do well in the field [of digital marketing] are those who understand how the internet works, and how internet users think and act on different platforms,” says Alexis Chateau, managing partner at Alexis Chateau PR, LLC. “Users are in a much different frame of mind when double-tapping Instagram pictures, for instance, than while reading a New York Times article.” 

Whether you have a penchant for understanding consumer behavior, or you’re fascinated with the workings of Google Analytics, there’s certainly a place for you in the field of digital marketing.

What do I need to know before I get started in the field of digital marketing?

If you forget everything else, remember this: The world of technology is always changing.

“Google constantly updates their algorithm, Facebook and Twitter will alter the way their feeds work, and you need to be keeping yourself updated to ensure you don't fall behind,” advises Crook.

It’s also important to consider a degree in the field. While there’s a lot you can do to teach yourself about online trends, a degree in Marketing with a specialization in Digital Marketing will put you one step ahead of others vying for the same positions as you.

Additionally, digital marketing professionals may seek out certifications, like Google’s AdWords certification, Google Analytics Individual Qualification or Facebook’s Blueprint certifications. Many of these certifications cover niche areas of digital marketing and aren’t necessarily requirements for entry level work. That said, these certifications can certainly help you stand out and may be a great choice for someone who has their heart set on a specific digital marketing role.

It’s time to zero in

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into the world of digital marketing, and it’s an ever-shifting, flourishing field. Now that you know what digital marketing is, are you excited about a potential career in marketing? If so, learn more about some different career options in our article, 7 Types of Marketing Specializations: The Practical Guide You’ve Been Seeking.”




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Lauren is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She enjoys helping current and potential students choose the path that helps them achieve their educational goals.

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