We see it all the time. The guy down the street continually urges you to contribute to his Kickstarter campaign for a board game featuring kittens and aliens. Your other friend wants you to buy her makeup, or maybe his homeopathic oils. Sometimes we get annoyed when our social media feeds are full of our friends’ advertisements, but it’s amazing that technology has created the opportunity for anyone to market themselves. And if your friends can do it with their limited experience, imagine what you could do.
Your friends are all engaging in a minimal form of digital marketing. Digital marketing has been around practically since the rise of the internet, but in recent years, it has seen such exponential evolution that businesses seeking to improve their marketing simply can’t do without it. It’s a different ballgame than traditional marketing, but don’t let that intimidate you. It’s the way of the present and the future. Here’s everything you need to know about digital marketing.
What Is Digital Marketing?
In a hyper-condensed nutshell, digital marketing is the use of some form of digital advertising to promote products and services. Among the many tactics used are social media, blogs, email, and infographics. Our digital marketing services, for example, provide illustrations, videos, and infographics; in other words, products that tell a visual story.
What separates digital marketing from traditional marketing? Although marketing has evolved from its beginnings, making it difficult to categorize any aspect of marketing as “traditional,” we tend to think of traditional marketing as promoting products and services through tangible tactics, such as magazines, billboards, and even TV commercials. Marketers often refer to the use of these methods as “outbound marketing,” which works to get advertisements and content in the consumer’s hands or right in their faces.
While digital marketing certainly seeks to put content in front of consumers, digital marketing relies more heavily on “inbound marketing,” where the content directs consumers through the media channels they’re already using. And while businesses certainly continue to employ some measure of traditional marketing, many businesses prefer digital marketing because of its measurability.
Following a traditional marketing campaign, businesses can make estimates as to the reach and efficiency of the campaign, but thanks to reliable online tracking tools, digital marketers can precisely track how many people interacted with content and what specific content drove users to the desired goal. Using these results, marketers can then adjust future campaigns to the elements of content that worked with the effective campaign.
Data also plays an important role in digital brand visibility. Modern digital marketing relies heavily on something called search engine optimization, or SEO. Since most digital marketing efforts either take place on a business’s website or point users there, websites must maintain a high page rank on search engines like Google or Yahoo. To ensure they appear quickly on users’ search feeds, businesses optimize their websites for search engines. This optimization involves awareness of the search engine algorithm and tailoring the website and its content so it meets the criteria of the algorithm.
In the search for a high page rank, businesses incorporate keywords that users will search for, photos and videos, links to other pages on their site, and more into their content. Investing in SEO guarantees that other digital marketing efforts are not wasted.
Social media is another crucial component of digital marketing. In the beginning of 2017, Pew Research Center reported that 69 percent of American people regularly use at least one social media site, with use increasing among all age demographics. That pervasive use affords businesses the opportunity to reach consumers with advertisements and content, regardless of their location. It allows brands to connect with their target on another, more personal level.
The most successful brands don’t utilize social media by simply posting the same ads that are on their website; they post relevant and relatable content, they interact with their audiences through comments, and sometimes, they have some fun with it.
The Evolution of Digital Marketing
There is some debate surrounding the genesis of digital marketing. Some believe it started with Guglielmo Marconi and the invention of the radio, while others give credit to Ray Tomlinson, who sent the first email (to himself) in 1971. But these are markers in the road; milestones in the development of technology. It’s more accurate to say that the history of digital marketing began with the first search engine, called Archie, though that was more of an index compared to what we think of today as a search engine.
A few years following Archie came the first clickable banner, and following that, website banner ads. Then came more search engines and the birth of SEO. Cookies followed, then Google AdWords, then user-generated content, then came the birth of social media in the form of MySpace. WordPress debuted. Google released AdSense. More social media platforms, like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, launched. Then mobile technology evolved to a point where it began exceeding desktop usage.
These historical technological achievements caused digital marketing to evolve alongside. In the early days of search engines, businesses would stuff their content with certain keywords, which would earn them a higher website ranking because the search engine algorithms rewarded those keywords. But as search engine developers became aware of those tactics, and because keyword stuffing dropped the quality of content, they adjusted their algorithms so that rank was about quality, and not just keyword quantity.
Google also evolved to use its search engine to deliver personalized content to users. AdSense now applies users’ searches to deliver more relevant ads. That kind of personalization benefits not only users, but also marketers, who can expect that their advertisements are reaching people who are interested in them.
When social media got its footing, marketers immediately began using those channels to advertise their products and services. Businesses quickly realized that specific demographics and those with specific interests used certain social media channels, which meant they could reliably reach a target audience with their advertisements and content.
Since the evolution of digital marketing is so closely linked to the advancement of technology, and since technology is progressing at an exponentially rapid pace, digital marketing will continue to evolve and adapt to deliver relevant content to the widest possible audience base.
Why Digital Marketing Is Important for Businesses
If you haven’t yet adopted a digital marketing strategy, all of this may feel a bit intimidating. Diverting resources to anything new may feel risky, but investing time and money into digital marketing is a reliable way to help your business find the progress it may be lacking. Here are a few reasons to consider implementing a digital marketing strategy:
- To keep pace with the competition. Even if you’re not using digital media marketing, it’s a pretty safe bet that your competitors are. Mom and dad may have told you not to follow the crowd, but when it comes to digital marketing, neglecting to use it gives your competitor an edge on reaching your shared target audience.
- To expand your audience. Without the outreach available through digital marketing, you’re missing out on a significant available audience. By using social media, efficient email campaigns, and engaging content, you can reach more consumers who are interested in your products and services.
- To build brand loyalty. When you make digital marketing part of your brand, you have the opportunity to become a valuable resource for your audience. As you develop content and interact on social media, you build close connections with your audience, who will continue to return for more of your brand.
- To save money. Digital marketing is often much more cost-effective than traditional marketing. You don’t have to pay for printing or for ad space in that magazine. You can post to social media channels and to your website as frequently as your strategy dictates. Digital marketing certainly isn’t free of costs, but it frees you from the crippling limits of high costs.
- To better understand your audience. We mentioned analytical tools earlier, but those do more than keep an eye on your competition; they also give you a greater understanding of your audience. Thanks to the tools that analyze interaction with your digital marketing campaigns, you’ll gain a stronger grasp of your target audience’s preferences and behavior. With that information, you can better tailor campaigns for success.
- To increase ROI and revenue. All of the previously mentioned benefits will lead to greater returns on your hard work. The measurability of digital marketing campaigns will also allow you to make more confident and reliable predictions, which only compounds future improvements in your ROI.
Digital marketing, when all is said and done, makes your brand more accessible. It spreads your influence, makes you visible, and opens you up to stronger relationships with consumers. It will allow your audience to seek you out, rather than the other way around. Its constant evolution may cause you to evaluate your strategy often, but it also grants you the opportunity to set the trends and pave the way for your competitors to follow.