A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Marketing

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Digital Marketing - A Beginner's Guide
Digital Marketing – A Beginner’s Guide

In our Beginners’ Guides, we explore the basics of digital design and marketing in terms that a beginner can actually understand. This week we’re looking at the umbrella term “digital marketing”.

What is digital marketing?

The bare-bones definition is that digital marketing uses any kind of digital technology to communicate with consumers. Relying on the internet, digital technologies include websites, social media and email marketing.

Common digital strategies include search engine optimisation and social media management. (Even though TV and radio are often ‘digital’ these days, they count as ‘traditional’ marketing media.) Digital marketing often focuses on users, how they perceive a business, and how they interact with the business and other users.

How does it work?

Digital marketing covers a huge range of products, services and techniques. For the beginner, it helps to think of it as an ‘area’ rather than as an ‘action’. You won’t boost your business by just waking up one day and deciding ‘I’m going to do digital’!

Some businesses focus too much on the obvious effect of digital marketing, such as getting loads of Facebook likes. But what will you then do with those likes, once you’ve got them? How will you keep them, and the users they represent? Users are no longer a static audience – they can interact, answer back and unsubscribe from dull feeds.

To have a genuine presence online, companies don’t just need to provide content that users connect with. If they decide that you’re not relevant to their interests, they will remove you from their online landscape. Whether on social media or your online shop, you have to continue producing content that keeps them invested in you.

Why is it important?

Digital marketing is important because it gives a business a lot of reach without breaking the bank. It can be a real game-changer for a smaller brand, because it allows you to build up an online presence without having to pay for ads. Through Social Media, you have the potential to access hundreds of thousands of users.

Even thinking on a smaller scale, brands can create a sense of identity and that leads to loyalty and repeated conversions by members of their community of followers. In their own way, likes on Instagram and retweets of your Twitter updates are as valuable as an ad that pulls in a sale.

Many commenters write about ‘push’ and ‘pull’ digital marketing. To summarise, a business either ‘pushes’ its marketing material to users, or uses other methods to ‘pull’ them in. For a beginner, it can be more useful to divide your digital thought into ‘paid’ and ‘organic’ marketing. These are the two ways you’re likely to interact with digital media.

It’s crucial to understand the distinction, because users perceive paid and organic techniques in different ways. That difference is something that will shape your digital marketing campaigns.

What is the difference between paid and organic?

‘Paid’ is pretty simple – as with traditional marketing, you’ve paid for an advert to be in a particular place to bring maximum attention and revenue to your brand. An ad on Google, a promoted Twitter post, a branded banner on a relevant website – they’re all paid forms of digital marketing. They are the online versions of a page spread in a magazine or stand banners at football matches.

As with such traditional marketing techniques, they share a focus on sales return. Exposure like this often publicises an offer or a particular product that you think will be relevant to your targeted audience.

You might be thinking that this sounds ideal, and that you’re going to ply your budget into paid options. But beware! If paid digital marketing were the only techniques that worked, there wouldn’t be such a thing as organic methods.

The internet is awash with business trying to make sales, so users are sensitive to sales-focused spam. In part, this is because plenty of browsing happens on phones and tablets – ‘personal’, ‘private’ spaces. If a business’ sales techniques are too aggressive, users are likely to skip or block their ads, ignoring the messages. That’s where organic digital marketing comes in.

So what’s organic?

It’s useful to think of organic methods in terms of becoming a successful band. You want to produce music and market yourself in such a way that you build up a fanbase. Your product is the music you make, and your services are your live performances. Casual users might hear you on the radio and enjoy your music, but it’s better for you if you have fans. Fans will make multiple purchases – of new albums or tickets for tours and festivals – to continue enjoying what you can give them. They do this not just because they like you, but because you reaffirm something about their identity.

Be aware of how important a sense of identity is for digital marketing. Like with any music ‘type’, users buy into a band or business to be part of the community around the initial product or service.

In this way, organic digital marketing can take a lot of work. You need constant exposure, like our fictional band’s touring schedule. It’s also important to generate new and interesting content to bring in new users, and to maintain a relationship with the current audience.

Like any band’s music, a business’s performance is constantly under scrutiny. To extend the metaphor, there will be industry bodies such as magazines and websites that offer ‘official’ reviews. But there will also be the opinions of your users, who will comment and share and add to the public opinion of you. Like a pop star, your off-stage antics – such as how you treat people over social media – change how people see your performance.

Though paid channels can lead to increased exposure and a boost in sales, this kick can be short-lived. Similarly, organic methods can be tricky to manage and take a long time to put into practise. As you may have gathered by now, paid and organic techniques work best in combination.

How is it used?

Digital techniques allow you to build a brand identity while increasing revenue. For all digital marketing methods, you need to focus both on the statistics and the impact on the users you are targeting. A comprehensive digital marketing strategy will take into account a number of channels.

As well as a strong social media presence to connect with customers, you should have a well-designed website that’s easy for them to use. Written content should express your company’s verbal identity, be engaging for any viewers, and it should also be optimised for search engines.

There are a plethora of possibilities, but not every option will be right for you. You don’t have to try them all at once – and don’t get too bogged down. This brief overview is already well over a thousand words and we haven’t even gone into much detail about specific services!

Digital marketing can be a bit of a minefield, but there’s plenty of help out there to get you going – not least our lovely specialists, who focus on everything from web development to social media.

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