Definition and examples of digital marketing

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What is digital marketing?

Digital marketing is about using the internet, mobile devices, social media, search engines, and other channels to reach consumers. Some marketers see digital marketing as an entirely new business that requires a new way of approaching customers and new ways of understanding how customers behave compared to traditional marketing.

Key points to remember

  • Digital marketing is the use of the internet to reach consumers.
  • Digital marketing is a huge field, including attracting customers via email, content marketing, search platforms, social media, and more.

Understanding digital marketing

Digital marketing targets a specific customer segment and is interactive. Digital marketing is on the rise and includes search results ads, email ads, and promoted tweets – anything that integrates marketing with customer feedback or two-way business-customer interaction.

Internet marketing differs from digital marketing. Internet marketing is advertising only on the Internet, while digital marketing can take place through mobile devices, on a subway platform, in a video game, or through a smartphone app.

In digital marketing parlance, advertisers are commonly referred to as sources, while members of targeted ads are commonly referred to as receivers. Sources frequently target very specific and well-defined receptors. For example, after extending the nighttime hours of many of its branches, McDonald’s needed to get the word out. It was targeting shift workers and travelers with digital ads because the company knew these people made up a large part of its late-night activities. McDonald’s encouraged them to download a new Restaurant Finder app, targeting them with ads placed at ATMs and gas stations, as well as websites it knew its customers frequented at night.

Digital Marketing Channels

Key performance indicators (KPIs)

Website Marketing

A website is the centerpiece of all digital marketing activity. On its own, this is a very powerful channel, but it is also the medium needed to run various 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 (PPC) advertising

PPC advertising allows marketers to reach Internet users on a number of digital platforms through paid advertising. Marketers can set up PPC campaigns on Google, Bing, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, or Meta (formerly Facebook) and show their ads to people searching for terms related to the products or services. PPC campaigns can segment users based on their demographics (such as age or gender), or even target their particular interests or location. The most popular PPC platforms are Google Ads and Meta Ads.

Content Marketing

The goal of content marketing is to reach potential customers through the use of content. The content is usually posted to a website and then promoted through social media, email marketing, SEO, or even PPC campaigns. Content marketing tools include blogs, eBooks, online courses, infographics, podcasts, and webinars.

Email advertising

Email marketing remains one of the most effective digital marketing channels. Many people confuse email marketing with spam messages, but that is not the purpose of email marketing. Email marketing is the way to get in touch with your potential customers or people interested in your brand. Many digital marketers use all other digital marketing channels to add leads to their mailing lists and then through email marketing they create customer acquisition funnels to turn those prospects into customers.

Social media marketing

The main goal of a social media marketing campaign is brand awareness and building social trust. As you dig deeper into social media marketing, you can use it to get leads or even as a direct sales channel.

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is one of the oldest forms of marketing, and the internet has brought that old fashion back to life. With affiliate marketing, influencers promote other people’s products and receive a commission every time a sale is made or a lead is introduced. Many well-known companies like Amazon have affiliate programs that pay millions of dollars a month to websites that sell their products.

Video Marketing

YouTube has emerged as the second most popular search engine and many users turn to YouTube before making a purchase decision, to learn something, read a review, or just to relax. There are several video marketing platforms including Facebook Videos, Instagram, or even TikTok to use to launch a video marketing campaign. Businesses are most successful with video by integrating it with SEO, content marketing, and broader social media marketing campaigns.

SMS messaging

Businesses and nonprofits also use text or text messages to send information about their latest promotions or provide opportunities to willing customers. Political election candidates are also using SMS message campaigns to spread positive information on their own platforms. As technology has evolved, many SMS campaigns also allow customers to pay or donate directly through a simple SMS.

Digital Marketing Challenges

Digital marketing poses particular challenges for its suppliers. Digital channels are proliferating rapidly and digital marketers need to keep track of how these channels work, how they are used by receivers, and how to use these channels to effectively market their products or services. Additionally, it becomes increasingly difficult to capture the attention of recipients as recipients are increasingly inundated with competing advertisements. Digital marketers also find it difficult to analyze the vast treasures of data they capture and then harness that information in new marketing efforts.

The challenge of capturing and using data effectively makes it clear that digital marketing requires an approach to marketing based on a deep understanding of consumer behavior. For example, a business may need to analyze new forms of consumer behavior, such as using website heat maps to learn more about the customer journey.


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