Digital Marketing Explained

Marketing has evolved from live salespeople demonstrating their wares on city streets to print ads and new mediums like radio, telephones and television. The digital age emerged when hand-held mobile devices first came into use between 1973 and 1994. Still, it was not until IBM introduced the personal computer, followed by Apple’s launch of the Macintosh in 1984, that our modern idea of a digital environment began to take shape.

A Digital Marketing Timeline

The first website went online in 1991, and three years later, the Phoenix law firm Canter and Siegel advertised by posting a message on several thousand internet newsgroups. From 1995 to 2002, mobile phones and search engines gained popularity, as did the idea of “Search Engine Optimization” or SEO. Just before the turn of the century, the dot com revolution began, followed by the age of “Inbound Marketing,” characterized by an emphasis on attracting and forming two-way dialogues with consumers online.

Consumers began engaging with brands in new ways, and businesses found ways to create value for customers. LinkedIn was founded in 2003, and Facebook launched in 2004, and e-commerce sales really took off in 2006 when Amazon sales topped $10 billion. By 2010, 50% of Americans owned a smartphone, yet a new digital marketing revolution was underway.

Throughout the history of marketing, organizations and brands have sought to connect with their audiences, wherever they spend their time. There are nearly 4.57 billion active internet users as of April 2020 or 59% of the global population. There are now 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide, and U.S. adults spend an average of three hours and 35 minutes every day on a mobile device.

Needless to say, there is no better time for digital marketing to reach prospects and customers where they are: online and especially on mobile devices. It encompasses connecting with consumers on all electronic internet-connected devices through digital channels, including social media, search engines, email and websites.

What Is a Digital Marketer?

A digital marketer, according to HubSpot, is “in charge of driving brand awareness and lead generation through all the digital channels — both free and paid — that are at a company’s disposal. They use key performance indicators (KPI) for each channel, such as “organic traffic” on websites, Google “page ranks” for web pages, “click-through rates” on emails and “likes” on social media. They are pioneers of new media, seeking ways to integrate emerging media with traditional and current media.

Digital Marketing Channels

Here are a few of the common digital marketing channels and tactics, and how marketers use them:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The work involved in generating free or “organic” traffic from search engine results using optimization of online content is otherwise known as SEO. Other channels are also ultimately involved in SEO strategy, such as email, content and social media marketing.

Email Marketing: For identifying prospects, capturing names, building a database and promoting content or offers, email is still king. It drives recipients primarily to the business’ website for additional calls to action and generates phone calls or in-person visits. Email is ideal for product and sale promotions, newsletters and nurturing prospective consumers.

Content Marketing: Informational and non-promotional assets are developed to take consumers from awareness to purchases to becoming loyal customers. Helpful assets can include videos, blogs, whitepapers, infographics and reports, utilized on social media, websites and online portals.

Paid Search or Pay-Per-Click Advertising: Leveraging keywords, businesses drive traffic to their sites by paying for each ad “click.” These clicks may come from banners on niche websites or sponsored ads following specific search engine queries. Google AdWords, Facebook paid ads and promoted Tweets are all ways to generate traffic and invite engagement.

Social Media Marketing: Channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube each offer different ways for consumers to learn about and engage with brands. Digital marketers use social media platforms to drive web traffic, raise brand awareness and generate leads for further marketing through other channels. Social media helps brands leverage consumers’ voices so that people can learn about products and services through trusted friends, family and peers.

Mobile Applications: Android and Apple device applications offer unique brand engagement experiences, deliver customized content, provide insight about consumer behavior and target advertising to meet consumer needs. They often provide real value, such as Google Maps, to help users navigate in the real world to find valuable services like restaurants and gas stations.

One path leads to another in the limitless world of digital marketing. The convergence of multiple channels and technologies provides new opportunities for imaginative marketers to harness traditional advertising and marketing concepts in powerful new ways.

The following focused coursework in Fitchburg State University’s online MBA in Marketing program builds key skill sets required of marketing managers.

  • The Market Research and Analysis course covers the use of research in decision-making. Managers can be more confident when they can back decisions with data.
  • In the Marketing Strategies course, students learn how to formulate a marketing mix by understanding the essentials of strategic positioning and pricing methods.
  • Integrated Marketing Communications rounds out the trio of Marketing concentration courses. Students gain a holistic view of the promotional aspects of marketing.

Completing the above courses adds key expertise areas, positioning graduates for success in managerial and leadership roles in the field of marketing.

Learn more about Fitchburg State University’s online Master of Business Administration in Marketing program.


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The Who, What, Why, & How of Digital Marketing?
The History of Marketing: An Exhaustive Timeline

SocialChimp: A Brief History of Digital Marketing

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