For a while now, I’ve been asking myself what is digital marketing? You see the term “digital marketing” all over the place in textbooks, online forums and website articles, but there’s never one clear, definitive explanation of what it really is. Well, today I’m officially embracing the learning curve and assigning myself the task of discovering everything I can about this massive, growing world of digital marketing possibilities.
So what is digital marketing and what does it entail? Maybe you’ve heard the cookie-cutter response: Digital marketing is marketing that works across various electronic devices. Thanks but no thanks, that’s just boring and not very helpful. In an effort to provide some clarity, I’ve devised my own understanding of what digital marketing is.
What is Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing consists of any form of media that is accessed through an electronic device to influence the user. After reading this you might think, as did I, that digital marketing is basically just internet marketing. Well, actually it’s not and here’s why. Digital marketing makes use of the entire spectrum of digital channels available. Internet marketing constitutes an entire subcategory of digital marketing, one that includes some of digital marketing’s biggest targets such as web sites, social media and email.
What does it entail?
I’ve seen a common thread thus far in everything I’ve ever read about digital marketing. There are three main aspects to successful digital marketing: people, processes and technology. Everyone seems to have a slightly different opinion on what the essential elements of digital marketing are, but these three items are always present, even if not directly mentioned.
This is what marketing is all about – reaching people with a message. In order to reach the desired audience the marketer has to understand their audience and relay a message that will elicit a response, and hopefully, a positive one. Understanding the audience requires accumulating data through research, plain and simple. The only difference in the people aspect of digital versus “normal” marketing is that the audience must know how to use technology in order to access the message. This is where processes come into play.
What are the processes everyone talks about in digital marketing? Something that was confusing to me was being able to distinguish a difference between processes started by the audience and processes instigated by the marketer. There’s actually just one process and here’s why: processes are instigated by the marketer and are performed by the audience as they react to the message. There is one element of processes that every marketer should utilize: establishing statistical evidence to support marketing concepts. People want to believe messages supported by statistical data because it indicates trust in the process. Processes can vary widely from marketer to marketer depending on specific audience elements such as the audience’s understanding, capacity and utilization of technology. An excellent example of a process is Nike’s Just Do It brand message.
The Process: The message conveys an action to the audience to “do something” while also implying the success of reaching a goal: “doing it”. For the sake of digital marketing, let’s say we’re talking about a Nike video advertisement placed on YouTube. The audience reacts by viewing the video and interpreting the message by making associations with things like exercise, achievement or inspiration. Then the audience either dismisses the message or responds by purchasing Nike products. The process will end with dismissal of the message, but will continue if there is interest in purchase. The process can continue indefinitely after the purchase has been made so long as the audience continues to interact and respond to the brand message.
It’s important for marketers to constantly monitor and find ways to improve processes in order to modify their marketing platforms and engage with changes in audience behavior and technology use. So here’s the last word on processes: they occur due to the creation of a brand message when the result is interactions between the brand message and people.
The technology aspect of digital marketing is the easiest of the three aspects to understand. It requires constant evolvement on the marketers’ part to understand and utilize new technologies their audience is interacting with. Technology can alter not only the way people access brand messages, but also the way in which processes occur by influencing communication channels. There are tons of options available within technology where digital marketing can take place: social media, mobile, email, SEM (search engine marketing), banner and content marketing to name a few. Clearly the vast majority of digital marketing properties fall into an internet marketing subset but non-internet channels such as mobile and television are still large players in the digital marketing realm. Wrapping-up technology: it encompasses any device that allows people to access brand messages and initiate processes and interaction with the brand.
I hope I was able to provide some clarity on what digital marketing is and how it works. There are still many digital marketing concepts as yet undiscovered to myself that I’m eager to learn about and will continue posting on in the future. I learned a lot while researching for this post and corrected many misconceptions I’d had regarding digital marketing. There are many readers with much more knowledge on this subject than me and I’d love for you to share anything and everything you feel is relevant to the conversation!