How Would You Define Digital Marketing?

When people ask me what I do for a living, and I say "I have a digital marketing agency," sometimes I get a blank stare. Maybe that's because the term "digital marketing" is overly broad or because some consumers don't fully understand what this field is.

So maybe we need to talk about this idea of "digital marketing" a little more. After having conversations with several business owners who want to understand it better, I wanted to write this post to give you an in-depth overview of the term, what it really means, and how this field is continuously reshaping the marketing landscape. We see this as more companies shift or adjust their traditional marketing strategies to include digital marketing. From a business owner's perspective, I believe that online (digital) strategies should be merged with offline strategies. I am not suggesting that companies completely abandon their traditional marketing but that they pursue the right mix of these strategies.

So.... What Exactly Is Digital Marketing?

Often, digital marketing is thought to be when companies will place advertisements somewhere on the Internet that will get consumers to click and then reach a company's website. Really, it can be as simple as having a social media profile (e.g. fan page, company page, business profile). Some other forms of digital marketing include:

  • An email marketing account

  • Pay-per-click ads (e.g. Facebook advertising or Google Ads)

  • Text campaigns

  • Messaging apps to customers

  • And the list goes on....

At a minimum, digital marketing should create an awareness of a company's brand name. When companies pay for ads, they are using active marketing, and they may reach some members of their target audience. They could also be spending a lot of money on ads that fall short of their targets. That's why many online strategies I suggest to clients are passive because they rely on consumers searching online for information. What's more, they are inexpensive to try and very effective at sourcing new leads, or prospective customers.

Inbound Marketing: A Powerful Example

When I say that I specialize in digital marketing, some people think immediately of search engines and how they drive Web traffic to businesses and other organizations. Imagine that you want a new battery for your Toyota Prius, which is a hybrid. Using your laptop or smartphone, you pull up a Google Chrome or Safari and enter the search phrase: "buy a new car battery for my Prius in San Francisco." This is full of information that is not only brand-specific but location-specific. All companies that have posted content on their website (which is digital) about selling batteries, having anything related to cars, and/or are located in San Francisco or have posted content mentioning the word "San Francisco" could turn up in your search engine results. Fortunately, Google has a search engine algorithm that ranks its results according to their relevance. You can also sort your search results by other criteria, such as the date that a website was last updated or the kind of organization that owns the website (i.e., .edu, .org, or .com). Chances are, clicking on one of the top results will help you find a company in San Francisco that can sell you a Prius-compatible battery.

There's More to It

There are countless ways that companies can attract the attention of consumers, especially to encourage them to visit a website or social media page. For example, you could create a Facebook post about Prius batteries and then embed a link into the graphic image of the vehicle. If a user clicks on the picture of the Prius, the link could send them to your site selling car batteries. Anywhere that you post information about your company or its products or services could be considered digital marketing. Any strategy that gets people to find your website or consume your brand information could qualify as electronic marketing, such as posting a digital press release on PRNewswire about your company's newest personnel director. I hate to admit it, but using an electronic billboard to show images of what you sell is also digital marketing because the machine that displays your content is electronic.

If you are using an electronic device to market a good or a service, then you're already practicing a form of digital marketing. When I think of digital marketing, I look at it as an all-encompassing word that describes the means in which your company is marketing through the use of the Internet or anything that requires you to be "connected."

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Sonja Crystal Williams is the Co-Founder at Go Getter Marketing Group, Inc. — a digital marketing, social media, and branding agency with offices in Atlanta and Los Angeles. Keep up with her latest articles and tips on Twitter or Instagram @sonjacrystal.