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Image showing desktop computer with illustrated gold coin, star, target symbol and ad creation screen under a magnifying glass. Digital Marketing definition and beginners guide blog post.

What Is Digital Marketing? A Beginners Guide.

Allison Smith

Sep 26, 2023

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We are living in a digital-first world. So if your company wants to reach consumers today, it's important to have a solid digital marketing strategy using a variety of digital marketing channels, from email to social media. This blog will outline the advantages of different digital marketing approaches and showcase examples that you can use to inspire your own marketing strategy.  

Table of Contents

What Is Digital Marketing?

Because digital marketing spans many different responsibilities, channels, and teams, it's difficult to define succinctly. The best way to think of it is as a broad umbrella term for how your business achieves its marketing goals using digital technologies. It informs all points of the customer journey, from discovery to purchase to retention.

Digital marketing includes elements like brand messaging and any form of online advertising you do. Goals for digital marketing could include conversions like purchases or downloads, or more top of funnel objectives like social followers, website visits, and email subscribes.

Advantages of Digital Marketing 

Gone are the days of old school marketing where print ads or billboards were the most effective means of promoting your brand. Today, these methods need to be heavily augmented by digital marketing efforts to stay competitive and build and maintain brand recognition. The good news is that with all the options afforded by digital marketing, brands can be creative and experiment with activities on many different channels, even within tough budget constraints.

And unlike traditional marketing tactics, you can measure and prove your ROI in real-time. Here are some examples: 

Table showing advantages and disadvantages of different digital marketing channels

How to Craft a Digital Marketing Strategy

Your digital marketing strategy breaks down and defines how you plan to achieve your digital marketing goals. It should clearly identify which channels you'll use, and why. This will also include which teams and individuals are responsible for which areas and the metrics and KPIs that will be used to measure digital campaign success.

Here are some steps to take when creating a digital marketing strategy:

1. Understand the digital sales funnel 

Your strategy will be stronger if you have a solid understanding of the sales funnel as it applies to your business. The funnel describes the buyer’s journey — the different steps buyers go through to get to the point of purchase. Digital marketing plays an essential role in targeting and moving potential customers through each stage of the marketing funnel. Then, once they complete a purchase, your digital marketing strategy works to strengthen customer retention — keeping them engaged and ideally primed to make many repeat purchases.

Mastering and understanding how to reach your audience at each step will help you implement a tactical strategy. The steps of the funnel include:

  1. Discovery: Top of funnel. This stage determines where or how consumers hear about your brand.
  2. Consideration: Middle of funnel. After brand recognition has been established, the consumer begins vetting you. 
  3. Purchase: Bottom of funnel. The moment when potential buyers become paying customers.
  4. Loyalty: Middle and bottom of funnel. You need to continue nurturing customers to encourage repeat purchases and inspire people to become brand advocates.

2. Create buyer personas

Who is your audience? What are their demographics? Where do they shop? What motivates them? What brands do they trust? Answer these questions by creating buyer personas that will help you determine what marketing channels you need to be active on and what type of content or brand messaging they may be more receptive to. 

Tip: Make sure the details of your personas are specific. Here is a good example, “A female between the age of 18-25, who is most active online on Wednesdays from a desktop device, who is social and is interested in business topics.”

To gain these insights, you can

3. Identify goals and tactics

Once you've identified the specific parameters to each funnel stage for your business, you can apply specific digital marketing goals and KPIs to each one. Once you have your goals mapped out you can start prioritizing them, determining deliverables, and developing timelines. Whatever your goals are, make sure they are specific and measurable.

For example at the top of funnel stage you may want to focus on building up community and brand awareness through social media. You could set specific follower and engagement goals to track success, and also work on encouraging your growing audience to enter the middle of the funnel by sharing content pieces and gated assets that help you capture emails.

Once you have a robust enough email list, then your digital marketing strategy needs to incorporate the work of an email marketer who can create nurture streams and keep people interested in your brand.

In tandem with this growing potential customer base, you could start on bottom of funnel efforts like paid ads or setting up an e-commerce or social-commerce flow.  

Other tactics to consider:

  • Working with social media influencers to promote your products
  • Sharing user-generated content to build a relationship with your followers

What's the Difference Between Digital Marketing & Social Media Marketing?

Digital marketing covers multiple touch-points such as paid ads and email, while social media focuses specifically on marketing to followers and potential followers through social media platforms. Social media is a form of marketing under the digital marketing umbrella.

With social media marketing you can communicate with your consumer base in a more casual, conversational, and immediate way than say through an email or blog post (depending on your brands tone of voice of course). It also encompasses its own wide range of skills and strategies, from community building to engagement-driving copy (perhaps even creating a viral Tweet or two!).

AI in digital marketing and social media

The lines definitely blur even more when you throw Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the mix. AI technology isn't exactly new anymore, but it is gaining steam — much less of a fringe gimmick than it used to be, especially when it comes to marketing. It's being used on social media channels such as Snapchat, allowing users to "try on" apparel, such as sunglasses, before purchasing. AI can also help segment audience behavior, providing automation wherever possible, and generating leads.

Different Digital Marketing Channels

Marketers can leverage a variety of marketing channels and marketing tactics to push their message, but they need to make sure the message fits the channel.

There are dozens of different types of digital marketing channels, so it can be helpful to group them under the buckets of paid, earned, and owned media. Here's an overview of the different types of digital marketing channels that you can use to connect with your audiences:

1. Owned channels

With owned media, you’re in control here—this refers to any property that you control or create. The great part about this channel is that you are in direct control of the messaging, promoting the content you want your customers to see.

Examples of owned digital marketing channels include:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Emails 
  • Social pages
  • Other written content (such as gated assets)

2. Earned channels

Earned media could also be referred to as word-of-mouth marketing. It’s the coverage your brand receives as a result of your various digital interactions, which you have little to no control over.

There are good and bad things about growing brand awareness through earned channels. In both senses, it offers you free placement in front of a new audience (i.e., someone else says something about you for “free”), and this can generate a powerful impact. The biggest caveat is that you don’t have control over the messaging.

Examples of earned digital marketing channels include: 

  • Media coverage about your products
  • Online reviews and ratings
  • Social media shares 
  • 3rd party articles 

3. Paid channels 

Paid media is any placements in which you pay to be in front of an audience. It allows you to get in front of curated look-alike audiences — a great way to quickly target new customers. Paid channels can only stretch as far as your budget allows, so they need to be approached very strategically and take conversion rates into high consideration.

Examples of paid digital marketing channels include: 

  • Pay-per-click (PPC)
  • Paid social 
  • Display advertising
  • Paid influencers
  • Native advertising

All three of these areas help you understand your audience, financial efficiency, and how you stack up against your competition. Present insights and learnings in your digital marketing reporting to stakeholders.

Tip: Take a look at the findings of the biggest Global Digital Report 2023, and download the whole Global Digital Report 2023 here.

Digital Marketing Examples 

Now that you have a complete understanding of the who, what, why, and how of digital marketing, let’s take a look at some examples for inspiration. 

Search engine optimization (SEO)  

Search Engine Optimization is the process of helping your website to rank higher in search engine result pages. SEO allows you to appear at the top of search results, which inherently increases the amount of organic traffic to your website.

For example, when Googling “plant burgers”, you can see from the image below the top three results based on the keywords you were looking for. In a search engine, like Google, these top-ranking search results will always appear underneath the paid results.

SEO example digital marketing for "plant burgers"

Optimizing your webpages and writing content designed to show for specific keywords, are essential digital marketing skills to help boost your SEO.

Pay-per-click (PPC)

Pay-per-click (PPC) falls under paid media and is meant to quickly boost leads and drive traffic to your website. How it works: you choose the keywords or phrases you want to trigger your ads and then set a bid. If your bid is among the highest, you will appear at the top of the organic listings. One of the best parts of PPC? You only pay when people click your ads, making it a great strategy for connecting with the most qualified leads.

Here are the types of channels you can use PPC:

Let’s take a look at the phrase “airline tickets” into Google search results. As you can see from the image below, the top four results are paid Google ads, with CheapOair winning at the highest bid.

PPC Google Ads example for the keyword "airline tickets"

Social Media

Today, over 4.5 billion people use social media, and this is predicted to rise to 5.8 billion by 2027. It's the perfect place to connect with your audience, generate leads, and drive traffic.

There are multiple platforms you can use for social media marketing. Among the most popular are: 

In addition to using these channels for free, posting organically, you can also invest in paid social ads to take it a step further. A good way to manage all of your social accounts is with a suite for marketing professionals like Meltwater where you can create, plan, and schedule all your content in one place.

You can also use social listening to research and monitor billions of social conversations to gain insights related to consumer sentiment, brand health, and your competition.

Content marketing

Closely related to SEO, content marketing is a key component to any digital marketing strategy. It helps keep your website ranking on search engines, and is instrumental in attracting high quality leads through compelling and most importantly, valuable content.

Content that is well written and strategically promoted through different digital marketing channels such as ads, social posts, and emails, will allow you to stand out from your competitors and serves to drive traffic, create brand awareness, and generate leads.

Here are some of the main types of content marketing used by brands: 

  • Blog posts
  • Short and long form video
  • Infographics
  • Long-form content (Whitepapers or Ebooks)

Email marketing 

Email marketing is a powerful strategy for businesses, as it allows you to reach and nurture leads while providing updates or information about your business and industry. It also gives you the power to segment your audience and personalize your content.

Email marketing comes in handy at crucial transition stages along your customer journey through the sales funnel; from awareness to consideration, and finally, purchase.

The types of emails you would send from a digital marketing campaign include: 

  • Newsletters
  • Blog subscriptions
  • Follow up email from a download on the website
  • Promotions to customers 
  • Tips or series campaign for nurturing

Ready to take your digital marketing efforts to the next level? Fill out the form below to request a demo and see how Meltwater's all-in-one marketing suite can help you optimize your strategy and gain the insights you need to stay in the lead.