Like many professions, digital marketing requires both a core set of hard skills (which can be relatively straightforward to learn) and a longer list of career attributes that might take years to master. But at least in terms of what it takes to enter the field and begin working as a Digital Marketer, the fundamentals are manageable.
Can You Learn Digital Marketing On Your Own?
Yes, you can learn the basics of digital marketing on your own, but because the digital marketing landscape never stops evolving, self-guided learning may not be the best route. In fact, digital marketing courses and digital marketing bootcamps have become increasingly popular over the last few years, helping aspiring marketers keep pace with the industry and understand how the latest fads and technologies can lead to organizational success.
After all, getting a handle on a particular piece of software may take just days, but getting a feel for what resonates with your followers on Twitter versus Instagram, for example, will take much longer.
Three of the slipperiest areas for a new Digital Marketer are how to effectively use content marketing to drive traffic, how to use technology to build more efficient and impactful campaigns, and how to best tailor the content you’re producing to the platform on which it appears.
Getting a Feel for Effective Content Creation
While content marketing isn’t one of the newest trends, it continues to be one of the most popular. According to data from BrainStation’s Digital Skills Survey, content marketing is Digital Marketers’ most widely used channel, with 79 percent of marketing professionals incorporating content into their strategy. Survey respondents also listed content strategy as one of their primary focuses.
When it’s done correctly, content marketing’s impact is hard to ignore. Research shows that 70 percent of consumers would rather learn about a company through content than from an advertisement. Content should engage customers in a way that adds value, which in turn creates relationships that are built on more than just one-way sales communication.
But while content marketing can be effective, developing a content strategy can be more labor-intensive than other marketing efforts. And, not only does it take time to generate original content, it can also take anywhere from six to nine months before you start to see results. For these reasons, companies looking to create a robust strategy that delivers consistently often look to outsource content creation—62 percent of the time, according to one source.
So although it can be a tricky skill to master, a feel for what makes content marketing work—whether you’re generating it yourself or overseeing its commission—will make you invaluable to virtually any company.
Knowing How to Leverage User Data
The reams of user data that analytics tools produce are a priceless source of actionable insights, but it can be time consuming to sort through, and difficult to know what you’re looking for. So it should come as no surprise that, according to BrainStation’s Digital Skills Survey, Digital Marketers are eyeing artificial intelligence as the trend that will have the greatest impact on their field in the coming years. There seems to be nonstop talk about AI no matter what industry you’re in, but now, research is beginning to illustrate just how AI will make a difference in the marketing world.
A recent report from IBM states that 94 percent of companies believe personalization is the key to future success; another study, this one from Accenture, found that 73 percent of customers prefer to buy from retailers that offer a personalized experience, and 86 percent of customers report that personalization plays a part in their purchasing decisions. This certainly bolsters the idea that, when done correctly, AI-driven personalization can improve marketing spend ROI.
Much of AI’s value to Digital Marketers lies in the vast amounts of data available to companies, which allow Marketers to go beyond basic segmentation and create highly personalized campaigns. This degree of targeting makes for more efficient, effective campaigns, but it also requires a more specific skill set—and a lot of time.
Tailoring Native Content for Social Media
We’ve already hinted at the fact that every social media platform has its quirks. How formal a tone you should use, whether to foreground text or image, and even how much customer interaction is appropriate will vary from platform to platform. To fully acclimate to different social media platforms and “find your voice” takes careful listening and a lot of time.
The stakes are perhaps highest when it comes to video—which can be the most impactful, but is also the most labor-intensive type of content to create. And while video is often considered a subset of content marketing, it is in many ways its own animal.
YouTube is now the most widely used social media platform in the United States. According to Pew Research, 73 percent of American adults are using Youtube, and 94 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24. That’s a segment of the population you can’t afford to ignore. And video is a powerful force on other social media as well—in fact, across social media (including TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram Stories), video gets shared roughly 1,200 percent more often than text and images. All to say that creating social media content is far from simple. It may require a bit of investment, and always requires a deep knowledge of how to pair medium and message.
These are just three of the most challenging areas within digital marketing today—tomorrow, they will no doubt be different.
As with many creative industries, therefore, there’s no simple answer to how difficult digital marketing is to learn. For most people, it’s possible to learn the fundamentals in as little as a few months; dedicated online bootcamps like BrainStation’s are able to impart the core technical skills needed to begin working in digital marketing in 12 weeks. But it’s also a field that allows you to continue to learn over time—gaining new soft skills and a deeper understanding of your audience, and evolving with the digital landscape.
For this reason, even established Digital Marketers continue to update their skills periodically, to feel confident that the ways they invest their time and their company’s money are making the biggest possible impact.
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