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How to Become a Digital Marketer

What is a Digital Marketer?

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A Digital Marketer is a marketing professional responsible for using digital channels to generate leads and build brand awareness for a company or client while also creating and adhering to a digital marketing strategy. Examples of digital channels used by Digital Marketers include social-media accounts, company websites, search engine rankings, email marketing, online ads, and corporate blogs.

Digital Marketers must also use measurable analytics to identify weaknesses and opportunities and find ways to improve performance across these channels.

What Do Digital Marketers Do?

A Digital Marketer can be responsible for all aspects of a company's digital marketing strategy or just focus on one. A smaller company would tend to have one general digital marketing specialist or marketing manager while corporations can spread the responsibilities around to an entire team or even across several different departments.

From a broader perspective, digital marketing refers to any marketing that takes place in an online space, as opposed to traditional marketing, which might exist in print advertisements, TV commercials, phone communication, or physical marketing (like flyers).

Spending on digital marketing has skyrocketed in recent years, and the industry is expected to be worth an estimated $400 million by 2021. That’s not a surprising number, given how many of us are living our lives online. In fact, "constant" internet usage among adults increased by 5 percent in just the last three years, according to Pew Research. Reaching those potential customers is crucial for businesses, and that’s where online marketing comes in.

Where Do Digital Marketers Come From?

Since it’s a relatively new field – or at least it’s only been in recent years that businesses have started to fully understand how crucial it is that they optimize their digital marketing efforts – digital marketing professionals tend to find many different pathways to entry. In other words, there are lots of different ways to become a Digital Marketer.

You will rarely see a job posting insist that a candidate have a degree in digital marketing, however many will require a bachelor’s degree or equivalent diploma (few seem to even insist on a marketing degree specifically, perhaps since most four-year bachelor’s degree programs in marketing tend to focus on the theory and history of traditional marketing, rather than the specific digital marketing tactics and skills necessary for a career).

If you have a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated field or no degree at all but you’re determined to become a Digital Marketer, there are other pathways to gain the necessary digital marketing skills you’ll need to land a job.

Digital marketing bootcamp or certification courses are increasingly popular -- after all, it was influential digital marketing mind Justin Emig who said: “Certifications are the new degree.” Completing a course like that is a way to show employers that you’re not only serious about pursuing a career in the field, but also that you’ve learned industry best practices while mastering the fundamentals of SEO (search engine optimization) and SEM (search engine marketing), analytics, social media marketing, and advertising, digital marketing strategies, enhancing brand awareness, and measuring the success of marketing campaigns.

Even if you have a degree in marketing, it’s unlikely that your education necessarily checked all of those boxes, which is why Digital Marketers tend to be lifelong learners. BrainStation’s 2020 Digital Skills Survey found that a huge 89 percent of Digital Marketers polled said that they would benefit from further digital skills training, while 78 percent of respondents ranked the digital literacy in their organization as intermediate or low, further illustrating the widespread need for upskilling.

Digital Marketer Responsibilities

Digital Marketers oversee social media marketing (where they must figure out how to create compelling content across all social media platforms and strategize how best to deploy that content across social media channels including Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn), inbound marketing (which means leveraging a company website by posting compelling content, articles, blog posts, and videos), content marketing, and email marketing, all guided by smart and meticulous marketing strategies.

It doesn’t stop there. Digital Marketers are also responsible for search engine optimization – which means using different SEO tactics to ensure a company’s website is consistently ranked among the top results on search engines – search engine marketing, which involves pay per click (PPC) ads, and affiliate marketing, where an affiliate earns a commission for marketing another company’s products and services.

Finally, Digital Marketers must also be adept at analytics and reporting. Not only will creating highly detailed breakdowns of the nature of your traffic and the efficacy of your marketing campaigns help you get a better sense of how effective your marketing plan is, but it will also help you make a compelling case to stakeholders about your value. Digital Marketers may also be the first point of contact with customers across some of the digital channels we’ve mentioned. They might communicate directly with customers, and managing those relationships is a huge part of a Digital Marketer’s job and will have a big effect on a company's online presence. It’s also an effective way to learn more about a company or client’s target audience and to review the user experience of your web products or services. This is key in creating brand awareness and loyalty. Since the role of Digital Marketer requires such a unique combination of planning, creativity, and strategy, Digital Marketers must master a diverse range of skills, techniques, and tools in to stay on top of the ever-changing digital media and social media channels they use to create, deploy, manage, and track marketing campaigns.

Characteristics of a Successful Digital Marketer

Even though there’s a significant amount of variability in the specific job descriptions of Digital Marketers, there are some characteristics that the best in the business seem to share.

In terms of hard skills, SEO and SEM are close to the top. You could be developing compelling, creative, and persuasive content, but it won’t matter if no one sees it. Learning how to conduct keyword research and drive traffic to your site by arranging your content in such a way that search engines push it straight to the top of their rankings is key. So is finding the right opportunities to place paid ads in search engines.

Web analytics is another area that could be classified as a hard skill needed for Digital Marketers. You don’t need to go as in-depth on web analytics as other job roles in tech, but you’ll need to know your way around Google Analytics and other web analytics tools to find out more about where your traffic is coming from and the demographics of your target market.

Whether you want to classify them as hard or soft skills, Digital Marketers also need to be skilled at posting compelling social media content and understanding the benefits and drawbacks of various social media platforms. Email marketing is similarly important; anyone can send out an email, but it takes talent and, likely, experience to send out effective campaigns that people actually read.

Another area to consider? Content. Above all else, the strength of your content and your content marketing strategy will likely determine your success as a Digital Marketer. Learning how to develop unique, creative, and compelling content takes time and talent, but your work won’t be seen until you do.

The other characteristics that great Digital Marketers tend to share are more intangible. Creativity is huge – the Internet is absolutely saturated with content competing for the attention of consumers and getting people to notice your online presence will require that you stand out from the pack.

A good Digital Marketer will also be persuasive – both where your target audience is concerned and when it comes to getting buy-in from clients or key stakeholders – organized, and adaptable. In the realm of social media and the Internet in general, everything is constantly changing. You must be constantly aware of what’s trending, where your consumers or potential consumers are living on social media, and what a competing company might be having success with.

Finally, a Digital Marketer must have a way with marketing strategy. The strength of your social media strategy and digital marketing strategies overall will likely determine their success, and when a campaign isn’t as effective as you thought it would be, you should go back and reassess these approaches to see where you went wrong.

Jobs and Roles in Digital marketing

There are many types of marketing roles that fall under the digital marketing umbrella. Let’s take a closer look at some of the marketing jobs you might be a candidate for as a digital marketing professional:

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Manager: In this position, you will use your skills as an SEO expert to help drive traffic and improve content. Your input would be used to keep content creators on target with valuable insight into the content strategy required to enhance performance on Google as well as social media.

  • Content Marketing Specialist: In this role, you will be the creator of content as well as the owner of a content strategy plan to ensure you increase traffic as well as Google rankings. You would create a plan for what material to use from print to video to blogging and social media. You might report to an SEO Manager or work in the marketing department using the SEO team's keywords to improve your content's effectiveness.

  • Social Media Manager: A social media manager would be focused on creating effective social media content across all platforms, scheduling that content strategically so that your target market will interact with it, and drive website traffic to your company website. In this role, you would likely also be responsible for handling all interactions from consumers with your brand.

  • Marketing Automation Coordinator: This position focuses on the effects and results of a marketing campaign. It is also a more technical position in which you would be finding the best software to help discover important customer behaviors. You would be also involved in measurement, web analytics, and statistics while tracking campaign performance.

  • Digital Marketing Manager: In this position, you would oversee developing the overall content strategy as well as marketing campaigns. As a Digital Marketing Manager, you’ll be responsible for enhancing brand awareness and brand recognition while driving traffic with the goal of acquiring new customers. You will often be responsible for keeping up with new technology to optimize your digital marketing efforts. Analysis of your marketing efforts will also be required.

  • UX Designer. User Experience (UX) Designers are responsible for the end-to-end development of websites and digital marketing applications. UX Designers must understand the website from a whole marketing experience, and to that end, they need to understand audiences as well as have an in-depth knowledge of the product or service a given client offers.

  • Email Marketing Specialist. This is a specialized area of content development and marketing. Email continues to be one of the strongest methods of reaching a committed target audience. It's primarily a lead-generating activity and thus specialists would likely be working in tandem with Digital Marketing Managers and/or Content Managers on targeted campaigns.

Chances are, if you manage a long career in digital marketing, you will at least dip your toes in all of those specializations. BrainStation’s survey found that in terms of the breakdown of marketing activities, 66 percent of Digital Marketers reported working in content creation, followed by campaign implementation (63 percent), research and strategy (60 percent), and content or campaign optimization (59 percent).

Who Do Digital Marketers Work With?

Most digital marketing teams are relatively small. In our survey, 64 percent of digital marketing respondents reported working on a marketing team of 10 or fewer people. But digital marketers would work with many other departments within a company, including sales, IT, web development, and product teams.

And many digital marketing teams are growing. Digital Marketers are in heavy demand across all industries right now, with one study recently showing that roughly 70 percent of hiring managers say they’re having a hard time filling digital marketing positions.

That can only increase as businesses get increasingly wise to the benefits they could reap from investing in digital marketing. Hubspot’s 2020 state of marketing report found that more than 70 percent of companies are now investing in content marketing and social media marketing, and more than half are putting more money in search engine optimization.

Reasons to Become a Digital Marketer

The job security that comes with having an in-demand skill set is one reason so many people want to become a Digital Marketer. Another is that you can attain a high salary, although there’s a wide degree of variance in terms of how much you can make depending on your area of specialty, location, experience, and education.

With a title like Director of Digital Marketing or VP of Digital Marketing, you’re certain to be well north of the $100,000 mark in annual salary. A position like Social Media Manager has an annual salary closer to $50,000, although again it can vary greatly depending on the size of the company and the location of the job.

The degree of variance in pay for a Digital Marketing Manager is a good example of how much variance there is in this particular industry. Although Glassdoor reports that the average Digital Marketing Manager makes $73,000 in the United States, the site shows that companies like Wells Fargo, Walt Disney, Verizon, IBM, and Accenture all pay well over $100,000 for this position, while a smaller company might pay as little as $50,000. It won’t be realistic to expect a six-figure salary as you’re starting out in digital marketing, but it certainly is possible after you’ve got some experience under your belt.

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