how to become a digital marketer (2023 Guide)
Digital Marketing Skills
BrainStation’s Digital Marketing career guide can help start a career in marketing, including content creation, social media marketing, email marketing, and more. Read on for an overview of the technical skills and soft skills needed to become a Digital Marketer.
Become a Digital Marketer
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Digital Marketers need a large and diverse range of digital marketing skills to understand how to create marketing strategies and content that will resonate with an audience and help to generate leads, raise brand awareness, and ultimately generate leads.
Given the wide range of specialties and job roles you could encounter over the course of a digital marketing career, you won’t necessarily need to excel in all of the following areas — but there are some key skills needed across most digital marketing jobs.
What Skills Do You Need to Be a Digital Marketer?
Digital marketing professionals need a combination of must-have technical digital marketing skills and soft skills, including:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
None of the work you do as a Digital Marketer matters unless people see it. Using search engines to drive traffic to your online properties, particularly your landing pages, is the first and arguably most vital step in connecting with your audience. To succeed as a Digital Marketer, you’ll need to be an expert at using SEO and SEM to their utmost.
While they don’t typically need to be able to work with data analytics at the same level as, say, a Data Scientist, Digital Marketers do need to know how to use Google Analytics and other data analysis tools. Their detailed information about where your traffic comes from—the most attractive keywords, the most popular times of day, and invaluable data on your audience’s age, gender, and location breakdown, as well as their interests and the devices they’re using to reach you—is perhaps the Digital Marketer’s most valuable source of audience insight.
Social media marketing
It should go without saying that Digital Marketers need to have a good feel for all the It should go without saying that digital marketing experts need to have a good feel for all the social media platforms they use to post content and reach out to an audience. And each platform has its own quirks; you’ll need to know what works and what doesn’t, when and what to post, and how to adjust the tone of your posts to resonate with the different segments of your audience that use different platforms. Even within the realm of social media marketing, there are different techniques Digital Marketers can prioritize, including social listening, live-streaming, direct messaging, and hashtagging.
Pay-per-click and social media advertising
If a Digital Marketer’s budget includes money for advertising, they’ll need to know If a Digital Marketer’s budget includes money for advertising, they’ll need to know what and where to spend it for maximum impact. This includes both ad placement in various sites around the web — through direct advertising or platforms like Google Ads — as well as social media ads and sponsored posts.
Sending out email campaigns is easy; sending out effective email campaigns is much, much harder, and that makes email marketing an important digital marketing skill. And while newsletters aren’t the sexiest tool at Digital Marketers’ disposal, nearly 80 percent of them report seeing an increase in email engagement over the previous 12 months, according to Hubspot.
Whether you’re captioning an Instagram post or writing a thousand-word thought leadership article for your company blog, excellent storytelling skills (including writing, editing, and visual storytelling) are always an asset for a Digital Marketer. Whether you’re captioning an Instagram post or writing a thousand-word thought leadership article for your company blog, excellent storytelling skills (including writing, editing, and visual storytelling) are always an asset for a Digital Marketer. Especially when it comes to content marketing — longer articles on topics relevant to your audience, which are a key tool in SEO — you need good communication skills to be able to convey your ideas not just clearly, but also in a way that feels compelling to the people you want to attract. Related: the odds are very high you’ll need to be able to navigate the backend of WordPress or a similar CMS.
Basic design skills
While larger teams often have a dedicated art department staffed with Graphic Designers or even UI/UX Designers, it often falls to the Digital Marketer to perform everyday tasks like selecting and manipulating the images that will appear on the company social media feeds, or putting together the layout for an email newsletter. Here, a grasp of basic design skills—including how to organize information for legibility—is a huge asset. This often begins with an intuitive understanding of the customer’s experience.
Creative problem solving
Whatever you’re trying to accomplish as a Digital Marketer, your competitors are likely trying to achieve the same thing. Your edge lies in your ability to innovate and out-think them—not to mention find creative solutions to all the other challenges that come up over the course of a day, from discovering novel pathways to your users to devising new ways to grab and hold their attention.
Sales and persuasion
As a Marketer, your job is to change people’s minds. Obviously, mastering the art of selling is to your advantage! But this isn’t limited to the hard sell; arguably, the power of persuasion is just as important when constructing a strong brand image slowly over time, or even trying to bring your colleagues on-side for a new campaign idea.
Given their involvement in multifaceted digital campaigns, Digital Marketers need to know how to shepherd these projects through multiple phases, across various channels with diverse deliverables, involving the contributions of many other people. This takes both leadership skills and a high level of organization. At least when it comes to efficiency and organizing, there are tools to help automate different tasks and keep you on top of things; in a recent survey by Hubspot, 68 percent of Digital Marketers said they rely on automation in some way.
Agility and adaptability
Digital Marketers always have many irons in the fire; knowing how to prioritize them while also responding to urgent matters as they pop up — and they will — requires the agility of an acrobat. But this ability to be responsive isn’t only tested hour-to-hour. Long-term changes to the digital landscape and emerging technologies like marketing automation also mean that a Digital Marketer needs to be able to adapt to new and unexpected developments, always think in terms of contingencies, and be prepared for anything.
All of these skills come together when a Digital Marketer lays out a multi-phase plan to be deployed over weeks or even months. Knowing how to create marketing strategies that work requires intense planning and a forward-looking attitude, as well as an eye for emerging trends. Successful Digital Marketers have an insatiable curiosity for the way things work, and the way things are changing—both within their own industry and globally. To stay abreast of these trends calls for perpetual learning.
Types of Digital Marketing Tools
Digital Marketers today use a wide range of tools that allow them to develop, create, track, and measure the performance of marketing initiatives and campaigns.
With the marketing industry evolving at such a breakneck pace, allocating your time and resources to meet your objectives depends on using every tool at your disposal. Still, some tools will prove more relevant to a Digital Marketer than others, depending on which channels they are prioritizing and what the company’s marketing goals are.
With that in mind, these are the top types of digital marketing tools:
Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are the increasingly important for connecting to the audience you want to reach. That process starts with understanding your audience and its online movements.
Google Analytics and Google Ads both offer detailed breakdowns of the traffic coming to your site (organically and through the ads you place, respectively). Together, they allow Digital Marketers to identify what’s working and what isn’t, discover new sources of traffic, determine which times of day traffic rises and falls, and much more. They’re indispensable when deconstructing the state of what’s happening now.
SEO tools like Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush, on the other hand, look ahead to what might happen if you were to target specific queries. Enhancing your site’s use of the keywords your audience most frequently searches is a major component in driving traffic. This typically begins with identifying which keywords to focus on and ends with the publication of the keyword-heavy content itself. In fact, almost three-quarters (72 percent) of Digital Marketers worldwide said creating relevant content was the most effective SEO tactic.
Ahrefs, Moz, and SEMrush can help to speed up this process by exploring relevant keywords, checking backlinks to your pages, identifying related keywords based on your searches, and even analyzing your competitors’ SEO. Ahrefs’ SEO toolset is one of the best on the web, and offers most of the features you’d need to optimize your content all on one platform.
But once someone lands on your page, how do you keep them there? While many Digital Marketers still see building landing pages as one of their top challenges, companies that increase their number of landing pages from 10 to 15 see a 55 percent increase in leads. To help build great landing pages, simple-to-use programs like Unbounce let Digital Marketers build, customize, and test out landing pages for maximum conversion, no coding knowledge necessary.
Email marketing tools
Access to the inboxes of your current and prospective customers is gold—which makes email marketing one of a Digital Marketer’s best options for massive return on investment. According to some reports, you can expect a return of $38 for every $1 you spend on email marketing efforts.
Given the importance of email to an overall marketing strategy, it’s vital to have an email campaign tool like MailChimp or SendGrid to send sleek, branded emails in a flash. MailChimp continues to lead the industry as one of the top email marketing tools by letting you easily create custom emails, upload, and segment your mailing lists, conduct automated A/B testing, and get a detailed breakdown of your campaigns’ impact.
For larger companies looking to maximize customer experience with a full customer service management program, options like Salesforce and Hubspot can incorporate email marketing features within the larger marketing and sales funnel.
Social media marketing tools
Social media marketing is a crucial component of any overarching digital marketing strategy—in many cases, that’s where the customers are. According to a report from Deloitte, when social media forms part of their buyer’s journey, customers tend to convert at a 129 percent higher rate. They’re also four times as likely to spend significantly more than those without any exposure to social media. So yes—Digital Marketers use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and all the rest. These channels are useful not only for posting native content and developing a following of your most loyal customers; they also offer opportunities for pay-per-click advertising and sponsored posts.
Managing multiple branded social channels often requires some serious juggling. Tools like Hootsuite, Later, and Buffer let you manage multiple accounts from one platform, complete with built-in analytics and moderation features. Buffer also has a Chrome extension that allows you to automatically schedule whatever website or quote you’re viewing across all your channels—Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook—simply by clicking a button; the tool uploads a highlighted quote or the URL into a formatted post, taking most of the pain out of curating content.
Unless your brand generates visual content, you’re going to need to source photos and illustration, animations, and videos externally. Landing pages, webpages, social media posts, newsletters, and other digital marketing assets often require stock images to make a visual impact and draw in users. While excellent free stock image sites exist—such as Unsplash or Pexels—they don’t always offer exactly what you’re looking for.
If you frequently find yourself sourcing external media, you’ll want to invest in a subscription to a stock image aggregator like Stocksy or Getty Images. Browsing a wide variety of high-resolution images and B-roll video available for just a few dollars, you’ll easily find the professional-looking visual assets you need to polish off your project.
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