What is digital marketing and what does it entail?

As the internet becomes more accessible, its usage continues to rise across Africa. There was a reported 16% increase (3.2 million) of internet users between 2019 and 2020 in Kenya alone. It’s no secret that the shift to the internet has greatly changed how people shop and buy products, and more so how they interact with businesses.


This is where digital marketing comes into play. Marketing has generally always been about creating connections with your audience at the right place and at the right time. Now that a large number of this audience has moved online, it’s paramount that you adapt your business in order to meet your customers where they are.


But what exactly is digital marketing?



What is digital marketing?


Digital marketing can simply be defined as all marketing efforts that involve electronic devices. It’s the method by which businesses use digital channels such as email, social media, websites and search engines to connect with their customers and prospects.


Why is digital marketing important for your business?


It’s vital that your business adopts some aspects of digital marketing in order to maintain a competitive advantage. These days, it’s very common to see every other brand having a website or at the very least building a social media presence. Consumers have now come to expect and rely on these online marketing efforts as a way to learn about brands they’re interested in.


And while traditional marketing might still be prevalent, it’s growing more and more ineffective as the attention of consumers shifts to their screens. It’s also important to note that digital marketing encompasses both offline and online strategies, thus expanding the ways businesses can reach and connect with their customers.


Because of the variety of options digital marketing gives your business, you can easily experiment a number of marketing tactics and on any kind of budget. Additionally, digital marketing comes with the advantage of being able to easily measure the performance and return on investment (ROI) of your campaigns as opposed to traditional marketing. It also gives you the opportunity to track the online behaviour and trends of your customers thus making your marketing efforts more intentional.


What are some examples of digital marketing?


As mentioned, digital marketing includes a list of different strategies which are constantly evolving. The two main branches of digital marketing are online marketing and offline marketing.


Here we’ll talk about some examples of online marketing:


1. Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Search engine optimisation, commonly referred to as SEO, is the process of optimising your site content in order to rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s pointless to build a website that can’t be discovered when people are actively searching for what you offer. This is why SEO is beneficial in growing your organic traffic and reaching individuals who are ready to purchase your product or service rather than having them wait for your ads and content to convert.


There are various approaches to SEO that include:

  • On page SEO - This is the type of SEO that is done to your website. It involves researching keywords, and using that information to answer the questions readers are asking in search engines. Examples of site content that can be optimised include images, text, videos, metatags and much more.

  • Off page SEO - This refers to SEO that is done to drive traffic to your website. It focuses on "off the page" SEO activities such as social media referral traffic or backlinks from other websites.

  • Technical SEO - As implied, this type of SEO focuses on improving the technical aspects of your website in order to meet the requirements of modern day search engines. Some important elements of technical SEO include indexing, crawling and site architecture.



2. Search engine marketing (SEM)

Search engine marketing (SEM), refers to a form of advertising that works based on specific keywords people use when searching. The process involves bidding for specific keywords so that your website appears at the top of relevant pages when people search for these keywords. Your website or webpage is then given an ad tag when it appears in SERPs. SEM differs from SEO since it’s a paid form of search marketing.


There are two types of SEM, these are:

  • Pay per click (PPC) - This is whereby your ad is charged every time a user clicks on it.

  • Cost per thousand (CPM) - In the case of CPM, you pay for every one thousand impressions for your ad.

It’s important to note that PPC and CPM ads only relate to SEM when they appear in search results. These strategies can also be used in channels other than search like social media advertising and display advertising.



3. Content marketing

This refers to the strategic process of planning, developing and sharing content to a specific target audience. Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing where you attract customers by providing relevant and valuable content to them rather than just pitching your products or services.


Content marketing is an especially useful marketing strategy since it helps establish trust with your audience and influence their decision-making. It presents you the opportunity to tell your audience why they should be interested in your product or service and how they’ll cater to their needs.


There are a number of content marketing assets you can leverage for your business, which include, blog posts, infographics, ebooks, whitepapers, videos, emails, podcasts, social media posts and many more.


While content marketing and digital marketing are related, they are two different strategies. As stated, digital marketing includes both online and offline marketing efforts that use electronic devices while content marketing can be viewed as a subset of digital marketing.



4. Social media marketing

Social media marketing simply refers to the use of social media channels to promote your brand and products or services. Social media platforms are ideal since a large number of internet users are on them and it’s free to join for both businesses and individuals.


Just like SEO, organically marketing on social media is a long term strategy that requires a good amount of time and effort in order to achieve favourable results. This is why it’s important to develop a robust social media strategy that ensures you're running your pages with intention.


Social media has a range of marketing benefits that include driving up your brand awareness, generating leads for your business, creating online communities, improving your search engine rankings, increasing your website traffic and so much more.


Some popular social media platforms include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, Snapchat and Pinterest. Remember, you don’t have to be a jack of all trades. Just be present on the platforms where your audience actually is rather than try juggle accounts on many platforms.



5. Email marketing

Email marketing is one of the oldest forms of online marketing and is still thriving. It’s an affordable way for businesses to communicate with their audiences. The real challenge with email marketing comes in ensuring the content you deliver to your subscribers is meaningful to them so that they don’t consider them spam or clutter.


Some of the content that you can share in your email marketing campaigns include blog and newsletter updates, welcome messages for new customers, follow-up information for website visitors who took a certain action, promotions on holidays, event information and much more.



6. Native advertising

Native ads are ads that don’t look like typical ads but visually match the look and feel of the content formats of the sites they appear on. Most native advertising can fall under content marketing since it primarily uses content to attract clicks. Since these ads are usually mixed in or appear alongside other non-paid content, it can be a bit difficult to spot them. They are often placed in social media feeds or on websites as recommended content.



7. Chatbot marketing


Chatbot marketing is essentially the use of chatbots to promote your products or services. It’s a form of marketing automation where customers are engaged on a website, application or even social media channel such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp through chatbots. Chatbots have many marketing benefits such as better improved customer service, lead generation, increased customer engagement and growing your marketing lists.



What does a digital marketer or a digital marketing agency do?


Generally speaking, the role of a digital marketer is to make use of a company’s digital channels in order to build their brand awareness and generate leads. These channels include their website, social media pages, search engine rankings, email, corporate blog, display advertising and any other digital channel at their disposal.


A digital marketer is also responsible for creating, implementing and managing online marketing campaigns. Their work also includes using key performance indicators (KPIs) to track and measure the performance and effectiveness of each campaign on the various channels.


It is equally as important that a digital marketer keeps up with new digital trends and technologies that can be used to improve a company’s digital marketing strategies.


As a small business owner, you may opt to have one digital marketing manager but you might have to outsource (for example to an agency), as your business grows. You can also hire a specialist to focus on a single digital channel depending on what your marketing priorities are.


In conclusion, digital marketing is a great way to build a direct relationship with your customers. And with the rate of change in today’s world, this is a big advantage for any business.


Take the time to understand where your target audience spends their time, then make use of digital marketing strategies to connect with them.


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