The increasing accessibility and pervasiveness of the Internet has nowadays made the presence of millions of people online and the trackability of their behavior inevitable. Almost everyone has used the Internet to do one of the following things: to search for specific information, to read the news, to connect with other people, or to purchase goods. Research shows that constant internet usage has increased by 5% among adults in the last three years. This explains why even businesses went online, and why brand visibility, engagement and sales profits have dramatically increased worldwide. This is also, of course, thanks to digital marketing strategies that manage to influence, somehow, the decision-making process of individuals. Even if this introduction has given you a hint of why online marketing is important in a business, there is still no clear definition of what it is. What is digital marketing exactly, and how can one learn to exploit its potential?
If marketing means connecting with the audience at the right time and in the right place, what other place would be better than the one in which people are most likely to spend time – and in a comfortable way? Web Marketing encompasses businesses’ efforts to leverage digital channels such as search engines, social media and websites to connect with prospective customers at an international level, and in English – the language of business and the global means of communication. The benefits of digital marketing include the opportunity to reach a larger audience and target the potential customers who are more likely to buy the company’s product or service, by tracking their “movements” and daily practices through demographics and tailoring customized advertising. All of this is not only cost- and time-effective, but it is also measurable.
Key concept: Measurement
Take, for instance, social media contexts: these platforms offer companies targeting features that show ads which are customized to the needs of a targeted audience based on age, gender, interests, behavior and location. The same happens on the Web, whenever you perform a search on browsers: Google, for example, tracks your movements and use of keywords to offer you strategic services that might interest you based on what you search for or spend more time reading or interacting with. This strategy – called visibility on organic search or Search Engine Optimization – also allows businesses to be given higher rankings in Google searches and enhance their visibility in the top results, thereby increasing the possibility of getting more information on the customers and more profits. And if some advertising campaign or influencer marketing showcase products does not work – you put money in a marketing effort that does not convert prospects into clients – you can measure that in real time and change your strategy right away. Impressions, shares, clicks, time spent viewing – all of these metrics are provided by digital analytics software such as Google Ads and enable you to see how much attention your ad is receiving and the return on that investment known as the ROI.
This means that success from paid advertising and social media work can be measured through the tracking of website traffic, usually provided by any digital analytics software, and that content performance, together with a “lead generation” (the creation of a potentially interested customer) and new sales are all traceable, allowing you to identify trends in the way people get to know your product and eventually buy it or spread the word about it. This process of electronically identifying strengths and weaknesses in the purchasing customer’s journey – called attribution modeling – is said to lead companies to a 20% annual growth rate, according to the Aberdeen Group, a company that helps businesses to tailor their online marketing strategy (find the link to the website below).
Building your strategy
Digital technologies play a pivotal role not only in sales increase, but also in brand awareness and visibility among the competition. If a business is not online, how can you get to know about it and what it has to offer? How can you trust them if you cannot visibly and concretely buy their products? For these reasons, a social media presence and content marketing are vital. Let’s think of an example: imagine you own or work in a makeup company, and you want to sell a new lipstick. What you need to do first is to help both your usual and prospective customers to find out about this new product. How do you do that? You promote it and you spread the word across social media platforms. As a content marketer, you could create a series of blog posts or make a video in English – a language that might be potentially understood by everyone online – that could then be promoted by the social media marketer through paid and organic posts on the company’s social media account to generate leads. Or again, the email marketer could send more information about it to the contacts in the business’ database. Getting information about your clients, therefore, is crucial in the initial steps of this process, which is known as the marketing funnel.
We might as well say that web marketing is the harmonic and reasoned collaboration between all these practices; if any of these steps is absent or being carried out without any clear strategies in mind – the outcome might be unexpected or even detrimental. But what are the different types of digital marketing, and which ones have the potential of increasing visibility, awareness and sales with the least financial effort? Maybe you already have the answer. Well, one could say that the intertwined and constant use of website content, social media promotion and engagement, search engine optimization and non-organic ads (called also Pay Per Click) may work together to generate traffic and purchases on your online channels.
Setting clear goals and finding your audience
Choosing the right words and the right language when you create engaging content is the first and one of the most important strategies, which can help you optimize your search rankings and results position if you make the content more “findable” when a semantically related question is searched for online. Communication is therefore fundamental, but not only in SEO, content marketing or paid advertising and analytics (called also SEM, Search Engine Marketing) but also in social media and website design.
To write the most engaging content and focus on communication strategies, however, you must first have a clear goal and target audience in mind. Social media were first created to connect people, and businesses use it now to do many things: they want to build their brand, increase their sales or drive website traffic. All of this is being done through the free and tailored creation and sharing of engaging content and socialization with the customer, or the paid running of specific advertising. By monitoring word-of-mouth and interactions, you can also measure the visibility, perception and engagement (or reach) of users. Think about it: who does not own a social media account these days? How many people find out about the existence of a brand or product via social media? Plenty. Social Media Marketing, therefore, may help you gain insights into your customer’s interests and behavior.
To start unlocking the potential of these platforms, digitalmarketing.org suggests the S.M.A.R.T. goal framework: specific expectations and methods, measurable success (for example, increasing the number of followers each month), attainable and relevant objectives, in terms of time and financial support and related metrics, such as likes or conversion rates. Every step of the social media strategy depends on your goals, whether they include raising brand awareness, driving website traffic, generating engagement or providing customer support.
It is then necessary to have in mind and get to know whom the content is directed at. Choosing a specific audience that shares demographics and behavior is fundamental in the creation of converting content. At the same time, a good marketing strategist should be aware of who else is “on the market”, competing for the interest of the same audience: this is why your business should study the competitors’ online presence, their strengths and weaknesses, and where your business is positioned along that continuum. You can find competitors by typing in search bars the keywords that identify your brand and your product, or by finding out who your audience is following. A SWOT analysis – including therefore a report of potential opportunities and threats related to your competitors and customers – may be helpful too, to understand the market.
Content creation and Social Media
Once you have identified your goals and studied the market you intend to work in, you must choose the right channels through which you want to convey content to the target users. Which channels does your audience spend most time on, and at what time? Are your prospective clients young adults that use Instagram at night, after work, or during breaks, to find inspiration for a vacation or are they teenagers who scroll down constantly after lunch to find new distractions? This is important to increase the chance of getting noticed. The next step involves creating content that might engage that audience. The form – whether a video, an image, a text, or a combination of these resources – and the content – what it is recounted, how it is recounted, if it is informal, entertaining, or educational, professional – will affect the outcome. Also, here, knowledge of how to design and convey effective communication – particularly in English, the business language and lingua franca – is pivotal for your business or for the employer who is looking for a communication strategist. Because this is what digital marketing is: the application of specific techniques and the ability to communicate persuasively and effectively. Content creation and data analytics are of the utmost importance in this field: measuring engagement, follow, reach, conversions, purchases will tell you if and how your social media marketing is leading to short-term goals such as sales or long-term effects like leads and brand awareness. Otherwise, it is just guesswork.
In conclusion, we could say that, given the benefits and measurable profit behind digital strategies, digital marketing skills, together with communication skills, are fundamental if you want to work in an international business. And it gets even harder if you don’t know how to communicate properly in a foreign language – you could not only achieve poor outcomes but be even misunderstood by the working environment or your clients. For these reasons, you might want to work on your English proficiency as well.