Today, digital marketing is not optional – it is vital to your business. Having a strong online business presence can mean the difference between a successful quarter and shuttering your doors for good.
You may be thinking, “I don’t have the time to go back to school and get a marketing degree,” or “I can’t afford to hire a marketing expert right now.” The good news is, you don’t have to. You can learn how to become a digital marketing expert from the comfort of your office or even at home. Many of the resources and avenues of marketing are free to use; others require a modest investment.
Let’s take a look at what digital marketing is, informal learning resources you can use, and free or affordable digital marketing options.
Digital Marketing – What Is It?
You can think of digital marketing as an online resume for your business. Just as your resume is a means of getting noticed and making a good first impression when you apply for a job, your online marketing does the same thing to get your business noticed by potential customers.
By definition, digital marketing is the promotion of products or services via digital technologies like computers, smartphones, and the internet at large. Digital marketing practices arose during the 1990s, as many consumers began to access the internet.
Increasingly, consumers turn to the internet for information. They also buy products and services online. During the COVID-19 pandemic, online sales skyrocketed, and this shift away from brick-and-mortar shopping is likely to continue. In order to compete and survive, a digital presence is imperative.
The field of digital marketing is always growing, changing, and shifting. Today’s go-to advertising solution could be old news tomorrow. For that reason, it is important to keep up with leading digital marketing information resources. Let’s examine a few resources you can employ to up your digital marketing game.
Develop Your Digital Marketing Skills
You can learn digital marketing informally. Consider the following resources.
Many universities and colleges now offer online courses that may be a fit for your busy schedule. Masterclasses are also offered by experts in various industries.
You can take online digital marketing classes, some at no cost to you. For example, many public libraries make courses on Universal Class available for free for library cardholders. Digital marketing-related classes include:
- Marketing for Small Business 101
- SEO Copywriting
- Advertising, Marketing, and Sales Writing
- How to Start and Run an Online Business
- Social Media Marketing – An Introduction
Find a Mentor
Many marketing classes or workshops are combined with a mentorship. This is especially true of social media influencers who have enjoyed success in the industry. It’s a Lovely Life, for example, offers one-on-one instruction designed to help small businesses market themselves through blogging.
Follow Brands that You Love
Maybe it’s the way they demonstrate the exceptional quality of their products or the visual aesthetic of their Instagram feed. Either way, you can learn a lot from examining the digital marketing strategies of companies you love. Look at the way they set up their photographs. Take note of the tone of their posts and the topics they post about. Identify what appeals to you in their marketing. Then, adopt those same aspects for your business.
You may also want to follow some of your competitors. Sign up for their newsletters, like them on Facebook, follow them on Instagram. Ask yourself, “What’s working for them? Could this strategy work for my business? What aspects of their digital marketing do I find annoying or insincere? How could my business do it better?”
Digital Marketing Platforms
Many online platforms are available through which you can reach your existing customers and introduce yourself to new ones. Consider a few of the most important.
Some consumers spend hours per day on social media, making it one of the most important platforms for digital marketing. You can market via social media in four key ways:
- Your business’s profile
- Paid advertisements (discussed below)
Your business profile is like a mini-website. It grounds your business in the digital landscape. You can use your profile to tell your story.
Posts remind viewers that your business exists. Some researchers recommend posting anywhere from once per week to once per day – enough to keep your page fresh, but not enough to invite viewers to “unfollow” you as spam.
What should you post? You can post photos or graphics, menu or product updates, news, sales, holiday hours, and more. Try to keep your posts fun, fresh, and original!
Influencers are another key to digital marketing today. Social media influencers have huge numbers of followers. They work with companies, introducing products or services to their following. Many influencers will be willing to work with your company in exchange for free samples of your product.
Your social media should link to an informative website. Having a website – preferably a .com domain – builds user trust. It also provides a means of collecting email addresses, as discussed below. In order to rank well on search engines, focus on your website SEO.
Collecting email addresses from your customers is extremely important. You may reach millions via social media, but the fact is that you don’t own that audience. At any time, your profile could be blocked or the social media company itself could experience outages, as was the case with Facebook in 2021.
Email, on the other hand, is a means of reaching your customers directly. You can offer incentives like sales, coupons, or free gifts. You can remind them of unpurchased items left in their digital shopping cart. You can put your brand in their inbox on a regular basis so they don’t forget about you.
You’ve no doubt noticed sponsored content on your Instagram or Facebook feeds, nestled between photos of your friends’ pets, trips, and children. It should come as no surprise, then, that paid advertising on social media sites is a great way to reach customers.
At the time of writing, Meta companies Facebook and Instagram are among the most popular. These sites allow you to leverage what they know about their users to tailor your ad to the right audience – the audience most likely to use your product or service.
Other popular sites for booking paid ads include Google and Yelp.
If your business is small or weathering difficulty, you might wonder if you can afford paid advertisement. Marketing on these sites can be done for as little as a few dollars per day. Many also offer free advertising credits as an incentive for new clients.
Many people spend a lot of time online, and digital marketing ensures that your business gets seen by customers. It includes social media, websites, emails, and paid advertisements. You can take free or paid courses online to become an expert at digital marketing.