Digital Marketing can be complex and confusing because the space is so big and constantly evolving. To explain it simply, digital marketing encompasses all marketing efforts that use an electronic device. Companies leverage different digital channels to connect with current and prospective customers. There are three types of digital channels; paid media channels, owned media channels, and earned media.

Before we dive into the different channels that exist and the benefits and limitations within them, it's important to state that the mindset of current and potential customers play a significant role in determining the best channels to reach them. The mindset of the customer is different depending on the stage of the customer funnel they are in. A simple way to consider the customer funnel is a three-stage funnel; awareness, consideration, and purchase. During the awareness stage, customers may or may not be aware of your product or service. Your goal when reaching potential customers in the awareness stage is likely centralized around introducing yourself to them and giving them a sense of your brand. During the consideration stage, potential customers likely know about your brand and they are considering you, among your competitors, for a product or service they need. The mindset of the customer in this stage is different than the mindset in awareness because it's no longer about introducing your brand, but differentiating and standing out amongst your competition. The last stage of the customer funnel is the purchase stage, at this stage, you have convinced your customers that your value proposition is there and they want to purchase your product. At this stage, the goal here is to alleviate any pain points or frictions that prevent them from buying your product. In the digital space, different channels are best utilized based on who your target is and the mindset of the customer you are trying to reach.

Paid Media Channels

Paid media channels are commercial websites and other digital marketing services or systems that your business does not own or control. These channels are particularly important for getting a marketing message to consumers as quickly as possible. Let's break down what these paid media channels are and the pros and cons associated with each.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM): This paid channel includes purchasing space for targeted ads on the search results page of search engines, such as Google. The benefit of this platform is that it delivers highly targeting ad messages that are considered relevant by viewers. However, this platform is not necessarily strong for building awareness because it will not reach a broad audience, the ads will be displayed only to viewers who have searched for certain words. Depending on your industry and your keywords, SEM can be very costly.

Email Marketing: This platform uses email transmission as a way to directly communicate with current or potential customers and it usually targets a loyal base receptive to your message. However, it may be difficult to get the consumer's attention because inboxes are overflowing.

Display Ads: Display ads are banners or other graphical ads that marketers pay publishers to publish on well-established websites. These ads are typically great for awareness building because they can reach a large number of people. However, click-through rates are often poor and may not be beneficial for the consideration and purchase stages of the customer funnel.

Retargeting: Retargeting ads use cookies to display ads that are optimized for maximum relevance and effectiveness based on the viewer's previous internet activity. These ads are best utilized for those in the purchase stage of the customer funnel because they have previously shown interest in your product or service.

Video Ads: Video ads are video-based advertising messages that offer a compelling way to tell a marketing story. These ads can be more engaging than static display ads but they can be expensive to develop.

Social Media Ads: These ads are textual or graphic ads displayed on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Snapchat. These ads target a very specific audience based on demographic and psychographic attributes. These ads offer the ability for users to share ads as well.

Mobile Ads: These are also textual or graphical ads, they are typically displayed within mobile apps. These are typically short and simple ad messages delivered to consumers relevant to their specific locations.

VR/AR: These ads are displayed on apps running virtual reality, augmented reality, or embedded device platforms. They provide immersive experiences that hold viewers attention, however, these can be expensive to develop.

Owned Media Channels

Owned media channels are digital properties that you own, such as your website, your Facebook page, or apps you develop. Owned media channels can be timely to develop, but offer a unique set of opportunities for digital marketers. Let's break down these owned media opportunities and the pros and cons associated with each.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): SEO is how companies increase the public visibility and exposure to their webpages by making changes to content or structure of pages based on knowledge of how specific search engines determine ranking in search results. SEO focuses on three main factors in terms of evaluating how a search engine will rank your page in search results; on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO.

  • On-page SEO: This focuses on the type of content on your webpage. By researching keywords for their search volume you can rankhigher on the search engine results page by the way the content on your page aligns with these keywords.
  • Off-page SEO: This focuses on the activity not on your webpage that could affect your ranking in search results. Inbound links, which is essentially the number of publishers that link to your page, and the authority and credibility of those publishers affect how high your page ranks. Also writing guest blog posts with other publishers and backlinking to your website will generate external attention and impact your search results ranking as well.
  • Technical SEO: This focuses on the backend of your website and how your pages are coded. Image compression, structured data, and SCC file optimization are some of the ways the backend of your website affects your ranking in search results.

SEO can greatly increase public exposure to your website, however, it can be time-consuming to learn and implement. It requires monitoring of search engines and adapting content to match changing search algorithms.

Content Marketing on Websites: Marketers can gain the attention of customers by providing interesting and free content on their website. Through careful and thoughtful content creation, marketers can develop valuable content that helps drive goodwill and loyalty with potential customers.

Content Marketing on Blogs: Building a blog that provides content designed to attract viewers is a way to build customer loyalty. Every blog post provides a unique page optimized for SEO that allows you business to rank in a search engine and drive potential customers to your webpage. Blogs help build a personal rapport with a specialized audience. However, blogging can be timely and requires frequent posting of new, relevant, and timely material.

Social Media Content and Interaction: Social media is both a paid and owned channel, depending on how you are utilizing it. When you post content on pages you own, you are utilizing social media tactics within the owned media space. Social Media provides a platform for relationship-building with current and prospective customers, however, it requires a lot of monitoring and management to provide appealing and useful content as well as respond timely and appropriately to potential and current customers.

Mobile Apps: Mobile apps are also a paid and owned channel depending on how you are using it. When you develop and distribute your apps, it is considered an owned media tactic. While mobile apps can build goodwill and foster customer loyalty, it can be very expensive to design, develop, and manage.

VR/AR Apps: VR/AR apps are considered owned media when you are developing and distributing apps for use on virtual reality or augmented reality platforms. These applications can provide an immersive experience, however, it can be very costly to design, develop, and manage.

Earned Media

Earned media is essentially online word of month or publicity. It is any material that is written about your business that you haven't paid for or created yourself. This content is published by a third party and is often seen in the shape of reviews, recommendations, mentions, shares, and reports. Digital marketers can influence earned media through creating content worth sharing, investing in time spent interacting on social media channels, and foster such strong customer satisfaction and loyalty that they become brand ambassadors.

Final Notes

There are many ways to market your business in the digital space. Digital marketers work with you to develop the best mix of digital tactics and strategies that will help your unique brand compete for digital awareness and conversions.

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Kelly O'Donnell

A lively, passionate, results-driven digital marketer.