In today’s digital age, the opportunities for small businesses to thrive and grow have expanded exponentially. The key lies in understanding and harnessing the potential of digital marketing. By gaining comprehensive understanding of the digital marketing channels available and their benefits (and drawbacks too), you’ll be equipped to make informed decisions about where to invest your time and resources.
Exploring Digital Marketing Channels
To help you out, we’re looking at the top six types of digital marketing. Clearly, the lines are blurred between the various options, but at least you’ll have a kind of menu to choose from.
1. Content marketing
Content marketing involves creating and distributing content—text, pictures, multimedia— that adds value for your audience, instead of just broadcasting an advertising message. If you’re in B2C (business to consumer), ‘content’ can mean social media posts, blog articles and fun videos.
Pros: It’s free in the sense that it’s about attracting customers to you and your brand instead of paying to push your message out to a cold audience
Cons: With everyone now waking up to the importance of content and pumping out blog posts, videos and whatever else, it’s a very cluttered space that makes it hard to stand out
2. Search engine marketing
Search engine marketing is all about getting your website to appear at the top of the results when someone searches for your brand, your products and services and other relevant words and phrases. Think Google (let’s face it, that’s the main one). It includes both organic or natural search (search engine optimisation, or SEO) and paid search (pay per click, or PPC).
Search engine optimisation does what it says on the tin: optimising for search engines! This means creating content that people are actively searching for as well as making sure that this content, and the platforms where it’s sitting, is optimised from a technical point of view as well. Everyone should be doing this, no matter what business or industry you’re in.
Pros: It’s free and when your brand appears in the organic search results, it comes across as being more ‘authentic’ and objective in the eyes of your customers
Cons: You may not have to pay specifically for the search results, but it does take time and effort to create amazing content and do the technical optimsation of your website
3. Pay Per Click
Pay per click is paid search advertising, for instance, Google Adwords or Bing Ads. It looks almost the same as the natural search results, except that it appears at the top of the page with a little box that says ‘Ad’. You can buy a top-ranking position via an auction based on keywords, geographical location and demographics—it’s especially useful for e-commerce and for local businesses.
Pros: PPC can quickly buy you a top ranking if you’re willing to pay for it
Cons: A lot of customers are sceptical of paid ads and are more likely to trust the natural search results
4. Social media marketing
Social media adds a whole new dimension of engagement and interaction. Instead of just broadcasting messages out at a mass audience, you can really interact with your customers and listen to what they have to say. There are all sorts of channels—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tik Tok, YouTube, Snapchat. Pretty much every business should be on, at least, a couple of these social channels.
Pros: The effort you put in can be multiplied as people like, comment on and share your content with their friends and connections
Facebook ads, in particular, have become very sophisticated and you can target specific customer segments with your content to get your message seen by the right people
Cons: The people who are behind these social channels are constantly making changes, adjusting their algorithms or finding new ways to make money, and it’s hard to stay on top of all these changes and to keep your marketing working effectively. It may sound simple to do a bit of posting on social, but you need a proper strategy and a lot more time than you think to do it properly and consistently
5. E-mail marketing
E-mail may seem old school in a world where everyone is instant messaging or Tik Toking, but email marketing is still one of the most effective digital marketing tools. Especially e-commerce sites and retail brands are seeing a lot of success with pushing seasonal promotions and discounts (think Black Friday deals or Mother’s Day), while you can also use email newsletters to ‘nurture’ your prospects by giving them a lot of value beyond just pushing your products and services.
Pros: Having an email list means you can stay in touch with your followers. Staying in regular contact with your email list will help you build relationships and will keep you ‘top of mind’ when they’re ready to buy
Cons: A lot of emails are left unopened, so you’ll need to come up with strong subject headings to grab people’s attention away from their cluttered inboxes
6. Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing involves partnering with influencers—celebrities, experts, authority figures—who have an existing audience. When they promote your product to their audience, often on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat or YouTube, loyal followers will jump on their recommendation and buy from you.
Pros: Becoming associated with a popular personality can give you instant ‘cool points’, especially with a younger audience
Cons: It’s not as simple as just paying a load of money to get a big celebrity—it’s much more effective if you choose the right influencer based on your brand and your audience, and find an authentic way to partner with them
Don’t try to do everything as you’ll end up exhausting yourself and doing nothing very well! Think about what you’re trying to achieve, who your audience is and where they’re active… and then pick a couple of marketing media to get started.