In a world where brand awareness is everything, marketers must build strong relationships between their business and their customers in every possible sphere. And the online space is no exception. In fact, according to Reuters, global spending on digital marketing is currently at around $100bn, with $52bn spent in the United States and the United Kingdom alone.
Needless to say, you don’t need to be working in the field to know that digital marketing is everywhere. Whether you’re on social media, email, shopping, or gaming online, you’ll have encountered it in one form or another. But as the digital world continues to evolve, it can be hard to define exactly what digital marketing involves and what a digital marketing specialist does.
This post aims to demystify the field so that you can decide whether a career as a digital marketing specialist might be right for you. We’ll keep things as simple and jargon-free as possible, giving you all the information you need to get your head around the topic.
Relatively speaking, digital marketing is a new concept. It didn’t exist before the dawn of the internet. In the past 20 years, however, it has become the norm. Computers and cell phones are now ubiquitous in our lives. It only makes sense, then, that marketing is delivered through these channels. Just pause for a moment to think about how much shopping you do online. How many hours a week do you spend on sites like Instagram or TikTok? Or checking your emails? All these channels (and more) provide digital marketers with the perfect opportunity to build new relationships with their customers or to cultivate existing ones.
Unlike traditional marketing, which only takes place offline and which purely goes one way, digital marketing offers a unique opportunity for a two-way interchange between brands and their customers. Both parties can contribute to the relationship, adding value not just to a business, but also to the customer. This unique approach allows companies to tailor their offering to a customer’s needs in a way that they never could before. It is this aspect of digital marketing that ensures it is, without doubt, here to stay.
Digital marketing is the area of marketing that is delivered entirely through digital channels. This simply means that all efforts take place online, through social media, via email, search engines, websites, across digital devices, and so on. The goal of digital marketing is to build relationships with existing and potential customers or to promote products and services.
In a nutshell, a digital marketing specialist’s job is to develop and oversee online marketing campaigns. This sounds simple, but what does it mean?
Ultimately, a digital marketing specialist must use a variety of tactics to create campaign content and then deliver this content to the appropriate device or platform, to be seen by their chosen target audience.
This involves a variety of complex tasks. For instance, a digital marketing specialist’s first job is to collect data on potential or existing customers. What are the customer’s interests? Where do they go online? What kind of content might they connect with? After diving into the data, digital marketers will use this information to devise a strategy. This could involve some or all of the following: email campaigns, online advertising and search engine marketing (SEM), search engine optimization (SEO), content production (including videos and blogs), websites, and so on.
Carrying out these tasks effectively means taking a holistic view of a customer, their needs, and objectives. It also means having the technical skills to execute such a campaign. While digital marketing specialists usually have a team of designers, copywriters, data analysts, and other experts to support them, as the project lead, they’ll need to have a broad understanding of all these areas so they can draw them together and deliver a successful campaign that meets its goals. Speaking of which…
What is a digital marketing specialist’s ultimate goal?
A vital part of understanding a digital marketing specialist’s role is understanding their goal. In general, this will be to promote a product or service. However, an effective digital marketing campaign will always have a goal that is much more focused and specific than this.
For instance, if you work for an IT company that sells software subscriptions, your goal might be to generate leads for the sales team to follow up on. Or, as an online retailer, you might want to drive a certain type of customer to a particular product. Otherwise, perhaps you simply want to collect a customer’s personal views on a given topic to inform the development of a new service.
Whatever the goal, it’s the first thing a digital marketing specialist should define. A clear and specific objective keeps them focused as they devise and execute their strategy. They should always refer back to their initial objective to ensure that they stay on track.
In the broadest terms, we now know what digital marketing is and what a digital marketing specialist does. But what does their job involve on a day-to-day basis?
While a marketer’s job naturally varies depending on their role, in this section we’ve provided a list of typical tasks and responsibilities, as taken from real job ads. The following job duties have been taken from the job site, Monster:
Next up, how much can you earn as a digital marketing specialist? As you might expect, the exact figure varies depending on everything from your experience level to your location. Nevertheless, to provide a rough estimate, we’ve pulled together averages from some salary comparison websites so that you’re not completely in the dark.
Taking an average of estimates from salary comparison sites Payscale, SimplyHired, Indeed, Salary Expert, Salary.com, and Glassdoor, we deduce that digital marketing specialists in the USA can earn an average of about $63,000. That sounds pretty good, huh?
Just to qualify this figure, you’ll certainly earn less in an entry-level role, and very likely earn more in a senior digital marketing position.
To illustrate, let’s compare a digital marketing specialist’s salary to that of a digital marketing manager. According to Salary Expert, a digital marketing specialist can earn around $63,000 while a digital marketing manager can earn an average of $91,000. As you can see, there’s plenty of potential to progress!
While all these figures are estimates, they do provide a rough idea of the kind of salary you can expect to aim for. For more detailed breakdowns of the factors impacting salary, check out our full digital marketing specialist salary guide.
We’ve explored the responsibilities that digital marketing specialists need. Now let’s consider the most important skills and traits you’ll need to fulfil these tasks!
Essential hard skills for digital marketing specialists
There are a great many potential skills that will help you thrive as a digital marketer, but here are the absolute must-haves:
By now you should have a clear idea of whether a career in digital marketing might be for you. So what are the next possible steps?
First up, let’s bust a very pervasive myth: you don’t need a digital marketing degree to start a career in the field. While an undergraduate degree in marketing won’t do you any harm, it’s by no means a prerequisite to success.
With this in mind, let’s explore a few other things you can do to kickstart your career.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with some of the most important digital marketing skills, put them into action. Perhaps start a blog, promote your work on various social media platforms, and experiment with other digital marketing techniques to hone your skills. When you get to an interview, these activities will all help prove to the hiring manager that you’re dedicated to the craft and are serious about getting into the industry.
In this section, we’ll run through some questions that often come up when considering a career in digital marketing.
As we’ve covered, a digital marketing specialist devises strategies that help promote products and services or build relationships with customers. This means collecting and analyzing data, liaising with different areas of the business, and ensuring their objectives are met. They’ll manage the brand, present new ideas, create or oversee the production of content, and report back to leadership. In short, they are incredibly hands-on.
A digital marketing manager, meanwhile, takes on a more senior leadership role. They may have a direct hand in helping to create the products and services that a digital marketing specialist promotes. They’ll also oversee a larger team, taking on a more supervisory role and delegating tasks to more junior members, as required. Finally, they’ll take on commercial aspects of the role, such as budget management and business development.
And while there’s certainly a bit more to it than this, that’s the difference in a nutshell!
So there we have it: a full introduction to what a digital marketing specialist actually does!
In this post, we’ve gone back to basics. We explored what digital marketing is, what the role involves, and have looked at some digital marketing specialist job descriptions. We’ve also looked at how much they can earn, what skills you’ll need, and how to acquire them.
Whether you’re new to the job market or are hoping to change careers, a role in digital marketing is a smart choice. According to McKinley’s marketing trends report, there’s a big gap between supply and demand in digital marketing roles.