A couple of weeks ago, I was approached by my former teacher of digital marketing at The Art Institute of Phoenix to give a presentation to her class. This presentation was to cover my experience and best practices in digital marketing that I've learned since graduating college in 2015.
Of course, I was honored to be able to participate in this presentation. I remember having alumni come in and speak to my classes when I was attending school and becoming inspired by all they have been able to accomplish since graduating.
As a digital marketer, it's not easy to sit back and reflect upon what I already know. This is because I'm constantly striving to keep up on the latest news and trends as they relate to marketing, as any other successful marketer does to stay on top of the game. However, once I forced myself to sit down and do a brain dump, it all came out much easier than expected.
Without further ado, here's a few of the best digital marketing practices I've learned and put into practice over the past couple of years.
1. Stay educated
Digital marketing trends are constantly changing. Just look at how Facebook's F8 announcement, including their new open augmented reality platform, is going to change the online marketing landscape as an example.
Whether it's the marketing channel, design trends, or even job roles, it's important to spend time keeping up with the latest strategies for marketing in the digital space.
I usually spend at least two or three hours per week going through and analyzing the latest trends and updates in both digital (tech) and marketing realms. This way, I'm always up to date and can make changes real-time in how I communicate to prospective leads.
A great way to stay educated is by signing up for online courses, which are available from top influencers everywhere. While these can be helpful, it’s important to double-check credentials before signing up and paying for them.
Here's some great, low-cost (and free) courses I'd recommend (not affiliate links):
- HubSpot Academy - Favorites include Inbound Marketing, Email Marketing, Content Marketing courses (free)
- DistilledU - Master search engine optimization with these online SEO courses (3 moduals free ranging up to $40/mo)
- Moz’s SEO Training - Another great training in SEO (starts at $40)
- Google Online Marketing Challenge - Learn to develop and run an online advertising campaign (free, only open to graduate and undergraduate students)
- PPC University - Learn pay-per-click online advertising (free)
- Social Media Quickstarter - Covers the basics of social media marketing by platform (free)
Additionally, this article on Content Marketing Best Practices in 2017 by SEMRush covers some essential practices for creating successful content.
2. Join Communities
Communities, both online and in person, allow you to network, engage with, and learn from fellow marketers who have more experience than you do. Plus, as an active participant, you’ll get your name out there among professionals in your space.
The best possible outcome is when you find a community full of people who like the same things you do, kind of like this one:
Okay...maybe not so much like that one.
But you can find marketing professionals (who hopefully aren't dressed in horse onesies) hanging out in some of these online spaces:
Great communities aren't just online. There are likely plenty of meetups and groups in your area who meet up on a regular basis to discuss the goings-on of your industry.
Some awesome ones I know of include:
- Creative Mornings (global community)
- Creative Connect (currently only in Phoenix and Seattle)
- Meetup.com (find a group in your local area)
3. Choose your niche
The word “digital marketing” encompasses a lot of different job titles, tools, and best practices within basically any industry you can think of. With so many options to choose from, it can become overwhelming deciding exactly which direction you want to go - I know it was for me!
The key is to choose your specialty and your niche early on and don’t try to do it all. By this, I mean narrow down your prospective job title from "Digital Marketer" to something a little more specific.
You might want to choose one or two from these specialties:
- Content Marketing
- Affiliate Marketing
- Email Marketing
When evaluating your options, consider what you’re passionate about as well as competition surrounding that expertise and how you can stand out.
For example, there are lots of travel writers, lifestyle bloggers, and social media gurus - how can you stand out from others?
4. Automate as much as you can
The world of digital marketing has so many channels that it can seem nearly impossible to keep up.
Automation is key to being present on key platforms without overdoing yourself to the point of burning out. It's fairly easy to set up, and once it is, you won't know what to do with all of your extra free time.
Spending a few hours every week/month setting up email and social media automation for a period of time will allow you to passively maintain your digital presence.
This way, you can spend less time maintaining a digital presence and more time doing everything else that will help you boost your business.
5. Planning & analytics are your new best friends
If you thought being a digital marketer was going to be all about creativity (writing emails and blogs, designing infographics, posting on social media) then you’re only halfway right.
Being successful at digital marketing requires heavy-duty planning and analytics to make sure you’re on the right track.
Organize your plans with a yearly marketing plan and then break it down into quarterly and monthly content marketing and social media plans. Include specific and measurable goals and create calendars to keep you organized and on track.
Review your success on a weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis using tools such as Google analytics and other software designed to track metrics. Use this data to form the basis for your marketing decisions
6. Learn how to take breaks
This tip deserves a lot more credit than many "best practice" articles tend to give it. Something that I've had to learn the hard way is forcing myself to take breaks, especially when things get a little overwhelming.
As a digital marketer, there's a lot of demand when it comes to keeping up with trends, maintaining an online presence, strategizing, analyzing data, creating content, and everything else we do to stay on top of our job duties.
This means it's easier than you think to get overwhelmed and over-loaded with tasks, to-do lists, and duties.
Taking a 10-minute break here and there to turn off your phone, step away from the computer, and just sit and think can do wonders to your well-being, productivity, and even your level of inspiration.
So the next time you're feeling a bit tense, close your laptop and go outside for a few minutes to clear your head. I promise you'll come back feeling calmer and ready to tackle the next set of tasks on your to-do list.
Ashley Hoffman is a freelance content marketer based in Seattle who writes for businesses in the tech and design industries. She has studied digital marketing for over five years and has worked as a marketing professional for over two. She loves good books, awesome design, coffee, and natural disasters.
Find her on Twitter: @ashhmarketing