On the surface, digital marketing seems easy. How difficult can it be to do something which involves Google or Facebook or LinkedIn or TikTok or even email, which we all use? And after all, there are millions of youngsters barely out of college who are doing some digital marketing or the other.
Not so. Anyone can cook, anyone can run, anyone can suggest a medicine for fever and anyone can do some marketing or some digital marketing. But to make digital marketing deliver real results for the business takes professional training in multi-disciplinary skills and hands-on experience across many tough, real-life situations.
Digital marketing, born out the union of marketing and the Internet, is in practice a complex and ever-changing field. As a digital marketer with many years’ experience, here is my take.
Here are seven ways in which digital marketing is complex and ever-changing.
The online user base is large. Over 4 billion people worldwide use the Internet. In India the Internet has penetrated small towns and many users are more comfortable with vernacular languages.
Given this large user base, every organization under the sun now does or needs some digital marketing, even if it be just a simple website and emailers. That’s hundreds of millions of potential clients (e.g. I estimate Google Ads and Meta Ads have 20 million and 10 million customers respectively) across hundreds of industries. Digital marketers must cater to a much more diverse customer and user base than other services businesses such as information technology companies and ad agencies.
Multichannel complexity is a challenge. We have social media, search, display, videos, websites, apps, emails, e-commerce marketplaces and more. Marketing objectives may be brand or performance led or both. Marketing communication can be optimized for any one of various marketing objectives viz. reach, awareness, brand appeal, brand image, likes, lead generation, calls, store visits, app downloads, online sales et al, more possibilities than achieved in traditional marketing. The customer today is also omni-channel, tracking the customer across offline and across different online channels, is the need of the hour.
E-commerce websites can be custom made, or use Shopify, Woo Commerce, Magento and other CMS or even be a PWA (progressive web app).
Content marketing is increasingly important. Yet creating quality content 365 days a year, notwithstanding the availability of a lot of how to guides and content creation tools, remains a challenge.
The vast interest in digital marketing has led to many brands taking to this medium.Whether one considers paid (online advertising), social (say Facebook and LinkedIn posts) and organic (search and SEO) aspects of digital marketing, there are many brands vying for the same customer. It takes careful planning, creative thinking and a deep understanding of the target market by digital marketers to make one’s brand stand out from the competition.
The tech industry is the provider of the tools and technologies that digital marketers use. Over 90% of the revenues of Google and Meta accrue through digital marketing! This humungous i.e. very large industry has hundreds of thousands of developers all out to create new stuff. Day in and out. Products are being continuously tweaked with feature upgrades.
Each platform keeps introducing new features. I reckon there is on average one important update made to Google Ads each week.
Some examples of complexity and change: There are periodic algorithm updates for Google Search, which means Google keeps tweaking how websites will be ranked in Search, requiring changes in SEO strategy. Google Ads is moving from keywords targeting and manual controls to user intent targeting and AI-led automation. New ad formats are in perpetual development e.g. shoppable search ads and augmented reality ads. As on date, Meta Ads has 23 placement formats.
Then, from time to time there are new platforms which appear and rise and shine, no two years are the same. TikTok, which became the go to place for digital marketers to build awareness among millennials, has had to be withdrawn from some markets e.g. India. Its use might get further restricted. Its success has also led to several competing short form video formats, such as Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.
Again, tech companies take up some products and platforms aggressively and sometimes less. In recent years, LinkedIn (now a Microsoft company) has positioned itself more strongly as a place to build one’s personal and one’s organizational brand. It earlier focused more on the jobs listing and the learning courses side of the business.
Competition among tech players also spurs the creation of new products and platforms for use by digital marketers. For every Amazon Ads there is a Flipkart Ads, for every Bing Search with GPT there is a Google Search with GPT and with every Figma there will be an Adobe XD software.
Indeed, if a digital marketer were to take a sabbatical and then rejoin, she would find her day to day work different from when she was last at work.
Whether some technologies - say metaverse - become passing fancies or some - say generative AI or voice search - transform the world does not matter as far as digital marketers are concerned. We have to be ever ready to utilize any technology that can work for our clients. At Interskale, for example, we are already using ChatGPT to improve the creative and content we produce and to sharpen the strategies for the brands we work on.
The digital industry is now so large that it is the subject of several consumer concerns and alleged malpractices. These include ad fraud, brand safety, data privacy and security. After GDPR, we will have the Data Protection Bill in Parliament in India and legislation in the U.S. as well.
Consumers - and their governments - are concerned that they are being tracked 24x7 online. This has resulted in actions by Apple and there are actions afoot for Google Chrome and Google Ads as well.
In India, social media influencers are now going to be regulated. Brands must disclose whether the influencer has been paid for and the professional qualifications of the influencer, if any. The latter is expected to remedy matters in nutraceuticals, where it is feared that unethical claims are being made by dubious people with no real professional qualifications.
Given the increasing complexity and dynamic environment above, for the average client, the gap between what minimum they need to know to about digital marketing to get good work done and what they possibly know keeps increasing.
Regarding digital marketing itself, there are in any case little or no university degrees or definitive, accredited training programmes. And the above rapid changes in the field make any one-time study programme inadequate.
Given the explosion in digital marketing usage, many clients also lack training in marketing and have no experience in how to get good work done by digital marketers and digital agencies.
I believe this problem doesn’t occur in I.T. or in advertising. In effect, digital marketers have to bear a larger burden in handholding their clients than in other service businesses.
The above is the complexity and challenge seen in the field of digital marketing.
Interskale is a digital marketing consulting company with the expertise and experience to help
clients and deliver desired results in this tough environment.