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Digital marketing is an exciting and rapidly evolving industry. In a general sense, its purpose isn’t too different to traditional marketing: both have a core focus of engaging audiences via marketing campaigns, offering information to customers and essentially driving sales for a business.
But the digital world encompasses so much more than just advertising – and because of this, you may be overwhelmed when you start looking into potential career paths.
If you’re just starting out on a digital marketing career, you may be wondering whether you should learn a broad set of skills or become highly specialized in one area. This, of course, is really going to be up to you. But it’s certainly a good idea to get familiar with the different options and learn a few key skills in some detail.
So, what skills do you actually need to take on this exciting and rewarding career? Fortunately, there is a huge range of options, but some specific examples of specializations include:
- Email marketing
- Video/audio production
- Interactive technology (e.g., AI)
- Search engine marketing (SEM)
- Social media
- Content management and curation
- Web/mobile design/development
- Search engine optimization (SEO)
- Business/marketing strategy
It’s a good idea to think about getting training in at least one or two speciality areas. And if you’re planning on going into a leadership role, you’ll need to know a quite a bit about them all.
Here’s an overview of what a digital marketing career might look like, and which paths are more suited to different personalities.
Know Your Role
According to The Economist, key skills that digital professionals should focus on include engagement and technology, strategy and planning and data analysis. SEO, PPC, AdSense, and web design are all areas that you could get certification in that would generally be applicable to the field.
But before you even step forward to do any training, you should get familiar with the types of areas that digital marketing covers and how that fits in with your current situation.
Here are some questions to consider:
- Do you want to freelance or join an agency?
- Are your skills more technical or creative?
- Do you want to be front and center leading a team, or tucked into a back office quietly?
- How well do you work with numbers?
- What type of business acumen do you have?
- How deep are your technical skills?
- How much do you already know about analytics?
- How much do you already know about marketing?
- What is your ideal salary level?
The main thing that you have to get clear on is your vision for your career. While you can always pivot later, it’s important that you get some specific training and become certified right from the get-go.
Those thinking about heading into the world of digital marketing should know about the different specialization areas. The list below is by no means extensive and if you have more than one specialty area – especially a unique combination like tech and creative – you’ll likely have an advantage over your competition when it comes to landing a position with your dream agency.
Content marketing is really a general term that encompasses a whole range of skills, including social media, copywriting and SEO. A content manager could take on a more creative directorial type of role – similar to an ad exec or even a managing editor – or they may end up doing more technical work such as analytics. This may also be the aim for you if you love social media.
Bear in mind that this is a managerial role, so you will need to have some serious leadership chops and some experience managing teams. You’ll also need to have a deep understanding of how to analyze the data associated with your content marketing efforts.
Social Media Specialists
If you love your social media, this may be the stream for you – however, the job consists of much more than just playing on Facebook all day. It actually requires a commitment to learning about analytics reporting and applying them to business strategy and needs a creative yet analytical approach.
That being said, you need to have a handle on storytelling, customer engagement and customer service for sure. You’ll need to be up to speed on the latest tools and trends, and be willing to take risks with new types of strategies as well. You’ll also need to be pretty adept at content creation.
Social media gurus have big jobs, but the bottom line is that if you thrive on relationship-building and love taking on the role as a PR company for businesses you believe in, this could be the ideal focus area.
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Specialist
If you are doing any kind of internet-based marketing, you need to have at least a decent grasp on what is meant by PPC. This is a type of paid media that is the equivalent of advertising in the newspaper – sort of, except instead of paying for a chunk of ad space, advertisers pay per “click.” To go into this field, you’ll want to understand display advertising, various elements of conversion optimization, and advanced analytics, to name a few things.
Analysts are responsible for bringing in traffic, and if you want to do well in digital marketing, you’re going to have to know something about what’s going on the backend of your site, even if you’re not managing this area of operations.
If you do want to go into SEO, you’ll need to have a good grasp on the numbers game and be able to not only read and report them but use them to do further research which will guide marketing campaigns. You’ll want to have a good grasp in an area like web design or hosting, UX, CMS as well as gain an in-depth knowledge of SEO best practices.
The best analysts are typically able to communicate well with a team while taking on a creative problem-solving role while using these numbers to propel a business. Many will have a technical background and something like a Computer Science degree really helps – but it’s possible to learn even if you don’t.
Digital Marketing Managers
This is a very broad field, so your career path will probably be informed by your background, education, and interests. Managers might be hired on as consultants for agencies, or may work in-house. If you’re at the managerial level, you’ll be looking at strategy, and you will be required to know a little bit about everything.
Different agencies tend to have different focus points, so it may be that you’re in charge of a team that does more content management, or you may be more on the web design/programming end of the spectrum.
Take Some Courses
In this field getting a speciality certification is never a bad idea, and this is especially true in the face of increasing competition. More and more people are branching into freelance and agency work these days, some switching from one to the other. Some have in-depth marketing experience, and some are just teaching themselves.
The best thing about upskilling is that you don’t need to “quit your day job” to go back to school – many courses are online and allow you to study at a time and pace that suits you.
Where to Start?
So, is it really necessary to specialize in a specific area if you’re thinking of joining the field of digital marketing? The situation will be different depending on your aptitude, values, and passions. The great thing about becoming a digital marketing specialist is that there really are no boundaries! You can take your path in almost any direction you like, and get more training later if you’d like to pivot.
Here are some basic things to keep in mind as you build or shift your career:
- Stay active with networking, both online and in real life
- Stay-up-to-date on trends as much as possible
- Understand skills gaps and future predictions where some skills may be more or less in demand
- Blog your heart out
- Stay curious and adaptable
- Hone your business skills
- Keep teaching yourself new things
- Get certified at a reputable school or institute
Digital marketing is a deeply rewarding and evolving career path that typically comes along with a decent salary. So as long as you set some specific career-related goals and stay focused on learning about an area that you feel passionate about, there’s a good chance you’ll come out with the job of your dreams.