The Origin Story of Digital Marketing
How it Started, How it’s Going
Every great hero has their origin story; Batman witnessed his parents’ murder, Peter was bitten by a spider, and Black Widow was kidnapped to become a sleeper agent. Digital marketing is pretty much the hero in every small business’s story. Long, long ago (okay, less than 30 years ago, but you get the point), anyone who wanted to start a business had to have some good money put to the side to save up for the business.
Additionally, unless they were lucky enough to find clients purely through word of mouth, they had to pay for advertising, which was hit-and-miss, to say the least. Even if you were prepared to go cold calling, you were just as likely to get a door slammed in your face as you were to find a new client. Stores had it slightly better, but only slightly. Everyone could see you were there, but if you chose the wrong unit to rent, you could wave goodbye to thousands of dollars and likely your entire business.
Things. Were. Hard.
Enter Stage Left: The Internet
And then the internet came along in all its shiny glory. It flew in with a billowing cape, struck a pose, and assured all worried business owners and wantrepreneurs that it wouldn’t be long before running a business would be a much easier and cheaper affair.
They could forget their catalogs, cold calls, flyers, and even storefronts if they wanted. Of course, it took a little time for everyone to trust online transactions, but if you were an early adopter and jumped online from around 1994, then it was relatively likely that you would hit the proverbial goldmine if you knew what you were doing or willing to figure it out and had a great offer, product, or service.
As more people began to use the internet at home, traditional PPC and display ads exploded in popularity. Email marketing stepped into the room like scrawny Steve Rogers and, as soon as marketers saw it for what it could be, had the injection and came out jacked. Like our Captain, email marketing is still jacked today, almost three decades later, and likely will be for a very long time to come.
And, like any good origin story, marketers looked to SEO to get what they wanted (but not what they needed). They tried to win by using techniques that make any modern SEO expert wince; this included keyword stuffing, low-value backlinks, and tagging like they just got a Dymo Label Maker in the mail (remember those? Every home suddenly looked as though all the tags were highlighted on a point and click game). Fortunately, Google came in and told them that there was a better way to go about it.
Big Data: Stumbling Over the Keys to Hanger 51
The internet made it possible to access an abundance of data. In fact, more data than anyone knows what to do with. Certainly more than people knew what to do with in the mid-90s. Butttttt when people did realize what big data could do (both in terms of the good, such as helping them reach the right people with their marketing rather than a blanket approach, and the bad, such as selling their data), it was like finding the keys to Hanger 51 in The Raiders of the Lost Ark. Everyone wanted a piece of it.
Everyone Gets Green Lantern’s Ring: Smartphones
Okay, forgetting the world’s “first smartphone,” which looks like a brick combined with an early Blackberry, we didn’t all start actually getting our hands on smartphones (as in those that use 3G/4G and actually stay connected to the internet) until around 2007, when Steve Jobs first revealed the iPhone at Macworld. But, from then on, digital marketing experienced a major shift.
Suddenly, everyone had the power to do almost anything online, right from their phone. Today, you don’t need a desktop computer to function. If you can survive with your little screen (which is so big it won’t fit in your pocket), you can do everything you can elsewhere. You can run a business, read a book, comment on articles, watch and make videos—you can literally do it all.
For marketers, this not only means they can actively market from almost anywhere in the world, but they can reach their customers wherever they are, too.
The Sidekick We Didn’t Know We Needed: Social Media Marketing
Social media marketing is a huge piece of the digital marketing puzzle. In fact, most experts today believe that you really can’t have a complete digital marketing campaign without it. Social media somewhat steals the show from digital marketing on the whole at times, largely because many businesses have grown to a good income level using social media exclusively. Social media is a little bit like Bender on Futurama; it’s a little obnoxious and you probably should avert your gaze from time to time, but the show (aka digital marketing) just wouldn’t be the same without it.
Avengers (or Justice League) Assemble: Digital Marketing Today
So, here we are in 2021. 23 Marvel films and 23 DC films have been released from the time the internet first became accessible in homes until now. So, it’s no surprise to find that digital marketing has also expanded. Today, digital marketing encompasses:
- PPC (pay-per-click) – This includes good old-fashioned display ads to the ads you see at the top of a Google search.
- Content Marketing – Content marketing encompasses more than just blog posts; it’s also all of the billions of hours of video and podcasts available. YouTube alone sees 500 hours of new videos uploaded every minute.
- Email Marketing – Remember AOL’s “You’ve Got Mail?” that would blare whenever a new email landed in your mailbox? It’s a good thing we don’t have that feature anymore, because the average professional receives 121 emails a day. That’s a lot of emails. It amounts to around 4 billion emails sent every day.
- Social Media Marketing – Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn; there’s no shortage of platforms to share images, witty remarks, educational content, and more to connect with your audience. Don’t forget influencers, either, since influencer marketing has become a huge (Projected to reach $15 billion by 2022.)
- SEO – Forget keyword stuffing. Today, if you want to rank highly on search engines, your content better be worth your customer’s time. Google’s main aim is to give their user the best experience possible by showing them the most relevant links. If you’re not delivering that, you’re going to see your rankings fall. Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, but if all you’ve got time to do is think about what your customer or audience wants and needs from your content, you’ll be ahead of the people who simply want views.
Today, to succeed, you need to juggle all the pieces of the puzzle. While you don’t need to do all of them—for example, you may choose not to focus on content marketing and PPC for now—what you do choose to do, you need to do well. It’s got to be able to break through all the other content and noise online to reach your audience. With so much content, so many social media posts, and so much competition, you need to know your ideal customer inside and out. When digital marketing began, it was enough to simply show up and be visible. Today, you need to do that and provide your audience with the content (whether that be content, email marketing, or even an ad) they want to see.
Until next time, stay moxie my friends!
The Marketing Moxie League is the official blog of Marketing Moxie, LLC., where we dare to be daring! We love to hear from you. Please comment, like, and share below.