“Remember that standing still is going backwards. Yes, it’s an adage that has been used for years to inspire ambition, but it is blatantly obvious in the #digital landscape. Not only does that technology evolve at a lightening pace that transcends Moore’s law, but consumer behavior is shifting at a radical pace, and media consumption becomes more and more fragmented.
“Being on top of consumer behavior –- understanding what they’re doing online, what motivates them and their social and mobile behavior –- and staying ahead of that by learning what’s in the market and what’s on the come, will help ensure you don’t get stuck on the sidelines when interviewing for jobs in digital marketing.”
Digital marketing budgets are expected to increase steadily during the next few years, according to Datran Media’s Annual Marketing & Media Survey, which reaches out to more than 5,000 marketing executives from Fortune 500 brands, top publishers, and leading advertising and media agencies.
This is good news for those of you hoping to break into the digital marketing industry. Whether you’re passionate about search, affiliate, social media, or another area of marketing, there are a few things you can do to prove your worthiness to prospective employers.
A degree in marketing or communications can take you a distance, but most employers are looking for candidates with marketing experience, whether that’s from a previous job, internship or side project. If you already have work experience in the marketing world, congratulations. For the rest of you, internships or other projects will be key.
“Any hands-on involvement with campaign creation, analytics, or optimization can be extremely beneficial to #aspiring digital #marketers,” says Traci Kuiphoff, online marketing manager at BareNecessities.com. “If you’re in school or a recent grad, the best way to gain experience is to do an internship at a company or agency that has a department or focus in online or digital marketing. Not only do you get real world hands-on experience, but it’s also great to put on your resume when you’re ready for a full-time position.”
If you are in college, look for paid or for-school-credit marketing internships at your college’s job fairs, via job search sites, and on social media sites. You could even land your next gig through Twitter.
If you don’t land an internship or find a position of interest, create your own project or enter a marketing contest. While studying marketing and international business at NYU Stern’s Undergraduate School of Business, a classmate and I entered the John Caples Student Campaign of the Year contest and created a digital marketing campaign for Pentel. Our campaign included a mix of digital, social and direct marketing communications, along with thoroughly gathered success metrics. Not only did we win first place, which included summer internships and a cash prize, but we also met industry experts who have acted as mentors to us.
Being able to analyze marketing campaigns and understand what worked or didn’t is the key role of a digital marketer — in order to do that, you’ll need to know (and love) the industry jargon.
“Understanding metrics on the web is key,” says Naishi Zhang, assistant marketing manager at Barnes & Noble. “The Internet provides so many ways of analyzing user behavior, and knowing how to gather and interpret data is important for success. Read widely and learn the lingo, so when someone asks about the CTR of a banner ad or the number of page views a landing page received, you’ll be ready.”
Mastering marketing terminology and metrics, and knowing what they mean, will take time and practice, but you can get a basic knowledge by picking up a marketing 101 textbook or attending an introductory course. Check out local college or continuing education courses. If that isn’t an option, the Internet is at your disposal. About.com’s glossary of marketing terms and HubSpot’s glossary of social media marketing terms are both very useful for beginners, and you should also read some of the top marketing blogs to get your daily fill of information.
“Your online clout is sometimes referred to as ‘social currency,'” he continues. “In other words, there’s a value associated with your online personal brand. Increased value carries as much weight as a great resume. A high Klout.com score for example, will help you stand out and validate what your resume says about you.”
Your Klout score is a number between 0 and 100 that measures the size of your engaged audience, the likelihood that they will amplify your messages, and your overall influence within your network. Bigger isn’t always better. Bakas explains, “Aspiring marketers would do well to grow an engaged online following, not necessarily a large online following. Again, Klout.com is a great tool to evaluate the strength of your online presence.”
There isn’t just one career path in marketing. You can choose to work for an agency, with an in-house team, or start your own firm. There are multiple marketing disciplines, including affiliate, search, social media, e-mail, mobile, and display marketing, to name a few. Teams come in all sizes — some in which teammates specialize in certain areas, and others where a team can be composed of just one stellar know-it-all.
The best way to get a taste of all of the options is to dabble in a bit of everything. “Digital marketing agency experience can be extremely valuable — at an agency you can be exposed to all avenues of digital marketing from paid search, social media, mobile and everything in between,” Kuiphoff advises. “Most likely, you’ll touch a number of different accounts which can help you choose a vertical focus or specialty.”
Once you have a base knowledge in each area of marketing, you’ll be better equipped to choose a more specific path of focus. Having a specialty enables you to hone your skills in that area and become an expert, which is a valuable asset to potential employees.
“Put the ‘social’ in social media and spend time engaging with people in the real world,” Bakas says. “Go to lots of events to create or nurture quality interactions that can later continue online. Use plancast.com to see which upcoming events are worth going to. These experiences are ripe with opportunities to meet other digital marketers. The strongest relationships are the ones nurtured online and offline.”
Everyone needs a resume; what you do with it is up to you. To help you stand out, here are a few tips from our digital marketing experts: