Digital Marketing Channels Types And Platforms

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Quick intro do digital marketing channels

To build a successful distribution strategy companies need to leverage on digital channels to reach their potential customers.

Whether a company sells a physical or digital product, digital marketing channels can be an incredible source of continuous growth for the business, thus enabling to build a viable business model.

However, each channel type will require an understanding of the underlying platform, the kind of incentives created for users on those platforms and how users interact.

Organic vs. paid

A first distinction is between organic vs. paid channels. Organic channels are those who do not require to pay for attention. That doesn’t mean organic channels are less expensive. Indeed, a way to grow organically is through content developemtn.

Producing great content can be quite expansive. Therefore, organic simply means that you can gain visibility and interests from potential customers without paying a third-party platform to be featured.

An example is an SEO, or search engine optimization, where a platform like Google ranks your content because it perceives it as high quality. Thus, enabling users to get through you continuously through that content.

A paid channel instead, requires a budget to enable a third-party platform to feature that content to users. When budget is over so the content will run out of visibility. An example is search engine marketing. You pay Google on a pay-per-click basis to feature your content on top of its listings.

Direct vs. indirect

A direct digital marketing channel enables potential customers to get to you without middlemen. One example is people who type directly your website name on their browser, thus coming to your site.

An indirect channel example is someone finds you through a social media post, which gets featured by Facebook’s algorithms on the users’ feed. If Facebook pushes down the reach of that same post none will find you anymore.

In the former case, potential customers get direct access to your brand. In the latter, users get to know you via a third-party platform.

Digital marketing channels

Let’s look now at some of the key digital marketing channels:


In a direct digital marketing channel potential customers get directly to your product. Some examples include:

  • Customer base: an existing set of customers with whom you have direct contact.
  • Email list: a list of contacts built over the years which you can contact directly.
  • Website direct traffic: a portion of website traffic comes from people directly young (or having your site saved as a favorite) thus bypassing search engines.
  • Push notifications: in some instances websites also collect contacts by enabling push notifications. In that case, when content is out it will reach directly those contacts.


Referrals are channels used to bring visibility to your business beyond search, or social media. Some examples include:

  • Affiliate, parters’ websites: you can incentivize other websites and partners to bring traffic or conversions back to your business by structuring partnerships or revenue share.
  • PR campaigns: if a media website features your product you will gain traffic as a result.
  • Backlinks: if your content is great, other websites might link to it, thus bringing it traffic.


SEO hacking is a process of quick experimentation that aims at efficiently growing the organic traffic of web properties. Where traditional SEO strategies look at a steady growth, SEO hacking finds unconventional ways to quickly gain traction. That is a process well suited for small web properties and startups looking to scale up organic traffic against large media outlets.

Search engines like GoogleBingYahoo or DuckDuckGo, still have a large portion of their listings based on organic results (websites featured without paying on a performance basis).

This is at the core of search engine optimization activities.

Amazon SEO represents the set of marketing tactics that sellers on Amazon can employ to better rank their products’ pages organically (without paying for placement), thus building a continuous stream of customers on the store. In short, Amazon SEO leverages Amazon search capability to rank e-commerce pages and make more sales.


Search engines like GoogleBingYahoo or DuckDuckGo primarily make money via advertising revenues. Thus, companies pay them to be featured on top of their search results (there are also other factors affecting paid rankings).

A search engine marketing strategy looks at sponsoring your content by – usually – paying on a performance basis.

Platforms like Google Ads help with that.


In social media optimization companies curate their pages and content on social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat) to gain organic (unpaid) visibility by building a loyal audience over time.


The same social media platforms we saw above primarily make money via paid advertising. Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest have built advanced advertising platform which give companies the ability to segment their audiences in many ways.

How do you decide the proper digital distribution mix?

Distribution is one of the key elements to build a viable business model. Indeed, Distribution enables a product to be available to a potential customer base; it can be direct or indirect, and it can leverage on several channels for growth. Finding the right distribution mix also means balancing between owned and non-owned channels.

One way to balance and create a proper distribution mix for your company is to look at two factors:

  • Speed: how fast can the distribution channel you’re using grow? In short, is it a multiplicative channel? Or is it additive? For instance, if you are adding customers but they will not reference your service, or have the ability to talk to other potential customers, the channel you’re using is additive.

Instead, if there is a viral component, where existing users and customers can talk easily to each other, the channel is potentially multiplicative.

For instance, if you are selling your service one-to-one, that won’t scale, as before you gain other customers through word of mouth, it will require years. That doesn’t mean you should not do that. As we’ll see at the and of this paragraph, initially, it makes perfect sense to use this approach.

  • Control: do you own that channel? Or can it be taken away from you? One example, if you have built your success on top of a platform, if that platform changes the rules, the next day your distribution has gone, even if it took years to build.

For instance, if you get traffic from Google, and you gained rankings. A change in the algorithms might affect your whole digital presence. The same applies to other platforms like YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon. It takes once, for them to change the rules, and this might impact your whole distribution strategy.

For the sake of building a successful distribution strategy, then, in the short-term, if you’re starting from scratch it makes sense to be more aggressive in pursuing potential customers, thus also relying on channels that initially don’t scale (one-on-one sale) and that you do not control (SEO, SMO).

Yet over time, this mix will need to be pushed toward building alternative partnerships, distribution channels, scale the customer base, which will be your direct contact, and other direct channels.

Key takeaways

  • Digital marketing channels are electronic ways to reach potential customers.
  • There are different digital channels (organic vs. paid, or direct vs. indirect) and they also change according to the ever-evolving digital landscape.
  • An organic channel is usually earned through developing quality content that gets a continuous flow of traffic. Paid channels enable companies to push their products via third-party platforms.
  • Direct channels enable companies to reach directly their existing or potential customers. Indirect channels instead enable an organization to reach potential customers via a third-party distribution platform.
  • Some of the digital marketing channels comprise SEO, SEM, SMO, and SMM.

Connected Marketing Concepts

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing describes the process whereby an affiliate earns a commission for selling the products of another person or company. Here, the affiliate is simply an individual who is motivated to promote a particular product through incentivization. The business whose product is being promoted will gain in terms of sales and marketing from affiliates.

Ambush Marketing

As the name suggests, ambush marketing raises awareness for brands at events in a covert and unexpected fashion. Ambush marketing takes many forms, one common element, the brand advertising their products or services has not paid for the right to do so. Thus, the business doing the ambushing attempts to capitalize on the efforts made by the business sponsoring the event.

Brand Building

Brand building is the set of activities that help companies to build an identity that can be recognized by its audience. Thus, it works as a mechanism of identification through core values that signal trust and that help build long-term relationships between the brand and its key stakeholders.

Brand Equity

The brand equity is the premium that a customer is willing to pay for a product that has all the objective characteristics of existing alternatives, thus, making it different in terms of perception. The premium on seemingly equal products and quality is attributable to its brand equity.

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is about creating a mental real estate in the mind of the target market. If successful, brand positioning allows a business to gain a competitive advantage. And it also works as a switching cost in favor of the brand. Consumers recognizing a brand might be less prone to switch to another brand.

Business Storytelling

Business storytelling is a critical part of developing a business model. Indeed, the way you frame the story of your organization will influence its brand in the long-term. That’s because your brand story is tied to your brand identity, and it enables people to identify with a company.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the most powerful commercial activities which focuses on leveraging content production (text, audio, video, or other formats) to attract a targeted audience. Content marketing focuses on building a strong brand, but also to convert part of that targeted audience into potential customers.

Digital Marketing

A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization to reach its potential customers via electronic means. There are several digital marketing channels, usually divided into organic and paid channels. Some organic channels are SEO, SMO, email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.

Growth Marketing

Growth marketing is a process of rapid experimentation, which in a way has to be “scientific” by keeping in mind that it is used by startups to grow, quickly. Thus, the “scientific” here is not meant in the academic sense. Growth marketing is expected to unlock growth, quickly and with an often limited budget.

Guerrilla Marketing

Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy that seeks to utilize low-cost and sometimes unconventional tactics that are high impact. First coined by Jay Conrad Levinson in his 1984 book of the same title, guerrilla marketing works best on existing customers who are familiar with a brand or product and its particular characteristics.

Inbound Marketing

Inbound marketing is a marketing strategy designed to attract customers to a brand with content and experiences that they derive value from. Inbound marketing utilizes blogs, events, SEO, and social media to create brand awareness and attract targeted consumers. By attracting or “drawing in” a targeted audience, inbound marketing differs from outbound marketing which actively pushes a brand onto consumers who may have no interest in what is being offered.

Integrated Marketing

Integrated marketing describes the process of delivering consistent and relevant content to a target audience across all marketing channels. It is a cohesive, unified, and immersive marketing strategy that is cost-effective and relies on brand identity and storytelling to amplify the brand to a wider and wider audience.

Marketing Mix

The marketing mix is a term to describe the multi-faceted approach to a complete and effective marketing plan. Traditionally, this plan included the four Ps of marketing: price, product, promotion, and place. But the exact makeup of a marketing mix has undergone various changes in response to new technologies and ways of thinking. Additions to the four Ps include physical evidence, people, process, and even politics.

Marketing Personas

Marketing personas give businesses a general overview of key segments of their target audience and how these segments interact with their brand. Marketing personas are based on the data of an ideal, fictional customer whose characteristics, needs, and motivations are representative of a broader market segment.

Multi-Channel Marketing

Multichannel marketing executes a marketing strategy across multiple platforms to reach as many consumers as possible. Here, a platform may refer to product packaging, word-of-mouth advertising, mobile apps, email, websites, or promotional events, and all the other channels that can help amplify the brand to reach as many consumers as possible.

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing (MLM), otherwise known as network or referral marketing, is a strategy in which businesses sell their products through person-to-person sales. When consumers join MLM programs, they act as distributors. Distributors make money by selling the product directly to other consumers. They earn a small percentage of sales from those that they recruit to do the same – often referred to as their “downline”.

Niche Marketing

A microniche is a subset of potential customers within a niche. In the era of dominating digital super-platforms, identifying a microniche can kick off the strategy of digital businesses to prevent competition against large platforms. As the microniche becomes a niche, then a market, scale becomes an option.

Relationship Marketing

Relationship marketing involves businesses and their brands forming long-term relationships with customers. The focus of relationship marketing is to increase customer loyalty and engagement through high-quality products and services. It differs from short-term processes focused solely on customer acquisition and individual sales.

Sustainable Marketing

Sustainable marketing describes how a business will invest in social and environmental initiatives as part of its marketing strategy. Also known as green marketing, it is often used to counteract public criticism around wastage, misleading advertising, and poor quality or unsafe products.

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