A digital channel is a marketing channel, part of a distribution strategy, helping an organization 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, and email marketing. And some paid channels comprise SEM, SMM, and display advertising.
|Digital Marketing Channel||Description||Application in Digital Marketing||Examples and Impact|
|Social Media Marketing||Use of social media platforms for marketing.||Building brand awareness, driving website traffic, and fostering customer relationships through content and ads on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.||Coca-Cola uses Instagram and Twitter to share engaging content and interact with followers to enhance brand visibility.|
|Search Engine Optimization (SEO)||Optimizing website content for search engines.||Improving website rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs) through keyword research, on-page optimization, and link-building strategies. Increasing organic web traffic and visibility.||HubSpot utilizes SEO strategies to rank well on search engines for marketing-related keywords, driving organic traffic and generating leads.|
|Content Marketing||Creating and distributing valuable content.||Building trust, brand authority, and driving traffic and leads through blog posts, articles, videos, infographics, and eBooks that educate and engage audiences.||HubSpot’s blog offers educational content on inbound marketing, attracting visitors and demonstrating expertise in the field.|
|Email Marketing||Sending targeted messages to a subscriber list.||Engaging and nurturing leads and customers with newsletters, product updates, promotions, and personalized content to drive conversions and customer retention.||Amazon sends personalized product recommendations and promotional offers to email subscribers, increasing sales and customer loyalty.|
|Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising||Paid advertising in search engines and on websites.||Generating immediate website traffic and conversions by running ad campaigns on platforms like Google Ads and Bing Ads. Paying only when users click on ads.||Airbnb uses PPC advertising to appear at the top of search results for travel-related keywords, driving bookings and revenue.|
|Influencer Marketing||Collaborating with social media influencers.||Expanding brand reach and credibility by partnering with influencers to promote products or services to their followers, leveraging their audience trust.||Nike collaborates with athletes and celebrities like LeBron James and Serena Williams to promote its products, benefiting from their influence and reach.|
|Affiliate Marketing||Partnering with affiliates to promote products.||Expanding brand reach and sales by providing commissions to affiliates for driving traffic or sales through their marketing efforts in a network of partners.||Amazon’s Associates program allows website owners and bloggers to earn commissions by promoting Amazon products, increasing sales through referrals.|
|Display Advertising||Banner and display ads on websites and apps.||Increasing brand exposure and driving traffic to websites by placing visual ads on websites, mobile apps, and social media platforms.||Google Display Network allows advertisers to display ads on a vast network of websites and apps, reaching a broad audience.|
|Video Marketing||Using video content for marketing purposes.||Enhancing engagement, explaining products, and telling brand stories by creating and sharing videos on platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, and social media.||GoPro’s YouTube channel features user-generated and professionally produced videos showcasing their action cameras, creating a community and boosting sales.|
|Mobile Marketing||Marketing to mobile device users.||Reaching on-the-go audiences and driving local sales through mobile-optimized websites, apps, and running mobile ads that target users based on location and behavior.||Starbucks uses its mobile app for ordering ahead, earning rewards, and personalized offers, enhancing customer loyalty and sales.|
|Chatbots and Messaging Apps||Automated chat programs for customer interaction.||Providing instant customer support, answering queries, and facilitating transactions through chatbots on websites, social media, and messaging apps to improve user experience.||E-commerce websites employ chatbots to help users find products, answer FAQs, and complete purchases, enhancing customer satisfaction.|
|Social Media Advertising||Paid advertising on social media platforms.||Reaching specific demographics and driving conversions through targeted ad campaigns on platforms like Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, and Twitter Ads.||Airbnb uses Facebook Ads to target users interested in travel, encouraging bookings and expanding its user base.|
|Webinars and Online Events||Hosting online seminars, workshops, and events.||Establishing thought leadership and nurturing prospects by conducting webinars and virtual events to educate, engage, and generate leads.||HubSpot hosts webinars on marketing topics to provide valuable insights to its audience, capture leads, and demonstrate expertise.|
|User-Generated Content||Leveraging content created by customers and fans.||Building authenticity and social proof by encouraging users to create and share content related to products or experiences on websites and social media.||GoPro’s #GoProChallenge campaign harnesses user-generated content to promote the brand and products, engaging the community.|
|Social Media Influencer Advertising||Collaborating with influencers for paid promotions.||Leveraging influencer trust and reach for marketing campaigns by partnering with influencers to endorse products or services on social media platforms.||Fashion brands like Fashion Nova collaborate with fashion influencers to showcase their clothing lines to a broad and engaged audience.|
|Online Reviews and Ratings||Customer feedback and reviews on online platforms.||Building credibility and trust among potential customers by encouraging customers to leave reviews and ratings on websites, social media, and review platforms.||Yelp and TripAdvisor feature user-generated reviews and ratings for restaurants, hotels, and other businesses, influencing consumer choices.|
|Interactive Content||Engaging content that encourages user interaction.||Providing value and collecting data by creating quizzes, polls, surveys, and interactive infographics on websites and social media to increase user engagement.||Buzzfeed creates engaging quizzes that users can share on social media, increasing brand visibility and driving traffic to their website.|
|Mobile App Advertising||Advertising within mobile applications.||Promoting products, services, or app installations by running ads in mobile apps that reach users during app usage, generating revenue and app installs.||Mobile game developers often include in-app ads that display between levels, generating revenue and promoting other apps.|
|Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)||Immersive technologies for marketing.||Creating virtual showrooms, product demos, or interactive ads that engage users by developing VR and AR experiences on platforms like mobile apps and headsets.||IKEA’s “IKEA Place” app uses AR to allow customers to visualize furniture in their home, enhancing the shopping experience.|
Quick intro do digital marketing channels
To build a successful distribution strategy, companies need to leverage on digital channels to reach their potential customers.
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
The first distinction is between organic vs. paid channels. Organic channels are those that 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 development.
Producing great content can be quite expansive.
Therefore, organic simply means you can gain visibility and interest from potential customers without paying a third-party platform to be featured.
An example is 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 to 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 the 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 reach you without middlemen.
One example is people who directly type your website name on their browser, thus coming to your site.
An indirect channel example is someone finding you through a social media post, which is 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:
An existing set of customers with whom you have direct contact.
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.
In some instances, websites also collect contacts by enabling push notifications.
In that case, when content is out, it will reach those contacts directly.
Referrals are channels to bring visibility to your business beyond search, or social media.
Some examples include:
Affiliate, parters’ websites
By structuring partnerships or revenue share, you can incentivize other websites and partners to bring traffic or conversions back to your business.
If a media website features your product, you will gain traffic.
If your content is excellent, other websites might link to it, thus bringing it traffic.
This is at the core of search engine optimization activities.
Thus, companies pay them to be featured on top of their search results (other factors also affect paid rankings).
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 social media platforms we saw above primarily make money via paid advertising.
How do you build a digital marketing strategy from scratch?
I’ve been building digital businesses for ten years now.
In short, one of the core lessons we learned from the new digital playbook is that you must wreck off the walls between product/engineering and marketing/distribution to build a valuable business.
Those elements should work for hand in hand as a whole, which becomes our growth strategy.
As a great example, take the case of Spotify Wrapped:
Spotify Wrapped is an annual tradition for Spotify users, in which the music streaming service compiles a personalized year-in-review summary for each user.
The summary includes information such as the user’s most listened-to songs, artists, and genres, as well as their listening habits and trends.
This is not only a showcase of what Spotify can do, but it’s an incredible distribution and viral growth loop, as Wrapped, for instance, in 2022, as it was released, ended up trending across the Internet.
Wrapped combines engineering (which is the backend that enables the service to be provided), marketing (as the UX of it is pretty polished, and it has features that make it easy to share the wrapped experience), and distribution (where new users are prompted to register to Spotify and they end up in the company’s sales funnel).
However, oftentimes, when you start from scratch, you might have to rely on third-party (not owned) channels to gain momentum.
And over time, you might want to channel this faster traffic acquired via not-owned channels toward owned channels.
As I show you in the matrix below:
The digital marketing mix matrix will help you in going through this process.
The key thing to understand is to balance and create a proper distribution mix for your company by looking at two factors: speed and control.
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 end of this paragraph, initially, it makes perfect sense to use this approach.
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 gain 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 sales) and that you do not control (SEO, SMO).
Yet over time, this mix will need to be pushed toward building alternative partnerships and distribution channels, scaling the customer base, which will be your direct contact, and other direct channels.
By following the step above, you will build a successful digital marketing strategy.
- 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.
Digital Marketing Channels Overview:
- Digital marketing channels are electronic means through which organizations reach potential customers.
- Channels are divided into organic (unpaid) and paid categories.
- Organic channels include SEO, SMO, and email marketing.
- Paid channels include SEM, SMM, and display advertising.
Organic vs. Paid Channels:
- Organic channels don’t require payment but require quality content.
- Paid channels require a budget to feature content on third-party platforms.
Direct vs. Indirect Channels:
- Direct channels enable customers to reach a business without intermediaries.
- Indirect channels involve third-party platforms like social media.
Direct Digital Marketing Channels:
- Customer base: Existing customers with direct contact.
- Email list: Contacts built over time for direct communication.
- Website direct traffic: Users directly accessing the site.
- Push notifications: Sending content directly to contacts.
- Affiliates and partners’ websites.
- PR campaigns and media features.
- Backlinks from other websites.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization):
- Improving web pages for search engines to drive organic traffic.
- Can be on-page or off-page optimization.
- SEO hacking for quick experimentation.
SEM (Search Engine Marketing):
- Paying search engines for top placements in search results.
- Platforms like Google Ads for performance-based payment.
SMO (Social Media Optimization):
- Curating social media pages for organic visibility and audience building.
SMM (Social Media Marketing):
- Paid advertising on social media platforms with advanced targeting.
Building a Digital Marketing Strategy:
- Distribution is crucial for product reach and perception.
- Growth strategy aligns product, marketing, and distribution.
- Balanced distribution mix between owned and non-owned channels.
Digital Marketing Mix Matrix:
- Consider speed and control when choosing distribution channels.
- Channels can be additive or multiplicative in growth.
- Control implies ownership and protection against platform changes.
- Digital marketing channels help reach potential customers.
- Channels vary between organic/paid and direct/indirect.
- Organic channels are earned, while paid channels require budgets.
- Direct channels offer direct customer interaction.
- Indirect channels use third-party platforms.
- SEO, SEM, SMO, and SMM are key digital marketing channels.
How can digital marketing channels be classified?
Digital marketing channels can be classified into two major categories:
- Organic vs. paid: where with organic, you gain continuous streams of traffic (SEO, SMO); with paid, you get traffic based on the budget you have invested in paid ad platforms (SEM through Google Ads or SMM through Meta Ads, TikTok Ads).
- Direct vs. indirect: wherein a direct traffic scenario, you acquire users who search directly for your brand or through channels that you control (newsletter, blog, podcast). In an indirect traffic scenario, you acquire users from channels you don’t control directly (SEO, SEM, SMM).
What are some direct digital marketing channels?
What are some indirect digital marketing channels?
What are some digital amrkeing channels examples?
Visual Marketing Glossary