How to get into digital marketing

Rachel Swain, Editorial manager
December, 2022

The digital advertising market has grown 15% year-on-year with £12.5billion spent on digital adverts in the first half of 2022. This growth shows no sign of slowing down meaning that job opportunities are endless

'Social media, the internet and mobile have led to digital marketing being central to most of our everyday lives. It has provided a solution to many complex challenges that modern day organisations are faced with,' explains Dr Violet Justine Mtonga, programme leader, postgraduate digital marketing, University of Salford Business School.

Digital marketing covers lots of different areas and basically involves any content in an online environment that is designed to engage a specific audience. Roles are available in:

  • blogging
  • campaign metrics and research
  • communications and public relations (PR)
  • content marketing
  • copywriting
  • database management and analysis
  • email marketing
  • mobile marketing
  • pay-per-click (PPC)
  • search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • social media
  • video
  • web design and development.

With so many roles on offer it's likely that graduates will initially experiment with several areas before developing expertise in one discipline. To find out what roles are available, see jobs in marketing.

Develop your skills

This is a fast-paced and ever-evolving field and what works today might not work tomorrow. This means that graduates need to be constantly learning and keeping on top of the latest trends and sought after skills.

Technical skills are incredibly important in the field; grasping online technologies - especially social media - is imperative, but desired attributes often vary according to each role.

With a digital skills gap that is costing the economy an estimated £63million a year, employers need graduates that have knowledge and understanding of digital skills and techniques, and individuals that possess these digital skills will have a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

It is important to possess a creative mindset to help with digital strategy, content, social and email marketing. While also balancing this with the technical skills such as search engine optimisation (SEO), Google Analytics, video production, Photoshop and web design.

Personal characteristics shouldn't be underestimated either as Dr Mtonga explains, 'If you’re a creative problem solver, who likes working in a fast-paced environment and you have an interest in the future of marketing, then a career in digital marketing could be for you.' Combine this with impressive levels of dynamism, enthusiasm, flexibility and inquisition and you've got the makings of a great digital marketer.

Do a digital marketing degree

'A degree really helps those looking to pursue a career in digital marketing to get an in-depth understanding of the theoretical side of the business, while also gaining a detailed picture of how digital marketing tactics can help achieve an organisation's strategic objectives,' says Dr Mtonga.

This includes, but is not limited to, the challenges faced by organisations in a dynamic and competitive global environment, relevant ethical issues, issues of sustainable development and how digital marketing can support an organisation's wider commitment to social justice.

There are a number of undergraduate marketing degrees that include a digital component, such as:

  • BSc Business Management with Marketing - University of Salford
  • BA Digital Marketing - Coventry University
  • BSc Digital Marketing - University of Chichester
  • BA Advertising and Digital Marketing - University of Greenwich

The specifics of the course will vary but important things to check are whether it’s accredited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and if it includes any work experience or placement as part of the course.

While a postgraduate qualification isn't a requirement for most roles it can make you stand out in a competitive environment, hone your skills and widen your network. For example, the MSc Digital Marketing at the University of Salford connects students with a range of industry experts, enabling them to build a book of contacts as they embark on their careers.

Dr Mtonga explains what else students take away from the course at Salford, 'Students will also develop a critical understanding of consumer behaviour and how this impacts an organisation's performance, expand their core skills in social media-based targeting and communication strategies, and gain a detailed understanding of the value of marketing data and analytics within digital marketing strategies.'

However, don't worry if you're studying for (or have graduated with) an unrelated degree, as there are many marketing courses available to help you pick up the latest digital marketing techniques such as online marketing diplomas.

Search all digital marketing courses.

Get marketing work experience

Work experience, such as a marketing internship, is important and can make you stand out from other graduates. Many degree courses, such as the MSc at the University of Salford, will include some work experience.

'The course is very industry-focused and includes a window within which students can either complete work experience via a paid placement or complete an industry collaboration project to put into practice the valuable skills they have learned throughout the course,' explains Dr Mtonga.

This combination of hands-on experience in a professional setting and learning from some of the most internationally-recognised experts in the classroom ensures that students are equipped for a successful career in the sector.

Gaining experience doesn't only have to come from a formal scheme it's also possible to build your skills in other ways.

Firstly, develop a good understanding of the industry. Read blogs, keep up with current trends and best practices, and get a feel for how you might implement campaigns. Secondly, build something. Start a blog. Learn how to communicate online, so you then have something of substance to show interviewers.

There are many free and low-cost blogging tools available which means there's no excuse not to give it a go. If it's done well, the blog might convince a potential employer of your abilities.

For tips on how to go about starting your own blog or making a website, see 5 tips for getting media work experience.

You could also attend industry events and exhibitions. These often include a range of guest speakers and can be free. They're also a great opportunity to network with digital marketers.

Find a job

It's typical for larger employers to run a formal marketing graduate scheme, with applications welcomed via their website. You'll also find that the latest marketing apprenticeships can be accessed through GOV.UK.

However, many marketing jobs and internships are not widely advertised; instead, they're often published on social media, online job portals, or the websites of trade organisations like the CIM. It's therefore essential that your online profiles are professional and frequently updated - see social media and job hunting for more information.

When you do approach a company in such a creative field, especially if you're sending them a speculative application, ensure that you make yourself stand out from the crowd and let your personality come across.

Being bold and going that extra mile can reap dividends for your fledgling digital marketing career. If you can, go into businesses in person, introduce yourself and make a good positive impression, asking for a chance to prove your worth.

Find out more

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