Just like Gina and Sofia said about their education, I didn't really know much about what digital marketing entailed (besides social media marketing) when I began my education in August 2021. I quickly realised when our first course included coding that this education is more than just social media.
Since then, I hope at least, I've gotten a pretty good understanding of a majority of digital marketing channels and strategies. I've had similar experiences as Josefine did, where people don't really know what I mean when I tell them what I study. Most have the same thought as I did when I began. "So you just play around on Instagram and TikTok all day?" has probably been the most frequently asked question, but as I mentioned earlier digital marketing is a lot more than just social media.
What is digital marketing?
Digital marketing is any kind of marketing happening on a digital platform, with a big focus on channels and how they work. It uses all kinds of marketing strategies, as long as it’s on an electronic or digital platform.
IHM Business School
I've been studying at IHM Business School here in Gothenburg, but the school exists in multiple places in Sweden. It's a vocational school, meaning the programmes they supply are heavily affected by the labour market and the types of workers that are needed. This also means that education has a practical focus, so we are prepared to work immediately after graduation.
It's not a traditional bachelor's degree, the education is usually only 2 years long (80 weeks) and result in a Higher Vocational Education Diploma (Yrkeshögskoleexamen) instead. Out of those two years a large chunk is used for internships, around 20-30 weeks.
IHM Business School focuses on educations that help business development, some examples of educations they provide are: Visual Merchandiser, E-Commerce Manager, Digital Analytics Specialist and, of course, Digital Marketing Specialist, which is my programme.
What does it mean to be a Digital Marketing Specialist?
The role of a digital marketing specialist is to see the entire digital marketing flow and pinpoint areas that work or need help. The specialist part has to do with the digital media landscape and us getting an understanding of how all the marketing pieces work together. During the education, we developed that understanding from getting a basic walkthrough of the different channels and how to use them. This education is a prime example of “knowing a little about a lot”.
It’s a bit tricky to explain, our purpose is to know enough of each channel to keep the flow going. If I was to run a campaign over multiple channels and have channel-specialists working on each, I should have enough understanding of the channel to understand and help them further the strategic part of the campaign. We are specialists because we have a generalist approach to the channels in this specific area of marketing.
In my experience the education is heavily based in strategy. We are taught how to use each digital platform in various ways and how to choose the most effective channels and tools for each specific case, whether that’s for a company as a whole or for individual campaigns. There is also a big focus on how to perform regular tests and analyse the efforts of what have been done to help us see if we need to change, remove, add bigger budgets etc. To receive as optimal results as possible.
Data and Analytics
One of the big selling points for digital marketing is how we can analyse everything and get data from all campaigns created in digital media, data-driven marketing is therefore a heavy influence on many of the courses in the education and its value is presented very early on.
Practical work in different channels and campaign management
Most of the courses involve a channel and a designated platform for us to learn and get hands-on experience in setting up campaigns. We were taught best practices for each channel and how to optimise each channels campaign efforts as effectively as possible.
Courses included in the programme:
Not only did the education include channel-specific courses, we were also taught things to help us get a broader experience of what a marketer might need to do, like creating a marketing budget or learning presentation techniques since presenting what we do for clients is a common work task.
A broad marketing course with a focus on how to apply practical marketing in the digital media landscape with regard to the organisation, purpose, goals, competition and target groups.
Technologies for digital marketers
Heavily focused on coding and script languages. Coding is not necessarily a vital part of a marketer’s career, however, having a basic grasp of it is helpful in many scenarios such as making sure tracking is set up properly and if not then being able to modify the code. The course also involved an understanding of web technologies like networks, web servers, domains etc.
Search Engine Optimisation
Included how to perform various types of SEO audits, tools to use, and how to implement the changes necessary to increase a websites position and visibility in search engines.
Google Ads and SEM
As the name suggests, a course about Google Ads. We got practical skills in how to set up Google Ads and campaigns. The course also explained the difference between SEO and Search Engine Ads, and how they together present Search Engine Marketing.
Presentation techniques & presentation tools
A big part of any marketers’ career is presenting either new plans, solutions or results, in this course we learned: how to be an engaging presenter using different presentation techniques, and how to use digital, visual as well as analogue presentation tools.
Content marketing, Paid Social & Influencer marketing
A social media focused course, we were educated on what social media works better for what type of target audience and the content that works better for each and what content that works better for different brands. Went through what types of influencers has what kind of effect in marketing and how to approach them. Last piece of the course was about Paid Social, so how to set up Meta Ads and tracking them. In short, how to perform marketing activities in owned, (earned) and paid social media channels.
Law for digital marketers
GDPR, marketing laws, consumer purchase law, contractual laws and many other regulations that affect our work as digital marketers were discussed.
Media planning & campaign management mixed media
How the digital medias today relate back to the rest of the media landscape and how that affects media planning and campaign management. Included a practical project where we created a campaign including both digital and traditional medias.
Programmatic advertising & marketing technology
Understanding the marketing technology landscape and how it relates to programmatic advertising, as well as campaign management for programmatic advertising.
Customer experience and marketing automation
(Now called Inbound marketing and marketing automation)
A course heavily influenced by inbound marketing, where the goal was for us to learn about how to build long-term customer relationships and customer experiences in digital medias and through marketing automation, as well as strategic and operational skills in campaign management.
Digital analytics 1 + 2
The purpose of these courses was to give us an understanding of how analytics works. We learned how some tools and systems for this work and how to use them for measurement and analysis as well as reporting and visualisation. We used UA, GA4 and Looker Studio.
Tag management is a vital part of almost any digital marketing scenario, so this course taught us platforms and tools to use, how to implement tags correctly, as well as how to implement and preview any tags. Primarily how to use Google Tag Manager.
Budgeting and calculations for digital marketers
Taught us how to plan and calculate a marketing budget as well as how to follow it up.
The goal here was to be able to handle projects from the first brief to the final report using consultative working processes, this was partially done together with the thesis and the marketing plan course.
Marketing plan and digital strategy
A strategic course where we were taught how to set up a marketing plan, in our case it was for a non-profit organisation.
We create, develop and implement our own projects for a business client. Here we apply all the knowledge we’ve acquired during our education. My group focused purely on SEO for an e-commerce website, where we did a target audience analysis, keyword research, on- and off-page analyses as well as an implementation template. We coached our client while they were implementing all the changes as well.
LIA 1 + 2
Two internship periods where we got to actively participate in the daily work of a company to apply our new knowledge there.
Future career possibilities?
The possibilities and roles you can work with after this education is probably endless, you can become everything from a digital strategist, marketing manager overviewing all the channels, to a specialist in a specific channel like SEO, Paid Social, Programmatic Advertising and so on. Almost all the courses in the education can become an individual niche. Some of the titles you can have are:
- Digital Marketing Specialist
- Digital Specialist
- Digital Marketer
- Marketing Consultant
- Campaign Manager
- Media Planner
What are my plans for the future?
I enjoy the versatility that my education provided and would love to work in a really broad role that touches most of the areas I’ve gotten to try during my time at IHM. I do, however have a soft spot for SEO, so I wouldn’t mind deep diving a bit more into that area as well. Other than that I’ve noticed during my time at Zooma that I’m really enjoying working at an agency and working with B2B companies as well.
A role including those aspects would be a lot of fun.
How does this differ from a Marketing Automation Specialist?
I’ve had a course in marketing automation, so I had a basic understanding of what it is and what a Marketing Automation Specialist does. That together with Zooma being a Hubspot partner made me a little nervous knowing that two of the interns last year were from the Marketing Automation Specialist education, and two more this year. “What if their education and skills are more aligned with what Zooma does than my education?” was a frequent question my imposter syndrome asked me. Turns out our educations are more similar than I thought.
The first thing I noticed while working with Alfred especially was how he thought about the customer in most of his approaches, how to personalise the experience, and always think of where the prospect currently are in the buyers journey when creating content to make sure the information is relevant to them. etc., which is a much more zoomed in approach than I have thought about when doing research or creating campaigns. I’m more focused on which channel works for what type of campaign or suits what stage in the buyer’s journey and how we can use multiple touchpoints to reach them in different places to help them along the way.
That is the biggest difference, besides that is that they know more about Marketing Automation and how those things work, while I have more knowledge in the strategic aspect of campaign planning using multiple channels. But both our educations overlap in several spaces as well, we can both perform SEO, set up Paid Ads campaigns, content management and so on.
When discussing the differences with Alfred we struggled a bit to define the main differences between our roles, so we asked ChatGPT to do it for us and got this response:
“Digital marketing specialists focus on creating and executing marketing strategies across various digital channels, such as social media, email, search engines, and display advertising. Marketing automation specialists specialise in using marketing automation software to automate repetitive marketing tasks, such as email marketing, lead generation, and customer segmentation.
Overall, digital marketing specialists and marketing automation specialists work together to achieve the common goal of creating effective marketing campaigns that reach the right audience and generate results. The specific activities they perform and the skills required may differ, but their work is complementary and essential to a successful digital marketing strategy.”
I hope you found this interesting, and I’ll see you again in a few weeks!