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Finding a Career in Online Marketing - What You Need to Know

Both usage and knowledge of technology has greatly increased in recent years. In 2013 73% of adults in the UK accessed the internet every day. This means that 36 million adults regularly surf the net, an increase of 80% since 2006 when records began.

How new digital technologies are creating career opportunities

This explosion of digital technology has led to increasing numbers businesses moving online, creating a wealth of employment opportunities. This is fantastic news for young people currently studying or soon to graduate, as it is they who possess the knowledge to work in this ever-expanding industry - and given the competitiveness of the graduate jobs market, these new opportunities are likely to prove particularly valuable.

In recent years we have seen the rapid development of a whole host of digital consumer devices such as smartphones and tablets. This sector is continuing to grow and presents a highly rewarding but challenging career for those willing to follow the technological path.

Of course, in order to be able to effectively expand your online business, a certain amount of digital know how is required. This is where online marketing comes in. It makes sense to concentrate your marketing efforts into the medium that your customers are using - the internet.

Online marketing - what is it and what job opportunities does it offer?

Online marketing is not solely about the internet, however. People are increasingly accessing the world wide web through a variety of different devices, and so online marketing strategies must take this into account. This means that it is both possible and increasingly necessary to digitally market a company through a computer, mobile phone, television, tablet or a combination of all those mediums.

Increased use of new digital technology, and evolving online principles, creates a huge diversity of employment opportunities within the main areas or ‘digital disciplines’ of online marketing:

  • Acquiring
  • Search Engine Marketing, Email Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, Interactive Advertising, Content Distribution RSS, Online PR, Social Media
  • Converting
  • Customer Decision Support, Promotions and Merchandising, Payment Options, Onsite Search, Copywriting, Content, User Experience.
  • Retaining
  • Customer Service, Loyalty Programmes, Dynamic Pricing, Social Media, Email Marketing.
  • Measurement and Optimisation
  • Customer Service, Loyalty Programmes, Dynamic Pricing, Social Media, Email Marketing.

As the development of new technology increases, so will the demand for capable, well-trained employees to fill these roles. Traditional marketing has already begun to merge with digital marketing, which means that those already capable and armed with digital know-how are at an advantage. If you are yet to embark on a career and you are interested in marketing, online marketing is the way forward.

Getting ahead in online marketing

Whether you are currently studying or you have recently graduated, it is vital that you organise your time effectively. For those applying for jobs, it’s worth remembering that graduate recruitment schemes tend to work in conjunction with academic studies and the timeframes for applications may be rather tight. These are usually between September and January which gives you relatively little time to prepare your CV and write your application once the new term begins.

The earlier you start to prepare, the better your chances of securing employment in your chosen specialism will be. You should aim to determine which side of online marketing suits you best and then try to develop your skills and knowledge in that area before you go ahead and apply for a particular job.

Here is a guideline for your job preparation as you go through university:

  • 1st Year
  • Get involved in clubs, societies, sports teams (this makes you a more well-rounded candidate).
  • Use your hobbies to improve your skills, e.g. raise money online for a good cause.
  • Make your online activity look professional (we'll discuss this in more detail later).
  • 2nd Year
  • Increase your responsibility – perhaps the editor of your university’s online newspaper is about to graduate? Offer to take over.
  • Go to careers events to find out more about your preferred specialism within the digital sector.
  • Secure an placement in industry or embark on your own digital project.
  • Final Year
  • Look into applying for jobs as early as possible.
  • Get your CV checked by a tutor.
  • Complete graduate scheme applications.
  • Study extra hard to achieve a great degree.
  • After Graduation
  • If you’ve not secured a job, try to improve your skills or lack of experience.
  • Set up a digital project that you can maintain (write your own blog, create an affiliate website).
  • Look into further study in your chosen field.
  • Improve your job opportunities by getting experience

Know what you want

Having a good idea of the career path you want to take and knowing what you’re passionate about will make you come across more enthusiastic and confident both in your CV and in any interviews, which in turn will increase your chance of securing the right job. It might also be helpful to consider the following:

  • Location
  • Jobs in the online marketing industry are generally found in larger cities, typically London and Manchester. It's worth remembering though that remote working is becoming more commonplace thanks to the internet, potentially allowing you to work from almost anywhere in the country.
  • Hobbies
  • What is your passion? If you’ve got a keen eye for the latest fashion trends, you’ll have a great chance of securing a job in the online marketing team of a fashion company. Your enthusiasm for fashion will put you ahead of other candidates vying for the same position. This kind of genuine enthusiasm is likely to stand you in good stead when you come to apply for a job.
  • Career level and salary expectations
  • Are you realistically likely to progress within the company you're applying to work for? Are you looking to gain experience in one company and then move to another? You should have a specific figure in mind in terms of the minimum salary you’re prepared to work for. If you have the necessary qualifications and some experience under your belt, you can generally expect to receive higher pay and a better entry position.
  • Work conditions
  • Consider where you thrive best – working well under pressure can be an advantage in the digital industry, where the more creative areas may offer a more relaxed pace of work.
  • Colleagues
  • You spend the majority of every day at work so it helps if you get on with your colleagues. Do you prefer to work alongside those with analytical minds or are you more of a social person? Working with the right people is likely to make a difference in terms of job satisfaction.

Where do you want to work?

Businesses that use online marketing tend to fall into three types: companies or brands (client-side), agencies, and vendors. All three have their advantages, so it's worth considering them here.

  • Client-side
  • Industry specific (e.g. retail, travel)
  • B2C (business to consumer)
  • B2B (business to business)
  • One benefit of working client-side is that you can choose a company relating to your interests – your application will stand out more if you can prove that you have a passion for what the company sells or promotes.

  • Agency
  • Specialists across all digital disciplines.
  • Hired by companies for marketing expertise such as SEO, PPC, display advertising, managing social media presence.
  • Tend to work for many companies at once.
  • Vendors
  • Offer more technical based roles
  • Provide the technology that enables clients and agencies to put online marketing strategies into practise.

An advantage of working for a vendor is that you will soon learn how technology can be implemented in order to solve business problems, which will expand your knowledge of the industry.

Work experience - and how you can gain it

Employers may not put too much emphasis on work experience in their job adverts but the more an individual applicant has, the more likely they are to stand out from the other candidates. There are various ways in which you can gain experience in the field of online marketing, so here are just a few of them.

  • D.I.Y
  • Set up your own website or maintain an active online presence.
  • Work Placement
  • Contact digital marketing companies - they often have work experience opportunities on offer.
  • Direct Contact
  • Taking the time to build your own network of contacts will demonstrate initiative, as well as your ability to work as a team and both setting and implementing goals.

Where to look for experience

  • Small businesses
  • Approach a local restaurant that currently does not have its own website or Facebook page. Offer to use your skills to help solve their problems.
  • Start-ups
  • New companies often have a limited budget and so any offer of help and support is likely to be gratefully accepted. Search internmatch.com to find start-up companies that are looking for help from willing interns.
  • Clubs and societies
  • If you’re a member of a society or club at university, find out whether it has any online presence. With your skills, you’ll be able to increase awareness of your society and get more members the following year.
  • Charities
  • Charitable organisations again work on relatively limited budgets and may require volunteers to help them out. In return for your time, you’ll gain further valuable experience to put on your CV as well as directing your energies towards a good cause.
  • D.I.Y
  • Of course, you can always set up your own website, blog about the digital industry, or make money through affiliate marketing.

Skills and experience you'll need for online marketing

As a general rule of thumb, if you’re looking to work in online marketing, you should possess the following skills:

  • People skills - these are particularly relevant for client-facing roles. This doesn't come naturally to everyone, so it might be worth thinking about taking a course in personal relations to fine-tune your skills in this department.
  • Commercial nous – the digital industry is constantly expanding so while you won’t be expected to know everything, you should make sure you keep yourself up-to-date with changes in the industry. A course in industrial marketing can help to hone this knowledge.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills - these are prerequisites and without them you won't get very far in online marketing.
  • Time management abilities – you’ll be expected to juggle many projects for different clients at once so you’ll need to learn to prioritise and manage your time effectively to meet set deadlines.
  • Enthusiasm for digital marketing – you can demonstrate that you have this through your own efforts. For instance, you could maintain a blog or website.
  • Knowledge of the local competition – this will leave you better placed to generate ideas to improve the company's standing, as well as hopefully helping you to ascend the career ladder.
  • For SEO roles
  • Excellent written skills.
  • Creativity (especially for onsite roles).
  • In-depth knowledge of web technologies – consider a course in computer systems.
  • Good working knowledge of PowerPoint and Excel.
  • Presentation skills (which are honed and developed at university).
  • General interest in media – how it is used, and opinions on how it is consumed
  • For PPC roles
  • Excellent analytical skills (proved by taking accounting or finance courses).
  • Good grasp of mathematics or relating degree (maths and science).

Useful tools and software knowledge

Although you will not be expected to have experience with the tools used in online marketing, you will make a great impression on any prospective employer if you’ve already tried a few out. They tend to be rather expensive so it's a good idea to take advantage of any free trial versions offered.

  • Mention the tools you’ve used during your interview and your thoughts on them.
  • Demonstrate experience of creating your own website.
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills.
  • Download the SEOmoz toolbar.
  • Use keyword research tools such as Google Adwords Keyword Planner Tool.

Increasing your knowledge

It’s always wise to be on the lookout for ways to further your knowledge, particularly in the online marketing sector where change is a continuum. Here are some ideas for how you can expand on your existing knowledge:

  • Use Google Reader to subscribe to blogs relating to the industry.
  • Become savvy about current trends – mobile. Social and exchanges are all hot topics currently; check out Mashable, Inside Facebook, Google Updates, and Techcrunch.
  • Follow the above sites on Twitter to receive relevant daily updates.
  • Subscribe to blogs of the companies you would like to work for.

Consider your online presence

In the same way that you will be doing online research into the companies you are applying to, your prospective employers will be doing the same for you. It’s for that reason that it is so important to maintain a professional online presence. Search for your name on Google to get an indication of how others will see you.

  • Create a profile on LinkedIn – this will allow you to include more detailed information than your CV will.
  • Use Twitter to follow industry specific companies and demonstrate your interest in online marketing.
  • Make full use of the privacy settings on your social networking sites – hundreds of photographs of you drunk and disorderly on a university night out will not impress a prospective employer.
  • Keep your sites up-to-date.

Managing your online presence

In the same way that you will be doing online research into the companies you are applying to, your prospective employers will be doing the same for you. It’s for that reason that it is so important to maintain a professional online presence. Search for your name on Google to get an indication of how others will see you.

  • Google yourself
  • It might sound a little vain, but Googling your own name can turn up some interesting results. Remember to search a both your full name and any shortened versions to see what comes up. You should also try searching for yourself in other search engines as they may uncover slightly different results.
  • Check your Facebook privacy settings
  • It’s not only important to control your Facebook privacy settings – do so for all of your social media profiles. Make all of your photos inaccessible to those who are not your ‘friend’ – the last thing you want is for a prospective employer to see what you get up to at the weekend. If you don’t wish your Facebook profile to be listed on search engines, you should simply change your ‘public search listing’ under the settings category.
  • Delete negative content
  • Nowadays it is all too easy to voice your opinions and out of work lifestyle online for all the world to see. Take a good look at your social media profiles. If you have made any comment or uploaded any photo that could be seen in a negative light to your new employer, make sure you delete it before they have a chance to see it.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile
  • LinkedIn allows you to go into a lot more detail about your previous experience and any job-related skills than a CV does. Use this to your advantage and build your network wisely. You can also use LinkedIn to search for jobs and to join discussion groups relating to your specialism within the online marketing field.
  • Showcase your talent
  • The beauty of the internet is that it makes it incredibly easy for you to get your fantastic work out there. Consider using websites such as Scribd and Slideshare to display your best work, while a personal website or blog can be used to share your ideas and demonstrate your interest in online marketing. You can even include links to these sites on your CV and actively encourage your employer to look you up.
  • Use Google Alerts
  • If you set up a Google Alert for your name, you will more easily be able to promote new and positive content and at the same time be able to take fast action wherever you find any relevant negative content.

Where to look for jobs

So you've done everything listed above and it's finally time to actively search for a job. But where do you begin? There are many different routes to take when searching for a job in online marketing. Let’s consider the following:

  • Graduate Recruitment Schemes
  • This will entail a structured programme of learning and development and will introduce you to various areas within the online marketing sector. The problem with graduate schemes is that they tend to be highly oversubscribed and as such, competition is fierce. Rather than purely limiting yourself to applying for a graduate scheme, you could also search for employers that will still provide the same great level of training and development but which are not so widely advertised.

  • Applying directly to companies
  • Earlier we talked about compiling a list of what you are looking for in your ideal job. You can now use this list to create a list of matching companies to whom you should apply. It is standard practice for many online marketing companies to advertise vacancies through their own website or via their social media platforms. If you do not see any listed vacancies, it is still worth applying. However, rather than address your covering letter to the generic Dear Sir/Madam, make the effort to identify the exact person to contact (usually the HR Manager) – you can find this out on the website or by telephoning to ask.

  • Recruitment agencies
  • Some jobs may not be openly advertised. It’s for these jobs that recruitment agencies are useful. The great thing about using a recruiter is that they will match your skills with a job suitable. You’ll be given feedback and tips on how to perform during the interview which will further enable your chance of success. It’s worth remembering that recruiters earn their money from successfully securing you the job, so they should give their best efforts to make sure you find gainful employment.

  • Job boards
  • With a job board, you’ll quickly be able to narrow down your search to find jobs only within your chosen specialism. This can work to your advantage the other way around too, as you may be presented with job opportunities that you haven’t yet considered. There is a rise in so-called “intelligent” job boards which learn your search preferences and can thus provide you with more exact matches each time you search. You’re also likely to find that the salary for the job is posted along with a full job description and the relevant candidate requirements – so it might be a good idea both to review your CV with these requirements in mind and make references to them during your interview. This should make it clear to your prospective employer that you have done your research.

  • Networking
  • You’ll often hear the saying, “it’s not what you know that’s important - it’s who you know”. There's no denying that nepotism is present in the online marketing sector as it is in so many others, but if you don't have any useful contacts then don't let it dishearten you too much. However, as many jobs these days rely on personal recommendations, it is worth seeking the help of friends, family and university staff. Search for mentoring or career advice schemes available through your university. They may be able to put you in touch with alumni currently working in your chosen field who can give you plenty of advice, tips and maybe even a personal recommendation.