Digital marketing is an umbrella term that only excludes “traditional” forms of marketing such as billboards, print magazines, and television commercials. Examples of digital marketing include social media campaigns, display ads on websites, email marketing, and ads in mobile apps.
The digital marketing space is expanding rapidly as audiences gain access to new and innovative technologies. New social media platforms such as TikTok gain popularity, new media formats like VR and voice technology become available, and more industries enter the digital world. As these technologies gain popularity, digital marketers are quick to find ways to use them for marketing purposes.
In this piece we will cover the most popular digital marketing platforms of today, along with some up-and-coming options. As you launch a career in digital marketing, it is important to understand how these platforms work and how each is best utilized. Read on to learn about these platforms in the digital marketing industry:
- Google Ads
- Facebook Ads Manager
- LinkedIn Ads
- TikTok Ads Manager
- Snapchat Ads
- Twitter Ads
Google Ads is one of the dominant tools in digital marketing. Marketers use it to run digital campaigns across several platforms. The most popular type of Google Ads campaign is search. Other options include display campaigns, YouTube campaigns, discovery campaigns, and Gmail promotions.
With nearly 100,000 Google searches entered every second, there’s no wonder that advertisers want access to Google’s massive user base. Furthermore, advertising with Google search ads allows marketers to target specific keywords that often convey detailed information about customers’ purchasing intent. For example, a handbag company can target people who enter Google searches like “buy a new handbag” or “best quilted handbags.” This type of targeting is considered ‘high intent,’ meaning that the user is very likely to purchase a handbag in the near future.
Audiences can also be targeted based on location, interests, demographic details, education level, products used and more.
Google Ads allows advertisers to leverage user data gathered through millions of search queries to tailor their targeting for non-search ads as well. For example, a YouTube campaign can be targeted to users who have recently been searching for “handbags for sale” in Google’s search engine.
With such a variety of targeting options, ad formats, and users, Google is the number one most important digital marketing platform for advertisers who target a U.S.-based audiences. While Google ads do reach users across the world, a plurality (27%) of users are concentrated in the U.S.
To learn more about Google Ads, check out these pieces:
- Learn more about Google Discovery campaigns
- Learn about designing an effective Google search campaign
- Learn about audience targeting
Facebook Ads Manager
Facebook Ads Manager is neck-in-neck with Google Ads when it comes to importance in the advertising world. Like Google Ads, Facebook Ads Manager allows advertisers to run campaigns across multiple platforms – in this case, Facebook and Instagram. These two platforms (plus Facebook’s other products WhatsApp and Messenger) have a user base of at least 3.3 billion users spread across the world – with the largest segment in India.
Through Facebook Ads Manager, advertisers can select different placements across the platforms – Instagram stories, Instagram feed, Facebook news feed, Facebook watch feed, etc. Audiences can be targeted by location, demographic profile, and specific interests.
As Facebook reaches into more and more parts of the digital sphere – messaging, shopping, and even virtual reality, the type of advertising available through Facebook Ads Manager is growing.
While Facebook’s advertising options are robust, they are not quite as varied as Google’s and the lack of keyword targeting means Facebook ads cannot be quite as granularly targeted as Google’s.
To learn more about Facebook Ads, check out these pieces:
LinkedIn allows advertisers to reach a slightly more niche, though highly sought-after audience of professionals. According to LinkedIn Marketing Solutions, LinkedIn has 775 million users worldwide and four out of five members are influential in driving business solutions for their organization. That makes LinkedIn an ideal platform for marketing B2B (brand-to-brand) products.
Audience targeting options are not as wide-ranging as they are for Google or Facebook so LinkedIn isn’t the perfect marketing platform for every single product. For example, most users don’t indicate their love of silly cat videos on LinkedIn. Overall, users’ information is a bit more polished than on other platforms, so the user data available to use for strategy is less comprehensive. However, the information that is provided is often highly accurate since “members are incentivized to keep their profiles accurate and up-to-date for networking, personal branding, and job opportunities” (LinkedIn Marketing Solutions). Advertisers can target users based on their industry, education level, and location, among other things.
LinkedIn offers a variety of ad formats like in-feed ads, sponsored messaging, and ads on the right side of the page (“right-rail”).
To learn more about LinkedIn Ads, check out these pieces:
- Should you use LinkedIn Ads?
- Learn about LinkedIn bidding strategies
- Tips for lead generation on LinkedIn
- LinkedIn Stories – Will they last?
TikTok Ads Manager
The video-sharing social media app TikTok launched in 2016 and began its ads offering in 2019. Today, established brands are using TikTok ads to reach a youthful audience that spends more time on TikTok than Facebook or Instagram. TikTok Ads Manager is set up using many of the principle features of Google Ads.
Advertisers can enter advertising objectives like Awareness, Lead Generation, Traffic, and Conversion. They create target audiences similar to those in Google Ads based on user data. Targeting can also be based on location, demographics, and spoken language. An interesting feature of TikTok Ad Manager’s targeting is the ability to serve ads specifically to users who are highly engaged – those who like and comment on posts frequently.
In addition to TikTok advertising, TikTok Ads Manager also allows advertisers to set up campaigns on Pangle – which distributes ads over a variety of mobile apps. Pangle ads only show in a handful of countries so the audience segment is narrow.
To learn more about TikTok advertising, check out these pieces:
Snapchat Ads allows advertisers to publish video and image content throughout the different features of the Snapchat app – the discover section, in stories, and in Snapchat’s curated content. Sponsored camera filters and sponsored A.R. visuals are among Snapchat’s most unique advertising options.
Snapchat has been around for a while and is used by digital marketers to advertise products and services to a youthful audience or to test new strategies with a surplus budget. However, it is not one of the staple services used by all digital agencies, since its user base is comparatively small at about 293 million users.
Like Snapchat, Twitter has a smaller user base than the bigger digital platforms, with about 206 million active users. The majority of these users are concentrated in the United States or Japan. The Twitter audience is younger than the overall population but does cover a wider range of age groups than Snapchat.
Twitter offers advertisers a variety of ad formats like trending hashtags, sponsored posts, and takeovers.
Twitter Ads is not an absolute must-have tool for every digital marketer but it is a great one to leverage for certain types of campaigns.
Microsoft Advertising is an alternative to Google Ads that allows advertisers to serve ads in Bing’s search results. It is very similar to Google’s search ads and is often used alongside it by marketers who want to maximize the size of their reach.
While Microsoft Advertising offers many of the same strengths as Google Ads – keyword targeting, granular audience targets, and a variety of placement options – the audience reach is much smaller. Though Bing is the second largest search engine after Google, it still only captures 2.7% of market share.
Just as Google Ads includes cross-platform options for YouTube and Gmail campaigns. Microsoft Ads offers “Audience Ads” that run in Microsoft Outlook and Edge.
Given Microsoft Ad’s similarities to Google Ads, digital marketers find it easy to work in the platform. Google Ads accounts can even be ported into Microsoft Ads to seamlessly create copycat campaigns. Because of this ease, advertisers may run Bing ads alongside their Google search ads in order to reach that last 2.7% of the market. Costs tend to be lower in Microsoft Ads too, so there’s not much of a downside. However, few digital marketers focus their efforts entirely on Microsoft Ads.
To learn more about Microsoft Advertising, check out these pieces:
Ready to start using these platforms in your digital marketing career? Choose a few and start learning to use them! Once you learn one, many of your new technical skills will be transferable to additional platforms and there’s no limit to how many you can add to your marketing toolkit. Browse our Guide to Digital Marketing Bootcamps to start learning now.
Not sure which career path you want to take within the digital marketing field? We have a number of career guides you can use to inform your next steps. Popular roles include SEO Specialist, Social Media Manager, and Digital Marketer.
Best of luck on your career journey!