11.1 Characteristics and Types of Digital, Social, and Mobile (DSM) Marketing

Characteristics of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is defined as the use of internet-connected devices such as computers, tablets, smartphones, and game consoles to engage consumers with online advertising. One of the key principles of digital marketing is creating an easy, seamless, and convenient user experience for target audiences. Moreover, eliminating the amount of consumer effort needed to act on digital content helps establish an ongoing, automated relationship between brands and their audience.

Pull Digital Marketing

Pull digital marketing is characterized by consumers actively seeking marketing content. Consumers might use tactics including search engines, email newsletters, text messaging, or web feeds to search for brand information. Push technologies deliver content as it becomes available and are better targeted to consumer demographics. However, microtargeting tends to produce smaller audiences, and results in higher creation and distribution costs.

Websites, blogs, and streaming media (audio and video) are examples of pull digital marketing. In each of these channels, users must navigate to the website to view the content. It is up to marketers to create digital content – text, images, videos, and audio – that is relevant and captivating enough to attract web visitors, increase page views, and improve search engine rankings.


A screenshot of a marketing professional's blog website.

Blog website: Digital marketers often incorporate blogs and other social media elements in their corporate websites to encourage web traffic.

Building online communities on related social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube is another pull tactic used by brands to increase the number of interactions with prospects and customers. Companies frequently use their corporate websites and blogs to build authority and credibility in their field, as well as improve their search engine optimization. Major search engines such as Google often index sites based on the quality and relevancy of their content. Thus, the higher a brand is ranked in Google, the more likely web users will find their website.

Push Digital Marketing

Push digital marketing occurs when marketers send messages with or without the consent of the recipients. These digital marketing tactics include display advertising on websites and blogs. Email, text messaging, and web feeds are also considered push digital marketing when the recipient has not agreed to receiving the marketing message. This practice is also known as spamming. The opposite of spamming is permission marketing, which uses technologies with the prior permission of the recipient. Marketers obtain consumer permission to send communications via subscriptions or written consent.

Subscriptions provide the opportunity to push content to fans and followers, prompting them to visit the brand’s video channel, social media page, or corporate website. Text and video press releases can also be distributed easily through online distribution services. Journalists, bloggers, and other content producers visit these sites for news stories. Brands can gain web traffic from media publications and blogs that use their press releases as information sources.

Characteristics and Types of Social Marketing

Digital media uses technology and mobility to provide an interactive means of communication among people, organizations, and communities who are interconnected and interdependent. Many channels and vehicles are available for social media just as there are many different television shows and magazines. With changing technology, new vehicles are added frequently.

With over half of Americans participating in social networks, people and organizations who don’t participate may be at a disadvantage with some groups in society. Not only does the majority of the population in the United States have a profile on a social network, but at least one-third of those people access the sites multiple times a day. Not only is social media popular for keeping in touch with friends, but companies use social media to promote their brands and as a tool for recruiting and hiring. People follow companies and brands on social media, especially on Facebook, whereas LinkedIn generates more job referrals. Just as companies are allocating more of their promotion budget to social media, they are also increasing their expenditures on social recruiting.

Social media is complex and rapidly changing. While there is some overlap between personal and business, one way to improve the understanding of social media is to think about social media zones. Social media zones include social communities, social publishing, social entertainment, and social commerce. Think about the different ways you use social media and which zones you utilize. You probably use all of the zones.

There are several types of online platforms classified under the vast umbrella of social media. These categories include:

Social Networks: Social networking websites allow users to build web pages featuring personal portfolios and interests. These pages are used to connect with friends, colleagues and other users in order to share media, content and communications. Some of the most popular current forms of social media are social networking websites such as Facebook, Instagram, TicTok.  Facebook alone surpassed over one billion active monthly users over a decade ago.  The usage of all the platforms has increased monumentally since then.

Visual social networks are becoming more popular, with Instagram having now surpassed Twitter in its amount of users. Data has shown that a tweet that includes an image has a 150% more chance of being shared. There are also new networks such as Snapchat and Periscope, that are slowly growing in terms of popularity, especially with the younger generations.

Web blogs: Some of the oldest and most popular forms of social media are blogs. Blogs are often viewed as online journals that order content chronologically, or by date, month, year and category. Users can also maintain “vlogs,” or video blogs, featuring shared or homemade videos. Blogging websites include WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr.

Microblogs: Microblogs are blogging tools that feature short posts, as opposed to journal-style posts. Users are usually restricted to posting a few lines of text, or uploading individual images and videos. Microblogging is particularly common for posting quick updates and distributing content via mobile devices. Notable microblogging sites include Twitter and Tumblr. However, social networks such as Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and others also have their own microblogging features.

Wikis: Wiki websites allow a community of people to add and edit content in a community-based database. One of the best-known wikis is Wikipedia.

Podcasts: Podcasts are audio and video files available through subscription services such as Apple iTunes. The term “podcast” is a neologism derived from “broadcast” and “pod” (as in “iPod”), since Podcasts are often listened to on portable media players.

Other types of social media include the following:

  • Rating and review sites (e.g. Yelp)
  • Social bookmarking or social tagging features (e.g. Digg; Stumble Upon)
  • Forums and discussion boards (e.g. Yahoo!; Answers)
  • Virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life; World of Warcraft)
  • Music and audio sharing (e.g. Spotify; Pandora Radio)

Social media can also be classified by their ability to facilitate certain social functions. These social functions often involve identity, conversation, sharing, presence, relationships, reputation, and groups. Kaplan and Haenlein created a classification scheme using six different types of social media– collaborative projects (e.g. Wikipedia), blogs and microblogs (e.g. Twitter), content communities (e.g. YouTube), social networking sites (e.g. Facebook), virtual game worlds (e.g. World of Warcraft), and virtual social worlds (e.g. Second Life).

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the practice of employing various strategies to allow websites to rank highly in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs). Paid search engine advertising increases a website’s visibility and reach by displaying links to the website’s landing pages at the top or bottom of a SERP. In contrast, SEO increases a website’s visibility and reach by allowing the website to rank well organically in search results when search engine users search for certain key phrases and terms.

Some SEO strategies include link building, optimization of onsite content with targeted keywords, optimization of meta descriptions with targeted keywords, and optimization of blog content with targeted keywords. Most search engines work to find users websites based on their searches using complex algorithms that assess a website’s authority, using a wide variety of strategies to rate the overall quality and usefulness of a site’s content. SEO strategists aim to boost a site’s authority in the eyes of search engines by creating high quality content that uses relevant key terms which will be linked to by other sites.

Local SEO is an emerging trend in the SEO realm. Local SEO involves creating content that targets a particular geographical demographic. It also includes the use of local listing sites to help establish a website’s presence in search results that are tailored to local users.

Characteristics and Types of Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is any marketing activity conducted through a ubiquitous network to which consumers are constantly connected using a personal mobile device.  Marketing communications on mobile devices is generally carried out via text messages or applications (apps). Since consumers typically carry their mobile devices with them throughout the day, mobile marketing presents a cost-effective way for brands to deliver targeted messaging across different platforms.

An advertisement for a promotional QR code with instructions on how to use the code.

QR Code Promotion: These are increasingly being used in mobile advertising campaigns to increase user engagement.

Types of Mobile Marketing

One of the most popular forms of mobile advertising is text messaging. During the early 2000s, marketing through cell phones’ Short Message Service (SMS) became increasingly common in Europe and parts of Asia. Consequently, SMS marketing has become a legitimate advertising channel in both developed and developing economies around the world. On average, it is estimated that SMS messages are read within four minutes after delivery to a mobile device. This makes mobile marketing highly attractive to brands looking for marketing communication channels with high lead-to-conversion rates.

Unlike SMS, Multimedia Message Service (MMS) mobile marketing combines the delivery of images, text, audio and video. Nearly all new phones with a color screen are capable of sending and receiving standard MMS messages. Brands are able to both send and receive rich content through MMS A2P (application-to-person) mobile networks to mobile subscribers. In some networks, brands are also able to sponsor messages sent P2P (person-to-person).

Push notifications have become popular due to their use on smartphones using iOS and Android operating systems. These notifications appear at the top of the device’s screen and serve as efficient mechanisms for communicating directly with end-users. Although it can potentially be viewed as interruptive by the end user, its long-term costs are lower than SMS marketing.

Game mobile marketing provides additional opportunities for brands looking to deliver promotional messaging within mobile games. Some companies sponsor entire games to drive consumer engagement, a practice known as mobile advergaming or ad-funded mobile gaming.

Mobile content advertising schemes provided by the likes of Yahoo! and Google allow brands to purchase keywords specifically for mobile advertisements. Additionally, web forms on web pages can be used to integrate with mobile texting sources for reminders about meetings, seminars and other important events for users who are away from their laptop or desktop computers.

Quick response (QR) codes have also gained in popularity after first being introduced in European and Asian mobile markets. Acting as a visual hyper-link to a page, QR codes enable users to jump to a mobile optimized offer page. QR codes only began to be used in mobile advertising in North America from 2011. Companies recognized the technology as a very powerful tool for initiating consumer engagement at a time when the marketing message is likely triggering its most emotional response — the impulse moment — for the end user.

In addition to QR codes, other tools used by mobile marketers to improve targeted messaging and reduce marketing costs include location-based services, Bluetooth technology, and proximity systems such as Short Message Service – Cell Broadcast (SMS-CB).

Advantages and Disadvantages of Mobile Marketing

Some of the key advantages of mobile marketing are the close proximity of owners’ mobile devices, as well as the habitual nature of using cell phones, smartphones and computer tablets. Distributing promotional and advertising messages customized according to the recipient’s location, geography and personal interests through wireless networks makes mobile marketing highly cost-effective given the potential reach and scope of the audience.

However, mobile marketing practices present challenges around privacy concerns over user data. Push marketing tactics — mobile advertising that is sent without consumers’ required permission – have caused privacy violations. Although mobile advertising has become increasingly popular with the growing use of tablets and smartphones, numerous concerns have emerged due to the personal nature and close proximity of mobile devices to users. Some of the major concerns around privacy include mobile spam, personal identification, location information and wireless security.

Industry bodies including the Interactive Advertising Bureau and Mobile Marketing Association have established guidelines to prevent SPAM messages and the practice of carriers selling member databases to third parties.

However, these self-regulatory rules are also in place to support marketers looking to incorporate mobile marketing into their larger marketing communications strategies.


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Marketing Copyright © by Kim Donahue is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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