4 Pillars of Digital Marketing

4 Pillars of Digital MarketingDelivered via an Internet-enabled device or experience, digital marketing enables marketers to connect directly with their audiences including prospects, customers, employees and other followers.

This interactive connection lays the basis for the four pillars of digital marketing and distinguishes it from non-digital marketing. 

They are:

  • Content: Gives context to brand message based on a medium.
  • Communication: Is the channel for message exchange.
  • Community: Provides connections with other customers and the public.
  • Commerce: Supplies currency.

4 Pillars of Digital Marketing Defined

As digital marketing evolves and grows, marketers discover new ways to expand and integrate it with offline, non-digital approaches known as integrated marketing.

Additionally, some aspects of digital marketing have developed into specialized forms of marketing such as content marketing, social media, search, email and ecommerce.

To adapt to current market needs astute marketers will use this top-level 4 pillars of digital marketing framework to provide quality content, build an audience housefile, develop a community of like-minded participants, and offer relevant products and services they need.

Here’s an explanation of the four pillars of digital marketing to provide a framework for your company’s plans.

Four Pillars of Digital Marketing

4 Pillars of Digital Marketing


1. Content Pillar of Digital Marketing

In a message-rich and stimulating environment, we have difficulty focusing. As a result we seek information free from marketing promotion and push to either meet our needs and wants or entertains us.

Quality content fulfills this purpose. Even better, content marketing attracts a targeted audience and search robots while providing context for your marketing message.

Content marketing attracts a targeted audience and search robots while providing context for your marketing message. #contentmarketingClick To Tweet


What happens in an internet minute-Activities broken down by minute-Chart

As a result, content marketing, as a core element of a digital marketing strategy, has increased importance. Roughly 3 out 5 B2B and B2C companies are very committed to content marketing, based on Content Marketing Institute/MarketingProfs research.

2018 B2C Content Marketing Trends

2018 B2C Content Marketing Trends Research – Top line comparison chart

Most marketers need 5 core types of content: Foundational, FAQ, Cyclical, Crowd Pleaser and Long Playing.

5 Core Types of Content Your Audience Needs

When creating content, transform it into multiple pieces of content marketing to reduce content creation efforts. Rebecca Lieb and Jason Miller refer to this as the “Thanksgiving Turkey Approach” to content since you reuse the content as you would make other turkey meals.

Specifically transform content into long form, medium form and short form versions to maximize reach and facilitate distribution.

How to create, transform and distribute content

Digital content can be distributed using owned, social and third party media. From a marketing perspective, use a mix of options to get your content delivered to the most potential readers. This chart lays out the most popular options.

Distribute content across owned, social and third party media – Chart 

Search deserves mention since it’s a specialized form of third party media. Its content is created by computer algorithms. Beyond Google, it includes YouTube, the second biggest search engine, and voice search.


2. Communication Pillar of Digital Marketing

Communication is a core pillar of digital marketing. It provides a conduit for your message.

Digital messages can be delivered in 3 ways:

  • One-to-Many Communications: Information goes in one direction from the marketer to the audience like traditional advertising.
  • One-to-One Communications: Information goes from one person or company to a specific person. One-to-one communications are targeted. This is how we communicate with our friends, family and colleagues; it’s at the core of direct marketing.
  • Many-to-Many Communications: Information goes in multiple directions at the same time in an open system. It’s people talking at the same time. This type of communications is at the core of social media and is unique to digital marketing.

Communications Pillar of Digital Marketing: 3 Directions-Chart via HeidiCohen.com

The major forms of digital communications include:

  • Email. It’s digital marketing gold because it’s read all the time. Your email house file enables you to communicate with your audience because you have recipients’ permission. Instead of push promotions, send relationship building and behaviorally targeted emails.

    Americans read both work and personal email more than other digital communications-Adobe 2017 Research-Chart

  • Messaging. Continues to grow and evolve for communications between friends and colleagues. They tend to vetted groups that live on social media or other platforms.
  • Texting. Requires phone number and permission for marketers. It’s most useful for alerts.
  • Social media. Provides public and private communications depending on the platform. Social sharing can be considered a way of communicating useful information to friends, colleagues and followers.
  • Feeds. Still exist for content distribution but are used less. They’re mainly useful for blogs.

Digital Marketing Communications – Consumers prefer email-Adobe Chart-2017


3. Community Pillar of Digital Marketing

Communities are at the heart of digital marketing. Through digital platforms like social media and connected devices, businesses have the ability to engage with their prospective audience to overcome objections and mitigate problems.

For many businesses, social media provides the conduit for building communities. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram offer a variety of different options allowing businesses to establish outposts where their customers spend some of their time.

Of course, use of social media’s “rented land” can have negative consequences when they decide to make changes. (Note: For this reason, I strongly recommend diversifying your digital media channel use.)

  • Social media. Consists of platforms that allow individuals and businesses to engage and interact with their family, friends and social connections. These platforms provide the tools to extend engagement and sharing, particularly on a many-to-many basis. 
  • Online forums. Tend to be older forms of public community and communication. These forums allow people to interact asynchronously.
  • Online webinars and conferences. Provide one-to-many information sources and reduce the friction associated with attendance at live events. 
  • Online tools for offline activities. (Includes Meetup and Evite.) Support group activities offline from conferences and webinars to small parties.


4. Commerce Pillar of Digital Marketing

Regardless of where the purchase is made, most shopping starts online. Over 40% of shoppers start buying research with Amazon! [Chart]

To enter the consideration set, provide prospects, customers and their purchase influencers with the 5 basic types of content customers actively seek. 

Offer this content at the point during the purchase process when prospects need it most.

Content marketing by information by format

Content marketing needs during the purchase process-Chart

As connected devices evolve and consumers change how they research and purchase, digital marketing commerce meets their needs.

Digital commerce entry points include:

  • Website. Provides product information and purchase ability. Optimize your website for a mobile-first audience.
  • Email. Motivates  shoppers to purchase with special deals.
  • Search (including voice). Allows shoppers to easily find you (and your competitors.) Consumers often use their smartphone’s voice commands including mapping options.
  • Apps. Dominate mobile usage. At a minimum appear major apps like social media, review sites and maps.
  • Social media. Provides different options including sales depending on the network in. Include Pinterest.
  • Review sites. (Most notably Amazon) Allow members to rate and provide comments about products and services. They’re only loosely communities.

The Four Pillars of Digital Marketing Conclusion

The four pillars of digital marketing are content, communications, community and commerce. Used together these four elements enable you to develop relationships with a community  interested in your business.

Increasingly these four pillars of digital marketing enable your message to break through because you’ve transformed your marketing into desired information that you have permission to deliver.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Photo credit: https://www.pexels.com/photo/couple-near-on-wooden-sash-door-713643/ cc zero
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May, 2011. It has been extensively revised and updated.

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