7 Things I Learned in My First Year as a Digital Marketer

It was December 2015, and just a week before my college graduation, when I received my first job offer. I was thrilled that I would be skipping the post-graduation job hunt anxieties my fellow peers would soon embark on.

Little did I know, I was setting foot into two industries I considered foreign territory: Commercial Real Estate and Hospitality.

Gasp! I had so much to learn, especially seeing as I would take on tasks an entire Communications and Marketing department would normally tackle….. and for three different companies! Surprisingly enough, this made me both hesitant AND eager to take the job.

Looking back a year later, I’m both impressed with my capabilities and humbled by all that I’ve experienced as a digital marketer thus far. Here are 7 things I’ve learned in my first year in the marketing world.

1.Think Outside the Box

Although I’m a huge advocate for higher education, formal colleges tend to stifle your creativity. I love the structure of academic writing: intro, thesis, points, reiteration, long sentences, paraphrasing, repeat. Heck, one of those papers was even chosen to be presented at the National Communications Association Convention!

Alas, that formula doesn’t always captivate audience attention. In an era where the internet is jam-packed with like-minded content, it’s important to break barriers as a marketer in order to ‘wow’ the crowd.

I’ve learned to challenge the norm and am constantly looking for ways to catch our company up-to-speed on the fast changing marketing landscape. This is absolutely critical in order to stand out in such a cutthroat industry.

2. Experimentation is Key

Whoever coined the phrase “Fake it ‘till you make it” was probably a marketer fresh out of college. I knew nothing (I repeat, NOTHING!) about commercial real estate or hospitality when I stepped into my first job. How did I expect to effectively market my company’s brand in such a foreign landscape?

Fresh experimentation is always key. I’m a Millennial and digital native, after all. Innovation is my middle name. So, I broke barriers.

My re-vamped Week-in-Review Email Blast
  • Taught myself how to design original, captivating visual content on Canva. This was for company blogs, social sharing and email blasts, as well. If you’re a content creator or designer, you surely know that it’s far from “one size fits all” when it comes to sharing graphics via different digital platforms. I realized that not everyone can be allured by a witty headline. That’s where clean, fun visuals come into play.
  • Got social on social. I’m not sure the guy in the position before me had much of a strategy when it came to social media. And that’s completely understandable; it’s time-consuming to manage various profiles for three different companies in a consistent manner. But that’s where content calendars and research come into play. I became addicted to #Hashtags, Tweeting at industry players to help generate brand awareness and documenting the most effective times to post.
  • Changed email marketing platforms & strategy. Okay, I was only with the company for 6 months before making the big switch. But it was well warranted. The original platform we used was not user-friendly, had terrible visual aesthetics, and deliverability was far from ideal. After switching over to MailChimp and experimenting with A/B testing, our click rate nearly doubled.

Some of these things, such as social media, just came naturally to me, but I really had to learn to trust in my marketing instincts, my love for experimentation and my knowledge of our audience.

3. Embrace Your ADD: Balance Content Creation and Marketing.

I can’t stress this enough. You can’t expect poor content to go viral (with the exception of cat videos, of course). At the same time, many content marketers believe you should spend 20% of your time creating content and the other 80% marketing it.

So, I came up with a strategy to drive traffic by segmenting my day into five parts:

Morning: Create meaningful blog posts, graphics, social media content, and email blasts

Late Morning: Schedule social posts as laid out on my content calendar and engage in 10 minutes of community management (liking, commenting, retweeting, etc.)

Mid-Day: Search for relevant news and new marketing tactics

Afternoon: Review analytics for websites, social platforms, etc. to determine what efforts are driving the most traffic

Late Afternoon: Create a to-do list for the next day and engage in community management via social during commute home

Now, not every day follows this exact regimen. I may have to center my focus on one company over the other depending on the week and potential technical difficulties. Regardless, it’s important to keep a nice structure of organized chaos.

4. Give ’Em What They Want to Get What You Need

I was utterly overwhelmed with the amount of responsibility my company entrusted in me. Slowly but surely, I began to connect with key players in both the real estate and hospitality industries through various events and conferences.

I thought: who am I to be talking to a C level executive?

As the year progressed, I shook off that negative thinking and turned these interactions into both a personal learning experience and a superb opportunity for original content. I began to reach out for executive interviews for the company blog and video interviews at events (see below).

People are usually willing to share their story. Play into those egos and they’re likely to share that content! The more I did this, the more confidence I gained.

5. Tailor Your Personal Brand

Since the days of Myspace, I’ve always loved the creative task of curating a personal brand via social media. In college, I saw these platforms as a way to keep in touch with friends all over the country and build social capital. After a while, my interest in hospitality marketing, professionalism, and creativity started to infiltrate my personal brand.

So I worked to curate my social pages to express myself as an authentically dynamic creative professional.

So I worked to curate my social pages to express myself as an authentically dynamic creative professional.

  • I got serious about my own LinkedIn: sharing articles surrounding hospitality, marketing and CRE industry news while connecting with every professional I interviewed or worked with on various projects.
  • I scrapped my old Instagram (which was full of selfies, nights out with friends and cat pictures) and traded it in for a new account. Today, I curate my feed with grams of hotel designs (Hospitality), visits to art galleries (Culture), and city skylines (CRE). I was able to grow my following via relevant industry hashtags and learned how to become a better marketer through consistent representation.
  • I gave CPR to my long-forgotten Twitter account and now use it to follow industry media, professionals and branding/marketing gurus.

It’s extremely important to be able to tell your personal brand’s story. If you can’t, are you really that much of a marketer?

6. Embrace Passion.

If someone in my field said “there’s nothing more I can do,” I’d call BS. There’s always more you can do! Don’t let that 8 hour workday restrict you.

If you have passion for your work, it becomes more than just a “means to an end.”

If you have passion for your work, it becomes more than just a “means to an end.” I’ve learned to try not to measure my work by the hours in my day, but rather through analytics, quality of my work and my sense of fulfillment at the end of the day.

Whether it’s building my personal brand on the weekends or getting to the office early to catch up on some Gary Vaynerchuck videos for marketing inspiration, I’ve learned to go the extra mile. If you truly love what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. Let passion be the driving force.

7. Learn to Take a Step Back and Unplug

I’ve always had this strange sense of urgency. Don’t get me wrong, this characteristic is great for keeping up with the immediacy that comes along with digital marketing. However, it’s important to learn how to unplug for your own health!

Whether it’s through practicing mindfulness, trips to the gym, getting lost in a good book, or taking a midday walk, taking time away from the digital world is vital. This not only helps me maintain physical and emotional health, but it makes way for creative thinking. I’ve gotten some of my best blog post ideas from these activities!

Bring it on, 2017!

In this past year, I’ve learned so much about how to be he most effective digital marketer I can be. In the same amount of time, I’ve also gained more confidence in my work abilities. While it hasn’t been an easy road, I’m looking forward to learning more, creating more and connecting more in 2017.