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Business Education | High School | Marketing

How to Teach Digital Marketing to High School Students

June 28th, 2018 | 8 min. read

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Digital marketing is one of today’s hottest topics in business education. It’s also been one of the most in-demand job opportunities of the past few years — and it’s projected to keep growing!

But what is digital marketing? And how do you teach it to students who have grown up with technology?

There’s no easy answer — but there are some good guidelines to effectively teach digital marketing.

There are five steps to teach digital marketing in high school:

  1. Discuss why digital marketing is important
  2. Introduce the principles of marketing
  3. Cover digital marketing strategies
  4. Stay up to date
  5. Compare digital marketing to traditional marketing

Whether you want to teach a quick lesson or a whole class on the subject, you can teach digital marketing with these five steps!

Step #1. Discuss Why Digital Marketing Is Important


The best way to kick off your class on digital marketing is to talk about why it’s important.

You can sum up why digital marketing is important in five points:

  1. It’s designed to help people find answers, solutions, or products they want
  2. It helps small businesses compete with big corporations
  3. It reaches people exclusively through Internet-connected devices
  4. It’s more affordable and efficient for businesses than traditional marketing
  5. It’s primarily based on search engines and a marketer’s understanding of how a search engine works

There are hundreds of other points you could make since digital marketing expands almost every week. But these five will give your students the context they need to get going in this class.

It’s also smart to point out how digital marketing has several different names these days. This will help students connect the dots if they’ve heard one of these names before, and it’ll especially help if they decide they want to pursue a career in this field.

Other names for digital marketing include:

  1. Internet marketing
  2. Online marketing
  3. Inbound marketing
  4. Search engine marketing (SEM)

In case one of your students has heard one of these terms more than another, this part of your introduction to digital marketing could really help jog some memories in your classroom.

Still, this doesn’t help much for students who have never heard of digital marketing before.

That’s why you have to jump into the principles of marketing next!

Step #2. Introduce the Principles of Marketing


While digital marketing is much different than traditional marketing, the principles remain the same.

You want to engage your customer demographic and encourage them to buy from you.

In that regard, concepts like the product life cycle, product classification, branding, packaging, and more all apply to digital marketing.

The same is true for customer interactions, especially relationships and segmentation.

With this information forming the foundation of your curriculum, you can contextualize digital marketing in a familiar framework.

After all, students may not realize that finding search results on Google or seeing an ad on Twitter are two major parts of digital marketing.

Before you tell them that (and probably blow their minds), it’s important they understand the principles with which digital marketers work.

Most notably, students should understand the principle of return on investment (ROI), which indicates that a marketing campaign has earned more money than was spent.

After you’ve done that, it’s time to talk about the major concepts in digital marketing.

Step #3. Cover Digital Marketing Strategies


The ideas that make digital marketing unique are the strategies behind it.

There are a surprising number of strategies that go into digital marketing. If you were to talk about each one, you’d have a class that could last a full year (or longer).

With that in mind, you can break digital marketing down into four major strategies. These are the ones that most marketers use, although there are dozens more that you could reference.

Still, these are the best ones to talk about in a marketing class.

Search Engine Optimization

Suggested Reading: The Beginner’s Guide to SEO by MOZ

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of refining a website so that Google, Bing, and other search services can show it in search results.

SEO empowers digital marketers to use their own website as a platform for attracting and engaging potential customers through search engines like Google.

They do this through code, like HyperText Markup Language (HTML), and complying with honest marketing practices that build a company’s revenue over the long haul.

It also lets marketers track data and information (called “analytics”) on digital marketing campaigns that they’re running.

The number of times someone goes to their website, how long they stay there, what buttons they click — all of these little bits of information help digital marketers gauge their success.

Most importantly, it’s how marketers can determine that they’re earning an ROI on their marketing campaigns. 

SEO is just one strategy, though, and it actually requires other digital marketing strategies to work correctly.

This is especially true for content marketing.

Content Marketing

Suggested Reading: What Is Content Marketing? by Content Marketing Institute

Content marketing is the process of answering potential customer questions on your website so they become more qualified to talk to your sales team.

The purpose of content marketing is to ensure every person who comes to a website learns what they need to know to go to the next step in a sales process.

The primary mechanism for content marketing is actually Google. When a new blog post or webpage is published, Google “crawls” that page with its search algorithm.

After that, the page is “indexed” and categorized so it can show up in search results for people who want that information.

To teach this, you can conduct a simple Google search — maybe even the one that led you to this blog!

You can also add, remove, or change words in your search to show students how search results can change.

Then, you can talk to students about how content marketing and SEO work together. Someone creates new “content” by making a new webpage, and they “optimize” it for search engines with HTML code.

With these two strategies alone, you’ve taught your students the biggest ideas of digital marketing. This also forms the basis for several other digital marketing strategies you can discuss with your class.

Social Media Marketing

Suggested Reading: What Is Social Media Marketing? by Search Engine Land

Social media marketing is the act of a company engaging with their customers (or potential customers) through outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and more.

Sometimes that means providing customer support with a tweet-based conversation.

Other times it means thanking someone for a compliment about a product.

Regardless, any interaction between a company and consumers is considered social media marketing.

Some companies do this really well, and they’re able to make their customers feel happy by taking the time to have a conversation.

Other companies might run a Facebook contest for a free product, depending on customer participation.

It’s important for students to understand how social media plays a role in marketing as a whole. This is especially important if any student has interacted with one of their favorite brands online.

They may not realize it — but they were part of a social media campaign!

Email Marketing

Suggested Reading: An Introduction to Email Marketing by HubSpot

Email marketing is the strategy of sending targeted messages to the inboxes of prospects or customers who have indicated that they want to hear from a company.

Most of the time, this “indication” is explicit. Someone has to give a company their name and email address before clicking a button to tell a company to contact them.

Other companies take this idea as a given, like Amazon. If you do something (like buying a book), that company will send you emails they think will catch your interest. 

Regardless of their age, your students are almost certainly involved in an email marketing campaign. Nearly every single company uses email marketing since it costs nothing to send an email and could potentially earn a new sale.

If a student is interested in marketing, it’s great to tell them how it all works! 

Step #4. Stay Up to Date


Digital marketing literally changes every day — and sometimes more often than that!

That means it’s crucial for you to stay up-to-date with your lessons.

You can do this by keeping up with some of the digital marketing industry’s most reputable publications.

Those include:

These resources are like the New York Times and Washington Post of digital marketing news. If something happens — or if someone thinks of something new — this is where they’ll talk about it.

As a result, this will ensure your students learn about cutting-edge ideas that may not have existed a year before.

However, it’s smart to stay out of the nitty-gritty details. Otherwise, you’ll have to change your curriculum from year to year.

If you want to make a curriculum that’ll be relevant for two or three years, don’t dive into the individual strategies in-depth.

Instead, you can just mention that they exist and leave it to the students to do any additional research.

(Or, better yet, assign it as homework!)

Still, digital marketing is a very new concept. So how can you contextualize it in terms of what’s different?

The best way is to compare digital marketing to traditional marketing.

Step #5. Compare Digital Marketing to Traditional Marketing


Comparing digital marketing and traditional marketing is crucial to establishing their understanding of both.

In a nutshell, this entails comparing a Google search to a television commercial.

You can hit on a couple other major points, too. Those may include:

  1. Digital marketing brings people to a company; traditional marketing makes a company reach out to people
  2. Digital marketing has a much higher ROI than traditional marketing, generally speaking
  3. Digital marketing takes place over the Internet; traditional marketing takes place over televisions, radios, etc.
  4. Digital marketing aims to help someone solve a problem; traditional marketing interrupts someone’s daily life
  5. Digital marketing is naturally engaging since it answers a question; traditional marketing is unengaging since it stops someone from enjoying something they like

There are more differences than just these five. But by understanding these, your students will be able to identify digital marketing at a glance.

With all of this in mind, how can you start teaching digital marketing?

The answer lies in teaching marketing itself!

Start Teaching Digital Marketing by Covering the Principles of Marketing

Whether you want to teach digital or traditional marketing, students need to learn the foundations before they learn the nuances.

If you’re running into that problem, Business&ITCenter21 is your answer!

Business&ITCenter21 is a digital curriculum with a built-in learning management system (LMS), complete with ready-made lessons, engaging assessments, and even automatic grading.

With all of those resources in your classroom, you can start teaching marketing — especially the principles of marketing — in no time.

Is Business&ITCenter21 right for your digital marketing curriculum?

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