With more businesses moving their operations online, including advertising, there is a growing demand for digital marketing professionals in South Africa. It is one of only a few job sectors that is seeing unprecedented growth during challenging economic times. Indeed, South Africa’s digital marketing rate has increased by far more than the international average in the last few years alone.
Ranked 4th in the world for its advertising industry, South Africa has a reputation for innovative, memorable campaigns. The sector remains highly competitive, with agencies vying with others for large contracts.
If you are interested in pursuing digital marketing as a career, here is what you need to know:
What is Digital Marketing?
Before delving into what and where you should study to become a digital marketer, it is useful to understand precisely what the job entails. As a point of departure, the broad definition of digital marketing is any online marketing that requires an electronic device to access, such as a cell phone or computer.
Like conventional marketing, digital marketing has a singular goal: to reach and influence customers and potential clients. However, in the digital marketing context, you do so online, via websites, and social media. How you tackle digital marketing to achieve your objective is vastly different from how traditional marketing works. Understanding digital marketing techniques will ensure that you remain focused on the task at hand: getting people to support and buy from a brand.
Examples of digital marketing strategies would include pay-per-click advertising, paid search advertising, search engine optimisation (SEO), paid social media advertising, social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, affiliate marketing, and conversion rate optimisation (CRO). If you intend to study digital marketing, evaluate the curriculum against a digital marketing strategy list to ensure that the content will be covered during your studies.
Digital Marketing Courses in South Africa
Various education institutions around the country now offer digital marketing courses. While digital marketing has been included in mainstream marketing degrees, such as a BCom, established South African universities also offer short courses on the subject. They include the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), the University of Johannesburg (UJ), and the University of Cape Town (UCT).
Those who prefer to study through a correspondence university can also study at UNISA (University of South Africa). However, location is not necessarily a prohibitive factor as some universities, including UCT, offer their digital marketing courses online.
The Wits course takes 14 weeks and requires participants to attend evening classes. UJ’s short course is called Digital Marketing in Practice. The university offers it as a four-week online learning programme and four Saturday-day sessions for in-person teaching and learning.
Short courses help people already working in the industry to adapt their skills to suit the digital marketing landscape. In a job-scarce economy, staying abreast of the latest trends and plowing money into further study is beneficial to avoid being left behind.
South Africa’s universities boast top-class marketing courses. While these are typically included in a BCom Marketing degree, some institutions offer alternate digital marketing degrees. These include the Inscape Education Group in Cape Town, which offers a Bachelor of Design specialising in marketing and communication design.
The Vega School of Brand Leadership in Johannesburg, which gives students access to a BCom digital marketing degree. These four-year undergraduate degrees are ideal for students who have already decided their future lies in digital marketing. For those who are not entirely convinced, a broader scope degree, such as BCom Marketing, might be a preferable option.
Digital Marketing Courses by Google
Over 300,000 people have taken advantage of Google’s free Fundamentals of Digital Marketing course, which it offers in collaboration with The Open University and the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau). This accredited course contains 26 modules and was designed with beginners in mind. Google trainers created the modules and have included practical activities and real-world scenarios and examples to make the implementation of skills learned easier.
This course comprises 40 hours of content, after which participants write an exam containing 40 questions to earn their accreditation. With this recognised certification incorporated into their social media profiles and websites, freelancers are more likely to get additional work. Jobseekers could see a higher rate of interest from potential employers.
Additional to its Fundamentals of Digital Marketing course, Google also offers short courses that require only a few hours of the participant’s time. They are more specialised, focusing on particular aspects of digital marketing. There are more than 100 courses for students to choose from, including Promote a Business with Content, Understand Customers’ Needs and Online Behaviours, Connect with Customers Over Mobile, and Make Sure Customers Find You Online. While not all these courses are accredited, would-be digital marketers will find them of great assistance when finetuning their skills.
Another advantage of Google’s courses is that participants can learn at their own pace. This helps full-time workers or those who do not have constant internet access to complete these courses without the pressure of set period courses at other institutions. An additional benefit is that you can complete a course no matter where you find yourself.
Online Digital Marketing Courses
International companies like Udemy and Shaw Academy offer online digital marketing courses to South Africans. However, those wanting something with a more local flair should opt for institutions that understand the country and its context. This is advisable if you plan to ply your digital marketing trade in South Africa after obtaining a qualification.
Among the South African online courses that you should look at are those from IT Academy, City Varsity Online, and the Red and Yellow Creative School of Business. The latter offers a National Certificate in Creating Digital Content, an Advanced Diploma in Digital Marketing, and short courses, including an introduction to digital marketing, content and copywriting, and social media marketing.
IT Academy’s digital marketing course includes access to three modules: Google Analytics, digital marketing, and marketing in the digital age. City Varsity Online offers a range of SLPs (short learning programmes), among which are a few on digital marketing.
The Digital School of Marketing offers several digital marketing courses, including basic digital marketing, advanced digital marketing, SEO and web analytics, digital copywriting and content marketing, digital public relations, and social media marketing. Each course comes with a certificate upon its completion.
When studying through an online service provider, you will automatically have digital access to the course contents. However, some institutions also offer hard copies of books and other materials, which will be couriered to your door. Typically, assignments are done and submitted online, although some learning providers might insist on you posting them hard copies. However, this is rare now that most operations have converted to online use.
Additionally, these online courses are self-paced, so there is no rush to complete them, making it less stressful for students with conflicting priorities and commitments. While most online students promise themselves that they will be disciplined and complete the course material within a set time, life gets in the way sometimes and has a funny way of changing one’s priorities. The flexibility of self-paced study means that you do not forfeit the work you have put in because you ran out of time.
Another advantage of online courses is that you do not need to attend classes according to a strict timetable, as would happen when you study at an in-person institution. This is to the advantage of those trying to fit learning into an already packed schedule that includes work, children, and family commitments.
Many students have found online learning more compatible with their learning style, preferring the digital approach to the traditional ‘chalk and talk’ teaching that happens during contact time. Those who find crowds anxiety-inducing prefer to take their classes online.
Transportation and accommodation fees also fall by the wayside if you elect to do an online course. These costs can be crippling, especially as the cost of living is constantly increasing without the requisite salary increase accompanying it. The hours that you would have spent driving or sitting on a train or taxi are put to better use when you can devote them to your online course without leaving home. Accessibility to learning is a vital pillar of South Africa’s Basic Education and Higher Learning policies. It aims to eradicate the disadvantages different population groups experienced during apartheid and bring everyone onto an equal footing.
However, the price barrier is something that continues to hinder many students from achieving their goals. The courses listed in this article all come with a price attached to them, except those offered by Google. These prices vary from one institution to another. When choosing which one is best suited to your needs, the price will be a critical factor. However, it should be weighed against course content, accreditation, and flexibility.
An additional prohibitive factor is a lack of access to the internet. This should be a priority for the government as it wants educated citizens but should provide the means for them to access learning while avoiding overcrowding at brick-and-mortar facilities. The Communications Ministry is negotiating with cell phone service providers to give users free data for accessing education materials, but this programme should be expanded to include all online courses.