Digital marketing is a popular strategy for businesses across all industries, with the global digital advertising market expected to reach $786.2 billion by 2026 (up from $350 billion in 2020). In fact, 72.2% of overall marketing budgets go to digital marketing channels.

With the continued rise of digital marketing, it’s important for business owners to utilize digital tactics to launch, operate, and expand their businesses. In this installment of Start. Run. Grow., CO– Editor in Chief Jeanette Mulvey and Senior Features Editor Barbara Thau spoke with business leaders and experts about how small businesses can make the most of their digital marketing efforts.

Start: Partner with influencers to raise brand awareness

Gabby Beckford, travel influencer and Founder of Packs Light, turned her hobby of traveling into a full-blown career by monetizing her digital presence through social media, content marketing, and other digital resources.

“One way that I make a bulk of my income as a social media marketer and influencer is through brand partnerships,” said Beckford.

Brand partnerships allow influencers to work with companies by promoting the companies' products and/or services to their niche audiences. Since influencers tend to hold credibility within their communities, they typically find success when recommending specific brands and their offerings.

For companies looking to work with an influencer, Beckford recommended finding one that best suits your business’s needs and fits into your field.

“If you're looking for an influencer in your field, the first thing I would say is [to] keep your eyes open,” she told CO—. “[Pay attention to] who you see come up consistently, what type of work they seem to be doing, and if that would support your business.”

She also recommended seeking people out in your field who have a decent following and reaching out to them through social media platforms or contact forms on their website.

[Read more: How to Find an Influencer]

If you're looking for an influencer in your field, the first thing I would say is [to] keep your eyes open. [Pay attention to] who you see come up consistently, what type of work they seem to be doing, and if that would support your business.

Gabby Beckford, Founder of Packs Light

Run: Focus on spreading positivity, not fear, through marketing

Marketing to your audience should encourage and inspire them to invest in your brand — not scare or pressure them into making a purchase.

Evan Horowitz, Co-Founder and CEO of Movers+Shakers, a creative agency, noted the importance of spreading positivity through your branding and marketing efforts.

“I think in the marketing world, there are really two types of ways you can tell your message,” he said. “It's [either] driven by fear … or it's driven by inspiration and possibility.”

When marketing, many businesses make the mistake of calling out an issue and proposing a solution that they offer; however, this approach can be off-putting to your audience. Instead, you want to spread positivity and open your audience’s eyes to new ideas, focusing on what your brand adds to their lives, not what it solves.

“We want to tell our clients’ stories from a point of inspiring people [with] what's possible,” Horowitz said. “More is better in your life.”

[Read more: 6 Tips for Being More Positive at Work]

Grow: Use social media to showcase your products and services through high-quality content

For Pura Vida Bracelets, the launch of Instagram is what really helped the brand start to gain traction.

“We focused on creating very high-resolution content, photos, [and] videos,” said Griffin Thall, CEO and Co-Founder of Pura Vida Bracelets. “We send influencers [to] travel around the world [and take] photos and videos for us that we then repurpose on our Instagram so we can show the lifestyle of what Pura Vida means to us through the eyes of an influencer.”

As one of the most engaged with jewelry brands on Instagram, Pura Vida was able to “crack the code” of growth by utilizing social media as a prime digital marketing tactic.

“We did this at scale,” Thall continued. “We did it every month. We did it every year. And that's what grew us to over 2 million followers on Instagram organically.”

Catch up on all our Start. Run. Grow. events here.

[Read more: How to Improve Your Brand's Social Media Content]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Follow us on Instagram for more expert tips & business owners’ stories.