Digital most in-demand skill amid ‘techification’ of marketing, study finds

Digital marketing expertise is the top skill marketers are listing on their LinkedIn profiles, trumping knowledge of marketing strategy and advertising.

An understanding of digital marketing is perceived by marketers to be the most in-demand skill for employers, according to new data from LinkedIn.

Globally, digital marketing expertise is the number one skill listed by marketers on their LinkedIn profiles, followed by social media marketing and search engine optimisation. Marketing strategy comes in at fourth, followed by knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, email marketing and content.

Ranked eighth in the list of skillsets is advertising, followed by an understanding of Google Analytics and corporate communications.

Head of EMEA and LATAM at LinkedIn’s B2B Institute, Mimi Turner, is encouraged to see a “strong balance” of skills relating to tactical capability within digital marketing, as well as a strategic overview. She points to data LinkedIn published during the Cannes Lions festival in June, which found technical skills within the industry have increased by 47% over the past five years.

Of the companies that regularly attend Cannes, the data found 67% have seen an increase in tech skills and a 32% decline in the share of creative skills during the past five years.

There is an idea of a modern marketer having a toolkit like a Swiss Army knife.

Mimi Turner, LinkedIn B2B Institute

“There is a ‘techification’ process happening and we’re seeing that unsurprisingly post-pandemic, where everything went into an online experience. Marketers are responding to that by prioritising those digital skills and a lot of the skills underneath it are very specific, tactical skills,” says Turner.

“In marketing we’re also seeing a resurgence, a re-belief in brand and brand strategy. In a way, marketing is in quite a good place, because we do see, give or take a little bit of movement, that these two forces – if we think they are opposing – are still evenly matched. I take away quite a confident sense from that.”

The analysis is drawn from anonymised and aggregated LinkedIn profile information, looking at professionals globally, including marketing, project management, IT, engineering, finance and accounting, and sales functions.

Since 2015, the top 10 skills for marketers globally have changed by 50%, an accelerated pace of change given LinkedIn finds overall skillsets have evolved by 25% since 2015 and are expected to change by 41% by 2025.

For Turner, the pandemic caused a rapid acceleration of the trends already happening pre-Covid.

“The pandemic changed everything for everybody and caught up within that marketers had to take the plan they had, look at it, go through the grief of shoving it in the bin and coming up with another plan. It was an incredible period when people had to be very agile,” she explains.

“What we’re seeing is very much now marketers with a 360-toolkit. You’ve got to have these technical skills, these tactical abilities, this broad view, this strategic view, content skills. Marketers have responded by having a more holistic set of capabilities. It’s like when you break your leg and it sets again, our skillset is set using that as a reality.”

Generational differences

Seven years ago, the most in-demand marketing skill was social media marketing, then digital marketing, advertising and PR.

Marketing strategy was ranked the fifth most important skill, followed by event planning, online marketing and event management. Email marketing and sales claimed the last two spots on the 2015 list.

Interestingly, between 2015 and 2022 knowledge of SEO and content has broken into the list of most in-demand skills, while experience in events, PR and sales has disappeared from today’s global ranking.

Perhaps in light of the need for robust internal comms during the pandemic, corporate communications is also a top 10 skill for marketers in 2022, while it did not make the cut in 2015.

Reflecting on the fact SEO, for example, is the third most in-demand skill in 2022 but doesn’t appear in the 2015 listing, Turner notes the significant shift to digital brought about by Covid.

LinkedIn Skills change
Source: LinkedIn

“You’ve got about two to three generations of digital transformation in every seven year cycle, so in that sense I’m not that surprised that a technical skill that wasn’t in the list in 2015 is now in the list. It tells us there are more technical skills coming in,” says Turner.

Given that in her opinion tactical capabilities evolve more quickly than strategic skills, Turner would not be surprised if a different technical skill were to join the list in another seven years’ time.

The rising importance of email marketing skills, coupled with the emergence of content and corporate comms expertise, could also suggest there are certain skills marketers have become more sophisticated at over time, she adds.

Looking overall at top skills for all UK professionals in 2022, customer service emerges as the most in-demand skill, followed by communication, time management, sales expertise, the ability to problem solve, business development and organisation skills.

In marketing we’re also seeing a resurgence, a re-belief in brand and brand strategy.

Mimi Turner, LinkedIn B2B Institute

Among these general business skills, specific marketing expertise has joined the overall UK top 10. Knowledge of social media marketing is in eighth place, followed by marketing in general and digital marketing.

Back in 2015, time management was the most in demand skill for UK professionals, followed by teamwork, customer service and account management expertise. Knowledge of social media came in fifth place, followed by communication skills, expertise in change management, business development and lastly, event management.

Reflecting on the data as a whole, Turner says that despite the clear ‘techification’ of marketing, the principles of how to grow a business that marketers understood 10 years ago remain “profoundly true”. Going forward, she believes all marketers must balance technical skills with a strategic overview.

“There is an idea of a modern marketer having a toolkit like a Swiss Army knife of this particular tool, in this particular setting,” Turner adds. “I’m happy to see that not all the skills centre around a particular tactic or a technology or specific execution. That there’s a mix and a balance in the list.”