living on both sides of a blog.

If one thing has been made clear throughout these last weeks, it is this:

The digital marketplace is  vast, comprised of numerous interactive platforms that are constantly evolving and adapting to better suit our digitally motivated culture. The Internet is accessible to more consumers than ever, and that fact, paired with the growing desire for global connectivity, has taken our marketplace into new territories of brand accessibility, reach, and experience. Take a look at this infographic that shows just how connected our digital world has become. Some of these interesting stats include:

-78.6% of Americans are on the Internet daily
-The use of mobile Internet access nearly doubles every year
-There is an average of over 3.2 billion Google searches every day

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This information is probably not all that shocking. Of course there has been a shift in digital communication, with a great explosion of digital adaptation in recent years alone. That is why there is a clear place for everyone and everyone in the digital marketplace – for social-sharers, content creators, information disseminators, fact gatherers…regardless of how you use and peruse the digital marketplace, the one likely fact remains that you do, in fact, use it.

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A very powerful “vendor” in this marketplace is found in the blog. Lifestyle blogs, fitness blogs, travel blogs, marketing blogs, inspirational blogs, and special-topic blogs. The blogs that exist in our digital marketplace are as unique and diversified as the marketplace itself. A few examples of blogs that I follow include:

The Londoner
The Happsters
Thought Catalog
CravesAdventure
MindBodyGreen
Skinny Mom
What Have We to Lose (my personal blog)
*And of course, all of the lovely blogs by my classmates on my Blogroll

Why, though, are blogs such a powerful tool in the business world? Blogs are flexible, relaxed representations of a company. Blogs are a place for information gathering and sharing, but also for questions. Blogs are thoughtful, and are one of the great assets to the marketing mix. Again, why? Because to a consumer, a blog is one of the strongest ways to connect with a brand.

From a consumer’s perspective, I love that I can visit a blog and get exactly the information I expect. I never have to search for information and filter through a variety of Google results. I know that when I visit MindBodyGreen, for example, I’ll be met with a plethora of fitness and nutrition tips that I can utilize. I know that the brand I’m connecting with has valuable information I need, all of which I can sift through, save, pin, share, like, tweet, or otherwise hang on to. I also love the intimate nature of a blog. The words are written by someone I feel connected to, through our common interests. I feel like I’m valued enough to read their specific words that they took the time to write. It’s a very personal experience, which only makes me a more loyal consumer. I’m all the more invested.

From a brand’s perspective, there are several advantages to managing a blog. From bettering skills as a writer, to expanding reach to new audiences, brand representatives can learn quite a few things (actually, 20 things) from implementing a blog. A blog is an inexpensive way to create a personal relationship with  consumers. Businesses can take advantage of the conversational nature of a written blog, which welcomes readers and strengthens consumer connection to the brand. Andrew Davies wrote a blog post that confirms this, saying “We all relish the personal touch, and this is no less the case when it comes to the marketing we are subjected to online.” When consumers feel they are receiving personal and pertinent information to them, they are much more likely to engage with that brand long-term. Additional advantages of blogging include building brand network and database, enhancing company visibility, increased product exposure, solidifying and enhancing brand identity, and optimizing your search engine efforts. All of these ideas are explicated here.

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I have a blog for my personal and professional life, and can speak directly to the truths of this post. Blogs are not only an excellent way to express your own thoughts and observations on life and work, but are an incredibly exciting “vendor” in our digital marketplace. We experience the familiarity of our social media favorites. Of course, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr etc. will always have a place in our everyday. Yet, a blog offers a slightly different experience. As both a consumer and a marketer, blogs are a vibrant representation of the digital world in which we live, interact, share, and learn.

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social butterflies.

In this day and age, we’re all somewhat of a social butterfly, thanks to the two social media giants that we all love so much: Facebook and Twitter. These two platforms truly are giants, and as the two most popular social platforms in the marketplace, they offer users valuable, but vastly different social experiences.

Facebook is the social site where users go to connect with friends and family members, connect with acquaintances, RSVP for events, support causes, “like” pages, post pictures and videos, share content, find hilarious memes, and keep up with the world in nearly every way imaginable. It’s also a place for businesses and organizations to disseminate information, build cause-campaigns, engage with consumers and fans, listen to trends, augment brand awareness, enhance brand perception, and Facebook has integrated every aspect of life, and has created a digital version of our communities – local, national, and global. The following infographic characterizes this idea:

Facebook Stats1

This infographic comes from an article entitled 13 Mind-blowing Facebook Statistics.

Follow the link to learn the other 12!

With obvious reason, the size of Facebook alone makes it an incredibly valuable tool for marketers. Consumers are constantly accessible, and conversations are no longer one sided. Where brands used to communicate to the silent masses, the masses are now given a voice to communicate back. Facebook exemplifies 699 million voices, all of which are engaging with each other and with the brands they support on a daily basis. And the site continues to grow as well. In just the last year, Facebook has grown in the following ways:

Facebook Stats2

Facebook is all about engagement. Connect with others; share content; post content. However it’s used, it’s all in the name of connectivity. So, how do you use Facebook? What can brands do better to make you, the consumer, feel more valuable and more engaged with them on this social platform?

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Now we turn to Twitter, which is equally embraced by our digital marketplace. Just as Facebook is about connectivity, Twitter is about information gathering and dissemination, and engaging with other information creators. The concept of the hashtag and the retweet speak directly to this idea, making information gathering even more simple through specific searches and tagging, and information sharing happen in the time it takes to retweet. With over 465 million Twitter accounts, and 175 million tweets per day, the potential that brands have to share and connect with consumers is enormous. What kind of content makes consumers willing to engage, favorite, or retweet? Check out the following infographic.

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Just like Facebook, Twitter is also a social site that bridges national boundaries and connects people across the globe. Actually, Twitter has even more relevance in our global culture, from my perspective. Take a look at the following Twitter statistics that really highlight this global nature:

Twitter Stats2

In 2011, co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone, talks about the intent of this social platform. He got to a point when he realized “‘this was not just something in the Bay Area for technical geeks to fool around with and to find out what [they’re all] up to, but a global communications system that could be used for almost everything and anything,’ Stone says.”

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He continues to say

“People all around the world are realizing that we’re not just necessarily citizens of a particular state or a particular country, but citizens of the world. And this is a growing feeling, and I think that the Internet and social media tools are making the world a smaller place and allowing us to feel this empathy.”

This very truth is what makes our digital marketplace so exciting, and so valuable from a marketing perspective. Regardless of which platform you prefer, we are growing into a global world where we can connect and share. These social giants have transformed and continue to transform how we communicate; each makes our world seem bigger, making everyone accessible to everyone else. They also make our world seem a little smaller, too, instilling a digital sense of community and connection.

having it all together.

There are always those few vendors at a Farmer’s Market that seem to have it all together – MORE than all together. The products are great, the people are helpful, and their business seems to be booming. They are an essential presence at the market, and it wouldn’t feel right without them there.

My classmates and I have similarly been discussing examples of brands in the “marketplace” that epitomize the successful integration of digital media. Amazon, Target, Joel Osteen Ministries, Samsung, Disney…all of these brands (and numerous others) have exemplified the trending belief that new and emerging media should be incorporated into marketing campaigns. These organizations hold a powerful presence online, through social sites, blogs, video/photo marketing channels, email marketing campaigns, and variations of each.

Let’s take a look at Southwest Airlines. This brand has received awards for such impeccable and substantial digital integration. With particular regard to Facebook and Twitter, Southwest holds its own, with over 1.5 million Twitter followers, and almost 4 million followers on Facebook. The brand operates a blog called Nuts About Southwest, and is thoroughly integrated across all channels. The following infographic compares Southwest to several domestic and international carriers, and claims that Southwest prevails when it comes to engagement:

Social-Airline-New

Ramon Van Meer, the marketing director at Let’s Fly Cheaper, an online travel agency, stated the “Use of social media marketing demonstrates innovation born out of the simple need to do more with less. The social atmosphere is today’s cutting-edge low-cost/no-cost marketing environment…It’s no surprise to find Southwest at the forefront of social media marketing. Southwest was founded on ingenuity and has always been a leader in passenger and public engagement. Social media fits the Southwest culture perfectly, where older airlines seem to be playing catch-up in this powerful modern marketing arena.”

The Twitter site is one “that is customer-service driven and reactive to people posting their comments regarding Southwest Experiences” and the blog is all about ” improving connections between the Southwest Airlines Team and its clients.” All in all, Southwest strives to enhance its goal of superb customer satisfaction through its integration of various digital media. Needless to say, this brand is one of those marketplace “vendors” that just has it all together.

Pohlman, B. (15 April, 2012). Southwest Airlines Blog and Social Media Use. Retrieved from: http://www.business2community.com/social-media/southwest-airlines-blog-and-social-media-use-0160248#M3wpcYohyG8QKZDd.99

Rice, C. (27 May, 2012). When it comes to Facebook and Twitter engagement, which airline is first class? Retrieved from: http://www.examiner.com/article/when-it-comes-to-facebook-and-twitter-engagement-which-airline-is-first-class