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

a-day-in-the-life-of-the-internet_5186937ec9c53_w587

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.

Print

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.

5 rules to reach your shoppers.

We’ve held thorough discussions in the last weeks of the various vendors and platforms that make up the digital marketplace. Now, though, it’s time to discuss those who experience it first hand, and who make it what it is. What would a market be without the people – the shoppers and the sellers who fully embody the success and growth of our marketplaces?

After discussing the topic with several people in my life, some from the Gen X population and some Gen Y, or Millennials, I’ve confirmed that the digital marketplace is experienced in different ways. Before diving into this, however, let’s look at the statistics of web users from 2010 to 2013  in the United States.

Clearly, the saturation of internet users in the United States has increased notably over the last three years. What does this mean? It means that the digital marketplace is growing, being utilized by a greater number of people who represent a wider range of demographics and psychographics. The uses vary just as much as the users themselves. A Pew Internet research study indicated that “Generation X is the most likely group to bank, shop, and look for health information online,” while Gen Y-ers are more likely to use digital media for fun, social engagement. This seems accurate, considering the conversations I have had recently.

While the Gen Y-ers in my life are perusing the marketplace with cautious intrigue, slowly but surely navigating social media sites, book marking sites, digital banking and billing, they are not fooled by seemingly impersonal nature of interactions. Our digital space is a platform through which we are connected 24/7 to the people and brands we love. Yet, this platform is not always conducive to personal, authentic experiences from their perspective.

Millennials, however, have expressed great appreciation for the digital marketplace. Having grown up without AND with new and emerging media, millennials have integrated nearly every aspect of life with the digital marketplace. Not a day goes by, for most millennials, where a blog, video, photo, hashtag, mobile app, advergame, or digital advertisement is accessed, used, posted, read, or shared. This is how millennials live and engage. Authenticity, for this demographic, is less important than accessibility.

Because of the diversity represented in our digital world, much more of which remains to be explained and researched, marketers must make great effort to understand how and where to reach their audiences. Here is a list of 5 simple rules to consider when establishing objectives for connectivity, engagement, and interaction across the board.

1) LISTEN – Establishing a qualitative and quantitative listening plan across social channels, blogs, and other digital platforms will, of course, inform marketers about the conversations and perceptions had regarding their brands and products. It will also provide results that will garner a numerical representation of what audience percentages are active on which channels. This allows brands to know who is present where, and therefore, can help them tailor messaging to suit the different kinds of engagement that different segments prefer.

2) REACH them where they want to be reached – This sounds SO simple. And it is! Once you’ve listened, follow through and serve your audiences where they prefer! This will let consumers feel more engaged with your brand, and will increase your accessibility.

3) Challenge ENGAGEMENT  Once you know where the different segments of your market are active, engage with them! How do we do this? Take a look at number 4!

4) Provide QUALITY CONTENT – The quality of the content you provide truly matters. Consumers can tell when a brand is being real. “Real success has always been about knowing ourselves and staying true to that core,” according to an article written by Forbes Contributor Meghan Biro. This kind of authenticity is captivating and magnetic. Brands who are not afraid to be real – in the good and the bad – will ultimately witness greater brand engagement and loyalty.

5) Keep it SIMPLE – Again, this is pretty simple advice. However, when you’re listening to your segments, reaching them through the digital avenues with which they are comfortable, providing authentic content, and challenging them to engage, there isn’t much left to be desired. Consumers want to feel valued by a brand. They want to engage and interact. Marketing campaigns, promotions, or engagement offerings shouldn’t be too complicated to accomplish this. Let your authenticity and desire for true connection lead your digital activity, and you’ll see benefit.

The following statement was made by Kathy Colvin, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation, with regard to the at the 2013 Social Good Summit (happening now!). It speaks to the idea of community, and is a lesson brands can apply when considering their engagement with various “shoppers” in the digital marketplace.

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

vendor to vendor.

market vendors

My analogy continues:

Just as a marketplace is made up of various vendors, the Digital Marketplace is comprised of “vendors” as well. Thus far, we have mentioned social media, photo/video-based media, mobile marketing, mobile app creation, blogs, mini-blogs, bookmarking sites – even though, a multitude of others exist.

Take a look at these two images that illustrate my thought:

The vastness of this seemingly unending list of new and evolving digital vendors leads me to discuss the idea of consistency. How do brands maintain consistent representation across the board? Carefully and strategically, I would assume. Brand management, as I’m quickly learning, is a multi-faceted task that involves effective communication, brainstorming, and execution from various brand representatives. While it was a relatively easy task to maintain brand consistency using only traditional media, the new and emerging media in our digital age require a much more stringent approach.

An article I read this week for class affirmed this notion that a brand’s presence is everywhere. Whether marketing a product, service, person, idea, or concept, the message conveyed must be consistent. The representation via web site must translate to the logo, the sales people, the promotional materials, the mobile screen, the email layout, and any other digital representation of the brand itself. It has to be integrated, otherwise, a consumer will lose faith and loyalty to the brand.

What can we do to reach true consistency? Let’s consider these four ideas:

brand consistency

It’s a lot of work and takes a lot of careful monitoring. But when you want consumers to keep coming back and visiting your presence among the marketplace, it’s worth it.

at the market: what’s your ‘apple butter’?

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I have found myself these last few summer months spending my Saturday and Sunday afternoons milling about various Farmer’s Markets. Not only are they a great place to pick up some homegrown fruits and veggies, homemade cheeses and jams, and grass-fed meats, it’s a wonderful place to socialize and see people from town. The time I’ve spent at these Farmer’s Markets are relaxing, easy, fun, and stress-free. They let me catch my breath from the ever-hectic work/school week and do something for myself. Personally, I tend to flock to the jams and jelly stand. I have a pretty insatiable sweet tooth, which I get from my father, and I can’t get enough of these homemade spreads. My favorite is, by far, homemade apple butter.

Just like my trips to the Farmer’s Markets (mainly for some apple butter or some pumpkin butter, which I saw on my last trip!), consumers in the digital space have their favorite digital “vendor” if you will. The Digital Marketplace is made up of social media, digital media, direct digital marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing, email marketing, blogs of many sorts – and the list grows each day. Each of these vendors offer various assortments of products i.e social marketing is Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so much more!

What’s my personal fave? Well. If I were to spend a sunny Saturday morning in the Digital Marketplace, I’d have to go straight for the photo/video vendors. To me, these platforms speak to me most, and provide the strongest form of engagement and communication. When I want to see the essence of a brand, I’d rather see it documented in photos or stream it through video. I want to see real people and real instances captured. I particularly like Instagram.

infographic_instagram_full

These stats about this sharing site are remarkable. But I think it validates this digital medium, and why it has grown to be so powerful. Below are four brands that I follow on Instagram. These brands do a great job at engaging their followers. I am always interested to see how the real lives of brand representatives portray themselves and their personal involvement with the company.

NIKE

SOUTHWEST AIRLINES

ROSIE THE LONDONER (a great lifestyle blogger)

COMPLETE PHYSIQUE (a women’s fitness/health brand)

Check them out!

A picture is worth a thousand words, so the saying goes. So, why not say something about your brand with those photos? Do you have a personal preference when it comes to how you use and experience the digital marketplace? What’s your ‘apple butter’?

the digital marketplace.

The phrase “new and emerging media” has been rattling around in my brain for over a week now, all thanks to my stellar graduate school program and the course I’m currently taking! I have made great efforts to understand the symbolism of it. What does it look like? What are new and emerging media? Are they really new and emerging, or are they just adapting and evolving from day to day? Before understanding what these media look like, let’s just take a breather, and understand the world in which they live.

I look around during a typical day, and see those around me enveloped in a digital world – my location is irrelevant. Almost everywhere I go, I see someone, using some sort of digital device, to engage in this digital marketplace (hence my blog name). The evidence is pretty astounding, but I doubt many would dispute it. Go with me for a second…

Picture a marketplace. A crowd of various people, mixing and mingling in a space that is lively, thriving, and vibrant. It is booming with conversation, each individual bringing his or her own perspective to the group of those gathered.  Everyone is interacting and engaging with others, all the while perusing the assortment of products available. Sure, the products at any marketplace draw these people together – whether fruits and veggies, fish, fine crafts, artisan goods, art and photography, etc. What’s more powerful, though, is the experience that these people endure. Discussing, sharing, purchasing, tasting, witnessing, and learning. Each person has a unique function at that marketplace.

What happens when we view this special, creative, and adventurous experience and compare it to our digital world? Can it be compared? Of course it can!

Our digital world is made up of an enormous variety of media – platforms for social networking, career networking, information gathering, information sharing, bookmarking, writing, photography, videography, music… There are digital means for nearly every kind of engagement. It is truly a marketplace, and a vibrant one at that.

Blog Post Week 1Though we tend to call them “emerging” or “new” media, I think a better way to think about these media is to consider their purpose. They are created to engage, and engage to the fullest. Each has a slightly different function, but they are all of the same essence:  to augment the potential for interactivity. Virtual mixing and mingling.

The digital marketplace is thriving, growing exponentially, and evolving every minute of the day. People are learning and communicating, marketing and engaging, in ways that people years ago would have only dreamed of.  The good news is, we don’t have to wait for the market to open every Sunday to purchase some products or take part in the experience. The digital marketplace is all around us, available at nearly every fingertip, at any moment. How incredible is it that we get to witness this? Is this a positive or negative concept? Stay tuned!