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.

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.