I’ve talked before about the incredible adaption and utilization of blogs in the business world. From Fortune 500 companies and corporations to small businesses just starting out, blogs have made the business world stand up and take notice. In June of this year, I wrote about the BusinessWeek article that followed up on the original groundbreaking story that introduced much of the business world to blogs back in 2005. Business Blogs and Beyond talked about the significant changes in the marketing landscape, and how social media, blogs and other forms of Web 2.0 marketing have opened up the doors to advertising on all fronts, harnessing the ability to connect with customers on levels that were never before possible.
The articles and accolades for marketing with business blogs haven’t stopped. Instead, blogs have become the #1 necessity for business owners looking for affordable, effective marketing that can deliver even in a questionable economy. Recently, Entrepreneur Magazine published an article about getting your business noticed at a minimal cost. Their #1 suggestion was blogs. From the article: “Set up a blog … and begin writing interesting commentary that relates to your business, says Hager. To drive traffic, comment on other topic-related blogs and include links back to your own blog.” Further down the list, they mention “Exploiting the Web” as number 17. This suggestion includes utilizing social media sites like delicious.com and digg.com to advertise and market products or services.
When it comes to numbers and statistics, blogs and blogging continues to be on the rise in both popularity and adoption by the average internet user. eMarketer recently conducted a survey that found blog readership and blog creation would increase by 33% by 2012. Also, over half of the US population are already reading blogs on a regular basis. eMarketer also discovered that 55% of those between the ages of 13-24 and 42% of those between the ages of 25-41 are reading blogs on a weekly basis.
So what does the average consumer or internet user think of businesses using blogs and social media? The eMarketer survey cited above found that customers view company blogs as a better channel for customer service than they do a company website. Another recent study by Cone Business found that 93% of respondents believe a company should have a presence in social media, and 85% believe that companies should be using social media to interact with customers. Another 56% of respondents say they feel better about brands that interact online via social media tools. Those are some staggering statistics, and they all lead to the same conclusion: including blogs and social media in a marketing plan is no longer a choice – it’s a requirement for a competitive business.
The e-commerce market is still thriving, even in the current economy. The first quarter of 2008 found $32.5 billion was spent online, a growth of over 13% from the third quarter of 2007. The online market continues to be growing at a rate of 20-25% each year, triple the rate of store sales. With the recent economic downturn and high gas prices, more consumers are expected to turn to online channels for their holiday shopping, and it’s expected to be another record 4th quarter for e-commerce.
It’s obvious that online sales are healthy and will continue to grow at an exponential rate in the coming months and years. With the overall integration of social media and blogs into average internet users’ daily online activities, companies are replacing many of their traditional marketing campaigns with these new standards of advertising and interaction. Social media advertising is fast becoming a valuable tool in the hands of the web-savvy online business owner and a popular topic with business magazines; is your business part of the conversation?