Since I joined BlogHer earlier this Fall, I have had a lot going on — traveling, speaking, digging into the new job, moving my family to the NY area — and this poor blog has been sorely neglected. So neglected in fact that my 6th blog anniversary passed earlier this month and I didn’t even notice.
Thinking about that milestone over this holiday weekend led me to think about some of the changes I’ve observed in the blogosphere.
In 2005, early adopters were dipping their toes into the blogging waters. The hot topic was the corporate blog, and the term “social media” wasn’t even being used yet — Facebook was in its infancy and Twitter wouldn’t even be invented for another year. Public relations agencies were just beginning to reach out to bloggers on behalf of brands, mostly high tech and consumer electronics. Online conversation often swirled around the mistakes agencies and companies made with poorly targeted “spray and pray” outreach.
Now, according to research conducted by the Center for Marketing Research at UMass Dartmouth, 23 percent of the Fortune 500 have public blogs, including four of the top five corporations (Wal-Mart, Exxon, Chevron and General Electric), 60 percent have corporate Twitter accounts and 56 percent have Facebook pages (The Fortune 500 and Social Media: A Longitudinal Study of Blogging and Twitter Usage by America’s Largest Companies).
The study, which was announced at the Annual Research Symposium and Awards Gala of the Society for New Communications Research, concludes:
“This [adoption of social media] clearly demonstrates the growing importance of social media in the business world. These large and leading companies drive the American economy and to a large extent the world economy. Their willingness to interact more transparently via these new technologies with their stakeholders is [a] clear. It will be interesting to watch as they expand their adoption of social media tools and connect with their constituents in dramatically new ways.”
Furthermore, according to research conducted by FedEx and Ketchum, and reported in eMarketer, 75 percent of companies worldwide participate in social media in some aspects of their communications and marketing strategy, with 10% actively leading in the space and 15% still mostly on the sidelines observing (Leveraging Best Practices for Social Media).
Another hot topic in the early days of this blog was whether the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) would accept blogs as an outlet for material disclosure by public companies. The SEC began studying the issue in late 2006 and in 2008, announced that it would accept websites and blogs as outlets for material disclosure under certain circumstances.
The topic that has engaged me the most since I dove into the social media pool, however, is the relationship between brands and consumers. Initially, this activity was called blogger relations, a name that reflected its roots in public relations and a focus on blogs. Over the past year or two, the term blogger outreach became more prominent — in part I think in an effort to distance the work from public relations. At least that was my reason for the vocabulary shift.
The sphere of activity also has extended beyond blogs to embrace social networks like Facebook and microblogs like Twitter and Tumblr, and influence is just as important as blog real estate, prompting a shift to talk about “social media influencers” rather than just bloggers.
Going into the new year, I will be shifting my analysis of this topic to focus on influencer engagement. How well do we engage influencers across the range of social media channels? What can brands do to better engage the customer with the brand premise while retaining authenticity? What is the role of the influencer herself? What can she do to engage proactively with the brands she loves without “selling out?”
Bottom line, I am more interested in the two-way sustainable engagement, brand to influencer and influencer to brand, than I am in a one-way outreach or a single campaign.
Next week, I’ll kick this off with a brief summary of some best practices for influencer engagement.