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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

BlogHer Business 2008: Blogging Goes Mainstream

I'm back from BlogHer Business '08 [and Blogger Social - subject for a separate post] and I'm still reeling from the intensity of the sessions and the richness of the examples and case studies.

The big news from this year's conference has to do with blogging going mainstream, and with women - in general and BlogHer women more specifically - being more than comfortable obtaining information and advice [including purchase recommendations] via social media.

As with the first ever BlogHer Business last year, this year's event attracted an interesting cross-section of marketers and social media experts, many known to one another only virtually --until now. That's the magic of social media.

For example, I got to meet Anna Farmery from The Engaging Brand who interviewed me in Engaging Brands For Consumers and Employees and Heather Gorringe from Wiggly Wigglers [more about her in a separate post].

From Day 1 Opening Session came the following [live blogging of the opening session is here]:

+ Blogging officially went mainstream in 2007 with corporate blogs and formal blogger outreach programs being established. There's a new paradigm now of "user-generated publishing" with editorial standards and professional partnerships among blogs.

+ Beware of reaching out with traditional mass market approaches to bloggers. Heavy handed, push, interruption based methods will be punished [i.e., if social media is about being invited in for a conversation in one's living room or around the kitchen table, then don't just barge in].

+ It's important to monitor the digital conversations taking place wherever they might occur:
- Via Twitter feeds for mentions of brands
- Second Life [BlogHer 2007 took place in both]
- Widgets [beneficial if you find out what your audience wants? BlogHer uses widgets to promote others' work]
- Reviews [e.g., Amazon...]
- flickr photos [I'll upload my BlogHer photos in May as I used my 100mb monthly allotment on Blogger Social pictures.]

Another example: BlogHer created a fascinating conversation starter with the Letter to my Body campaign, getting bloggers to discuss body image. It resonated with so many that it became a meme. They have also had success showcasing via a widget menus for food bloggers, mentioning blogger recipes [with sponsorship from Boca Foods].

For this year's conference, BlogHer commissioned a major research project to better understand online behavior. Past observations based on 2006 Pew Internet survey claiming that only "Eight percent of internet users, or about 12 million American adults, keep a blog. Thirty-nine percent of internet users, or about 57 million American adults, read blogs – a significant increase since the fall of 2005" [this is based on men and women internet users].

Further, that awareness is low and not mainstream.

Susan Wright, managing director of Compass Partners, presented the results of this new study. I urge you to read through the 2008 social media study to better understand women's online behavior.

Overall, in the U.S., there are 104 million women aged 18 to 75; Internet penetration is 70% [i.e., 73 million women]. The population breaks down by age as follows:

+ 14.1 million Millenials [18 to 24]
+ 34.3 million GenX [25 to 41]
+ 39.3 million Boomers [42 to 60]
+ 16.2 million Matures [61 to 75]

Blogging has become a mainstream method of communication for women - either publishing at least one post weekly [15.1 million women] or reading/posting comments weekly [21.1 million women]. That's a total of 36.2 million women or 35% of the female population actively involved with blogs.

Compared to general population behaviors, the BlogHer community is more heavily concentrated in the 25 to 41 age group [68% vs. 42%], has more children at home, is better educated and has higher income, and more involved in social media.

Blogs are considered a reliable source of information, advice and recommendations. Described as the equivalent of 'kitchen table conversations,' they come across as authentic and credible and influence purchase decisions. Bloggers are passionate; their passion comes across and connects with readers. The result is a network or community where the members trust one another before they trust an institution or faceless corporate entity.

The rest of BlogHer Business 2008 consisted of breakout sessions and case studies organized around successful social media creation and outreach.

Videos and interviews of the entire BlogHer Business 2008 conference are available including live blogs. I plan to address in separate posts the case studies or discussions that particularly resonated for their creative use of social media.

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