As media becomes more mobile and digital, more instances of citizen journalism are making headlines. People who are in the right place at the right time can simply take out their phones and report the next big story. News outlets will get a hold of the footage, fact check the source, and then display it on national media. What a powerful concept–that anyone can be responsible for the first look of a breaking story! Even bloggers who do not make headlines with breaking news are still able to publish stories for anyone to read. These stories have the power to sway their readers’ opinions, so it is important for businesses to understand just how influential blogs can be.
When researching a topic or product, it is very likely that blogs with key words will come up in searches. There are blogs out in the “blogosphere” that cover everything from clothes, to food, to politics. Many of these bloggers write their posts because they simply want to talk about their passions, share their thoughts, or ask the vast amount of World Wide Web users their questions. Bloggers can choose to be as open and detailed as they wish with their posts. Blog use spiked after the 9/11 attacks when people had so many worries and speculations they felt they needed to express. Blogs allowed humans to connect with others with similar views of the event. These connections gave small comforts of online support while the real world spun on in chaos. Sherry Turkle discusses the irony of posting for millions of people online, but feeling more alone in real life relationships. Perhaps it is easier to be honest and voice opinions when there is a screen in front of the user. Technology puts a sort of wall up even when a person is expressing vulnerable information. People can post how they really feel without having to worry about a real-life confrontation.
Blogs have created communities can be more authentic than other social media. There is more room to write thoughts just the way users want, in any sort of format they want. The honest views and opinions behind many blogs create inviting safe places to read about similar interests. I remember when I was in about 7th grade, I was googling lyrics to a song and came across the first online blog I ever saw. I read post after post before realizing it was a girl around my age who lived in Singapore. I remember I was completely drawn to her personal stories that ranged from school activities to hanging out with friends on the weekend. She frequently blogged about American Idol and Harry Potter, both of which I was quite obsessed with at the time. To this day I still think that was one of the coolest things I discovered: that there are ways to connect with people similar to you who live on the other side of the world.
Here is a picture from the WordPress Stats site of people actively posting, commenting, and liking blogs. The site states that as of 2014 “tens of thousands of new WordPress sites are created every day.” Now that is some big data! How are all of these blogs being used as sources of information?
Many political bloggers write their posts in narrative forms, expressing their ideology and beliefs. A study found that while most political bloggers created their blog to let of steam or record their stream of consciousness, they ultimately continued blogging because of their influences on readers. Democracy and the voting process are affected by blogs because people are putting their trust into the opinion of average citizens. One blogger in this study talked about “getting quoted by journalists.” Even professional journalists are looking at blogs for information and insight. Blogging serves as a purpose to give people information they want.
Outside of the political world, personal blogs can create just as much conversation. If a blogger has an unpleasant experience in a retail or food corporation, what is stopping him or her from writing about it in a blog that can potentially be seen by millions? Knowing that every individual has the power to post about real-time events based on first-hand information is crucial when serving customers. Businesses are being held even more accountable because any kind of exposure is only one click away. Blogs with large followings in these web-based communities will spark conversations, so it is crucial for businesses to maintain a good reputation.
Businesses can use blogs to relate to these communities. Blogs are used for marketing products that can easily explain the benefits of customers using said products. Blogs create personalities behind large business, and showcase the value of smaller businesses. Business blogs can provide special coupons or information about upcoming specials in the stores. They can also include stories about what employers are doing outside of the office, such as community service or attending local events. Educational Data Systems, Inc. (EDSI) is a national company dedicated to providing training support during the transitional times of job searching. Their official website features a link to their blog where different employees post informative and personal stories. Some stories are written as dedications to those who inspire the poster to do well, and those are the ones that interested me the most. The blog showed me that the people behind this company are in fact real, with real stories that relate to so many readers. EDSI’s website offers information on their products and success, but it also opens up the company so the public can see what motivates its employees to do well.
Businesses who frequently post blogs are also inviting their customers to comment on the quality of their products. Perhaps the team behind the blog can offer Q&A posts to find out exactly what their consumers want. Companies can use this feedback when brainstorming ways to improve their products. Frequent posts that include real photographs and geotags also establish a company’s trustworthiness. If customers can see a company communicating and addressing concerns, they will see the company as one that cares about their needs.
Blogs are universal in that they can serve as personal diaries, informational services, and citizen journalism. We live a world where anyone can use the web freely to report, analyze, or expose news. A free site that allows a user to have complete control over what is posted is very enticing in a world of constant commotion.