I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma. ~Eartha Kitt
I've been blogging for 4 years now, and when I meet bloggers who've been at it for a year, six months, three months, they take it as a sign that I know it all. "Wow, you must be an expert at this!". "You must know everyone in this room". "
Um, no. I'm still the blogger who hides in a corner and pretends to be occupied with her phone, peering out occasionally in the hope that she'll see a familiar face. And I still feel like I have so much to learn! I started my blog with no deliberate intention of growing traffic, making money or pursuing world domination. I just blogged.
But even though I still feel like my main priority is putting up posts and saying what I have to say, it hasn't escaped my attention that there are tons of simple tricks and tips you can follow to get more people to pay attention to what I have to say. I'm starting to wake up to things like SEO, hits, and Google Analytics. And I've been receiving all kinds of IRS forms from people I've worked with on my blog, which means I have to start considering tax implications. So in many ways, I'm still just a newbie who needs to listen to the wisdom of the bloggy gods and goddesses out there.
That's why I signed up for Bloggy Bootcamp, a one-day blog and social media conference held in several cities around the US (I attended the San Francisco event). From the name, it seems to suggest that it's a crash course for new bloggers, but I thought it was a great experience for bloggers of any level.
For one thing, the conference is kept small -- just about 100 bloggers -- which makes it much easier to socialize and network. Participants are assigned to different tables for each session so everyone gets to meet everyone and actually hear each other speak. I met some great bloggers, including a woman who's won one of my giveaways, the wonderfully talented Ciaran Blumenfeld (and I've actually won one of her giveaways), and a woman who's about to host her own cooking show on television. When I heard that, I immediately posed for a photo with her -- I wanted to make sure I got caught on camera with Miri Leigh, the next foodie tv celebrity!
TMZ, People, Entertainment Weekly, feel free to contact me about purchasing the rights to this one-of-a-kind "before they were stars" photo.
For another thing, the venue was awesome:
I felt like a princess in this gilded room, up on the 32nd floor of the Westin St. Francis. Who wouldn't be inspired by the sweeping views?
But really, the main reason that Bloggy Bootcamp worked for me was the speakers. Each one of them gave me something to think about. Here were my favorites:
* The hilarious Jessica Bern got serious -- sort of -- and gave some great tips for producing vlogs that people other than my family might actually click on and watch. Jessica rocked the house during her humor session at BlogHer, and even an elevator ride with her is entertaining, but it turns out she puts in quite a bit of effort into her vlogs -- sometimes one clip will take her up to 30 tries to get it right! My main takeaways from her session were Keep it Short, Watch the Lighting/Hair/Camera Angles, and Be Yourself.
* Ciaran Blumenfeld talked about ways to review products without selling your soul to the marketing demons. I'm well aware of the schism between "content" bloggers and "review" bloggers, and I happen to maintain separate personal and review blogs so I can comfortably do both, but writing a product review that people want to read is a tricky business, and I'm always looking for any tips I can get. Some great insights from Ciaran (pronounced Sharon): Get over the concept that review bloggers are swag whores (okay, I'll readily admit that I am a swag whore, but even whores have ethics, right?), Weave a story around your review, Don't be afraid to return a product if it's not what you thought it would be, and Don't review products that don't fit who you are. In other words, Be Yourself.
* Jennifer James is living proof that you don't need to be a bitch to build an empire. She's as sweet and warm as can be, yet her Mom Bloggers Club (of which I'm a member) is a force to be reckoned with. She spoke about the various social networks bloggers should explore in order to build their online presence, advising new bloggers not too get too overwhelmed and be active on the social channels that work for you (another form of Be Yourself). She kind of threw a bucket of water in my face when she reminded me that you get what you give, and if you want to build a community of followers, you need to participate accordingly -- respond to tweets, follow people who follow you, comment on other people's blogs, etc... So simple and yet so true. Jennifer, you've given me a great mid-year resolution!
* My friend Linsey Krolik, that kickass twin mom, runner, blogger and lawyer, gets my award for "Coolest Dressed Speaker", with her city shorts and flirty peeptoe heels, but it's the content of her session that really stood out. Linsey led us through some of the legal ramifications of starting a blog and taking it up to the next level -- copyrights, trademarks, business plans, Cease and Desist letters, incorporation, etc... -- so you can imagine how many hands shot up during Q&A time. No, she didn't say Be Yourself, but I'm sure she meant it.
Swag was kept to a minimum, and honestly, the speakers were so good that even a swag whore like me didn't miss the giant bags at all. Not that it was bad swag -- the Goldfish crackers came in handy at the end of the day when I was starving, and my kids have taken to the Mastermind game so well that they are all creaming me at it -- but it was sessions, not swag, that made the event memorable. So there's another lesson I learned: You don't need lots of swag to have a good time at a conference. Oh, and Be Yourself.