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Like I said in my recap post the other day, there are two ways you learn when you go to a conference. One is through the content and the other is through the people. Since I got the people part done the other day, this post is really about the content of the sessions. If you aren’t a blogger or this doesn’t interest you go ahead and either scroll through on the reader or page somewhere else! I won't be offended!  I did promise to go over this for my readers and I needed to do it for myself as well. 

It has taken me awhile to write this post because honestly I had to decompress a little before I wrote it. I knew I was going to go in and be overwhelmed, emotionally and mentally with the sheer volume of things to learn. I took a lot of notes (in my cute notebook) so let me breakdown what I learned, observed, and inferred. For a breakdown of who was on what panel - check out my overview!

Blogging with the Stars 
This session was a how did you get here look from 4 different bloggers. For me, what I really got out of it as a new blogger was setting my expectations. These women told it like it was and I appreciated that! It opened with this video titled “Why Women Blog” from Marketing to Women Online.

Most people said the same thing all of us have said, they had an identity crisis and didn’t know what do to with themselves, needed a community to converse with, a creative outlet, or they had always wanted to be writer and found a platform. Among just the “home girls” at lunch we had a similar discussion and for the majority of us it was a realization that there were people out there like us, obsessed with the way a room looks and using glue guns!

The next question was “how did you grow your blog following” and the answers were pretty simple things to execute. Many said that becoming part of your community by linking to others and commenting was a good key. Others stressed creating good content and being SEO friendly (Search Engine Optimized – yeah I had to ask one of my other peeps that later on!) and always ending your post with a question. The biggest takeaway was to give readers a reason to come back.

They did get into advertising a little bit and stated that you need to be at a certain level and have the appropriate amount of time to devote to your blog if you want to start getting advertising. Most said that once you accept ads it will change how you blog because now your traffic and page counts will matter not just to you, but to the people who are investing in you. Advertising also played into how much time they spent blogging - the ranges were anywhere from 15 hrs a week to 5-6 hours a day. They also emphasize that as you get bigger you won’t be able to go and visit everyone who comments on your blog.

Evolving into a Professional Blogger
This session was about how to present yourself as a professional to advertisers and PR people. The panel was pretty balanced and one of the best contributors was Nancy Smith from IRobot. She is the Vice President of Marketing Communications for IRobot and her voice on the panel was basically the voice of the corporation and what they were looking for. They started out the session with the “Show Me the Money” clip from Jerry Maguire

First, they talked a little about earned media vs. paid media. Earned media is when you do a review or give your opinion on a product, service, etc and you are not paid for it. Paid media is when you are given money to promote something. They stressed that you should not back away from doing earned media opportunities because those openings can help get you the connections you need to get more of the paid media options.

As far as paid opportunities go, they listed off several options that don’t just include ads, affiliate links, or sponsored posts. What about approaching a company to write an article for a customer newsletter? They also mentioned that participating in focus groups or in real life brand based meetups in your local area were another way to get paid opportunities. They also recommended that you think outside the box. Could you teach a social media course at your local community college?

The also went over the idea of value and worth and the right time to ask to be paid. They stated up front that the wrong time was to take earned media and then ask to be paid for it! They also said that you needed to be prepared if you are going to ask someone to pay you for service and be able to give them what YOU are going to provide in return. What is their Return on Investment (ROI) for investing in you? They stressed that you have to keep in mind that the person you are dealing with on the PR or corporate end will have to go back to their superior and ask for the $$ so you need to be able to give them the ammo they need to do that. This was also when they played the “Help Me, Help You” clip below.

They also said that you should build a case study for what you can do – kind of like a blogging PR resume. Your case study should include what your objective was, what did you do, what was the result. They said to keep in mind that you don’t just have a blog. You blog, your on twitter, your on facebook, you tube, flickr … you have a social media presence and that you need to showcase all of that in your case study.

Niche Blogging
Ok – I am not even going to lie to you. My notes here are sketchy because it was after lunch and I was full of some really yummy food. In the Niche Blogging session, the bloggers represented were highlighting some of the individual niches within our blog world. Cooking, fashion, home d├ęcor and crafting, green living, and frugal living were all represented on the panel.

They started with talking about understanding what your niche was and that you need to be selective about your content and your advertising to make sure that it fits with your niche. You can always re-brand yourself by changing up your tagline or your about me section along with your content.  You need to also make sure you don’t view the others within your niche as competition. Use each other as teams and work on projects together. You will learn and get ideas from within your niche and the interaction is key to building your blog and your reputation. To become a leader in your niche you do need to have a perceived authority. You also need to have credibility to pull off that authority status, but make sure you do it with humility.

The big thing about niche blogging is that you need to remain consistent within your niche. This was the hardest thing for me to deal with because I think I am in the niche of home decor but sometimes I like to post a recipe or do a frugal post. I am still trying to round out what I want this place to be on a go forward basis. A great starting place was this set of questions that The Nester went over. She and her sister Emily @ Chatting at the Sky came up with this list of questions to “Define your Bloggy Purpose.” I love it.

The Wizard of Ads
In this session, the focus was on how to make your site ad ready and decide what kind of ads you want to take. First, they stated you need to make sure you have a consistent posting schedule and that your content is relevant to the audience that comes to your blog. If the content is there, the traffic will be there. The second thing is that you need to clean up your site to make sure that advertisers would want to advertise there. You need to lose any sidebar widgets that don’t provide value. You also need to look at your blog theme and make sure it can support different types of ads. You will also need to make sure that your content doesn’t clash with your ads. Next, you need to know your stats and be able to speak to your influencer status.

The next thing they went over was the pros and cons of using an Ad Networks vs. going it “On your Own” with Private Sponsors.

The pros of Ad Networks is that you get a team of seasoned vets selling your site and managing the ads and creating different ways for you to earn money. Cons are that you may not have control over what gets advertised on your site, there are contracts that may prohibit you from doing reviews or hosting other ad networks, and there may be restrictions on your content and what you post (i.e. Ethics and Language clauses). Ad networks also take a cut of your revenue to pay for the management of the ads and they pay you after campaigns have completed and the company who ran them pays them (which can be up to 90 days out). They also may dictate where they run your ads on your site. You have to read the contract and FULLY understand what you are getting into. It is recommended that you get a lawyer to review with you.

The pros of going it “on your own” are that you get total creative control of how and where the ads are placed and you are not locked in to contacts. The cons are that you normally have to go out and find these advertisers yourself, especially when you are new and not established. You have to take the time develop relationships to keep your customers renewing. You will also have to take the time to renew your spaces and invoice those customers for your ad space.

Phew … that took a lot out of me. But it was good to go back through and review my notes. I hope that this was helpful. Did you learn anything new?

9 frugal friends said ...

Kate Riley said... @ February 14, 2010 at 9:27 PM

Bravo to you my dear for summarizing the conference so well ! I thought the sessions were so so. Some were great, some just mediocre. Don't you think the socialization aspect was off the charts ? I loved that aspect. Thanks for summarizing the key points - you reminded me of a few things I'd forgotten already ! Hugs, Kate

Sarah Larsen said... @ February 14, 2010 at 10:12 PM

Thank you so much for sharing your notes! I'm going to bookmark this page so I can refer to it again. Kudos on your note taking!

Maria Killam said... @ February 14, 2010 at 11:09 PM

Excellent post, I'm going to tweet this next, thanks!! I need to go to a blogging convention. . .

Joey Lynn Resciniti said... @ February 15, 2010 at 7:01 AM

That was the best blog conference review I've read! Nice job! I've noticed a lot of blog posts ending with a question and I see you got into that advice right away - I might have to try that one and see if it gets more comments.

Jen@balancing beauty and bedlam said... @ February 15, 2010 at 8:37 AM

I missed a few of those sessions, so it was great to hear your take...(and yes, I laughed about you comment about our session...it was right after lunch, tummies were full and it was the last day when everyone was TIRED :) I agree. :)

Judy@grammyreads.com said... @ February 15, 2010 at 1:27 PM

Whoa, that' a blogful! I am going to need to reread it, but I learned a bunch! I didn't even know what blogging was a year ago. I use it as an extension of my website. I have some ads but nothing that produces. I have heard that it takes about four years to build the community needed to sustain a web enterprise. Good thing I have patience and income! Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

Jessica Jones, ATL Mom of 3 said... @ February 15, 2010 at 2:14 PM

have i mentioned how jealous i am that you went...because i STILL am! This post makes me think of 20 more questions lol!

Heather said... @ February 16, 2010 at 12:42 PM

What a great recap! Thank you so much for putting this together! Looks like an amazing weekend!!

Unknown said... @ February 16, 2010 at 10:52 PM

wonderful review, Jess. Especially since I had no idea what a blogging conference was.

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