Black Bloggers Connect: My First Blogging Conference!

By Janelle @ Run With No Regrets | blogging

May 14

If it seems like I’m blitzing you with all my posts this week, I apologize.  This post has been in the making for well over a week, and I’m happy that I can finally share my experience at my first blogging conference!

Blogger Week unConference:

A few weeks ago I received an email in my inbox inviting me to attend #BloggerWeek hosted by Black Bloggers Connect.  I never heard of this blogging community, so I checked it out online and it looked pretty cool.  Several bloggers and PR professionals were speaking and it looked like a great opportunity to go to my first blogging conference, so I signed up.  Plus, the cost was only $35 so it could not be beat!  The Blogger Week unConference took place on Saturday, May 3 at the Sheraton Hotel in Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, an easy commute from Philly and an opportunity to visit my sister.

Packing for the Conference:

I’ve read from other bloggers how they prepared for Bloggy Boot Camp and other similar conferences.  Here was my packing list:

  • Laptop
  • Cell Phone and Charger (my battery likes to die when I need it most)
  • Snacks
  • Gum
  • Pencils
  • Sweater (for cold hotel conference rooms)
  • Business Cards

I decided to dress business casual.  Khakis, sweater, and a nice top and some low heels.  I also did the rare thing of wearing contact lenses.

Business Card Drama

I knew that I needed business cards for the conference but I didn’t want to get 500 when I only needed 50.  After doing research I decided to use Overnight Prints.  It ended up getting down to the wire for my order, but I was assured when I read on the site “If you need it tomorrow, we’ll get it to you tomorrow”.  I planned to have the business cards delivered on Friday so that I would have them in time for the conference.  Let’s just say…they didn’t make it in time. I ordered 50 cards on Wednesday, April 30.  But somehow, once I paid and clicked send, the delivery date changed to the following Monday.  I couldn’t believe it, as I had spent $22.85 on what I thought was expedited delivery!  Then on Thursday, I ended up upgrading for an additional $11.21 to assure I’d receive them on Friday. It was a bizarre turn of events.  According to UPS tracking, the cards were on the truck and on their way to me.  But when it was 10:30 pm Friday night and still no cards, I finally started to believe they weren’t coming. Needless to say I was VERY disappointed!  No business cards at a blogging conference…I had planned to drive to Maryland on Friday night but I was too distraught…so I made the drive early in the morning.

The Conference

I got in to Maryland at about 8 am. My sister kindly drove me to the Sheraton hotel where the conference was taking place.  Unfortunately, I got there about 15 minutes late.  I was handed a folder at the door with the program.  They were already in session and I apparently missed some good tips about blog monetization, but I didn’t miss too much.  I was glad they included a notepad because I didn’t want to fumble for my laptop and search for Wi-fi since the meeting was already in progress.  Here are the highlights!

Blogger Week 2014 Conference Agenda

The Ultimate Guide to Digital Monetizing

The first session was on tips to monetize your blog, hosted by Crystal Duncan and Ella Rucker.  It gave me so much to think about!

  • Utilize the social networks that you enjoy the most, don’t get overwhelmed!
  • Instagram, Vine, and Youtube are growing in popularity
  • Cross reference all of your pages:  Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+
  • Watch out for red flags:  sponsors should let you use YOUR voice
  • How to attract a sponsor?
    • Solve their problems
    • Watch what you say
    • Know your value by creating a media kit
    • Share results on previous campaigns
  • What’s your price?
    • Put together a package for different levels of sponsorship
    • Build relationships
    • Maintain professionalism
  • Use Bit.ly for tracking statistics
  • For disclosures, make sure you include “sponsored on behalf of…” or #ad hashtag
  • You can write a “sponsored post” before actually being sponsored.
  • If you’re a beginner, focus on growth numbers and interaction rates
  • Look into ambassadorships and long-term partnerships, but make sure they are a good fit
  • Check out payperpost.com and sponsoredtweets.com

Content & Communication:  How to Optimize Your Relationship with Marketing Pros

This was a really interesting session, hosted by Amanda Spann.  I picked up a lot of great information here:

  • Make sure contact information is visible and accessible
  • Respond to all contacts within 96 hours
  • Find your niche by building community offline
  • Make sure you have a professional headshot
  • Ask for HONEST opinions:  focus groups, conference calls
  • Ask for help!
  • Pivot based on your audience and traffic, if necessary
  • Communicate with your publicist (if you have one)
  • Always be transparent when meeting deliverables
  • Check out quotes on Craigslist for services to upgrade your blog visuals
  • Outsource when necessary and build a team
  • Don’t spread yourself too thin!
  • Check out Google Helpouts

My notes during the conference

Social Media Strategies

Next up, we had Kumi Rauf from I Love Being Black speak on how to leverage social media, most particularly Facebook.  His page for ILBB has over 6 million followers, which is huge!  Here are some of the things that I learned:

  • You must create a Facebook fan page for your blog!
  • On Facebook, engagement is key:  The hierarchy is shares > comments > likes
  • The Edge Rank algorithm is what allows your followers to see your posts.  It’s based on affinity, weight, and time.
  • You can schedule your Facebook posts through Facebook, versus using a 3rd party app.  I NEVER knew this!
  • Use hashtags, yes even on Facebook!
  • Share other pages on your Fan page
  • Facebook and Youtube are incompatible…Facebook prefers that you upload your videos through their site
  • The cost to boost posts goes up with the more followers you have
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The only downside was that they couldn’t connect his presentation due to technical difficulties, so that was really disappointing.  I was also hoping to learn more about how to use Google+, but it wasn’t mentioned.

Kumi Rauf talking Social Media Strategies

Lunch

While I did pack a few snacks, I was really happy to be able to grab lunch after a long morning.  The event organizers didn’t offer suggestions on where to go, so I was essentially wandering the streets of downtown Silver Spring in the hopes to find something edible.  Fortunately, I was able to make it to Panera Bread, and while on the way I met a fellow blogger named Tiffany who was very nice!  Her website is www.journeylifedevelopment.com.  She was really nice to talk to!

The Power of Blogger Collaboration

I was really excited about this session.  We were given different colored index cards and then sorted by our colors to find ways to collaborate amongst our disparate topics.  I liked the way it was done.  I only wish that the session was longer, as we didn’t have a lot of time to really get things going.  Not to mention, it really SUCKED not having my business cards handy.  While I tried to laugh it off, it really made me self-conscious.  Here were some suggestions for blog collaborations:

  • Co-host a sponsored event
  • Guest blog
  • Create a blog series
  • Pick a charity and host a giveaway
I would really like to guest post for a blogger that I admire…but I admit I’ve been too shy to ask.  This session has encouraged me to break out of my shell!  I love linkups but I’d love to get to know other bloggers an even better ways.

Building Credibility & Building Your Brand

This was definitely an eye-opening session.  Alana Hill was very honest and her PR background provided so many insights on the do’s and don’t’s.  Here are the things I learned:

  • Be confident and market yourself as a subject matter expert
  • Make sure your site gives a GOOD first impression…you don’t want your audience to hit the back button!
  • Get a professional logo so readers and PR professionals know you are serious
  • Create an email newsletter
  • Make sure your social media handles are identical or very similar
  • Create strategic and meaningful partnerships
  • Focus on having consistent content
  • Create Google alerts for news of top brands:  Be ahead of the curve

I’m not sure I exactly agree that it’s ethical to add email addresses to a subscription without their consent, but that was the only negative thing I found from her talk.

Feedback and Main Takeaways:

Since this conference cost me $35 plus the cost of tolls, I’d say that the deal couldn’t be beat!  I’ve learned a lot and I plan to incorporate so much of what I’ve learned in my blog.  I just wish that an agenda was given in advance and that there was a directory of all the registrants so that we could easily keep in contact after the conference. I can be really shy at networking events, and it didn’t help that I didn’t have my business cards.  So my #1 piece of advice is have your blogging business cards printed and take them with you!  The good news though is that they did finally come…the following Tuesday.  Apparently, Overnight Prints was having printing troubles (just my luck), so I was able to get my $11.23 extra shipping payment refunded.  So here’s how they look:

Back of Run With No Regrets business card

I was also very excited that the conference gave us a voucher for a free domain with Namecheap.  This is huge for me because I plan on leaving Blogspot very soon!  I won’t say much on that yet…as I’m still in the plotting stage.  But after some issues with support, I finally got it to work, so stay tuned this summer for a new website for Run With No Regrets!

Have you ever been to a blogging conference?  What tips have you learned?

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