As I said Monday, I had a blast at this weekend’s Go Blog Social conference here in KC. I learned a ton and I met lots of really awesome fellow bloggers. I would love to share everything I learned at GBS with you but that would be impossible to do in a blog post. Instead, I’ll share my top ten list of things I learned. And so, in no particular order, here are my new nuggets of knowledge:
1. Define Your Brand and Know Your Purpose. Blogs are not just online diaries anymore, they are serious business. And if you want people to take your blog seriously you need to define your brand. Give your blog a signature style and keep this style consistent throughout everything you do.
Knowing your purpose goes hand in hand with defining your brand. Just like Yogi Berra said, “If you don't know where you're going, you might not get there.” To figure out exactly what your purpose is, Amanda recommends that everyone ask themselves these four questions: What are you committed to? What do you stand for? Who do you want to be? What do you want to create?
2. Find Your Niche, and There’s Room for Everyone. According to Kelly, there are something like 450,000 blogs out there, with 1,000-3,000 new ones being created every day. That is crazy! So finding your niche is a very important step in being seen and heard among the thousands of other bloggers out there.
It may seem like there is a massive amount of competition to contend with in the blogging universe but don’t get discouraged. The blogging community is incredibly supportive and encouraging of each other. If you have something valuable to say there is room for you, no matter how many other blogs there are.
3. Create Original Content. While there is room for everyone in blogging land, you want your blog to stand out, and one of the best ways to do that is by creating original content. Emily gave a great talk on this, and something she said that really stood out to me is “blog with intention.” You don’t just want to recycle what everyone else is already doing. It will take considerably more time to put together a completely original post but it is worth it.
Emily’s husband Matt also spoke on the subject, but in the context of copywrite laws (he’s an intellectual property lawyer). Of course we all know not to steal another person’s idea or content, but holy cow, there are all sorts of ways to get yourself into serious legal trouble by not following copywrite laws. The best way to avoid trouble is to always get written permission before you share anyone else’s photos, etc, and to create original content of your own.
4. Foster a Community. One of the best ways to gain and keep followers is to foster a community among your readers. Engage with them, ask questions, tease what’s coming next. Encourage comments and questions but be sure to always respond to them! Knowing that there’s an actual person behind the blog and being able to communicate with her is really important to readers.
5. The Importance of Photography. I’ve known for a long time that photography is very important to a blog’s success but this was reiterated over and over throughout the weekend. People come to blogs for the pictures first and then stay for the content. If you can’t grab a reader with your images you won’t get them to stay the to read the excellent copy you’ve written. Invest in a good camera if you can afford it, or at least use good editing software or even iphone apps like Afterlight.
Several of the speakers also gave some great photography tips and tricks, such as using a white foam board either as a backdrop or to reflect light to give you a better photograph. I also really loved Erin’s advice about styling your photos. People want to see the pretty pictures, so if you need to bring in props or stage your photos in a different part of your house to get the best light, do so!
6. Blogs are Big Business. While there are still plenty of people out there that blog just for fun, or to keep in touch with their family and friends, there are thousands of other people that make a living off their blog. There are lots of ways to make money with your blog, whether that be through affiliate links, ads, sponsored posts, or creating and selling your own product such as a book or an online class.
You do want to be careful with how and how much you advertise though. Readers will see right through you if you’re trying to sell something just to make money. Dan gave us a good tip: Don’t look for a product to sell, look to make your audience smarter and find products that can help you achieve that.
7. Make a Media Kit. Companies big and small are beginning to recognize the value of working with blogs and they are willing to pay bloggers to get the word out about their product or services. Your media kit plays a very important part in getting to work with brands. Kelly said that every blog, no matter how big or how small, needs a media kit, for these three reasons: It makes you a professional; It shows that your blog is important; and It starts the conversation about compensation. Your time and your voice are valuable, make sure brands know that.
8. Why Networking is So Important. I think networking is kind of a groan-inducing word (at least for me it is), but it is so important. Networking leads to new connections, some of whom might become new followers, or friends, or business partners. You never know who you might be talking to. And in general, it’s not that difficult. To me the hardest part is just getting myself to the meeting/event/whatever; once I’m there I just try to be nice and friendly and the rest seems to take care of itself. As Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”
I was pretty nervous to attend Go Blog Social by myself since I didn’t really know anyone else that would be there, and while it was a little awkward at first, once I started introducing myself to people I immediately started feeling more at ease. Like I said Monday, I got to know some really fantastic people that I otherwise probably would have never met had I not networked at GBS.
9. Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover, and Everyone Judges a Book by its Cover. These were two of Nicole’s networking tips, and while they’re not exactly groundbreaking, they are so, so true. More than 100 people attended Go Blog Social this weekend and I knew almost none of them. There were some girls there that looked like they could become my new best friend, but there were plenty of others I was initially turned off by, often because I was intimidated by them. I kind of regressed to my high school self, worried that the pretty girls wouldn’t like me because they were thin, tan, super stylish, wore expensive jewelry and shoes, etc…and I did not have those certain qualities or things. But it turned out that some of the girls I was initially really intimidated to talk to or thought I would have nothing in common with turned out to be some of the best people I met! It really pays to not write people off based on your first impression.
On the same note, it’s just human nature to make a snap judgment based on how someone looks and presents themselves, so be sure to always put your best foot forward.
10. The Sky’s the Limit. Blogging is still a very new industry, and while that might mean that everyone may not understand what you do, it also means that the opportunities to be had with blogging are endless. You can make it into whatever you want it to be! The bloggers I met are doing amazing things: starting their own products lines, writing books, becoming consultants, working with national magazines and brands, even going to the Academy of Country Music awards as part of Kohl’s social media team (so jealous of you Sarah!). I think Conan O’Brien summed it up best when he said, “If you work really hard, and you're kind, amazing things will happen.”
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Thank you for reading my rather lengthy recap above! I hope I adequately conveyed the amazing tips and advice I learned at Go Blog Social. I’d also like to give a very heartfelt THANK YOU! to all of our speakers. I learned so much from each and every one of you!
- Jessica Merchant, How Sweet It Is
- Sarah Beeskow, ShareASale
- Kelly Snyder, Kansas City Mamas
- Amanda Marie Lackey, Amanda Marie Photography
- Nicole Regan, Cedar and Rush
- Kit Graham, The Kittchen
- Jessie Artigue, Style and Pepper
- Lauren Felix, La Petite Fashionista
- Crystal Wiebe, Wayward Dogs & Staples
- Dan Morris, Blogging Concentrated
- Emily & Matt Walters, Emmy-ray Design Studio
- Erin Souder, House of Earnest
- Kaelin Zawilinski, Better Homes & Gardens