I should mention some background. While I’ve got a lot of “blogging friends” or “internet friends” (as Husband J says), most of my real life friends have no interest in social media (outside of Facebook), don’t understand Twitter and think my blogging is my cute little activity. I have to admit that I was looking forward to the conference because I’d be surrounded by people who understand what it’s like being an internet content creator (it ain’t easy!).
While I’ve been able to meet a variety of great bloggers, in my past blogging life I’ve often felt like the only one or one of very few Black or Latino bloggers writing about certain topics (like travel!). That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but I believe in the fact that a variety of perspectives and visual representations of diverse people should be present in all forms of media including emerging media like blogs. My choice to go to Blogging While Brown (“BWB”) was not only about learning more about blogging in general but also to get inspired about my role as a blogger of color in an online world that often sidelines us (just my opinion, of course).
Since I often think in lists, here are 5 reasons why I’m glad I went to Blogging While Brown:
1. I met a really nice down to earth, friendly, diverse group of bloggers.
I’ve not always heard the best things about blogging conferences. I’ve often heard from some people that the atmosphere can be cliquey, impersonal or just downright unwelcoming. I have to say that I was able to meet so many cool people this past weekend. The conference was small enough that I could have multiple conversations with people throughout the weekend but large enough that I still didn’t meet everyone. Bloggers came from all over the country (shout out to my new Jacksonville, Florida friends!) and wrote about everything from relationships and beauty to health and politics. Some folks had been blogging or writing professionally for years, and others were new to blogging. It was nice to get perspectives from all levels of experience.
2. Many of the well-known and successful bloggers openly shared themselves and their experiences.
I’ve often heard that when some bloggers hit “the big time”, they are not so friendly at conferences like these. Yet at Blogging While Brown, many of the the most successful bloggers with well-known sites were very friendly and accessible. Case in point, one of my favorite bloggers, Patrice Grell Yursik, of the blog Afrobella.
I started reading Patrice’s blog years ago when looking for resources for my wedding blog for Black women with natural hair (i.e., not chemically straightened). While not the first natural hair blogger, she’s really the first in that niche to translate her blogging into bigger opportunities. She has partnered with M.A.C. to produce her own shade of lipgloss and has also live tweeted from the red carpet at the Oscars. She’s really taken her blogging to another level. She was so nice to me, super down-to-earth and really honest about her experiences during her panel (I missed it, but followed the tweets on the BWB conference hashtag).
3. I learned new things that will help move me forward as a blogger (and even some things I didn’t think I needed).
I thought I knew a little about SEO, but I learned a ton about it from Luvvie Ajayi’s SEO 101 panel. The panel on blogging and brands was probably the most helpful for the future, and I really liked the honesty of the panelists representing advertising and public relations firms (Big shout out to Jennifer Polk, VP at Edelman Digital, for our nice talk during the conference). Moral of the story for that branding panel: be genuine, honest, and ethical when dealing with public relations agencies and brands. I’ll probably never want to publish a book (just being honest), but I thought many of the issues discussed during that panel were important in understanding how to export your blog to another medium. I would have loved a TV panel that talked about more than television news because I think many bloggers can become more than guest talking heads (TV hosts maybe?).
4. The conference paid attention to important social justice issues. While many conferences focus on monetization, branding and content creation, I really did appreciate the fact that the conference emphasized the importance of blogging in moving forward social issues and alternative narratives. From addressing AIDS to community organizing, the conference tackled subjects that are affecting communities of color. I’m working on an online project that has nothing to do with travel or food, and this inspired me to move it forward because the conference reinforced to me the need for vital socially conscious and relevant information online.
5. I never knew what to expect from the engaging speakers and my fellow attendees.
From the hysterical presentation by Scott Hanselman and Luvvue Ajayi, which had me rolling on the floor to the Twitter haterade and in person interrogation of the founder of Media Takeout, Fred Mwangaguhunga, there were definitely parts of the conference that kept you on your toes and laughing in your seat.
While the conference was great, here are some things I would change:
1. It’s not cheap. Although the conference was valuable, it was not cheap ($250 before late registration). Most blog conferences aren’t though, so I can’t say that BWB was out there in terms of costs. They did include breakfast and lunch both days though. Speaking of food….
2. I’d love more healthy food options for breakfast and lunch. A crudite plate wouldn’t be so bad. Some fruit? Help a sister out.
3. I would have liked to know what speakers were going to discuss in the panels beforehand. While I didn’t need a full outline, sometimes knowing what was going to be discussed would have helped me make a decision about breakout sessions beforehand.
I have a feeling the conference will be farther away next year, and I hope that I’ll be able to attend again some time in the future. I was definitely re-inspired and felt energized about blogging in a way that I haven’t been in a long time. At the very least, the conference made me understand my little voice here is important, even if I don’t have the hits, Facebook likes and Twitter followers that others say I should to feel important and valued as a blogger.
A big thanks to my fellow conference attendees and to the conference organizers for a stimulating and fun weekend.