Last week I attended my first blogging convention, BlogHerPRO. It was a mini-convention, lasting only one day — something that made me more willing to try it. That, and its location in San Francisco enticed me — for a “local” such as myself, it was only an hour away. Although I was intimidated to enter the room, I found the experience invigorating, even transformative. Let me tell you why.
Blogging as a hobby
I started my blog in 2010 as a way to practice my writing. Also because I was fascinated by blogging technology and the fact that anyone could become a publisher just by putting stuff out there on the Internet. I figured blogging would be fun. Plus, it would be another outlet for me to “share” my opinions, in addition to offering them alongside grilled chicken at the dinner table.
Now, after two and a half years of blogging, I still tend to consider it one of my hobbies. My self-talk goes: “I’m a mom, an almost-empty-nester, a tennis player, sometimes a writer. Oh, and I have this blog. Check it out, it’s kind of cool.”
But last week, I began to think of myself as a Blogger. The BlogHerPRO speakers included women who’ve built exemplary blogs and offered practical tips from their own experience. I absorbed an information-packed day with presentations by folks like Maria Ross of Red Slice, Catherine McCord of Weelicious, Carly Knobloch of Digitwirl and Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes.
For me, however, the highest value in attending BlogHerPRO came from conversations with other attendees. Although I felt intimidated going into the day, it was probably the most welcoming large-group event I’ve encountered. I’m bad at estimating crowd sizes, but I would guess over 200 women attended. Two hundred more bloggers, all of them female, than I’d ever seen in one place before.
I received tips, inspiration, and suggestions from almost every blogger I met. I can’t list everyone I talked with here, although some who stick in my mind are Jennifer Kennedy of The Video Mojo (a panelist on video blogging), Alison Friedman of The Wedding Yentas (a guide for Jewish brides), Monique Soltani of Wine Oh.tv (video on the world of wine), Anne-Marie Kovacs and Audrey Van Petegem of Boombox Network (social media marketing agency specializing in baby boomers), and Mary Hall, better known as Recessionista.
So what’s going to be different?
For a couple of days afterwards, I felt depressed about my blogging life. I was particularly convicted by Maria Ross’ presentation on “Next Level Personal Branding.” Truth be told, her questions were not new to me: I had studied marketing while getting my MBA, even worked one summer at Procter & Gamble. I had already known I should focus my blog, develop my “brand,” and offer value to my readers. But, however embarrassing it might be to admit, I didn’t want to apply marketing expertise to my blog. I wanted to post about random things I felt like writing about.
Blogging about your varied interests or activities — in other words, about your life — is fine, but don’t fool yourself: it’s mostly a way to let friends and family know what you’re up to. A personal blog like mine may amplify your posts on Facebook, or let you provide more intellectual depth than you can in 140 characters on Twitter. But, without defining your “brand,” without delivering value to readers, you compromise your blog’s relevance beyond a small group of readers. You probably waste your time writing posts that few people will see.
BlogHerPRO made me confront this uncomfortable truth about my blog and how I’m spending my time. Thus attending the conference provided me not only a much-needed stick to think about my own “value proposition,” as we called it at business school. It also injected me with the carrot of energy and enthusiasm to do the hard work this will take. I was inspired by women who’re passionate about their blogs, and who’ve excelled by following their passions.
Now, after BlogHerPRO, I think of my blog in a new way. It’s not just a hobby — it’s something I do, it’s important to who I am. I’ll be making some changes in 2013, so stay tuned.
In the meantime, watch out for women who blog. There are lots of us, and we mean business — in more ways than one.
Image credits: kangotraveler on Flickr, jmoneyyyyyyy on Flickr