Why Newbie Bloggers Should Attend Blog Conferences

Please welcome Tamara as our fabulous PR Mondays guest poster today! She has some wonderful insight on conferences for you. This summer I am planning to be at the following conferences: EVO, Savvy Blogging Summit and BlogHer. I wrote a beginners guide to BlogHer last year.Let me know if you are going to any of those and please leave some wonderful comments below with your own advice to newbies or questions/thanks to Tamara!

Tamara is the voice behind The (Un)Experienced Mom and Blog Conference Newbie. In addition, she is the co-creator of Our Mommyhoodwhere motherhood meets bloghood! If she’s not online chatting or connecting others, she’s probably working out, sleeping, or changing a poopy diaper.

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Why Newbie Bloggers Should Attend Blog Conferences

When people first get into blogging, it usually starts off as a casual hobby. Some people post when they can while others start off posting daily. But no matter how often you write, the realization that blogging is a bit addicting and can require a lot of time eventually hits us all.

In the short time I’ve been blogging, I’ve learned a lot about the craft. There are blogs for every hobby, topic, or stage in life. There are personal and professional bloggers. There are even blog conferences. I was actually very surprised to learn just how many blog conferences there were. Before I created Blog Conference Newbie, I figured there were a handful of conferences at most. But I have since realized that in addition to the bigger conferences such as BlogHer and Blissdom, there are newer conferences emerging each year, many of which are specific to a blogging niche.

What I’ve also realized since networking with newer bloggers is that many assume that these blog conferences are only for experienced bloggers or ones who are making money from blogging. My own experience and those that other bloggers have shared with me proves this point: blog conferences are beneficial for newer bloggers.

Still unsure if you should spend the time and money to attend one? Let me explain why I believe you should.

  • Connections: Blogging is not just about writing; it’s also about connections. So many of us enjoy reading others’ blogs and get excited when others comment on ours. While it’s easy to make connections with bloggers online, you’d be amazed at just how much stronger those connections become when you meet those people face-to-face at a conference. Even if none of your online blog friends are attending, I can assure you that you will still walk away with those real-life connections. At Blissdom this year, I roomed with someone I had never met before. I felt comfortable enough to be her roommate without having met her and am so glad I did. Not only are we great friends now, but the two of us met three other gals that we are now close with as well. When a large group of blogging women are put together under one roof, you’re guaranteed a good time and new friendships.
  • Knowledge: Of course, one of the main reasons to attend a conference is to learn, and blogging conferences are no different. The couple of days you’ll spend at the conference will be jam-packed with useful tidbits, helpful hints, and downright important information. Many conferences educate bloggers on topics such as finding your passion, utilizing social networking platforms, monetizing, increasing readership and traffic, and how to write creatively. Don’t want to earn money off your blog? Only blogging for fun? You can still learn a lot from a conference. For instance, the Casual Blogger Conference is geared towards those who blog as a hobby. In addition, many of the conferences offer various tracks, focusing on the topics you find helpful; you can pick and choose which sessions are a fit. Writing, business, photography, and creating communities are common tracks. There is something for everyone at these conferences.
  • Confidence: Attending Blissdom this year renewed my confidence. My confidence in my writing, my purpose for blogging, and my passions in general. The mix of having a weekend away to focus on myself and spending time with those who understood my hobby are what impacted me the most. I think most new bloggers feel very anxious leading up to the conference they are attending and start to question why they are even going. But once there, they realize that this was actually one of the best decisions they made. There really aren’t words to describe the blog conference experience other than fulfilling, fun, and fabulously rewarding.

There are obviously other reasons to attend a blog conference and I honestly could write another couple of pages worth. However, the purpose of this post was to provide you with some food for thought and encourage you to at least consider attending a blog conference this year even if you are a newer blogger.

The next obvious thought after deciding to attend a conference is “How do I pay for it?” followed closely by “How should I prep for the conference?” I invite you to head over to Blog Conference Newbie to read tips on these topics, as well as how to save money on your blog conference trip and what to expect while you are there. In addition, the site offers a list of blog conferences, need-to-know dates, and interviews with conference coordinators themselves. Blog Conference Newbie is your go-to-guide for all things blog conferences, whether you are a new attendee or not!

And please don’t hesitate to reach out to me on Twitter also. I enjoy helping newer bloggers with general insights or blog conference-related topics. You can connect with me on Twitter (@unxperiencedmom) or by adding the #ConferenceNewbie hashtag to your tweet.

PR Mondays: Good Advice Part 1

I reached out to some amazing bloggers that I am happy to have as friends on your behalf. I asked them, “What is the one thing you wish someone had told you when you started working with PR?” and boy did they deliver! From post worthy comments to some of the best one lines of advice, here is what those who have “made it” have to tell you as you start this journey:

Brands need you!… you don’t need brands!

Don’t be afraid to ask for a giveaway when you are doing a review. Keep it simple “My policy is only to do a review if I do an associated giveaway. Would you be able to provide one for a giveaway?”

Remember-your time is worthwhile-you should only do things that give value to you and your blog.

Its ok to not like a product- brands that do social media right, appreciate your honesty and try to use your feedback on improving their product… and if they don’t have that outlook with their reviewers, eh- Who needs them?

Your readers come back to your site because of the content you write about, if its not relative- its ok to say no. There will be plenty, and I mean PLENTY of relative pitches coming your way. Don’t get side tracked

Do not agree to review a product and then drop the ball. When you do, it not only makes you look bad- it makes the entire blogging community look like sample-whores.. which we are not.

More advice coming next week. What do you think? Agree with the above? Have some advice of your own? Speak out in the comments!

How To Host a Blog Giveaway

I know I promised you great advice from my blogging buds this month but I am going to break from that schedule due to some computer issues I have been having this past week.

Last week, my real life friend, Lori, held her first blog giveaway. She had lots of questions and I think that makes a great topic for PR Mondays.

Giveaways, hmmmm, lots to say. First off, I almost always charge to run a giveaway these days. Do a few and realize how much time they take and you will too. BUT, when you are first starting out your blog (or you are having a particularly slow month) running a giveaway at no charge can be a real benefit to you and your loyal readers.

There are two (at least) schools of thought on giveaways: keep them on the DL so that your loyal readers benefit only or go all out and use them to help promote your blog. I understand the point of few of both camps and have been in one or the other at various times but I am going to talk today about running a giveaway as a way to promo your blog.

So, if you are growing your blog and currently do reviews for free, you may want to consider running  a few well placed giveaway. If you are doing a review for something cool, just ask the PR rep to provide one as a giveaway. It is rare they say no.

I usually run a giveaway by first talking about the product (review) and then let my readers know I have one to giveaway. I ask readers to leave a comment for their initial entry. The comment question usually has something to do with the product (how you would use it, why you want it, visit the brands site and tell me what you learned are all ideas for the initial comment). Next, I offer ‘additional’ entries and here is the part where I get to use the giveaway to build my blog. It gives entrants extra chances to win. Common extra entry chances are:

  • subscribe to my feed
  • follow me on twitter
  • tweet about the giveaway with my link
  • add my link to giveaway linkys

I used to ask people to facebook, stumble or digg the post but that is against their terms of service and can get you and your site banned now. Anne-Marie wrote a great article on the Facebook changes.  Each extra entry needs to be in a separate comment to count. Looking at how this benefits me, the readers are promoting my blog, upping my feed and comment counts. All of these things allow me to better pitch my blog for future pr opps.

Before you post make sure you add the word “giveaway” in your title and tag it as well. Once my giveaway is running, I promote it on twitter and by adding my link to all the various giveaway linkys out there. I have a linky post that you are welcome to use any time. There is also an amazing list on MommySnacks site. People looking to enter giveaways check these lists often. Great, free link promo for you! Yee haw!

I usually let giveaways run for 1 week. I choose an end time that works for me and usually announce the winner within that week. In order to pick a winner I go to random.org and use the random number generator on the right side. If you have 100 comments you would put 1 in the top field and 100 in the bottom. Click ‘generate’. That is the comment number that wins. This is where having a theme or plugin that numbers your comments rock. I don’t have this so I have to do it the old fashioned way, count. I always screen shot the generated number page so that I have proof in case someone claims foul play (yes, people can get really emotional about some giveaways so protect yourself).

Announce your winner (if you want) or just contact them. State in your rules that they have a certain time to claim. I give 72 hours. Get their mailing address and pass on to the PR rep. Oh, did I forget to say that I ask all my pr reps to fulfill the mailing??? Postage can get really expensive. Leave this cost to them whenever possible. They don’t usually care because they would have to mail it to you anyway so most are more than happy to just mail to the winner.The others, I just don’t work with.

Post rules. Here are my generic ones:

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY

Promotion is open to U.S. residents 18 years of age or older as of  (date of giveaway) except employees and their immediate families of Chaotic Communications, LLC (my company) .

Void where prohibited. All federal, state and local laws apply. All taxes are the sole responsibility of winners.

Sponsor is not responsible  for any technical problems, malfunctions of any telephone lines, computer systems, servers, providers, hardware/software, lost or unavailable network connections or failed, incomplete, garbled or delayed computer transmission or any combination thereof. If, in the Judging Agency’s opinion, there is any suspected or actual evidence of tampering with any portion of the sweepstakes, or if technical difficulties compromise the integrity of the sweepstakes, the Judging Agency reserve the right to modify the sweepstakes in a manner deemed appropriate by the Judging Agency, in its sole discretion. By participating in this promotion, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules and the decisions of the Judging Agency.

JUDGING: Chaotic Communications, LLC (”Judging Agency”) will choose a winner based on a random drawing of all qualifying comments.   Agency reserves the right to disqualify any entry that, in the sole opinion of the judges, refers, depicts or in any way reflects negatively upon the sponsor, the promotion or any other person or entity.

SPONSOR: (name sponsor)

What advice do you have for a new blogger hosting their first giveaway?