Akram's Ideas

Go Blog Social 2014 – Recap

This weekend as you probably already heard I attended the Go Blog Social 2014 event, and now for my full recap.

Upon arriving at the event it was nice to see some familiar faces from last year’s #GBS2013 event and was pleasantly surprised to see that the event had practically doubled in attendance from last year as well.

The two-day agenda was packed full of phenomenal speakers. How the Go Blog Social 2014 planning committee managed and organize each sessions truly took time and dedication.

Berg Event Center
Berg Event Center

As for the speakers and sessions themselves they had so many take a ways I don’t even know where to begin. I guess the best thing is to start at the beginning.

The first speaker of day one was Jessica Merchant from How Sweet It Is. She is one of my favorite food bloggers and I even got to take a quick snap shot with her after her talk!

Here I am with How Sweet It Is, herself, Miss Jessica Merchant
Here I am with How Sweet It Is, herself, Miss Jessica Merchant

 The just of Jessica’s talk can be summed up like this:

  • Be passionate – do what you love
  • Be consistent – keep at it, don’t keep reinventing yourself
  • Be patient – it takes time to grow a following
  • Be visually appealing – in the design of your content

It might sound obvious, but one of the reasons that people choose to follow bloggers in the first place is for their unique perspective on topics as well as their real life personalities. 

I did have to laugh though when Jessica mentioned her photography and how it has been a learning process and that she still isn’t happy with her photos on her blog. This to me was ridiculous! One of the things I love about How Sweet It Is, is the photography; it’s amazing. 

Although blogging is usually something we do because we are passionate about a topic, like Jessica said; it would however be nice to make a little cash while we do it. Which leads us into the second speaker of the day, Sarah Beeskow Blay from Share A Sale.

Share A Sale is an Affiliate Marketing Agency, which helps connect bloggers with certain brands. The first thing to keep in mind is that Affiliate programs are different from ad programs. While ad programs require you post an ad on your site, affiliate programs can be as simple as sharing a link to a brand from within a related blog post.

Share A Sale was giving out this cute little dog
Share A Sale was giving out this cute little dog

Sarah, Share A Sale gave a few tips about working with affiliates:

  • Focus on writing about things you love and use, then link to affiliate 
  • Find the right merchant that fits your blog
  • You don’t have to have hundred of followers
    • “Strive to be a success, but rather to be a value
  • Be up front, about using affiliate links

I’ve never been one to post ads on my blog, so working with affiliate programs like Share A Sale, seemed like a good fit for me.

Farm to Market complimentary chocolate croissant were delicious!
Farm to Market complimentary breakfast. The chocolate croissant were delicious!

Next on the agenda was Kelly Snyder of Kansas City Mamas who discussed how to create an effective media kit.

 I knew that media kits for your blog are important but never really knew where to start in the developing one. First off Kelly, pointed out that your media kit is essentially a resume for your blog.

Kelly also provided an essential list of what items to include in your media kit:

  • Elevator pitch
  • Reader demographics
  • Site & social media stats (use Google Analytics)
  • Basic advertising 
  • Information about you

 When starting to build your media kit, it is important to conduct a reader survey. This will help you identify who your readers are and why they enjoy your blog. It is also important to conduct these reader surveys every 6-month to 1 year and to update your media kit at the same time, this insures that you are presenting the latest information.

Amanda Marie Lackey gave a great presentation on photography. The main focus of the presentation was on smart phone photography, which I really enjoyed. Not all of us have a SLR or DSLR camera and quite frankly even if I did I’d probably still be shooting with my iPhone anyways.

Amanda began by citing some great apps for editing your photos on the iPhone, including After Light; which I immediately purchased for 99¢ and downloaded to my phone. This nifty app allows you to adjust the lighting in your photos after you’ve taken them with the phone’s camera app. It really does wonders on the lighting, by letting you adjust brightness, contrast and exposure along with many other settings.

I quickly downloaded Afterlight app and started using it.
I quickly downloaded Afterlight app and started using it.

Amanda also made note of what she calls the Three C’s

  • Three C’s
    • Consistency  (be consistent in your photography style)
    • Comparison (don’t compare yourself to others)
    • Complementary (photograph items that complement each other)

Following Amanda’s presentation was Nicole Regan from Cedar and Rush. Nicole’s presentation was all about networking. I must confess I’m not very good at this, though my husband would say otherwise.

Nicole gave a lot of good advice but I think she best summed it up with her top 10 list:

  1. Be nice
  2. Don’t be creepy
  3. My fellow bloggers (what can you do for them)
  4. Show up
  5. Ask questions
  6. Promote others
  7. Don’t judge a book by its cover
  8. Everyone judges a books cover (so stand out)
  9. Ask for 10 minutes of someone time
  10. People like to talk about themselves, and let them. They will like you
Here's a candied shot of day one's speakers, minus Jessica and Jessie
Here’s a candied shot of day one’s speakers, minus Jessica and Jessie

Building a Brand was the topic of the Kit Graham from The Kitchen. Kit gave a variety of good tips starting of course with choose a unique name, lucky for me Akram is a pretty unique name already.

Once you have a name you should focus on your identity, starting with the logo and then overall style of the site/brand. Remember don’t be afraid to outsource, if you’re not a designer.

Like other speakers Kit, mentioned how important it is to have a media kit, post a good about me page and to follow-up with everyone you meet (network).

Kit also went more in-depth about making blogging a business by suggesting one register to become a LLC and in some cases even collect funds to help sell your brand. In Kit’s case she used Kickstarter to help fund her cookbook The Gourmet Grilled Cheese Cookbook, which she uses as a tool to market her blog. 

Day one ended with Jessie Artigue from Style and Pepper, her topic was about Thinking beyond the blog.

Jessie, started off by saying that we blog because it is part of human nature to tell stories, and storytelling is an ancient art.

Going along with the theme of the day Jessie, encouraged bloggers to be unique and “make an impact”. Whether it’s just sharing your life events or posting a sponsored product, don’t just write, tell a story.

GBS 2014 eventing networking
GBS 2014 eventing networking

Moving on to day two of Go Blog Social 2014, the first speaker of the day was Lauren Felix of La Petite Fashionista, who I actually sat next to on day one. Lauren’s presentation was about branding yourself online, and she had lots of good advice on how to really create a brand that is you.

The first step, as Lauren explained is to define your brand by asking others to describe you. Once you have complied a list of how others would describe your brand you should focus on the brand personality. 

Lauren also pointed out that your brand personality might change over time, as your readers change, as you evolve as a blogger and in life events can also contribute to a change in personality. However, while the personality (style) of the blog might evolve over time, the overall voice, theme and message of the site should remain consistent.

The Skinny Girl bars provided during the break were very tasty
The Skinny Girl bars provided duringthe break were very tasty

Following Lauren’s presentation was Crystal Wiebe who is the social media manager for Staples. Crystal’s focus was blogging for a brand, in other words, corporate blogging. This was an interesting take on things, since other presentations were geared on finding your own voice to speak in, corporate blogging is all about using the voice of the brand itself. 

Crystal spoke briefly about the different types of bloggers
Crystal spoke briefly about the different types of bloggers

How does one become a corporate blogger? Well, according to Crystal all you have to do is ask. Only 75% of business have a blog and 85% of those business have 5 post or less on the blog, keeping this in mind one could easily contact an upcoming business or even speak with their boss at their current place of employment and suggest being the companies on staff blogger.

Of course having a background in blogging/social media is helpful. If you have a blog yourself this can give the employer a feel for what you could offer as a blogger for the company.

Corporate blogging does has its challenges as Crystal points out, these include:

  • Write in the voice of the brand
  • Work with non writers
  • Generate quality content
  • Demonstrating value leadership
I won the laptop case giveaway from Staples during the event
I won the laptop case giveaway from Staples during the event

It was just before lunch that the battery in my iPad decided to give out and I was not able to take notes for the rest of the speakers. However, I can share what I remember from memory.

Dan Morris from Blogging Concentrated discussed ways to market your blog. The best tip from him was to lead your audience into what’s coming next, this way you’ve enticed them to come back later.

After lunch was Creating Original Content presented by Matt and Emily Walters. The presentation went over many legal issues and why it is best to only use your own content for your blog, primarily in the way of image. Following a few simple guidelines will keep you out of trouble when it comes to copyrights.

Next up was Erin Souder from the House of Earnest who discussed DIY Blogging. She gave a handful of great tips on why you should be blogging about diy projects. She also provided some easy diy tips when it comes to photographing your projects. 

During day two I sat next to the lovely ladies from Colors Macaroons
During day two I sat next to the lovely ladies from Colors Macaroons

For example a lot of the photos on House of Earnest were taken on a small table in Erin’s kitchen, with a marble slab placed on it and against a white wall. She also often uses scrapbook paper taped to the wall to create texture and give the illusion of wall paper. Because of the angle of the photo, you only see what she wants you to see, and nothing else creating a simplified and elegant photo.

Finally we come to end of the event where of keynote Kaelin Zawilinski from Better Homes and Gardens (BHG), spoke about working with brands. She provided great examples of how BHG employees bloggers for use of content and even as a source for generating ideas. She also encouraged everyone if they have an idea, not to be afraid to approach a brand with the idea. It may take some time, but your idea might be considered or at the very least it will open dialog between you and the brand.  

A shot of the decor at #GBS2014
A shot of the decor at #GBS2014

By the end of day two I was exhausted and ready to go home. I had a great time at the event and got to hang out with gals I meet last year and met a lot of other amazing bloggers, here’s a quick shout out to:

I also would love to thank the lovely ladies who made this event possible. As always you’ve done a wonderful job, can’t wait to book next year’s ticket! 

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Akram Taghavi-Burris

designer, writer, educator, tech nerd, crafter, baker, sewer and vintage collector, who Brings Creative & Crazy Ides to Life.

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