I’m back to give y’all some more insider info on this year’s Blogging While Brown Conference – if you missed part one, click here to get caught up!
Friday night, we took in the evening panel – “Love is a Battlefield” featuring Michelle Talbert (of Black Love Rules), Damon Young (of Very Smart Brothers) and Kaneisha Grayson (author of Be Your Own Boyfriend). I missed a bit of the beginning due to a very interesting conversation I had, all by accident (more on that later) – but I got in just in time to catch the jokes and knowledge from the panelists. Relationship blogging is always interesting, especially when you’re IN a relationship. I got some interesting perspectives on maintaining privacy while still being true to yourself and your audience.
After the panel, we stuck around for the Mix and Mingle networking event sponsored by Curls Unleashed. I’ll give the full rundown on all the social aspects of the conference in my next post, so let me get right into Saturday’s conference schedule…
We kicked things off with what turned out the be the most hilarious and entertaining session of the weekend – the opening keynote “Your Personal Brand: It Actually IS All About You!” led by Adria Richards (of But You’re A Girl), Luvvie Ajayi (of Awesomely Luvvie), and Scott Hanselman (of Scott Hanselman's Computer Zen & Microsoft). Personal branding is crucial to a blogger’s success, as it fully establishes how people feel about you when they see your face or hear your name. Luvvie covered the voice aspect of your brand. How do you say what you say? Adria covered the medium aspect. How do you best get your voice across? On a blog? Youtube? Twitter? Facebook? A mix of all of those and more? Scott covered the reach component. When you’ve established your voice and found your medium, how well is your message getting to the people who need to/should get it? Overall, the same point was emphasized that I heard in the Blog To Big Business panel – content is king. If you have great content that resonates with your audience, you will find that you have a strong, unique voice that stretches across your chosen medium to effortlessly reach your target.
It reminded me of the quote “if you build it, they will come” – as a new blogger, I’ve been very cognizant of hits and subscribers and comments, and used those analytics to base my growth and success. The personal branding panel opened my eyes to the fact that yes, numbers are important. However, what’s more important is to have content that is authentic, creative, well-crafted, and from a place of passion, and that’s what I aim for in every post on ’83 To Infinity. Scott summed it up with another great quote regarding relying on content to create blog longevity: “It’s one thing to watch the first episode of a show. It’s another to watch the last.”
After the keynote panel, we had the opportunity to attend break-out sessions. We chose from one of 2 or 3 sessions happening based on our personal interests, and the smaller groups helped us to be a bit more interactive with the speakers and each other.
My first break-out session was “Blogging Without Bounds: Taking Blogging Offline Into Local Communities” led by Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks from Black Girls Run. These ladies have done an amazing job of taking their online presence offline by the creation of events, meet-ups, and BGR chapters across America. They gave me great advice on my struggle with taking ’83 To Infinity offline – do I wait until I have a certain number of readers, or do I go ahead and put on an event, and hopefully gain new readers? I won’t give away the answer, but just know that it definitely helped to steer me in the right direction as far as creating some kind of external community as well as the blog community.
The whole group came back together for the lunch panel on “Social Media & Technology: What’s Next?” tabled by Anslem Samuel Rocque (of Naked With Socks On, and most recently – like as of the day of the panel – new Managing Editor for Jet Magazine), Marlin Page (CEO of Knowledge Brokers and Microsoft Diversity Recruiter), and Tony Williams (Director of Government Affairs at Comcast). We learned about different apps to help bloggers manage their social media platforms, national programs to promote technology education for youth, and a number of other interesting technological tidbits.
"Next Level Sister Bloggers" was the next break-out session I attended. Paneled by Patrice Grell Yursik (of Afrobella - who I met last year), Kathryn Finney (of The Budget Fashionista), Maria Niles (Client Services Director of BlogHer), and Elisa Camahort (Co-founder of BlogHer), this session covered each woman's journey and experiences in the blogging world. Patrice's story resonated with me, especially when she spoke about the negativity she endured from her 9-5 while she chased her blogging dreams. It can be a struggle, but success is possible!
The keynote panel, "Netroots, Blackroots, Grassroots: Social Media & Social Change Five Years Later" was tabled by a 'Who's Who' of local and national activists: Tamika D. Mallory (Nat'l Exec. Director of National Action Network), Naomi Leapheart (Philadelphia activist and teacher), Prof. Terry Smith (Research Professor at DePaul College of Law), and Kimberly Ellis, Ph.D. (aka Dr. Goddess). This panel looked at the role social media can play in social change, and how to move from behind the computer screen to take activist blogging to the next level. It was such an interesting perspective for me - coming from Canada, I was immediately aware of the differences of political awareness and activism between us and our neighbours to the south. Eye-opening to say the least.
At the end of Day 2, my notebook was FULL. I had scribbled so many quotes, notes, tips, and teachings that I didn't know what I was going to do with all that info. What I did know was that my understanding and knowledge of blogging was infinitely deeper than when I left Toronto days before. Closing remarks by Gina McCauley, Founder of Blogging While Brown and Amina Hanan, Exec. Director of Blogging While Brown were met with rousing applause from veteran conference-goers and newbies alike. When I heard more than one BWB vet say that THIS was the best conference ever, I was so happy that I chose to come this year. If you're involved in any way with blogging, branding, or social media, keep in touch with the Blogging While Brown gang so that you can be ready for 2013!
So - that recaps the amazing lineup of panels and speakers that taught me SO many blogging lessons! I'm not done yet though! A very important part of the weekend (and the part that made me the most nervous) was the social aspect. In my next post, I'll give you the lowdown on the part of the conference you couldn't experience unless you were there - and drive the point home about the importance of face-to-face connections (especially for us shy folks!) - stay tuned!