I've been blogging for over three years now and have attended my fair share of blogging events in that time.
I've been to events where you've stood around for hours looking for people to talk to. Then there are those that are highly structured, where you know what's happening every single minute of the hour.
And finally, there are those that seem to promise you the world – and offer nothing of any real value. In fact, you're sure you could have done a better job of it yourself.
From Blogosphere to BlogCampOnBoard and everything in between, you name it, I've done most of them. However, there's one thing that strikes me about most blogging events that could be made SO much better.
The people that they showcase.
Yes, that's right…I said it. I'm going to go off on a big rant here as it's something that so many event organisers get wrong time and time again. They'll get fixated on showcasing the big influencers (typically fashion or beauty influencers) with plenty of social media experience but not much life experience/common sense.
I can assure you that I'm not ageist. I totally get why most 20-somethings are much better placed to be able to give people like me the lowdown on what algorithms Instagram has decided to go with that week.
They'll also know which hashtags to use to pull in 100 followers a day, the people to get in with and how to ‘work it' as an influencer in general. They are at the top of their game – either through luck, sheer hard work or knowing the right people. And I applaud them for that.
BUT – and it's a big ‘BUT', what they find very difficult to do is relate to other bloggers, particularly those that have socks in their drawers older than they are. People like me.
When questions are fired at them at blog events, their answers are ALWAYS vague. Some of what they say doesn't even make sense at all. These social media stars and famous bloggers live in their little bubble of fame – and because of that they've forgotten what it's like in the real world where the struggle is real.
Back to blogging basics
I'll give you a very good example. I attended the Blogosphere Christmas Festival last year. It was my second time at the event and I was hoping to pick up some golden nuggets of advice.
The venue was spot on. It was the five-star Landmark Hotel, which offered plenty of opportunities for ‘Instagram(able) pictures' and the expert panel talks looked exciting on paper – exciting enough for me to pay for a ticket to get some fab insight.
However, the venue was the only highlight of the event for me. Other than learning that the Instagram algorithm knows if you’re posting via an iPhone or a third party app, I didn’t glean any new information from attending.
During the interval I got chatting with another blogger, Emma. She was new to the blogging world and gushed about what a wonderful day it had been so far and how she had found it “really interesting”. As I'm not one to piss on someone else's parade, I kept schtum, glad that at least others were benefitting from the event.
But it dawned on me that the panel discussions were targeted to inspire new bloggers rather than inform and educate those who had been blogging for a number of years – people like me.
The other thing that irked me about one of the panel chats – which happened to be a ‘travel panel' – was the lack of knowledge of travel blogging and the travel industry in general. I should know, I've been a travel editor of a national magazine for the last 9 years of my life.
Instead of real travel bloggers with years of experience behind them, they get beauty and fashion bloggers who ‘happen to travel to lovely locations' on the panel – and then have the cheek to call it a ‘travel panel'. These girls clearly knew nothing about dealing with tourist boards, what ‘AITO approved' means or what to do when you get stuck somewhere because of a natural disaster.
There was one guy on the panel who appeared to have his head screwed on – and he did have experience in the industry of sorts. His advice was to ‘bypass the PRs and go straight to the client to ask for press trips'. Let me tell you people, this is terrible advice.
PRs work damn hard to build a solid relationship with their clients – if you go over their heads, not only will you forgo building any level of trust with them for future projects, but it might backfire on you. And when I first started off in the travel industry – I got a few fingers burned and learned this very quickly.
Real value blog events
What would have been a much better ‘expert panel' would to have got people with a range of experiences, a range of subject knowledge AND a range of ages represented. And this is where MOST blogging events I've attended) go wrong.
They pick the same people who have had similar experiences and very little life experience.
We often see young bloggers offering advice, which is great of course for newbies, but when you're an experienced blogger seeking answers to fundamental questions, they just don't deliver.
Here's a real example: one of the audience members was asking the panel for their suggestions on how to make money while blogging (aside from the usual collaborations with brands).
And back came the reply (and this will make you laugh) “Oh yeah, that's a good question. So what you should do is just launch some merch. I did that last year and now I'm loaded ha ha ha.”
Okay, she didn't quite say that last part of the sentence, but she certainly implied that you'd be much wealthier if you just ‘launched some merch'.
Now, I'm really not trying to be funny when I say this, but putting my mug shot on a bag, a tee or a hat would send most 20-somethings running for the hills. I can almost hear them saying it right now ”Who's this old fart and WHY would I want her face on my chest?! I mean, GET REAL!”
I rest my case.
But because this young vlogger had made a substantial amount of money from “launching some merch”, she assumed that it would work for everyone else too. I can forgive her naivety because of her age, but it doesn't take a genius to work out that this would be a huge waste of money for most bloggers.
There were so many other suggestions she could have made :
- Affiliate marketing
- Write a mini ebook – use this as an opt in for your newsletter and then lead people on to download your full ebook for a fee
- Develop and sell an e-course
- Niche down your subject matter and collaborate with smaller online companies to attract the bigger fish
Just four *REALISTIC* examples for the average blogger to consider researching a little more.
We are the people that don't have thousands of subscribers or fans. We need practical ‘take-away' advice that we can start implementing straight away, whether we're blogging about food, books, interiors, relationships…whatever.
What blog events should offer
I mean, let’s get real here. Most of us have to blog about things in return for nothing or very little, especially when we first start out. We need to think about things like attracting other brands to work with us, adding credibility to our media packs or just to get some experience.
The so-called ‘expert panelists' seem to forget this once they become social media stars, so it would be refreshing to have a 40-something mum of three sit on a blogging panel and say: “You know what, I experienced that too the other week and the way I dealt with it was…..”
What these panels need is a ‘Zena'.
Let me explain.
When I first started blogging, I found a handful of bloggers that I reached out to – to ask for advice. Three of them never responded, one responded to try and get me to buy her blogging course and one, the lovely Zena from Zena's Suitcase wrote me this HUGE email response, suggesting what I could do, what to read up on and what I could try to get more eyes on the blog.
I'm forever indebted to Zena and I'll always remember her generosity in taking time out of her busy life to help out a stranger. She must have spent a good 20 minutes writing up that email for me – and now, whenever someone writes to me asking for advice, I remember Zena's email and put as much effort into my responses as she did for me. Remember that film ‘Pay It Forward'? That's what I'm talking about people.
So, a final message to all those event facilitators hosting blogging events this year: you'd do yourself a huge favour by offering diversity amongst your guest speakers and panelists. And I'm not just talking about their age or life experiences, but also their subject knowledge and ability to offer real practical advice on what the average blogger can do to earn more money/get more followers and ultimately become more successful.
You all need a Zena. And I know for a fact that she'd never in a million years suggest that you should “just launch some merch.”
Who's with me on this?
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