Brands, Bloggers and Brilliant People at BlogHer

kodak, blogher, blogging, mommy bloggers, brands Jenny from Kodak, one of those who just gets it.

Last week I spent four days in New York City to spend time with my extended online family, my blogger friends. BlogHer to me isn’t about sessions, and learning from the speakers – I have been in enough many conferences to learn that the face-to-face time and round table discussions with people are much more valuable (to me) than the information learned in the sessions. The sessions can be great, usually are, but I have been just very lucky to get to know some of the most brilliant women and men in the blogging and social media industry, and listening to them in a smaller setting to me is more valuable.

ShePosts, BlogHer, brands, bloggers Esther of ShePosts was covering the best events.

There is much to say about sponsorships, swag and people who love the swag, and even question that if blogging conferences really are about connecting, engaging and learning, why we need corporate brands involved (for starters; to make it affordable for us). I am thankful for all of the sponsors of BlogHer conference, and all of those companies who hosted events during the conference. The fun events and more intimate settings offered perfect opportunities to connect with fellow bloggers, and the sponsored booths and suites offered a great opportunity for brands to get to know who we bloggers really are. Most importantly, the sponsors made BlogHer possible and affordable for us. Our blogger community is very diverse; we have bloggers who despise the corporate involvement, and we have those who don’t care what they have to do to get the brands to notice them. I’m just trying to find a happy solution how we can all work together in peace, in a way that everyone benefits, and most importantly, you, my dear reader, benefit from it. The talk about companies who are “using” bloggers is sort of funny; there is not such thing really – dear blogger friend, all you have to say is “no” if you think you are asked to do things that you are not comfortable with. Really, nobody can rape your blog but yourself. What I think is even funnier are the bloggers who are going only for themselves, and what they can get out of this trendy brand-blogger relationship that we are all trying to figure out. I think what many bloggers forget about in this brand-blogger talk is YOU. You, who read our blogs, and how the relationships with brands can actually benefit you. Granted many bloggers posses the egos of size of 747s and their blogs mainly are about them, and how wonderful they are, and it’s understandable they also only think what they can get out of this. But most bloggers like to know that what they write actually means something to you, and matters to you. And it benefits you somehow – or inspires or entertains. This is when being “in the know” with the companies who make products we buy is sort of cool. You will get to hear about products that you need and want from bloggers you like, and the bloggers get your comments in our blogs directly to companies. Many bloggers actually care enough to get the feedback that we hear in our blogs and our Twitter streams back to the companies. And many companies actually care enough to listen what we all collectively have to say, and the brave ones even make changes to their products, the way they are packaged, and the way they are sold based on this feedback. Now this is the part why I think brand-blogger relationship is so amazing – we really have a collective voice and someone is listening, and we together can influence what kind of products are in the market, or how they are sold. I don’t see the brand-blogger relationship only as a way to market products to you in a way that makes sense to you (you wouldn’t be reading let’s say fashion blogs, if you didn’t want to know about the latest fashion clothing). I see it as part of the future how we all can influence not just how brands market their products but that they make products we want.

Today Show Today Show gets it. At the Plaza with Melissa and Monica

I salute those companies who have interest in hearing our opinions, and engaging with us and making a difference together with us. I thank those companies who sponsor events like BlogHer, Type-A-Mom Conference, EVO Conference and Bloggy Boot Camps. They are taking part and supporting what we do, and ultimately saying this is important. The relationship between you and I is important. I think it has a very deep reflection on our society right now, that the relationship between citizen journalists and their readers have become so important. Now – at the same time, there are sponsoring companies who go back to their headquarters to scratch their heads why did we get involved with this humongous group of women, and probably are as overwhelmed as the first time bloggers who attended BlogHer. They are asking for ROI, and trying to figure out if they got bang for their buck, and emailing now all of the bloggers they met what they should write about their products. These companies are like the bloggers who are going only for themselves, and I think whatever you do in social media, if your only goal is to make things better for yourself, you will fail. Social media is about community, about people, not about products, not about promotion and marketing. Most brands and bloggers I spoke with went back home from BlogHer energized, bag full of new ideas, and ready to change the world, together. I’m sure some of them got it from inspiring sessions, but I got my inspiration from connecting with brilliant people.

collective bias My favorite boss John Andrews of Collective Bias and I.

Full disclosure: My company Collective Bias paid my hotel during BlogHer and I was in the city for my job. No company sponsored my BlogHer attendance.
  1. Great post. I’m new to your blog.

    One small suggestion: The use of the word “rape” can be difficult because if you’ve actually been raped, it can be very upsetting to see it used in a casual way. Thankfully, I haven’t been, but I have a dear friend who was.

    Thanks for your blog, great stuff!


  2. Katja (and Candace) can you hear me clapping! Loved reading this. Again Katja, you cut through all the BS and get right to what matters most with heart, honesty and common sense.

    This was my first BlogHer, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t sign up for the big events because I wanted to connect more intimately with the online friends and brands I knew or wanted to know better. Some brands and bloggers surprised me by being more incredible in person that I had imagined and some really couldn’t be bothered with me. In both cases, I learned a lot.

    Katja you are so right, Bloggers need to say no to brands that don’t take them seriously! I’m looking to build my brand with real and lasting partnerships with like-minded companies and people. I’m not looking to clutter my site with a bunch of badges and widgets that don’t mean much or are not relevant to my content. Before I do anything I ask myself these questions:

    -Does this company jive with my brand philosophy?
    -Am I being compensated fairly for the scope of services required (and this doesn’t always mean financially)?
    -Will this add value for my readers?
    -Will I be able to fulfill the expectations of the company/pr company? I like to WOW them!

    …and Candace, you are so on the money: A rising tide DOES lifts all ships! Bloggers need to realize that together we’re so much stronger than when we compete against each other or behave divisively. Working with my “so called” competitors this year has enriched my life (they are people you have a lot in common with) and ended up being a GREAT business decision!

  3. “Social media is about community, about people’

    YES! And this is why I wanted to go to BlogHer so badly! The cards weren’t in it for me this year, but next for sure. I would be so great to finally meet you, Katja!
    I’m going to BlissDom Canada this Oct, and cannot wait to meet fellow bloggers, form relationships, and grow my own community.
    Great post!


  4. When I headed to BlogHer last year for the first time, I went with the desire to meet my online friends and that was it. Little did these people know, they were my only friends at the time. We had moved across the US to a place unfamiliar and with out family or friends. We moved in the summer of 08 and then that following December I gave birth to my youngest daughter. My friends during that time were pretty much all online or on the phone. I didn’t have any girlfriends to hang out with. I was CRAVING that girlfriend interaction and when I went to BlogHer 09, I made the most of it and connected irl with these wonderful online friends. Since then, I have made more awesome friends online and was just as excited this year to connect with those women as well. For me, that is the only reason I attend conferences is to connect irl. To hug, to laugh, to cry, to be in the moment… that is what I crave and desire and that’s what makes these events so special to me.

    Great post Katja… you are dead on!

  5. First of all BRAVO, love your write up!!!!

    This was my first year at BlogHer, very overwhelming, and I missed seeing you, but I agree the face to face time was more important for me. I have no doubt that the sessions were amazing but for me I feel the need to connect on a more personal level, both with companies and with other bloggers, as that holds a lot more to me.

  6. I agree. I started out intending to go to 1 swag party I was invited to. I ended up at a great Colgate event with you, and met some amazing people even though I was on the outskirts of the event. It has inspired me to participate more closely with the next Blog Conference!

  7. I’m just glad to see a picture of Esther. I wrote some articles for her, but never had a chance to meet her. As a matter of fact, I only saw you in passing too. Three days just isn’t enough to catch up and talk to everyone.

  8. @Daisy – hope to chat more with you too!

    @Stacey – I understand what you mean, and when there are 2,000 women involved, you will see the entire diversity in the blogosphere. I actually like smaller conferences better – they provide more intimate settings to meet with people who you have gotten to know online.

    @Candace – I will use the “rising tide lifts all ships” later for sure, it is so true. We can all make a difference together. I think it is important to raise your voice sometimes, and not just for yourself, but for the common good.

    @Shasta – thank you!

    @Jules – I love the “citizen commerce”, it is so right!

  9. Hi Katja, I always enjoy hearing your reasonable voice.

    The aspect of social media that I really enjoy is the way it levels the playing field. David can really influence Goliath these days. We started with citizen journalism but the work is not done. We do have to move that focus over to what I call “citizen commerce.” In the same way that regular people have penetrated the walls of media and gained a voice, we can now also use that voice to shape the world we live in.

    The quickest, surest way to do that is via good old economics. 65% of our economy resides in consumer products and services. I want to build a world where we use our voices and our purchases to express our values. Before video, blogs, and all the social technologies this was an impossible task. It is now within reach. Bloggers have a huge role. Companies like Quirky.com, etsy.com and my own, DailyGrommet.com do too. We can together determine what companies get support and there is no faster way to change the world. Government is slow. Non-profits do not have the power. But businesses do, but only via our support, and we can shape them with our voices.

    If you find this thinking interesting, the New York Times interviewed me on this topic, just last Sunday: http://tinyurl.com/22oejev

  10. I think it is a general rule in life that someone can only take advantage of you if you let them (barring actual coercive force, of course…).

    Another rule, which you exemplify, is that a rising tide lifts all ships.

    One of the issues with online content is that if a company is just looking to sell more, any keyword-stuffed content will do. Because it doesn’t cost to print more pages or mail more flyers, they’ll take quantity over quality.

    Of course, there are thankfully companies that care about their reputation and have positive missions and are looking for partners who will reflect will on them.

    Where “taking advantage of” can come in is when you have a relationship in which one partner is significantly less savvy in that space than another. So, a person might think they are being valued for their voice or their community when they are being “used” for their links. I think it is easy as a very new blogger to have your head turned when companies start knocking. And not all new bloggers, even if they are intelligent and educated, have the backgrounds in PR, marketing, advertising, journalism, or other media-related fields to know how to negotiate it.

    On the other hand, if you start putting social media “maven”, “guru”, or “consultant” on your card, you had better know your stuff, first!

    That’s one of the reasons I applaud people like you who will write posts like this–kind of a big sisterly advice for the newbies, which they can take or leave.

    I spoke with one company that asked me to fill out a sweepstakes card and then, after handing me the card and pen, revealed that I would need to put a widget on my site’s sidebar. When I said thank you but no thank you, she was in shock. “What do you mean?” she asked. I told her that I have a business partner and that those spots are for paid advertisements on my lifestyle blog and that I don’t put any advertisements on some of my other sites. I told her I have a responsibility to my advertisers to keep the space clean and neat. She said, and I quote, “Most mom blogs–they are so cluttered–they will put anything on their sidebar.”

    So, I hope that bloggers hear what you are saying and understand that they have the right and responsibility to make their own decisions. I also hope they hear that they need to value their relationships with each other and with their readers.

  11. I look forward to attending BlogHer next year. Honestly, I was reluctant and procrastinated purchasing a ticket, then it was sold out. My reason for procrastinating was I was afraid that it would be a crazy scene of women grabbing swag from corporate sponsors and talking about how wonderful their blogs were and how important they are (I actually had one of those conversations with a blogger and let me tell you, I needed a nap afterwards…OMG!). It’s wonderful to hear that there are smart, humble women who have come together to learn and then go back out into the world to communicate useful and relevant information to their readers. Thank you for a wonderfully written blog post that was both on point but positive!

  12. Thank you so much for writing this Katja.

    This was my first time in attendance at BlogHer and the most valuable part of the entire weekend was meeting folks that I converse with daily online and making connections with companies that will benefit the visitors and readers of my blogs/sites.

    It never ceases to amaze me the folks that will find something negative to speak about instead of finding the positive. Where there is negative there inevitably is positive. Thanks again and hope to be able to sit and chat with you one day soon:)

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