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.
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.
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.