Disclosure: I presented Legal Advice for Bloggers at IDEA World BlogFest 2015 and am a member in good standing of IDEA. This post and the accompanying giveaway are unrelated to my presenter duties, and are not sponsored by IDEA, Sweat Pink, or any other entity. All opinions are my own–you know I’ve got plenty to go around!
BlogFest and IDEAWorld gave me enough to write about for a year (but not the extra hours in the week to #writealltheposts). This is just a re-cap of my top take-aways from the BlogFest portion.
#1: Authenticity is the new buzzword.
The word “authenticity” must have come up at least as many times as I am years old. As an undefined intangible in a culture that highly values individuality, it’s a perfect addition to the word collection that includes “disruptor” (formerly known as “paradigm shift”). Everyone said “authenticity” and no one defined it. At the risk of being glib, I would say it is now-speak for “be honest.”
One of my great teachers once said, “Be yourself. All the other jobs are taken.” (Yoga, philosophy, and Sanskrit expert and academic, Douglas R. Brooks.) It is just as true in the blogging world as it is in every other part of the world. The world is filled with blogs, but trying to imitate another blog (or another blogger) is pointless. You can never be as good as they are at being them. Why not be yourself? When I created my blog, I sat down and thought about what is important to me, who I am, and how to keep my blog in line with me.
For example, I’m not obsessed with partnering with brands or accruing swag (not going to lie, I do like both), and it doesn’t make sense to me to pretend to be something or someone I’m not in order to land a partnership. Seriously, if a brand wants a hardcore dedicated runner, they’re going to be disappointed. Even if the brand and product seem like a good fit, I will only promote products and services I use and truly believe in (my recommendation is my reputation, so why would I throw that away for someone else?). Another example is that I don’t like reading “breakfast lunch and dinner” posts (it seems we are calling them “lifecasting” today) so I’m not going to write them. I just don’t enjoy it. If you do, that’s fine–go be you!
Not everyone is going to love you, and that’s okay. Love yourself, be yourself, and remember that what other people think of you is largely none of your business.
#2: Stop living in a scarcity mentality.
No one expressly stated this during BlogFest, or at any session I attended at IDEA, yet I thought about it all weekend.
There is enough of EVERYTHING to go around. No matter what you hope to get from your blog–a job, an ambassadorship, a certain number of regular readers, a pat on the back–there is enough for you, and me, and every other blogger. (This is, in part, because we are all different–that pesky “authenticity” thing–so we’re not really competing against each other.)
When I started teacher training at Yoga Kula in Berkeley, one of the teachers there used to collect information on all of the yoga classes in that style taught all over the Bay Area and put them into a single schedule including all teachers and all studios and locations. Some people thought she was nuts (“won’t that drive students to other classes?”) but she explained that (1) that is a scarcity mentality, based on the assumption that there are not enough students to fill all those classes, and (2) there is no “my students,” because you don’t own or control who decides to come to your class. The same is true of blogging. Sharing, promoting, or helping another blogger is not going to drive “your readers” or “your partnerships” away, and you know what they are not really YOURS in the first place! If anything, helping someone else benefits you; you look good for being kind and helpful, and you stick to being who you are and what you do best. Everyone wins.
I regularly tell my yoga students, “hey, I’m an acquired taste. If you don’t like me or don’t like my class, come talk to me. I’ll help you find another teacher and another class that better suits your needs.” Trying to keep every single student happy and returning to my class is exhausting and doesn’t serve me, but more importantly it does not serve my students. There is lots of yoga in the world. To help more people do yoga, the best thing I can do is help them find their yoga. The same is true in blogging. Sure, I know I’m going to keep evolving over time and things may change, but it’s not in my nature to write very short posts (I have Twitter for that!), I don’t rock a highly artistic and sensually beautiful design, and I’m not going to promote meat-based recipes (dude, I’m a vegetarian). If that means my blog is not for you, thanks for visiting. There’s a blog out there for you to read. If you tell me what you’re looking for and I know where you might find it, I’ll tell you.
A rising tide lifts all boats, says the proverb. As the blogging community grows and each of us gets better at what we do, we all win.
#3: Commit and Follow-Through:
Hard work is always in style.
Ignore the “under promise and over deliver” mantra of the “I’m too cool to sleep” decade. Instead, do what you say you are going to do. If you have time to throw in some bonuses, great. If not, don’t fret.
Personally, it is important to me to follow-through on what I say I am going to do. It is like keeping a promise: the best way to ensure you keep it is to think carefully about what you are committing to do before you make the promise, and then creating a plan to get it done. I’m always surprised when I hear that bloggers who committed to a campaign, or event, or whatever, simply flaked and didn’t do the work. What the what? Guys, unless something truly serious and unanticipated happens–thing emergency, injury, computer goes for a swim in the ocean–follow through on what you say you will do.
It’s ridiculously easy. For example, as a member of the BibRave Pro team, I am sometimes given the opportunity to test out products or services (or run races) related to running. If I accept an assignment, I know that means I am responsible for tweeting about the item/event, attending the #bibchat sponsored by that item/event, writing a blog post, and tracking my social media engagement. If I can’t do those things for whatever reason (maybe the time frame is wrong, for example), I don’t accept the assignment. Going back to point #2, there is plenty to go around. I don’t need to do everything, but the things I do, I need to do well.
#4: So are genuine kindness and generosity.
This weekend many people generously shared their stories, their advice, their experience, and their knowledge. “Generosity” means freely giving what you are able to offer, without any expectation that the recipient(s) will reciprocate. Mom used to explain to me that life puts you in situations where you are absolutely forced to ask for help or rely on others. (This was definitely true when I was in high school and in a serious car accident that put me in the hospital for two weeks. My terrified parents came to visit me every day. While they were away, other people cooked meals for the family, did the laundry and the dishes, drove my brothers to sports practice and to pick out a new coat; it was actually Mom’s first day at a new job, and the man she was to replace stayed on longer in order to let her spend her time with me. Some of these others were neighbors and close family friends, but even people we did not know well at all–people who were friends of friends of friends–stepped in and did things.) Realistically, there is no way you will ever get to pay back all the people you “borrow” from, and in many cases you won’t even know who they are. Instead, Mom would say, you “pay back” by lending a hand to anyone who needs it when you are able to offer it. (This was long before “pay it forward.” I guess it is a similar idea though.)
During BlogFest, bloggers taught how to do many things (grow a social media following on different platforms, optimize SEO, work with brands). In most cases, this was less textbook information and more “secret sauce”-like things that these bloggers learned by trial and error and trying again. Sometimes it was specialized knowledge from experience in a specific industry, such as my presentation on basics of law for bloggers.
When I first started blogging, I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t have a technical background, and each new thing I try to do still involves some learning and moments of painful frustration. Heck, I still run into “why does the picture keep doing that weird thing?” and “how do I do that?” I’m fortunate to have developed a nice network through Sweat Pink, FitBloggin‘, and groups like Rock ‘n’ Blog, and when I have a question, I ask. If by some miracle there is a question I can answer, I do.
#5: Page Views and Followers: Not The Only Thing (Maybe Not A Thing)
If you are a blogger, you know that any discussion of blogging inevitable includes at least some mention of SEO (search engine optimization), promoting your blog, and analytics. It kind of makes sense, because most people writing a blog would like it if other people read the blog. New bloggers often find this aspect overwhelming (especially if the actual blogging is already more than enough work!). Going back to that scarcity mentality, many bloggers also worry that their low page-views will prevent them from getting the “good” opportunities.
Seriously, that can’t be the case–because I’ve scored some great opportunities and I don’t have a huge readership. I’m fortunate to have had the opportunity to try and review new Clif Bar products, serve as a Nuun ambassador, and be on Team Rock ‘n’ Blog. If all opportunities were based just on page views, I’d probably never have any of that because when I applied I didn’t even have an analytics widget installed.
Several of the presenters at BlogFest brought up the idea that bloggers and companies are catching onto the reality of blogging: it’s not a numbers game. One of the presenters, Katy Widrick, asked, “would you rather inspire 10 people, or have 10,000 pass through your blog?” Sure, we’d all like BOTH. But if you had to pick, which would you choose?
Bonus #6: each one of these points is applicable to the unwritten blog that is your life.
BlogFest “wish you were here” pack giveaway!
Please note that to win this giveaway you must NOT have been at BlogFest. (If you were there, you already have this stuff–so share the love! Invite your friends who were not there to win some swag.) By entering this contest, you expressly and affirmatively state that you were not at BlogFest 2015. I am obsessed with water bottles, and they are starting to take over my kitchen. Because of this, I’m going to give away the two water bottles I got at BlogFest. I’m throwing in a bunch of freebies, coupons, and swag too.
Important tip: if you win, you might have to wait a little while before I am able to ship the goods. Patience, grasshopper!
a Rafflecopter giveaway