Why I’m Going to BlogHer – Again

going to BlogHer '13Every year around April and May in the mom blogging community a common refrain starts popping up on Facebook and twitter – “Are you going to BlogHer?”

I was on the fence this year.  It’s in Chicago so it means paying for travel and hotel.  To be honest, even though I technically went to the conference last year (it was in NYC) I didn’t even attend any sessions – they were too beginner level and didn’t really apply to me anymore.  People generally complain that it’s too big, too much about swag and just not a great place to really network anymore.

And, more and more over the past two years as my focus has been solely on building KidzVuz, I have blogged less often and been less active in the blogosphere.  So why would I go to the largest women’s blogging conference of the year?

Well, I felt the pull.  And I tried to understand why NOT going seemed kind of well, strange.

Here’s the thing about the BlogHer Conference – it’s like a family reunion, and so many of these women are my online extended family spread across the country that I rarely get to see in real life.

It’s hard to explain the mom blogging community to outsiders.  Perhaps they’ve read some of the disparaging or silly articles written in the past year.  Or they only see the free product bonanzas and giveaways, hear about the swag-fests and exclusive events, or even worse the petty infighting or bullying that occassionally happens online.

But, for most of us, particularly those of us who have been doing this since before the term “mommy blogger” was coined, there is a connection that is not quite definable.  A feeling that we’ve been in it together, built something together, watched each other grow and try new endeavors, helped define the space and sometimes even supported each other through loss and grief.

And, at it’s core, even though it’s become gigantic and slightly insane, BlogHer is still a celebration of that community – and all of the women blogging community, no matter what they write about, whom they write for or where they write from.

I’m fortunate I am able to go to Chicago this summer for BlogHer, and even more fortunate to reconnect and see so many women in person that I usually only see as a little avatar on my screen, and hopefully meet a bunch of new women whose blogs I can discover and who I will be able to add to my not so virtual circle of women I am proud to call friends – not “friends.”

Also, I’m ridiculously excited to hear Gale Ann Hurd speak.  So, there’s that.

Breakfast at BlogHer – The Blogging Angels Event

BlogHer - over 3,000 women over 3 days learning, networking, swagging and connecting.  It’s not for the faint of heart.  But BlogHer is only the star that smaller, hectic events orbit around in a mass of party hopping, celebratory, slightly insane universe.  Not content to merely attend BlogHer we Blogging Angels were fortunate enough to team up with a fantastic boutique PR firm, Zebra Partners headed by the supremely talented and knowledgeable Perrin Kaplan and throw a blogger branding breakfast.   We invited 50 awesome bloggers across niches and geography to join us for a hands-on branding workshop, learn the ins and out of media appearances, presenting yourself and creating your brand.

We were fortunate to have a slew of great sponsors like Striiv, Zuzee, Qualcomm Snapdragon, Kidzania, Her Interactive and more.  Plus two of our favorite brands who supplied us with super cool treats for our guests:  Mabels Labels who created personalized twitter handle labels and tags for our bloggers and Crazy Bitch Tea who made sure all of the ladies went home with tea to tame the most frazzled of post-conference nerves.

You can read all about it on the Blogging Angels blog – but listening to the podcast is way better.  That’s where you’ll learn all the juicy details, and hear why Eventbrite got my halo and horns this week!  Get it together Eventbrite!

Listen here!

Writes Like an Angel – Lisa Belkin Dishes with the Blogging Angels

There are certain women journalists who have inspired me as an essayist and writer waaaay before the word blogging was invented.  Anna Quindlen was one and Lisa Belkin the other.  Aside from writing for The New York Times both women had a voice that spoke to me as a young woman starting out in the world – in college and afterwards – as they wrote frankly about work/life balance, feminism and in varying degrees, motherhood.  As a Film major and American Studies major in college I was steeped in the cannon of feminist literary, social and film criticism.  But few mainstream journalists were talking about the real issues on the ground in a way that made “women’s” issues a normal, worthy part of the public discussion.

I always looked forward to Lisa Belkin’s New York Times Magazine stories and later her Life’s Work columns.  When she launched The Motherlode blog on the nytimes.com site I was thrilled.  Not only is it an enormously vibrant community but it gives further discussion to so many of ideas and stories in the paper that normally would be a “lifestyle” piece and nothing more.  It also has a way of really tapping into the current ethos (and neuroses) of our current state of parenting like nowhere else.  Last year I was such a fangirl that Amy Oztan took pity on me and swung me an invite to a lunch Lisa Belkin held for parenting bloggers at the New York Times cafeteria.  We’ve been trying to get her on the Blogging Angels podcast ever since, but coordinating schedules is never easy.  Then, last month at BlogHer, Nancy Friedman luckily attended the same session as Lisa Belkin and jumped a the chance to have her record with us right there in the hotel in San Diego.  Unfortunately Heidi had an outrageously fabulous event to attend at the same time and couldn’t make this podcast, but we did our best and Lisa Belkin was a guest angel extraordinaire!

Listen in and hear all the scoop on the New York Times and bloggers, the future of journalism and all sorts of dishy stuff on parenting, mom blogging and what it all means.  Really, all that in a mere 40 minutes.  She’s that good.

Lisa Belkin Podcast  or listen on iTunes!

The Big Toy Book & KidzVuz BlogHer Sweet Suite 2011

As if BlogHer weren’t awesome enough we threw a huge party for over 300 women bloggers in conjunction with The Big Toy Book.  Along with all of the fantastic toy and game sponsors like Adora, Leapfrog, Xbox 360 Kinect, Briarpatch, Shainsware, Activision and many more –  we were lucky enough to have Microsoft lend us 6 gorgeous PCs for the event so we could display the kid-generated sponsor reviews all over the party space.  As if super cool toys weren’t enough, our guests were also admiring the laptops in funky colors and spectacular displays.  If you’re still back to school shopping for a PC check these out!

  1. Pink Dell Inspiron 14R:  1st generation Intel Core i5 processor, 640GB HDD, 4GB RAM, Starts at $549
  2. HP Pavilion DV6 in navy blue: 2nd generation Intel Core i5 processor, comes in umber, red, blue, 6GB RAM, 750GB HDD, $749
  3. Sony VAIO C in neon green:  2nd generation Intel Core i5 processor, up to 750GB HDD, up to 8GB RAM, comes in 6 bright colors, starts at $749
  4. Acer TimelineX in blue: 2nd generation Intel Core i5 processor , 13.3” display, 4 GB RAM, 500 HDD, $793.23
  5. ASUS N53JQ:  1st generation Intel Core i7 processor, 8GB RAM, 640GB HDDpremium sound, all aluminum chassis, $900
  6. Toshiba E305:  2nd generation Intel Core i5 processor, 640GB HDD, 6GB RAM, backlit keyboard, Best Buy Blue Label PC, $849

We loved getting the kid reviews for our sponsors before and after the event and now we have a little taste of what it would be like to be Santa Claus.  There is something very rewarding about handing a 30 pound swag bag full of truly awesome products to very happy and excited guests!  And we really loved working with the amazing women at The Big Toy Book: Laurie Shacht, Reyne Rice and the outrageously hard working and creative Corine Ingrassia.  Next time in New York City!!

Here’s a glimpse of the  photostream from the unbelieavably fun and fantastic Sweet Suite 11 Party at BlogHer 11.   It was a special night and a great way to kick off BlogHer 11 in San Diego!

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My 7 Links Challenge – Writing Against My Will

If you know me you know I am not a big joiner.  I never did the 25 things about me meme on Facebook, I rarely answer those emails that urge you to answer questions and then send them on to 5 more people, I hate polls, but I am writing this post because this game of virtual tag intrigued me and came from one of my real life best friends, Shari of My Judie the Foodie.  The premise behind the My 7 Links Challenge is to analyze your own blog and break it down by some interesting categories.  And if there’s one thing I like it’s a chance to analyze and dig into some metrics in a new ways.

So, here it goes:

My most beautiful post:  I don’t think of myself as a “poetic” writer or a particularly fabulous photographer so I will define “beautiful” as a post that pulled at something deep inside me when I wrote it and that is The Bittersweet Inevitability of Growing Up.  Read it and weep.

My most popular post:  This is an easy one thanks to actual data and it’s a recent one: No One Puts Women Bloggers in a Corner – Except Women Bloggers.  But I have to give honorable mention to Mona Lisa Cat because it’s ALWAYS in my top 5 even though it’s just an image!

My most controversial post:  I guess it would be The Sex Talk: There’s No App for That.  Not so much on my blog but when it went up on Yahoo! Shine the comments were crazy and belligerent.

My most helpful post:  Hmmm, I’m a big advice giver on Mom Blog Magazine and The Blogging Angels, but don’t do that much of it here.  So, I’m thinking my latest post about BlogHer parties is up there: Ain’t No Party Like a BlogHer party: Except The 50 Other BlogHer Parties.

My post whose success surprised me: Why Aren’t Parents Rioting in the Streets?  I wrote it because I had to write it or I would burst.  I didn’t think anyone else would really care.  But, I touched a nerve, leapt into the education reform debate and ended up reprinted in The Washington Post.  And the comments were even better than my post I think.

My post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserved:  So many.  No really.  If you’re a blogger you know there are those posts you work so hard on and then watch as they recede into the ether while something you dash off in 15 minutes gets the limelight.  For me that post was Finding My Religion in a Bowl of Matzoh Ball Soup.  It had decent traffic but I love that post and it didn’t get the reader love I had hoped.

My post that I am most proud of:  Ick.  I don’t feel “proud” of my posts.  I think as a writer I am never fully satisfied with anything I write and I could tinker with posts forever.  It’s why blogging is still not second nature to me.  But, if I have to choose I’d say Generation Hillary is one that I wrote and feel like my daughters will read in the future and remember a part of themselves that was important and true.

Now I get to nominate 5 Bloggers I adore to name their 7 links!

  1. FromHip2Housewife.com
  2. Coast2coastmom.com
  3. selfishmom.com
  4. lovethatmax.com
  5. theculturemom.com

And loyal readers I have to ask – do you agree with my links or do you think I have no idea which of my posts resonate and which don’t?

If you tweet this (and I hope you do!) please include the hashtag #my7links.  Thanks!!

Sony Moms and Clever Girls – A BlogHer 1st Night

Rebecca & Sheila by glennia
Rebecca & Sheila, a photo by glennia on Flickr.

I feel so officially clever after hanging with one of my fab Sony Moms and Clever Girls co-founder Sheila Dowd at our BlogHer dinner. I think the auto soft focus went a little too Barbara Walters, but I guess I looked that tired to the camera!  Thanks to Glennia Campbell for the great pic!

My real BlogHer recap is coming soon but I couldn’t resist getting this pic up now.

Are NYC Parents Crazy?

96th Street subway, uptown side, Oct 2009 - 15This is a post I wrote a year ago for the Westside Independent, but after meeting so many women this weekend at BlogHer who asked me how I could raise my kids in NYC I thought I’d repost it here on Beccarama for a whole new audience.

Are city parents crazy?  This is the question that a dad blogger posted on his site last week upon returning home to the Midwest after a four-day trip to New York City. I always think that while I am certainly not crazy, this kind of question always brings out the crazy in me. First I get defensive – the knee jerk well how can YOU live in the cultural, ethnic, culinary wasteland that is the suburbs? Then I go into my why New York City is the best place ever routine – oh the museums, the landmarks, the food, the theater, and the one that always freaks out everyone, we don’t even own a car! But truth be told that routine is getting a little stale. Why do city parents really want to raise their kids here?

All of the reasons I listed above are of course true, but do they really outweigh the small spaces most of us live in, the lack of backyards and basements, the battle for kindergarten admission, the financial costs and the ever-nagging sense that city kids grow up too fast? No, I think there’s more to it.

My daughters are in second grade and their social studies curriculum is all about New York. They happen to attend a great public school that is outrageously field trip happy and this course of study lends itself to exploring neighborhoods. I love this aspect of the curriculum because the strange secret of New Yorkers is that they rarely venture outside of a ten block radius from their homes except to commute to work (and as a writer that would mean the walk to my kitchen table) We eat at the same restaurants over and over again, we go to the same playgrounds every weekend, and we shop at the same grocery and drug stores on a weekly basis. With everything at your fingertips it’s easy to take it for granted and not take advantage of all the things that the city has to offer. It takes effort not to fall into a lazy New York lull of the familiar.

And this is why it’s always so shocking to me when people ask me how I can raise my kids in New York City. I don’t really raise my kids in New York City, I raise them on the Upper West Side. We zip in and out of other areas on weekends – Flushing for dim sum, the East Side to museums and the zoo, Times Square for the theater, downtown for gallery hopping, Chelsea Piers for bowling and ice skating, Brooklyn for old friends and family, and of course Central and Riverside Parks for grass, trees and nature – but at the end of the day we come home to our small town. It’s the best of all worlds. A familiar place called home nestled inside the most exciting city in the world. And that is why I am not crazy to raise my kids in (the Upper West Side of) New York City.

No One Puts Women Bloggers in a Corner – Except Women Bloggers?

Earlier this week Susannah Breslin wrote a post on Forbes Women titled, Why Women Shouldn’t Go to Tech Conferences.  In a nutshell, she was upset about the frivolous and seemingly non-tech way that women were presented, and chosen to present, at Tech Week.  Having just spoken on a panel at CE Week in New York a few weeks ago I gave this article a serious reading – and commented accordingly.  But, I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

Something about what Susannah touched upon is all too true – and with BlogHer just a week away I haven’t been able to shake the thought that women are being put into tech “lite” panels more often than not.  I have complained quite publicly that many panels and conferences aimed at women are incredibly lacking in real data, concrete takeaways and information and are often full of generalizations and “feelings.”  But, looking back on all of the panels and conferences this year I also felt that way about many of the panels that had men on them too.  Maybe the truth is that few people are actually experts, that many conference agendas are packed with people who know someone, or have an entertaining power point presentation or a huge twitter personality that is fun to be a part of in person but doesn’t give you a whole lot to work on when you leave the room.

I don’t want to see the ghetto-ization of women at tech conferences.  I hate the idea that women need a separate “mommy” track or that all they want to do is gab about being better at social media because hey, women like to talk!  On the other hand, who can hold forth on a panel about how brands should and could work with mom bloggers other than mom bloggers?  The goal is to have women talk about SEO, programming, coding, sales, raising capital, growing a business and social media, marketing, PR and more.  When women are fully integrated into all programming, the specialized “women” tracks won’t seem so precious.  That should be the goal – not that women should just forget about being a part of tech conferences, but that women should get their geek on and fully embrace aspects of the technology they are using everyday – not just be a conduit to the coveted female consumer.  There is power in that influence for sure but there’s even more power in not being pigeonholed.

I will be heading to BlogHer next week, and make no mistake about it I am thrilled to connect with so many brands I love, I use and I hope to have sponsorship and campaign partnerships with in the future – for Beccarama, the Blogging Angels and most importantly for me now as the co-founder of my internet start-up, KidzVuz.com.  My focus is on building a business – and I will take all of the information, guidance and resources I can get.  That’s what I look to get out of every conference I go to and that I’m a part of – no matter what the gender make-up of the panels and workshops.   Maybe it’s hypocritical to demand parity at tech conferences and yet celebrate that BlogHer is for women only – I can live with that.  As I’ve said before, I’m thrilled that BlogHer is for and by women.  I will be hanging out at the Geek Bar to learn from some very tech savvy women and then I will turn right around and have an awesome day sponsored by Sony, getting new profile pics and my hair and makeup done, because I for one won’t be put into a virtual corner.

Ain’t No Party Like a BlogHer Party (except the 50 other BlogHer parties)

As BlogHer looms ever closer the party haves and have-nots are starting to make their voices heard on Twitter and across the blogosphere.  It’s inevitable that when there are 3000 women at a conference, but only a small amount of invitations available for many events, that jealousy – or even panic – will set in.  I am co-hosting two events at BlogHer this year – one for KidzVuz and one for the Blogging Angels - for the first time ever.  For both events guest lists had to be created – and agreed to – by the different hosts, and everyone had their reasons for choosing certain people.

But, truth be told I just don’t know everyone at BlogHer, and many of the people I might want at an event won’t be at BlogHer.   And then there is the added requirement that the blogger actually fit the event.  Bloggers write across many niches and when you’re thinking about who will get the most out of the sponsors or event theme you have to consider that too.  So, we’ve done the best we could and I hate that some people might feel left out.  They shouldn’t.  See, the best thing about BlogHer is that all of the official parties are open to everyone.  There are endless opportunities to meet new people and grab a drink and wear your most fabulous shoes or sparkliest earrings.  It’s not about the number of invites it’s about what you make of the parties you do attend.

This is an article I wrote for Mom Blog Magazine way back after the Disney Social Media Moms debacle.  I think it still applies, and hopefully makes sense to those looking for guidance on how their social media footprint looks to event organizers:

So you weren’t invited to the big event that everyone is talking about.  Maybe it’s a lunch with some fabulous celebrities, a cocktail party with sneak peeks at new products or even a hugely coveted three-day conference to a magical place and you’re wondering why others were asked while you were passed over.  It’s not an easy question to answer because in the end PR reps will not divulge how they make their lists.  But that doesn’t mean you should sit around and wait to be asked to the ball.  No matter what stage of blogging you’re in you can be proactive about managing and building your online presence.

The first step in getting taken seriously by brands is to treat yourself like a brand. Your blog, your Facebook page, your Twitter stream, your YouTube channel – all of these social media outlets are your ever evolving online resume. Unlike real life where you are judged by your clothes, your home, even your accent, your online persona can be crafted in a way to always present yourself in the best light, maybe even a brighter light than you can even imagine. First, take a look at how you appear online to others.

These Tools Can Get You Started

  1. Social Mention: socialmention.com You can use Social Mention to monitor your blog and your own name.  It’s like a Google Alert on steroids.  Get a snapshot of where your blog is being mentioned, linked from, stumbled and commented upon.  See the keywords that define you and how strong your influence and passion are.
  2. Klout: klout.com The ultimate cheat sheet for brands — though many industry pros know that it’s not the perfect tool — it doesn’t measure quality, loyalty or other important traits that could help identify bloggers that make a good brand match. But, brands love it.  Make sure you register with them and link your Facebook account too to maximize your score.
  3. Addictomaticaddictomatic.com In one beautiful page view you can see your blog mentions or your name in various outlets: Google Blog Search, You Tube, Twitter, Tweetmeme and more.  It gives you an instant sense of your reach and where you need to improve.

(NOTE: Forget Compete.  It’s so off and lags so far behind that the stats are always way off.  Unfortunately some brands and PR people will still use it because it’s fast and free so you should at least know what they’re seeing if they do.  But, check out this post: Why and How to Keep Track of Your Blog Traffic by Kris Cain for some other traffic stat sources.)

  • Compete: compete.com I know, we’re all in this together and you should focus on yourself right?  In a perfect world of course, but in the real world go ahead and type in your blog with some of your peers and see how you stack up.  Then check out the blogs that are doing better than you and see how you can improve.

So, now you’ve got all of these stats and a clear picture of how you and your blog perform across platforms.  Where can you improve?  Tweet more meaningful links?  Spend more time commenting on other blogs?  Create better links in your own posts?  Most importantly, be true to yourself and your voice.  Be aware of trends, but don’t jump on every meme that comes your way.  Be consistent, be unique and be engaged. Chances are you will find yourself with an inbox full of invites and an even bigger problem – what to wear?

BlogHer Prep: Party Etiquette

I originally wrote this post for Mom Blog Magazine a few months back, but in light of all the BlogHer party planning going on I thought I’d reprint it here.  Never forget YOU are your brand.  So pack your most kick ass shoes and as many business cards as you can carry but don’t leave your manners on the plane…

Back in March an email from Yelp to its “elite” group of Yelpers was leaked to Gawker and caused quite a few laughs. It seems that many of these elite reviewers were behaving embarrassingly badly and Yelp felt the need to send this…

“Much to our chagrin, the staff at several events has commented on the fact that occasionally some members of the Elite Squad at meals can be likened to an Animal Planet feeding frenzy, as certain people descend on appetizers as though they have not eaten in weeks.”

They also scolded reviewers for auctioning off RSVPs, adding plus “fours” and not showing up after RSVP’ing yes. While this is certainly an extreme version of guests behaving badly at an event it does echo some of the stories I’ve heard lately about press junkets where bloggers have left their manners at the door.

When you are invited to an event you are representing yourself, your blog and any other outlets for which you write. If you’re being sponsored at a conference you are also representing a brand. The blogging business can feel very casual and chummy but make no mistake about it if you want to taken seriously you have to act the part. Here are some basic tips that may seem obvious but bear repeating:

  1. Don’t have that 3rd drink. Or maybe even the 2nd. You may think you are getting more charming with every sip you take but chances are you will be louder, sillier and less professional by the glass. This is a business event not a frat party.
  2. Don’t monopolize the host or sponsor. If someone is holding a junket or event they are doing so in order to meet and influence as many bloggers/press as possible. Let them. Make a good impression, engage them in genuine conversation and ask some good questions, then let them move on and follow up via email a few days later.
  3. RSVP either way. It is just common courtesy and good business. Unless the event invite is so egregious and insulting to you (which certainly does happen) you should email your response and let them know if you’re coming. PR reps work on many brands and often move companies, it behooves you to be polite and help them arrange their event as easily as possible.

Finally, if you want your blog to grow and more opportunities to come your way, act like it. If you don’t take yourself seriously no one else will.