Tuesday, October 4, 2011

I went to a conference about blogging!

--> I was fortunate enough to win a ticket on Listen to Lena's blog for the ShesConnected Conference held last week in downtown Toronto. The purpose of the event was to connect brands with Digital women. Since blogging is the new media, top brands want to ensure that they are in touch with influential bloggers (in the same way that they have connected with print media in the past).


The event was sponsored by many well-known brands including Ford, Toshiba, Pepsico, Quaker and Town Shoes (full list of sponsors here). The event allowed bloggers to network with the brands while also featuring talks on topics relevant to blogging (such as What is a Blogger worth? and Rate Cards, Guidelines, & Disclosure).

On a personal level, the event was SO much fun. I walked into a room full of people that I had never met before and found everyone to be warm, friendly and welcoming. The highlight of the event was meeting Listen to Lena, Faces by Farah, GlitterGeek and Spiced Beauty. I follow their blogs – and they were as lovely in person as they are on their blogs. In addition, many of the brands had come up with generous “swag bags” for us while also planning fun events (such as singing karaoke!). I felt so lucky to be chosen to attend this event.

On a blogging level, this event left me with a LOT to think about.  I’m still not sure where I stand with regards to “sponsored blogging” – both as a blog reader and a blog writer. Blogging takes time and effort – and it is only fair that bloggers are compensated for this. Sponsorship provides bloggers with the time and incentive to post more (which also benefits the readers by providing them with more content to read). However, there is nothing worse than feeling like you’re reading an “advertorial”. As a reader, you worry about objectivity: some bloggers may not want to offend their sponsors and could minimize their criticism about a product. They may also (through loyalty) be afraid to feature competitors product. (At the conference, one “brand” speaker mentioned that she sometimes felt “cheated on” when a blog she works with features a competitor.)

On the other hand, in favour of “sponsored blogging”, brands have been sending products to magazine writers for ages, so it's a natural extension for them to send them to blog writers as well (not necessarily in exchange for a favourable review – but just so that the blog writer knows that the product exists). Also, there is more transparency in blog writing – most bloggers clearly note when they have been sent products (especially in the US, where this is mandated under FTC regulations).

And there are many cases where blogging and sponsor relationships grow organically - you don’t feel that the blog writer’s integrity has been compromised yet it still reflects favourably on the featured brand. For example, one of my favourite bloggers: Jean from ExtraPetite is taking part in a JCPenney MNG for MANGO promo where she dresses in certain themes and features one item of MNG clothing while also incorporating existing wardrobe pieces. She clearly indicates her thoughts on the sponsors clothing (i.e. petite sizing limitations) yet her posts are beneficial both to her blog and the sponsor while providing interesting content for her reader (a WIN-WIN-WIN situation!).
Source: Extra Petite Blog - MNG London Style Challenge
Since blogging is the new media, the rulebook is still being written. The ShesConnected conference provided an important forum to discuss brand/digital women issues. Over time, I'm sure that brands and bloggers will jointly develop relationships that can benefit brands, bloggers AND their readers.

What are your thoughts on brands working with bloggers? Have you gone to any blogger meet-ups?

11 comments:

  1. Ella - this conference sounds amazing! What a fun opportunity. The topics that were discussed are topics that I think every blogger wonders about, especially sponsorships, rates, guidelines, etc. I think all or most of us started out just for fun, but since advertising through social media is such a hot topic these days, we're thrown into the world of sponsorships with no clue what to do. Thanks so much for your kind words - this is my first "campaign" and I was pretty nervous readers would be bored or see it as a sell-out, but I'm doing my best to keep it "true to myself" : )

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  2. Thanks Jean - it was a great opportunity and I really appreciate all the advice we were given. Social Media and advertising are evolving so much - and its exciting that we bloggers are on the frontline and have the ability to play a large part - as long as we don't sell-out :-) I admire the balance that you've achieved in your blog!

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  3. I would love to go to one, but have never had the opportunity! As a blogger, I have mixed thoughts on the whole sponsorship deal. On the one hand, it can be very exciting as well as beneficial to both parties involved. On the other, I feel that my blog is MY blog, and I don't want it to become tainted by too many ads and sponsors. I actually have turned away many opportunities from companies because I just felt like it wasn't right for me or my readers. I'm still very torn on this issue obviously!

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  4. Beautygirl24 - I know what you mean - I feel like "Ella Pretty" is my baby - and I wouldn't want to do anything to cheapen it - I blog because it's a fun hobby, not for profit. Still, companies are now providing bloggers with many exciting opportunities, and as long as they allow me to keep my integrity, I think I'd be open to some of them :-)

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  5. Wow-what an exciting event! So neat that you got to meet some awesome blogger pals! I'm sort of in the same boat-I haven't done any advertising and turn down sponsorship opportunities on the regular. I like that my blog is mine--my opinions, my honest, unbiased reviews. I just don't want to have to answer to anyone else for it on any level really-that's when it stops becoming fun to me and starts becoming work. You know?

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  6. It was great meeting you as well :)
    Great post!

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  7. Andi - I know exactly what you mean - I think non-sponsored bloggers provide a valuale service. Ppl are more likely to criticise a bad product if they purchase it with their own money - and these criticisms are valuable to readers who need to know if they should purchase a product. A lot of review bloggers who are sent a product they don't like simply don't review them (stating that they prefer to focus on the positive). However, that omission is not helpful to their readers, KWIM?

    Jennifer - thanks - it was so much fun - can't wait to meet again :-)

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  8. Hi Ella, wow, your blogger conference sounds like fun, I've yet to go to one but looking forward to it when it happens. Regarding blogging and sponsorship, I have mixed feelings about it. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with receiving free products and testing them to see if they are up your alley. What I don't agree with however, is when you feel like you have to 'fake' your opinion because you don't want to offend any company. That is why i am completely happy purchasing my own products and commenting on them. Unless of course, Balenciaga wants to send me some free bags to try- yah right! This is a great post, Thanks Ella!

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  9. MMC - It really was a lot of fun - you should join ShesConnected (linked above) - they hold the conference every year! Oh, and where do we sign up to "test" Balenciaga bags LOL - how cool would that be!!!

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  10. Ella, meeting you was certainly one of my highlights as well! I'm so glad you were able to take away some key learning (and pondering!) points, and I do hope I'll see you at the next blogger meet up!

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  11. Thanks Lena - love how you've managed to find the perfect balance of working with brands - you make it look like so much fun :-)

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Thanks for commenting! Comments are my favorite part of blogging and I respond to each and every one <3

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