As I write this post hundreds of bloggers have descended upon San Diego for the annual BlogHer conference and I’ll admit I have a slight non-attendee twitch every time I see a Tweet about how fabulous it is.
Conferences are no doubt excellent networking opportunities, not to mention the perfect excuse to shop for the perfect party dress, but there are so many opportunities for networking beyond conferences. While I would love to be spending time with my friends in California this weekend, I can connect with brands and bloggers without ever boarding a plane. Conferences can be costly to attend (especially if you must factor in airfare) and if you don’t have a sponsor to fully or partially fund expenses you may want to consider which ones provide you with the most bang for your buck.
And I’ll fill you in a little secret. I’ve been blogging for more than 5 years and have worked with brands such as Nintendo, Nissan, and GE and I’ve ONLY attended one blog conference every year and it’s the local to Nashville Blissdom Conference. I was in New York for BlogHer 2010 and attended several events and parties, but technically wasn’t a conference attendee, and I also attended Social Fresh last year here in Nashville. So there you go…
Here are my 7 tips for connecting with brands and other bloggers:
Your About Me Page Is Your Resume-Make Sure It Doesn’t Suck: Your About Me page is your social media elevator pitch so make it stand out by adding your own personality. What makes you unique? Are you a mom to quadruplets, do you home school, are you a hockey mom, are you a vegan, do you breed long-haired weiner dogs? A great photo of you “in your element” is also a nice touch. If you’re a foodie, for example, post a fun picture of you noshing down on some local eats or whipping up some gourmet masterpiece. List your social media accomplishments and mention any specific interests (travel, wine, books, tech reviews, mountain climbing, etc.) End with a “contact me” statement that includes your email address. I also think it’s incredibly helpful to see a bulleted list of Connect With Me items such as Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn as well as a bulleted list of brand campaigns a blogger has worked on in the past. I’m always surprised when I have to hunt down a blogger’s e-mail address or if I have to fill out a lengthy “contact me” form on their website. Big turnoff. Make it easy for companies or fabulous fellow bloggers like me to contact you. If you haven’t worked with brands before no worries. Simply list some of your credentials, like project manager at your job or volunteer positions with local charity or professional organizations. Edited to add: Make sure you mention your location. If you’re not comfortable mentioning your specific city, mention what state or region you live in. And here’s a great recent post on how to rock your About Me page.
Pimp Your E-mail: Consider using something like WiseStamp to link up all your online social media outlets in your e-mail signature or simply add them to a standard e-mail signature that auto-posts with every e-mail. About.me is another great “online calling card” of sorts that summarizes your social media accounts that’s great to include on your About Me page or in your e-mail signature.
Declutter And Professionalize Your Home Page: Remove any old buttons, broken links, and that auto-music crap. Do you really need the cutesy polka dot background or that picture of your dog wearing a Santa hat or your baby sitting on a toilet? Does your blog design represent an approachable, professional person behind the blog? Organize your social media icons on your home page and make sure they are “above the fold” (upper half of your blog page) with a current photo and a brief (1 to 3 sentence) bio. Consider your tag line and how it reflects your personality without being over the top cutesy or crass. If you want to work with brands, even occasionally, you might not want a tag line that says “I’m a bad ass mother” or “My kids bug the shit out of me, please send tequila” or “My kids are fabulous and perfect and you suck.” Now you may think these things, but let’s not go there, unless that is truly your schtick and you’re going to star in your own sitcom. Then for all means go for it babe. Include a headshot of yourself on your sidebar. People like to “see” who they are reading. Again tone down the cutesy and crass when it comes to photographs, especially Avatar photos. I don’t care if you sleep in Mickey Mouse footed pjs, I don’t want to see a picture of you wearing ears unless you work for Disney.
Show And Tell Your Claim To Fame: Do you have regular blog feature, such as “Slap Your Mama Good Casserole Tuesday” or “Damn I’m So Organized Saturday?” Design a clean, catchy graphic button for it (or barter with another blogger/designer to design one). Post the button on your sidebar and link it to all the series posts. Consider hosting an annual or more often if you’re more together than I am “blog carnival” inviting other bloggers to join in the fun (which is great for traffic). Don’t forget to mention this awesome series on your About Me page, especially if it pertains to a specific type of brand (such as cookware.) I recently saw a blogger mention a fun weekly cocktail series she writes on her About Me page with a mention that she’d love to have it sponsored by a wine or other general libations brand but she never linked to the series.
Make Your Blog Easy To Navigate: Don’t assume you are so fabulous that a company is going to hunt down anything on your blog. From your e-mail address to a series of posts you wrote about camping with kids, link to your own posts and make sure you have easy to understand categories for posts. Utilize an easy to use search engine on your blog.
Connect With Local Bloggers: Work with local bloggers and consider organizing an informal blogger group for your town. I helped co-found the Nashville Women Who Blog Facebook page and we have about 70 members now. It’s a great way for sharing tips and networking. Retweet good content from local bloggers and interact with them on Facebook. You don’t have to invite them all over for coffee but consider putting them on a Twitter list or even promoting them via the occasional #FollowFriday shout out on Twitter.
Nashville bloggers meet up last winter at the Frothy Monkey near Belmont
Connect With Local Businesses And PR Firms : I used to whiny miss whiny pants bemoan the fact that all the fabulous opportunities seemed to be in New York, Chicago, and L.A. but that’s not so. In the past year I’ve had the opportunity to test drive a Cadillac crossover and a Land Rover by working with a local Nashville PR firm. There are opportunities in your town, you may just have to get out of your comfort zone and do a little networking. What businesses do you frequent? Are they active on Twitter and Facebook? I was recently held captive for what seemed days (but was only hours) by my kids at a local indoor bouncey zone type place and I introduced myself to the manager and gave them my blog business card to propose a discount evening for our local Nashville blogger group. Host meet ups at local businesses and hand out your business card. Follow local businesses and PR professionals on Twitter and Facebook.
These are just a few tips for networking that, for the most part, start with your blog.
Do you have any more tips on blogger networking to share?