Friday, October 10, 2014

I'm Not "Just" a Blogger

Blog Elevated 2014 Conference

If you follow us on social media, you probably noticed that Shelly and I attended Blog Elevated Conference in Galveston, Texas. Blog Elevated started hosting their conference last year in Houston and I’ve felt really blessed to attend both years. Last year I left the conference blown away at the idea that blogging can be a business in the way they presented. As a predominately faith-based blogger, I wasn't sold then on the idea of turning Of Sound Mind and Spirit into a business.

This year I approached the conference a little more open to the idea of how and if we should blog as a business. Shelly and I attended together so we could really be on the same page discerning the next step forward for our blog.

CONFERENCE TIME

Blog Elevated!

First, let me say that the ladies behind Blog Elevated really KNOW how to put on a conference! Lisa and Bobbie understand what is important to bloggers and how to make it happen over a 2 1/2 day event. They planned everything beautifully with so much attention to detail from the moment we checked in until the closing speaker.


They chose the Moody Gardens hotel, which provided that special tropical-vacation feeling, even though we were only an hour from home. Our beds were comfortable, the room clean and well decorated. The staff went out of their way to provide service with a smile, the meeting rooms were top notch, and the Food was excellent. The opening luau reception even included a fire pit with smores! How’s that for attention!

SESSIONS

Information from the keynote speakers, panelist and the breakout speakers was plentiful.

Dayna Steele kicked it off by reminding us to believe in ourselves and identify our goals. She also pointed out that sometimes goals are attainable because you helped others on your way. Her most valuable piece of advice? Don’t write a word in the morning until you check the news! You may not know this, but Dayna used to be a huge morning DJ in the Houston market. She kept us hanging on the edge of our seat with all her anecdotal stories about rockers like Sammy Hagar and Billy Idol.


Marie Bonaccorse from P&G gave me a new way to think about identifying the voice of a brand. While I could never possess the potty humor necessary to tweet for Charmin toilet paper, the voice she created for Charmin online is creative and attention getting in a memorable and out of the box way. I love her hashtag #tweetfromtheseat!

Bjork Ostrom from Pinch of Yum really opened my eyes to what is possible for a blogger wishing to turn their blog into a business. A successful business. He and his wife were very generous in supplying the audience with practical, helpful steps and include specifics on how to make money with a food blog online for everyone.  

Matt Cherry from iBlog Magazine was available to the audience for questions at any point after giving us his 30 easy changes for big blog growth. Watch our space as we implement some of his recommendations.

Shelly and I split up for some of the breakout sessions. While she learned about the possibilities of Vlogging and managing a YouTube channel (the future of blogs) from Audra Kurtz, I pondered the advice of Holly Homer about the way I utilize Facebook, both as a blogger and as a social media consultant for businesses. (Just a hint, you can hear Holly give her advice on building organic Facebook growth in a recent episode of the Social Media Examiner Podcast. It's worth the listen if you manage a brand page on Facebook.)  In addition to her informative presentation on Pinterest, Susan Wenner Jackson from Ahalogy met with me and many others during one-on-one sessions where she evaluated our Pinterest accounts.

With our Imperial Sugar and good friend Cintia 

SPONSORS

The sponsors! How can you not hold a special place for these companies who contributed so much to the success of Blog Elevated. It’s not just that we came away with incredible swag from the event, but how they were there all the time to meet the bloggers and interact. Kristal Howard from Kroger won extra points from me for participating in the popular brand panel once again this year, offering so many practical pointers on how to interact with brands and do business with them. Thank you to Moody Gardens, Imperial Sugar, Kroger, Galveston Island, iBlog Magazine, Ahalogy and many more.

CLOSING KEYNOTE

With Kristen Welch
Kristen Welch from We are THAT Family closed the conference with a Keynote speech. Check out her blog, because I’m betting you’ve read more than a few of her viral posts on Facebook. After all that talk about blogging for business, I wondered if the Blog Elevated Conference organizers knew what they were doing when they scheduled Kristen Welch to wrap things up, but honestly - she brought the experience of the conference full circle for me. Kristen told her story of being an accidental successful blogger whose life was rocked after she accepted a trip to Kenya to blog about the poverty and living conditions there. During the trip, she heard God calling her to do something more and having a successful blog was a part of it.

She was incredibly inspiring. I found myself sitting there thinking, "Why am I blogging?" Is it about me? Why do I do it? All of the same questions I find myself thinking about after attending the Catholic New Media Conference (CNMC) every year.

TAKEAWAY


The conference really drove home that we are not "just" bloggers. The push of the conference drove home that we should we be treating our blog as a business. The to-do lists presented to write more, drive better stats, improve referral business and maybe monetize the blog was a bit overwhelming. My mind swirled at all that I could do to get more, to do more with the blog. Man, I was getting on the bandwagon. My homework list grew with each presentation and speech.


And then I came home and thought about it.

You know, while there is nothing wrong with monetizing a blog and blogging for business, it just doesn’t feel authentic to why Shelly and I started Of Sound Mind and Spirit almost six years ago. We have kept the blog going out of a sense of calling or vocation. She and I feel called to evangelize our faith journey through our life experiences, to live out loud, the good and the bad, for Christ. We both agree that we can and should look to ways to implement what we've learned at the conference, but we don’t want to lose the heart of why we do it.

So we have many things to think about and many tools to implement. Watch our space and leave us feedback so we know what YOU want to see here. Thanks for reading. Thanks for being part of our small community. We appreciate your support.



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