On Saturday I attended Blogcamp, a series of blogging workshops, with 100 or so other bloggers from across the UK- mostly women with a token man or 5. It was a mix of mostly mummy bloggers, speckled with food bloggers. A great event organised by the TOTS100 team with so much networking and learning squeezed into a day. The location was in Birmingham (finally a venue outside of London), just a stone’s throw away from the station.
Taking the train from Oxford, our coach already had a good handful of bloggers travelling up, making the journey already fun.
It ended up being a very informative day and I thought a good way to share my experiences is also dot in some great tweets I have looked back on from the event. (unlike me I was not tweeting much on the day… the workshops just swept me up and held my attention too much!)
“It’s about I start!!!! #BlogCampUK” @love_bryony
After a spread of decent coffee, tea and hot chocolate accompanied by some breakfast pastries Sally Whittle got the event going and …
“It started with a Mexican wave!” @Boat_Wife
“Up first @BangsandaBun” @Caroljs
Muireann, from Bangs and a Bun blog kicked off with an inspiring talk bout how to turn our blog into a personal brand, creating an identity, finding a consistent voice and a blogging ethos.
“RT @swhittle: Listening to @bangsandabun at #blogcampuk talk about your best blog tactic is to write like you talk <– authentic voice rules” @ForestFlower23 ·
“Use key words often enough and people will associate them with you, it is part of your brand” @swhittle
“@bangsandabun urging people to experiment in early stages of blogging in finding your voice, image while you find an audience” @trevelyanwright
Bangs emphasised how important it is to promote your blog online and offline, through different channels so you do get on people’s nerves. Going to events is important, as is strategically choosing where go, making sure it fits with your image and ethos. Mention that you blog to everyone you meet… you never know what opportunities arise out of it! And be careful what you put in your twitter feed.
“Be strategic in attending events. Don’t be the chick who will show up to anything” @blogcampuk
Keep your blog fresh, experiment as you go along. Grow, change and evolve. It is your blog, so by all means consider your audience, but don’t let them take over the steering wheel. If you find you have developed a particular niche, consider branching that off into a separate blog. Something I’ve been in the process of doing with my GreenEnergyLady blog.
“Video blog are a great way to get speaking and other presenting opps” @blogcampuk
“You built your brand so don’t be caged in. Feel free to change if you’re bored with your blog.” @blogcampuk
These views did create dilemmas for people:
“One blog or more than one? It’s hard enough finding time writing one without writing multiple ones!” @Littlesheep … I might find myself in the same situation!
“I love defining myself as a ‘mummy blogger’ and I think this is the way I’ll stay for next several years. It’s what works for me!” @MeTheManAndBaby
“My conclusion after @bangsandabun talk – I need to find myself a personality”. @AnotherGoldfish
Overall I have to concur with Carol-
“Very inspiring talk from @BangsandaBun” @Caroljs ·
“Well, I think that went alright. #blogcampuk. Great, engaged audience – always helps!” @BangsandaBun ·
The next workshop I attended was on going self-hosted, by the mastermind behind extreme ironing, The Red Rocket, Phil Szomszor. Although I am already self-hosted and went through that initial set-up phase quite painlessly thanks to Chrissie Saunders (aka @Mediocre_mum), I thought I’d brush up on these skills.
Interestingly there are very few tweets from this workshop. I guess that was because it was pretty fast-paced and technical, so demanded full attention. Phil covered details from registering a domain name and finding a host (recommends- bit.ly/redhost ) to finding your way around a control panel. Talked of the benefits of purchasing a theme, setting up Google Analytics and webmaster tools and advised different plugins for your new site. He answered lots a questions along the way, as well promised to get back on those questions left unanswered. Great workshop in my opinion!
“Highlight of #blogcampuk so far; finding out that @theredrocket INVENTED extreme ironing. ;-)” @SardineTin
Lunch was lovely, giving a good opportunity to network.
“Sun shining at #blogcampuk and we’ve just finished a delicious lunch.” @edelward ·
“@Littlesheep def & veggie food separated from meat/fish #impressed” @veggiexperience
“fab selection of tea” @Mum_TheMadHouse ·
Learning to take better photos was next on my choice of workshops. This was led by John from Photos Walkthrough, who most of us know as Mr Geekmummy. He took us back to the very basics of photography, covering aperture, focal length, shutter speeds, ISOs and white balance. All this well illustrated with pictures, making it a real dummies guide. I found it very useful!
“Off to see @floyduk talk about photography” @petitmew ·
“50mm lens is what your eyes see” @petitmew
“Wide aperture gives you a blurred background” @petitmew
“If your camera has adjustable white balance, use it!” @annesmart
John gave us some excellent pointers for “shooting people”, while demonstrating each of his points with the help of his gracious model, Ruth (@minibreakmummy) and hooking up his DSLR to the screen. He suggested getting closer to our subjects (though not as close as sticking the lenses in their faces, as he did demonstrate), positioning ourselves in a way to capture the sparkle in the eyes of those we are photographing and using props.
“Tell a story, use props, stop smiling – good pictures happen as a result” @annesmart
We learned about composition tricks like the rule of thirds, leading lines and S-curves.
And finally he gave some excellent guides for photographing children:
- Take lots of photos to get a few good ones
- Use autofocus and fast shutter speeds (if your device has the option)
- Get down to the children’s level- it’ll be more interactive and fun for all.
“400th of a second shutter speed is great for taking photos of kids running around without the blurring!” @petitmew
My biggest revelation from this workshop: You can click and hold for a second on any part of your smartphone’s screen to set where it should focus!
“Thanks Mr @geekmummy for the photo tips and for wearing a daddy Peppa Pig tshirt” @annesmart
“There’s such a great community feel at #blogcampuk Really enjoying the day and learning a lot” @edelward
After a break we headed into a session on reviews which was to focus on the great debate around page ranks and the implications of Google’s policy around follow links for sponsored posts.
“Let the ‘follow’ vs ‘no follow’ debate begin” @Chez_Mummy
“Enjoying @geekmummy session on No Follow and Sponsored links #blogcampuk Very clear and well presented” @MaisonCupcake
Ruth Arnold, aka @Geekmummy, gave an introduction to the basics, then Lee Smallwood took us into the depth of the debate.
Pagerank is one of the variables our blogs are judged- most established blogs have PR (pageprank) 3-5. You can check your Page Rank at http://www.prchecker.info. When Google recognises that you that you don’t disclose sponsored posts (for example from a number of bloggers using the same keywords in a short space of time) or include follow links instead of no follow links you can be de-ranked and your posts will not show up in Google search at all. The choice is really your own whether you change your links to no follow links for your posts. There have been bloggers de-ranked even in the past week… if in doubt do it! (Create links as <a href= http://www.yoursite.com rel= “nofollow”>) Best to do it with advertising on your site too.
“Disappointing to hear that lots of bloggers in the room have been pressured by PRs to not disclose sponsored posts” @annesmart
We heard about the guidelines for disclosure, which are put forward by the Advertising Standards Authority and the Office of Fair Trading. So if you got paid for the post in any form you must disclose this fact.
“If you’ve received product for posts it’s payment in kind” @MaisonCupcake
“Interesting conversation regarding how Google is spotting campaign keywords happening” @silentbeauty
There are two main drivers for PR/SEO agencies to place products and posts with links: firstly to create brand awareness and secondly to drive Search Engine Optimisation (and thereby ranking) of their clients’ site. With this in mind, if Google is closing the loopholes for those trying to manipulate its search accuracy, it’s likely that brands will approach bloggers to buy their blog.
“Would you sell your blog? #blogcampuk Apparently you can sell on Flippa.” @ericahughes
“Brands are going to start buying blogs for Page Rank and social profile says @leesmallwood” @wadds
All is not lost however, as it looks like social is taking over organic searches and these “social signals” – FB shares, likes, plus one-ing, tweeting- are counting for more and more in terms of search. So really our next task as bloggers is to hone our skills and limited time resources at get better result through these channels!
“Social media recommendations are the new SEO backlinks” @annesmart
The final session was Q&A session with a PR panel.
“#blogcampuk 100 bloggers vs. 5 PRs – be nice!” @veggiexperience
“Just about to speak on a panel discussion with 100 bloggers on blogger/PR relations at #blogcampuk for @3MonkeysPR” @Andrew_JBurton
Stephen Waddington (@wadds) kicked off the discussion, who gave a historical view of why we are where we are with bloggers and PR agencies.
Stephen’s message was mainly how the media industry has been hit by this phenomenon, the internet which only really took off 20 odd years ago. The internet came along and flattened the hierarchies, took away the deadlines of printed materials, gave anyone who wanted to express themselves a voice. The individual, who has the ability to engage is the influencer right now, not just the mainstream media.
This creates opportunities for us bloggers to work with brands and agencies as practitioners, advising them and guiding them on the ins and outs of our blogging world.
“Bloggers need to be true to yourselves and say no to shady PR and SEO requests, says @wadds” @annesmart
“Talking about PRs pet hates – people who moan, but take anything they can get” @blogcampuk
PR people like proactive bloggers, who assist them in their work, but not outright blaggers. Agencies still get it wrong, because they often still work to the old principles of working with traditional media, who are London-based mostly (hence the focus of events there), are happy to receive a barrage of press releases, sending out mass mailings and so on.
The panel agreed that it is important to have details on your “About” page of: who you are, what you write about, include whether you are happy to work with agencies. If your contact details are not obvious, then they will take it that you are not interested to be approached.
When they get it right, they use different tools to filter and focus for the bloggers who have a relevant blog to their products and services.
This was a very interesting debate with lots of questions thrown in from the audience. We hope the discussions will carry on and the collaboration improves to drive mutual benefit… or else we can always sell off our blogs!
To finish off, there was a cupcake tasting session with donations going to the Save the Children initiative Build it for Babies.
As you can tell from the length of this post it was an immensely informative day. I got a lot out of it and hope I’ve managed to share some of it with you.
Any questions, further details- please don’t hesitate to ask!