On Sunday I attended a blogger event hosted by the SV Moms Group for the DC Metro Mom writers and sponsored by a variety of generous, and dare I say delicious, businesses and brands. During an open discussion the question arose…
There are many ways to answer this, but the blogger who had the mic seemed to feel the same way that I do, and I believe the same way that many of us do. She shared that there are many products she still uses and recommends today based on introductions at blog conferences. In fact, as she said this, not only did a list of similar products form in my head, but a friend of mine caught my eye from across the room and made the gesture of putting on lip balm. I knew immediately that she meant eos lip balm, which we are both addicted to after receiving a sample at BlogHer last summer.
And while I now have eos lip balm smooth sphere or eos lip balm smooth stick in every bag/tote/purse/room of my house and have also switched to eos ultra moisturizing shave cream (no, they did not pay me for this post) certainly eos is not the only company to feel the love following BlogHer. Despite all of the swag bag brouhaha – including the sweet and wonderful George G Smith, Jr. (formerly of Crocs) being threatened for a pair of shoes – there were many products that I tried because they appeared in a swag bag or were handed to me on the convention floor that I now purchase and recommend. This is the same sort of phenomenon that happens when bloggers write reviews: we try it, we like it, we recommend it, we buy it.
So the short answer for brands and businesses out there considering investing in blog conferences is this…do it.
~ How to Get the Most Out of Investing in a Blog Conference ~
1. Be Official – The best way to sponsor a blog conference is to work in an official capacity with the blog organizers. Not able to afford a top level sponsorship of a large conference? Ask about participating in organizing official events, covering the costs required to be associated with just one session, or reach out to smaller conferences to inquire about sponsor opportunities.
2. Be Respectful – If you plan on having a presence at a blog conference, but you do not wish to work directly with event organizers, at the very least be respectful of the event. Clearly the goal of connecting with bloggers is to make a good impression and spread the word about your brand or product. Scheduling special break-away events during conference sessions is not the way to earn respect or make a good first impression and puts bloggers in an awkward position. It also probably won’t win you any points with the bloggers who are speaking during your special off-site event.
3. Have a Plan – Last year at BlogHer I attended many informational sessions, cocktail parties, and dinners. Some events were incredibly well-planned, such as the event for Sara Lee organized by O’Malley Hansen, and left me inspired to write posts and even appear on a local back-to-school news segment regarding packing a fun and nutritious lunch. Other events left me wondering why the brand bothered to pay to hold the party in the first place. With no future plans discussed and no follow-up post-conference, brands are easily forgotten.
4. Stand Out in the Crowd – Blog conferences – especially the larger ones – can begin to feel like one giant infomercial. It is critical to stand out in the crowd. Partner with bloggers to find creative ways to reach out to the community attending the event. Find a way to move beyond a business card giveaway or coupon for free product and actually connect with the bloggers. Last year at BlogHer I worked with Kelby Carr from Type-A Mom to host a live Twitter Party on behalf of and sponsored by HP. While attendees enjoyed cocktails and a chocolate fountain – mmm, a chocolate fountain – Twitter users were able to join us from home by tweeting with the same hashtag as those tweeting in the party room, and the entire online portion of the event was viewable on a big screen TV. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box!
5. Bring Your “A” Game – Interns have an important role in this world – US Department of Education former interns, represent! – but putting your third string on the front lines during a major blog event is not the best plan. Don’t be afraid to bring your “A” game. If the conference is worth the time and money you’ll need to invest to participate, then it is also worth bringing some of your heavy hitters. One of my most memorable moments from BlogHer ’09 was getting to sit down with and interview Sharon John, the General Manager of Hasbro’s Playskool brand and Jodie Neville, Playskool’s Senior Marketing Manager. This sort of connection is the type of moment that solidifies brand loyalty.
6. The Swag? Let’s talk swag… Without belaboring the issue of swag, here are some quick tips: coupons get lost in the shuffle, seeing the product not the gimmick is the best sell, and items that do not travel well will be left behind.