I’m sitting in the Strawberry Shortcake room (Chicago 9 ballroom if you’re looking for it) and we’re about to listen to a panel of mommybloggers. One of them – Briar Sauro – chatted with me a bit about her infertility platform. Peeking into the swag bags I see two SSC dolls to take home to Bri. She’ll be tickled pink! Attendees are reliving their own memories of SSC dolls from a few decades back!
Jen – Thanks to 20th century home entertainment and Strawberry Shortcake for sponsoring this session. (insert details about the swag bags) If your bag has a smiley face sticker in it then you win a free t-shirt as well.
Megan - Okay – so we’re going to go ahead and get started. I am Megan from Velveteen Mind and BlogNosh magazine. I was selected for this panel because I never fit into a category and I had to make up my own tribe. I don’t talk about make-up, kids, food or politics. But I feel like a really awesome huge tribe. Even though it’s not a specific niche. Now I’m going to let the other panelists introduce themselves.
Kelby Carr – I’m Kelby and I’m @typeAmom. I’m known as a mommyblogger but I don’t blog about being a mom at all. All of my tribe are hyper moms. I’m not neccessarily blogging about diaper changing or anything. You can belong to more than one tribe too!
Renee Ross – I blog at Cutie Booty Cakes. My blog is about community. I started out reading a bunch of different blogs – like a hundred and then 300. I blog about my business – diaper cakes that are not edible. I wanted to find out as much as possible about as many people as possible. I joined a bunch of different communities. Then I went and read the blogs and commented on them. Not only was I embraced by everyone, but I now know so many different people. I created my own community by being social. I didn’t feel like I had to be just one thing.
Briar Sauro – I blog at Unwellness.com and it started as a writing excercise. I have fiber myalgia, a transexual husband, a teenager, a toddler and I’m a librarian. I don’t fit in to one group. Nothing to blog about! (laughter) I found community in the infertility group. Losing a baby changes you. I have a group of friends who used donor sperm, like I did, and some are moms and some are not. There is a baby on this earth that exists because of funding from the internet. So I believe strongly in online community. It has changed the last six years of my life.
Megan- After Blogher each year there’s a wave of moms that quit. Because they feel lost in the sea of niches and they feel like they don’t have a “purpose” for blogging. A lot of people started on message boards and then moved to blogging. You have a built in blog-roll and tribe already. How many of you started from message boards? How many started from reading blogs? I think that’s harder. Turns to Renee- I’d like to hear more about how you got started because you took a shotgun approach.
Renee- I intially started out looking for women of color. Then I expanded to mothers. Then I expanded to all women. I don’t feel like you need to stay in one group. If this week I feel like reading all food blogs then I will. And I will comment there. And I will tweet my new faves. But that doesn’t define me as a person. I’m a chameleon and I can talk with anyone.
Megan- You have to be fearless. For instance, I got a lot of surprised feedback when I threw the People’s Party. People were like, “Oh, when did you start running with the big girls?” Just be fearless. Now we’re going to open it up to audience questions.
Holly with BlogFrog- I have a question if you blog about teens. My kids are old enough to have a say and they prefer not to be blogged about. Do you have any comments?
Briar- I stopped blogging about my stepson when he was fifteen. When he was sixteen he said, “I know about your blog.” At seventeen he would say, “Don’t blog this.” I keep drafts for future revenge when it won’t effect him so much.
Jessica from JessicaKnows – When you find your tribe, how do you contribute to keep your tribe strong?
Kelby – It’s important to keep strong relationships. And also remember to help out the newbies. You don’t know who might be big next year. They’d always remember that you gave them a helping hand in the early part. They will naturally help you when you need it. Be a giver.
Megan – I’d like to add. One thing I noticed that I do is that I tend to diffuse stress among bloggers. The idea behind the People’s Party was that we could invite both huge bloggers and new bloggers and hopefully everyone will be a wallflower. Everyone called me the Newbie Champion. I have a bad time with commenting because I write an essay for a comment. So instead I started tweeting links to good posts instead of commenting. It made my twitter followers go up but I did it just because I felt like a crap commenter. People notice when you mention their feelings. And they want to stick around.
(While I was updating we had a question from a grandmother who feels lost in the mix. Renee and Kelby advised her to come from a mother’s angle and try out twitter).
Audience member question – I’m trying to move into another group. How do I do that without leaving my blog behind? (I may have butchered this question too.)
Briar – I still feel most comfortable in the infertility group. I have groups in my feedreader based on comfort level. I want to move into the regular mommy-blogger arena.
Megan – Are you rebranding?
Audience member – I’m narrowing my niche down.
Megan – I know that there are people that have limited themselves by blog name. You want a title that brands you. But at a certain point, if you were blogging about pre-schoolers and you don’t have young kids anymore then what do you do? Should you scrap everything? If you do start a new blog then you bring the ones who love you. You don’t want to feel trapped by your blog. SOmetimes you have to have a willingness to let go of your tribe. Sometimes you evolve from a tribe and feel them shaking fingers at you behind your back.
Renee – Define your tribe. For me I might only need five people that really understands me. You can have ten people that are your crew and just roll with it. What are you looking for?
Kelby – Don’t be afraid to not be a topic. I really didn’t think anyone would read my blog when I started it. People would ask what I blog about and I’d say food, travel, being a mom, being hyper and the list goes on.
Audience member- I feel that people use the term “mommyblogger” as a perjorative and I feel embarrassed to admit that I’m a momblogger. What should we do with that?
Kelby – It’s funny I feel like I embrace it because I’m tired of people saying that mommybloggers are only one type of people. Why should we have to be pigeon holed into a category? None of us are the same!
Audience member- What do you do if your audinece is not getting your vibe? I’m kind of crunchy but I also vaccinate and I had a completely unassissted childbirth. I’m not sure how to deal with the hostility of the tribes.
Megan – Writing well is not enough any more. There are too many blogs. They’re not going to take the time to see that you’re a kick-ass writer. The hostility is tough. Briar…
Briar – Whenever I hit one of those places, I try to hit my inner bitch and I say “You know what this is ME. And if you don’t like it go somewhere else.” I use cloth diapers and I vaccinate. If you don’t like it okay. The people who are going to come and stay are the right people. (applause)
Audience member – I work at a magazine. i’m a mom. And then I come home to blog. It takes so much time. I’m up to 2 or 3am because I get sucked in. Do you have any time management tips?
Megan- I don’t! I post once a week. I have two boys at home and a girl on the way. I own a magazine online and my e-mail is like Chinese water torture. I have to turn it off. I stay away a lot. I’m willing to not “win” by other people’s terms in order to have balance.
Briar- I used to post every day. And now that I have a baby I am up till 1am every night and only post a couple of times a weel. All of the things I read are about connecting to people. It’s not about being the most famous blogger on the planet.
Megan – There’s always somebody on the planet doing something and you never see them take a break. But they do.
Allie from Fussypants – I have a comment about rebranding. Twitter is really useful for that. Don’t be afraid to fail. I have a whole bunch of websites and 10 or 15 were huge flops. Through Twitter, your tribe will come with you.
Megan – Everyone said this panel would be controversial. The line in the sand seems to be doing reviews. We wanted to talk about the emotions behind tribes. I know that a lot of you have been feeling this “She’s a review blogger. She’s a pure blogger. She’s in the media.” Do you feel like there can be no mixing? We’re not talking about ethics or logistics? Just feelings!
Mon- I do lifestyle mommyblogging – I didn’t mean to be a mother or a wife, but I just fell into it. (As a sidenote I have two teenagers and I tell them that when they can pay bills then they can tell me what to write. If they don’t want me to post pictures of their underwear on the floor on facebook then they need to clean up!) When you make the switch and cross the line to review blogging, how do you approach that with your tribe?
Renee- I don’t mention it. I do everything. My blog is my personality. I review some things that are interesting to me. I don’t do compensated reviews. If it’s sponsore then I say it’s sponsored. I don’t write like a commercial because it’s not. I write my honest opnion. Most people who read me would be like, “Go sister!” for getting some money out of it. It’s a labor of love.
Kelby – The cool thing about blogs is that they’re real and there’s a person behind that. If you’re not sure then take a poll. Do a post. It’s interaction. Say, “I’m putting a lot of work into this and I need to feed my kids. How do you feel about this?”
Audience member- Have any of you found any alternate ways of increasing your tribe? Like postcards? How do you reach out to the people who aren’t online yet?
Megan – Let laralee answer.
Loralee – We were contacted by a newspaper and then we have more newspapers interested. And I’m Tricia by the way from Tricia24moms. Now we’re doing newscasts.
Megan – I don’t tell people in real life what I don online.
Kelby- My husband got me a sticker for the back of my type-A minivan. They asked me for the measurements. And I thought it would be all dignified, but it takes up the WHOLE back of my van.
Audience member- Particularly as a mom blogger of color. I took Renee’s approach and visited other blogs. I noticed that other moms who aren’t of color were not reciprocal about visiting mybrownbaby.com and I find it’s very difficult to get them to keep coming back. Even if they come and comment in a positive way, they don’t come back. Do you think the blog world is segregated? How do I say that my door is always open?
Renee – I honestly don’t think my people don’t know me from my blog. They know me from Twitter, facebooka and my blog. I haven’t found that only women of color come to my blog. I have to relate to people. The initial comments I left as a crazy woman – they don’t come back. I have to develop relationships. And when I link on Twitter it sparks interest. I get a lot of unique visitor but not a lot of return visitors. And some of that is because I haven’t been commenting as much lately. I think more of building communtiy is about relating and not so much about being of color. Does it stick? Maybe not. But I don’t care if 3mil people read me every day. I just want them to know that I’m there. Unless your present in their lives, no one will come. What are you looking for? What’s your end goal? I think that’s for any blogger.
Briar – Yeah – I have transexual in the title of my blog and I have a lot of people that come once and don’t come back because I wasn’t what they were looking for.
Megan- My online magazine publishes all kinds of things (like an article about God on the same day as an article about a hooker) and people have commented about it being too white. But I looked around and we have a lot of black editors. Most of the time in your feed reader you don’t even notice the labels of color or religion. I think we feel it more than it’s actually out there.
Kelby – I think people are just freakin’ busy! I never even read my feed reader anymore. If it’s not on Twitter I just don’t have time.
Audience member- I say screw the divide. I write reveiws and posts. And I think bloggers should do what they want to do. I wanted to ask about community. I got a comment burnout by reading blogs and I felt like no one was coming back to have a conversation with me. How do you build a community when the response isn’t there?
Megan- That’s the last question.
Renee- Start small. I don’t have as much time anymore. But if someone comments on my blog then I reply. If I can reply by e-mail then I do. That starts to develop a relationship. I don’t have to go to their blog every day and they know that they can e-mail me anytime. That’s one of the best ways I think. Encourage them to do the same. An e-mail doesn’t take much time and you develop strong relationships.
Megan- I think ending the session on the screw it note it very effective. It’s hard. It can be frustrating. But if you love what you’re doing then the tribe of you is going to work. People are busy. Just be confident and believe that they will love being friends with me. I know it’s tough but that’s why it’s interesting. We have a room full of single tribes people. Thank you so much!