Well, I survived to tell the tale. I’m not talking about the most excellent BlogHer Business conference in NY. No, I’m talking about commuting home on MetroNorth. Mr IT took his usual 5:30 train, and I took a 6:15 train, figuring I would take a cab home from the train station. Once we got out of the tunnel, I got an email from him telling me that his train was stuck due to brake problems. Net net, I got home 20 minutes before he did. Little IT was at play practice, and then at the science fair, so she hadn’t eaten dinner. We got take away from our local Chinese joint and all sat around the dinner table to decompress.
ANYHOW, back to the matter at hand. I continue to be impressed at the quality of a conference BlogHer puts on. Today was a review of the state of social media today and presentation of successful case studies in using social media and engaging bloggers. The speakers were thoughtful and inspiring, and ranged from a true small business (a farmer who sells worms online), to mainstream marketers from GM and Method, to bloggers from Microsoft. I was fortunate to experience these speakers surrounded by my co-workers, who were alternately inspired to do more in the social media space, and freaked out/frustrated that we aren’t doing more as a group in this space. But we’re here, we’re listening, and we’re learning how to join the conversation.
Most of the case studies focused on how a company had a product or service they wanted to promote, and how they decided to court bloggers to help promote it. The stories were charming in some cases, belying the fact that these are very savvy companies looking to push their products. This was downplayed in almost all cases. “We want to engage the bloggers, but not dicate to them.” “We never tell the bloggers they must write about us.” In a sense that reminded me of when Amazon first came online. I would email their editor (editor singular – they have 50 or so, but back then there was only one) with suggestions for books to promote on the site. They were always selected around a theme, but they were not always Wiley books. Todd was always happy to take ideas into consideration and often did feature books I suggested. Now, of course, there’s a 50 page manual that details the cooperative marketing plans involved in something like this. I can’t help but think that the next time GM approaches someone like the Manic Mommies to provide complimentary transportation for their escape weekend that they will be more savvy (or cynical, take your pick) and present them with a “sponsorship” plan involving beaucoup bucks.
Right now, we have a small window of time where the bloggers are happy with the engagement these companies are getting into. Individual bloggers all tell tales of the thrill that came when someone offered them something for free for the first time. Now, many of them have stacks of products lined up that they have little time to review. Virginity in the blogosphere dies hard.
Overall at the conference, there is less networking than at SXSW, but that’s more because it’s a smaller group. However, the quality in attendance is the cream of the crop. The people here are a mix of PR and marketing types, true bloggers, and folks in the media business. I feel I like I made better contacts on line for lunch than I did in a day in Austin. And I look forward to more of the same tomorrow.