I’m back from BlogHer 09 (which given my tweets of the past few days, I am surprised I did not automatically call #blogher09 here) and starting to process what went on. I have a unique perspective, in that I attend BlogHer both as a blogger, and a female (dare I say “Mommy”?) blogger, but also as a marketer and social media enthusiast. There are so many things that I want to get out of the conference – I want great sessions, opportunities to meet writers I haven’t encountered before and to see the bloggers I read all the time, AND to make contacts to further my business. I ask a lot of BlogHer, and in return, it takes me a while to think about it.
SPONSORSHIP – it’s the new dirty word in the Blogosphere.
Sponsorship essentially means a blogger has gotten conference, hotel and/or airfare or other travel expenses to BlogHer paid for. In return, the expectations are mixed. Maybe you wear a t-shirt from the sponsor. You might be asked to hand out postcards directing you to a URL or a conference. Perhaps you go to parties and act as a brand ambassador. Whatever. You’re there for someone else as well as yourself.
But should it be the “Scarlet S” if you will? I can’t really judge. I was lucky enough this year to have my work pay for all conference related expenses. If I had to do this on my own, I’m not sure I would have paid the money in these economic times. On the one hand, I congratulate these enterprising women who have found a way to get what they want.
Although, on the other hand, I must question some of them for their tactics. Here at Wiley, I often give tutorials to colleagues on social media best practices. I talk about how to listen to your customers first before you engage with them online. I always say it’s just like a cocktail party with people you don’t know. Would you jump right into a circle of folks and exclaim, “HI! I’M ELLEN! I LIKE BASEBALL AND PUPPIES AND MARGARITAS! LET ME TALK TO YOU ABOUT DUMMIES BOOKS!” No, of course you wouldn’t. People laugh at that example. “As if!”
Yet that’s just what many of these sponsored women were doing at the conference! Just as an example, I was sitting at a table during breakfast getting to know some of my fellow bloggers when a woman dropped onto the table and started shilling for some web site. Didn’t say hi, didn’t listen to even think if we would be interested in the site, just barged right in. In another case, I stopped a woman in the hallway because she was wearing a T-shirt from a PR agency down the block from me. I asked if she worked for the agency (there isn’t that much business like PR and publishing in Hoboken and figured we might have friends in common.) She said no, she didn’t work there, but the agency was sponsoring her, and wouldn’t I like to enter this contest where I could win….ahhh, not sure what I could have won, I just walked away shaking my head at that point.
What bothers me is these are the people who should know better. Don’t break the most fundamental rules of social networking just because someone is paying your way. If you want to make your sponsorship work, tone it down at the beginning. Get to know a fellow blogger before you make your pitch. She may or may not be interested, and if she isn’t, you’re going to most likely lose any chance to connect with her on any level.
A better example to share came from Friday afternoon. I was talking to a charming woman outside one of the suites when she casually mentioned she had asked a major discount retailer to sponsor her. I immediately mentioned that said discoutnted retailer was where I had bought my shirt, but the store has a different name in the UK, and I really like shopping there….and we went on and on. We had a connection before, and it was actually enhanced when we talked further. She didn’t push it on me, and as such, I opened the door to the conversation.
I certainly hope that anyone representing a company or product think careful about how they will be presenting themselves at BlogHer 10 and beyond. There’s a lot riding on this if we are to be taken seriously as a demographic, by outsiders but also from within.
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