What a weekend… I spent Saturday at the Mumsnet Blogfest conference. Billed as “celebrating sharp writing and big ideas” with “inspiring speakers and expert advice” with a “legendary goody bag”, it is always a weekend that I look forward to with some enthusiasm. I wrote last week I was pairing up with Air & Grace to ensure comfortable happy feet as well as an inspired mind. So, what was Blogfest16 really like? Here are some thoughts, suggestions and things I learnt:
We need to seek out alternative views outside our bubble
If truth be told, I was a little disappointed by the lineup of speakers this year. Please don’t get me wrong, on an individual level each speaker was amazing, interesting, insightful, talented and so, but the speakers were a little homogeneous. Whilst I understand the Mumsnet is probably/maybe (?) mostly comprised of women, I feel that more than ever we need men as part of the conversation.
“Angry feminists” (to quote one speaker) are all well and good, but given that one of the most important points to come out of the first panel discussion was about seeking alternative viewpoints, I think Mumsnet needs to heed it’s own advice and open up the conversation. A variation on the same is too safe and adds nothing to the conversation. Contrast this with the “women in law” conference I attended this week where there was a male panel discussion, and that was a conference aimed solely at changing the conversation around women in a profession. At a conference billed as “celebrating sharp writing with “inspiring speakers” I expected a better representation of opinion and sexes.
In terms of seeking alternative views, I liked the stark remember that Facebook and Google show us only what they think we want to see and that will be a self perpetuating circle. Their aims are making money by serving us the most ‘relevant content’ but that gets us nowhere in terms of actually understanding the world. If Brexit and the Trump election have showed us anything, it is that we need to work harder to see what other people are thinking and actually listen to what they are saying.
What’s in a name?
You know when suddenly something clicks and you realise you’d kind of previously misunderstood? I had one of those moments in the excellent Digital Strategy for Bloggers session hosted by Richard Miranda of DigitalMums and the brilliant Alison Perry of Not Another Mummy Blog. In the spirit of embracing point 5 below, I will say honestly that despite blogging for 10 years and working in the digital marketing team, I had misunderstood how key words work.
Perhaps it was the name that made me think keywords had to be individual words. That is in fact the wrong way to think about them – a better way is instead to think about what someone might be searching for to find your content. They are not tags as such. For example, if someone searches ‘Mumsnet’ they are most likely looking for the Mumsnet site itself. Therefore simply using Mumsnet as a keyword for this blog post would not be very helpful. My site will rank very low for people typing in Mumsnet and even if it did show, would have a very high bounce rate as people landing on the site would soon realise it wasn’t Mumsnet and would leave sharpish. A better keyword might be more of a phrase such as was Blogfest16 any good or Mumsnet Blogfest Davina McCall or even the much more specific best shoes to wear to Mumsnet Blogfest – while fewer people are likely to be looking for that content, the people that are will be more likely to be interested to read this post, or so the theory goes.
Richard also did a great job of illustrating what short tail and long tail keywords are. I also liked his suggestion that each blogger’s digital strategy will depend on that they are trying to achieve. SEO is only one of a multitude of marketing channels and for each channel that you focus on you should put in between 5 – 10 hours a week in terms of time to see a difference.
Fake tables are a thing!
I love that Blogfest covers all elements of advice. New wooden table tops are an absolute no-no for flatlays – what you need is a variety of portable surfaces you can move into natural light to photograph and for many that means buying a distressed portable fake table… More seriously, it is possible to grow a business from a blog and social media but you will need to build a consistent brand and get your voice heard on social media, requiring new skills and good images. Emily Quinton who runs Makelight gave an excellent workshop from which I took the following tips:
- Hold your iPhone vertically (or totally flat) so as not to distort the angle.
- Natural light is key – shoot by the window in the middle of the day, in batches if necessary
- Only use a lightbox for product photos
- Plan out your image content like you do your written content – what images will I need, what will be in them and when will I take them. Do I need to buy anything (props), when is the best light likely to be.
- Consistency is very important:
Anyone who doesn’t feel weird at one time is probably the weird one
Speaking out about how we feel makes us feel less alone and helps others feel they are not going insane. Bryony Gordon gave an interesting, humorous and inspiring 5 minute talk on mental health, and my key takeaway is that everyone has negative thoughts and feels like they must be the only ones that feel like that. They are wrong. The weird ones are the ones that never feel and never question.
We are all evolving
It’s ok to have changed your mind about how you think about things. In her closing keynote, which was both real and inspiring, not least because she spoke for 20 minutes eloquently and humanly without a note in sight, Davina McCall drew the conference to a close. Some particular takeaways were that we need to stop repeating the same mistakes but expecting different results. Be grateful for each experience & if you can’t be grateful because it’s so terrible then learn something from it. (Oh, and the grey jacket was from Acne!)
Aside from my criticisms relating to the speakers, I generally enjoyed the day. I wasn’t entirely convinced by the plea that we should be speaking to the sponsors because without them we would all have to pay £500 a ticket, or even that convinced by the sponsors as I have preferred it in previous years where the sponsors are smaller and more interesting engaged brands. I also thought the ‘legendary’ goody bag grows less appealing each year and could perhaps even be classed as a miss-sell this year – in previous years I have LOVED some of the things I’ve been given and gone on to be a repeat customer (Aurelia and Selfish Mother spring to mind) but this year was dominated by Unilever toiletries and didn’t even include a full sized sample from each of the main sponsors let alone let me discover any new and exciting brands. I didn’t go for the goody bag of course, thankfully, as if I had, I would have been disappointed.
Did I think the conference was value for money? Yes. Was I inspired? Yes. Did I think there were things that could be done a lot better next year? Yes. Did I have comfy feet… Yes!!!
Don’t forget to enter my Air & Grace Lovable Brogue giveaway if you haven’t already:
Photo credit: Anna Gordon, 2013 via Mumsnet Facebook page