My BlogPaws 2015 Conference Experience
I just spent 4 days in Nashville with 500 other pet bloggers, pet brands and pet experts at the BlogPaws 2015 Conference. What a great experience.
I am a content producer with a background in advertising and marketing. The content I produce includes traditional television, music, dance, live shows, web videos, games, books, photos and social media. Over the last year, it has also included my daily dog blog.
Four years ago, I became interested in the changing role I saw pets, especially dogs, playing in people’s lives and the growing pet care market. I produced an award-winning documentary series and a website to promote the series. I also held a few live events with local trainers, pet expos and influencers. About 18 months ago, I discovered BlogPaws. This year, I decided to attend their annual conference for the first time.
BlogPaws Conference Objectives
My objectives were as follows:
- Meet with people (and pets) I talk to online each week in person and build relationships.
- Meet new people and explore new collaborations and business opportunities.
- Meet brands and see what they have to offer and what I could offer them.
- Look at how to maximise and monetize Talent Hounds with experts.
- Learn more about WordPress, SEO, Blogging best practises and Social Media best practises from experts in various areas.
I would say I achieved these objectives and had a very successful time, especially as a newbie.
My Experience at the Conference
It is always a little daunting to get out of your comfort zone. I confess, I do not enjoy being a newbie in a field, in a group or at a conference. New city, new people, new cliques, new protocols, new information. However, that is how you grow.
My trip down from Toronto to Nashville was a little stressful. Instead of 4 hours, it took 13 hours with bad weather and 2 emergency landings.
Once there, I got a warm welcome from the hotel, and more importantly from the delightful Diane Silver and Rocco of To Dog With Love, who happened to be in the reception area.
She introduced me to the lovely Jessica of MommasGoneCity. I have followed her since she started posting Theo and Beau- I was starstruck and off to a good start. I was still able to register and pick up my large loot bag at 8.30pm and just caught the end of the exhibition hall activities. Then room service and bed.
The Friday keynote by Peter Shankman was outstanding and I will be contacting him next time I am in NYC. What an insightful, entertaining guy. I was inspired. “Don’t do things for LIKES, do likeable things” makes so much sense. Don’t beg for “friends”, produce great content that people are interested in and they will naturally want to be friends or followers.
Networking and Social
My experiences at the conference were very positive. I found the networking over meals, coffee and drinks quite relaxed and easy, and the sessions very informative, for the most part. One of my few issues was that it was a little stressful trying to find people to have dinner with on Friday night, as there were various prearranged VIP or other dinners going on. Luckily, I was able to see downtown (as well as some other areas of Nashville by mistake) and enjoy a fabulous, fun meal with Pepper Pom’s Mom and Robin from Playful Kitty. Thanks ladies.
I loved seeing pals from #BlogPawsChat #PetChat #PugChat and the various Hops and Facebook Groups I go on every week. I also met some great new contacts. It is all a bit of a blur as it went so fast, but I really enjoyed all of it. I know I missed or didn’t get enough time with some people, but I made a great start.
I also loved celebrating all the passion and hard work at the Awards. Congratulations to all the wonderful winners!
I even had a chance to chat to the ever youthful, smart and fun Chloe DiVita at the after-party with Rachel and Kevin from My Dog Likes (so happy to find they do not live that far from me and definitely hope to see more of them).
The best session by far for me was the Advanced SEO Techniques session. I could have spent a day with Jill Caren of 2DogsDesign. I sat with Amy from Pet Guide (I consider her an SEO expert, especially when I look at all her search traffic with envy). We both agreed it was an awesome presentation. Bill Schroeder’s SEO 101 presentation was very good too, but I was already doing most things he recommended quite well (or so I thought). Turns out, things have changed since April, and Google has got even more sophisticated. In one hour, Jill took quite complex ideas and updates and made them simple, for example: key phrases, headlines, title tags, alt tags, anchor text, meta descriptions, SLI and the dreaded schema. She allowed me to set achievable goals that could really improve my search traffic. Just that session was worth the trip.
I also enjoyed the Content Marketing Presentation by Karen Thackston and Maggie Marton. I have considerable experience and expertise in Marketing from my days with Unilever and Gillette/P & G. However, it is always good to remind ourselves to try harder, be more creative and write better. I like seeing what works and getting inspired.
Yoon, the editor from the Honest Kitchen blog, shared some insights from the Pinterest presentation by Susan Wenner Jackson over lunch. It sounded excellent. I was also sad to miss the Slim Doggy presentation on WordPress as Steve is brilliant on anything to do with technology and health/physical activity/diet and I have had a few issues with my site and PlugIns.
He is featured in one of my documentary episodes “Fit Dogs Rock!” and I have huge respect for him. I was lucky enough to have a brief one-on-one catch up.
I went to the session that I thought was about defining or refining my mission and message and growing my business. While I am sure the presenter does a great job caring for animals, fundraising and making six figures, the presentation included shameless pitches for a book and retreat but not the tips from the book – my only big disappointment. I did hear that some of the people from not-for-profits really enjoyed it, so maybe it just was not right for me.
It was great to hear entertaining and inspiring personal stories about how they broke into the Pet Media Business from lovely Laura Nativo, Sandy Robins, Harrison Forbes and Dr Katy Nelson. The common themes: be authentic, start local, be creative, be brave, always think of the benefits for your audience (whoever you are pitching or writing for), and be persistent.
I was also thrilled that we donated chunky cheques to various charities throughout the conference.
I peeked in on a legal session, but the presenter’s style and content did not grab me. I was looking for more dry factual slides on the updated rules around sweepstakes and contests. Legal is something that worries me, coming from corporate and TV.
Video and YouTube
One of the best new contacts I made was Robert Semrow (thanks for the intro Steve). He is a talented, creative and confident host, pawtographer and videographer. He produces Pet World Insider, which I love. He is a fellow YouTuber. He also seems really nice. I am hoping that we will find quite a few things to collaborate on over the next 12 months.
I predict there will be more interest in Videos and YouTube next year, as more ad dollars and eyeballs move there. With audiences under 30 cord cutting and reading less, video will become more and more important in blogging and branding.
Audience Engagement on Different Platforms
I did not get into any one-on-ones as I did not see the sign ups in time. I would have liked to talk more to Jodi Stone about “engaging your readers” as she seems to do an awesome job. I need to improve.
I did get to chat to Jessica Rhae Williams from YouDidWhatWithYourWeiner, the biggest winner of the night at the Nose-to-Nose Awards, about Facebook and other business. We exchanged some smart, practical tips and insights. I know I tend to chase shiny objects and not focus enough. Trying to offer too many things to too many people can be an issue as you end up under-delivering to everyone. I also find it is easier to work on other people’s plans objectively than my own. I get too close. I think that can be a common problem.
I will do a separate post on the brands I met. I did find networking with brands a little rushed as I arrived late Friday night and I did not realise they would not be there Saturday morning. I will say Kilo the Pug is loving his PetSafe pogo plush. I was a little limited in other products I could bring back to Canada. He would have loved all the treats and food of course.
If you were there, what were your highlights? What did you learn? If you couldn’t make it, what would you like to know more about?