What I Learned (or Didn’t) @BlogWorld: An Authentically Cynical Review

9 Nov

“Be authentic and passionate.”

“Be an authority for your niche.”

“Listen to your audience.”

“Know your deepest intent.”

“Eat your fears…they will sustain you.”

Did I accidentally miss BlogWorld (LA Convention Center West Hall) and stumble into Tony Robbins’ “Unleash the Power Within” event (LA Convention Center South Hall)?

During the two days I spent at BlogWorld, these jargon-heavy phrases kept coming up over, and over, and over, and over. As a three-day expo in Los Angeles dedicated to promoting all things new media, blogging, social media and digital innovation, needless to say I was underwhelmed.

These nuggets of wisdom represent the newest, cutting-edge information that blogging and new media thought leaders have to offer? When did blogging turn into a self-help-athon? And when did blogging also become about reiterating what everyone else said as if it’s gospel?

Maybe I’m not listening, or maybe I’m being really cynical. Or both.

It’s not that I disagree with these sentiments–I absolutely agree that authenticity, transparency, and narrow authority are all keys to success in any business venture, especially social media. As someone who actively reads blogs but has no intention of trying to earn a living from one (authenticity at work right here), I wanted to come away from BlogWorld with a wealth of new information that I could incorporate into building social media strategies for brands. I certainly got some good insights, but generally felt, well, the information was too general and top line.
Here are the highlights (or not) of my experience:

THE GOOD

As opposed to asking “What’s the best time to post a press release,” for example, the better question is “does the date/time of posting a press release matter?” Tom then walked through statistics that showed how 1) it doesn’t matter what time you post, just as long as you do and 2) the time/date question is industry and brand specific – hence “do your own work.” You should know best when and where your readers are accessing your content. When companies post content that suggests best times and places to post, they are relying on what works for them.

In Tom’s words, “data generated for the purposes of content creation is inherently incurious.” The best, most helpful phrase of the conference. Thanks Tom!

  • Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere address: The blogging curation giant revealed some great new data here, including:
    • The #1 influencer for bloggers is other bloggers: influencers influence influencers.
    • LinkedIn is the 3rd largest social media traffic driver.
    • Sixty-one percent of bloggers are hobbyists, and seventy percent of bloggers blog to share their expertise and experiences with others.

However, the woman read the slides verbatim. Not exactly engaging. I could get the same info if Technorati posted the deck on SlideShare.

  • Have Bloggers Replaced Radio Programmers as Curators of Pop Music Culture?: I attended this music panel out of sheer interest as a music fan. The bloggers’ attitude and approach were refreshing–as opposed to overarching statements about passion and authenticity, they shared specific ways on how they find music, the pros and cons of creating music in a new media world, and attracting audiences to their niche music blogs. Straightforward without the fluff. Thanks guys. (Are there any female music bloggers out there, BTW?)

THE NOT-AS-GOOD-AS-I’D-HOPED

  • Chris Brogan & Guy Kawasaki’s panel on Google+: Authenticity FAIL. This felt like a giant infomercial paid for by Google. I truly admire these guys and thought I would leave with pages of notes on Google+ best practices. Granted, I arrived late, so perhaps they covered this in the opening. Or, instead of giving away the goods in the session, perhaps they just want us to buy their book on Google+.
MY TAKEAWAYS & RECOMMENDATIONS
  • Let’s move beyond the obvious and lose the jargon, people! If I hear about “opening the kimono,” “engage your audience with passion and authenticity,” “leverage your online relationships to build offline strategy” or whatever, I’m going to lose it. Can we think of any more creative ways to communicate how social media works? I’d love to go to a panel where these words are used MINIMALLY or NEVER.
  • Leverage the Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced tracks more specifically. There was no consistency or explanation by the event organizers as to what constitutes experience level. Perhaps directing attendees according to experience could eliminate the bouncing between sessions (like I did).
  • The more specific, the better. Sessions should include specific case studies that demonstrate the general takeaways.
Thanks for letting me vent.

6 Responses to “What I Learned (or Didn’t) @BlogWorld: An Authentically Cynical Review”

  1. Allison November 10, 2011 at 10:41 am #

    Hi Julie,

    Thank you SO much for all your comments about BlogWorld! It’s really helpful to hear what people like, but it’s even more important to hear what people don’t like. Definitely fill out your surveys as well to give your opinions on the sessions you attended. It’s hard to please everyone, but I know Rick, Dave, Deb, and the rest of their staff do their best to combine self-help-y sessions with really actionable tips session, since there are bloggers looking for each kind. BTW, if you have the virtual ticket, definitely check out Syed Balki’s session – I think that might be more what you’re looking for in terms of content. Kirsten Wright’s was also great for tips that you can take back to your blog, not just inspiration. Thanks again for writing this post with your opinions at BlogWorld and I hope you’ll consider coming again in the future!

    • Julie November 10, 2011 at 7:19 pm #

      Hi Allison,

      Thanks so much for your comment. Like I mentioned to Rick, I notice and sincerely appreciate your investment in making a great event for your attendees. Your level of commitment and passion for blogging shows!

      I don’t have the ticket but I’ll be sure to look up those speakers you mentioned.

  2. BlogWorld Expo (@blogworld) November 10, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    I think your review is spot on Julie. We can do a much better job labeling sessions as beginner, intermediate and advanced. And the cliche’s do get old. We plan to label all sessions going forward as beginner, intermediate and advanced.

    However I think we did have a ton of the content you were looking for at the show. It was just a little too difficult for you to find. (that’s our fault).

    I do need to say however that we will continue to have that beginner level content for the foreseeable future. It is hard to believe but for every one of us who have heard those cliches 1,000 times, there are 1,000 more who still have no idea what new media / social media is about, or what it can mean for their business.

    As Peter Shankman mentioned in his keynote, only 6% of the american public have ever sent a tweet. Most people still don’t really know what a blog is. I’m not talking about people who work in social media or who create content, but normal people.

    Our event is built to do two things, help new media content creators learn how to better create, distribute and monetize their content, and to teach businesses how to use these tools and interact with those content creators.

    To achieve those goals we have a lot of newbies left to educate.

    • Julie November 10, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

      Hi Rick,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I must say that I’m impressed with how all the BlogWorld curators are actively invested in the attendees’ feedback and responses. I certainly appreciate how you “walk the walk” with extending the conversation past the event.

      You hit the nail on the head — the content was there, but I must have missed it. It’s crucial for newbies in the social media and blogging world to feel welcome and have content that works for them — no arguments there at all. I’ve been in this industry for only a couple years and it’s necessary to have the baseline foundation of big ideas (authenticity, transparency, etc). I LOVE these ideas. They’re awesome. I wanted more.

      Moving forward, the experience level labels would be really helpful for both the attendees as well as the speakers, who can then tailor their content for that level.

      Regardless of my cynicism, you put on a great event! Thanks for that.

  3. Deb Ng November 10, 2011 at 2:35 pm #

    Hi Julie,

    I’m so disappointed you were disappointed in our content. Your feedback is important, however, and will help us in planning content for upcoming conferences.

    We do our best to provide something for everything. For example, for the first time ever we featured hands on workshops filled with actionable, how to information on everything from blogging with humor to using Facebook to market blogs and businesses. We received such good feedback on these sessions, we’ll definitely add more in the future.

    I don’t like jargon either, and try to use it as little as possible. I’m also not a fan of fluffy or rah rah rah kumbaya sessions and when we plan the content we do our best to ensure everyone is walking away ready to put best practices into place. That isn’t to say, however, that we don’t want inspirational sessions either. Some of our attendees are very much into the inspirational stuff. What we try our hardest to do is present something for everyone. (Though my policy is for less kumbaya and more learning.)

    You’re right in that we need to better mark our content “beginner,” “intermediate” or “advanced” and I’m going to make a point of it for our New York conference in June.

    Thanks again for your feedback, Julie. If you have anymore thoughts I’d love to learn more. Feel free to contact me the email provided with more detailed content feedback. This is the best way for us to learn what our attendees are looking for when they attend BlogWorld.

    Thanks for your thoughts,

    Deb Ng
    Conference Director
    BlogWorld & New Media Expo

    • Julie November 10, 2011 at 7:09 pm #

      Hi Deb,

      Thanks for your comment. I was deliberate in not using the word “disappointed” on my review, because I realize that people in the same sessions I attended may have had very different reactions. I completely believe that the foundation of social media is in these jargon-heavy phrases, like authenticity and transparency. It’s a big reason of what attracted me to the industry in the first place (especially after working in Hollywood, which is the polar opposite!) When I was just starting out, all these top line ideas were necessary for me to gain a solid foundation of how to move forward with the specifics. I’m not suggesting they’re unnecessary — quite the opposite! — but perhaps I took for granted that I’m beyond that stage while others might not be.

      I would consider going to BlogWorld again, and would certainly recommend it on a case-by-case basis depending on what the individual wanted to get out of it.

      And I definitely think the experience levels would be really helpful!

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