I am turning 44 years old in two weeks -- officially a dinosaur. Despite entering into my third year of weekly writing for The Huffington Post, the world of personal blogging and social networking is still somewhat mysterious to me. I am on the cusp of generations who did not grow up with computers, and remain slow to jump in the pool of gizmos, gadgets and social networking. So far, Twitter has been a befuddlement, Facebook an occasional dabble, and texting a rarity. Any of you out there in the same boat?
I have now seen the light and stumbled upon a remarkable breed of intensely smart, savvy businesswomen that you do not want to mess with: mommy bloggers. On something of a whim, I decided to attend the Blissdom Blogger conference in Nashville, Tenn. to meet a dear friend and get a little blogging education. Nearly 650 mom bloggers, from hobbyist to pro, were there. On another whim, I bought my first smartphone for the occasion.
Always being an overachiever, I decided to attend the "advanced" professional track sessions. As I entered the conference room, armed with my trusty red leather notebook and pen, I was greeted by a sea of laptop screens and handheld mobiles blinking away, and a steady clickity-clack of fingers flying over keyboards like hummingbird wings. The seats near the outlets were premium, and many arrived with their own power cords. I was taking notes... on paper?
I learned that no one sits and takes notes at these sessions anymore... Oh, nooo. Instead, mommy bloggers are listening with one ear while simultaneously taking notes online, posting their favorite nuggets to various lists, reposting links to Facebook, and managing their tweet deck at the same time. We're talking multitasking on steroids.
Mommy bloggers totally rock. They are unapologetic about their dual role of raising children and having a professional life. Many of these women came with their babies in arms, and no one cared because they are bad-ass experts in SEO optimization, personal branding, sponsor ambassadorship and networking. It was shockingly refreshing -- and for me, a mother of four, it was like a coming home.
Alli Worthington, mommy blogger rock star and founder of Blissdom, was there. (I had to Google her after the session to find out what a big deal she was.) Bright, bubbly and completely engaging, she spoke of her life of raising five kids, running multiple businesses, including the hugely popular blog Blissfully Domestic, and making sure all the attendees were properly "loved on."
At one point, Worthington stressed not to be afraid to share our lives online, from the moments at the pediatrician's office, to the linking of industry-related articles, to heartfelt beliefs. "Just tell the world why you're awesome!" Worthington smiled. On a whim, she challenged, "In fact, everyone tweet me right now why you are awesome." With a grin and a flick of the finger, hundreds of women instantly responded, and Worthington proudly displayed her iPad on stage with a running list.
Meanwhile, I am breaking into a sweat. How do I unlock my smartphone again? Did I download that Twitter app thing? What are all these hashtag marks, and why does everyone have an @ sign in front of their "Twitter handle"? Why did I sit near the front of this session? Noticing my impending meltdown, Worthington looked at me, and I had to publicly wave my stupid damn phone and confess, "I don't know what I am doing! I can't tweet you why I am awesome!" At that point, I seriously considered hiding with the guys at the Sherwin Williams conference next door.
Luckily they all "loved on me," and I stayed.
Mom bloggers have begun to infiltrate almost every area of domestic life, actively writing about cooking, traveling, buying on a budget, sharing opinions about new products and offering deals from sponsors eager to capture their market. Many write as a hobby, but plenty more have found ways to make a living blogging from home. What was most striking: they are all so nice.
Unlike corporate hierarchical principles, the online world is a flat line, or an embracing circle. Bloggers are eager to share ideas, collaborate and help one another out. Their b.s. meter is huge, though -- don't try to pull any guerilla tactics here or they will crush you like a bug with their sheer networking power.
Scott Stratten was also there. He is a Twitter god. I did not know that before yesterday, but he is. Author of the book "Un-Marketing," Stratten served as keynote wearing jeans and a white T-shirt that says, "I'm sort of a big deal on Twitter." He is the king of understanding the power of social networking and continually stresses the importance of letting go of the "selling" mindset and into "sharing" to get ahead today.
Gradually, ever so gradually, the new world of social networking began to unfold to me. The new frontier is found in 140 characters, and online bloggers are the true Lewis and Clark of the virtual Wild West. Bloggers want to hear the truth, from the mundane to the profound. They like to engage in a way that is intimidating at first, but clearly addictive once properly attuned.
Have you ever wanted to start a blog but were afraid to try? Here are a few tips I gleaned from the pros:
Just start. Open up that template on Wordpress or Blogger and start writing. Write about what matters to you. Make the thoughts short and in your own words -- as if you were talking to a friend.
Don't worry about who is reading it. One of the big no-nos in the blogger world is begging everyone on your list to "retweet this" or "post this to Facebook." Write it and they will come.
Do not feel obligated to follow every person who follows you on Twitter. It is not an automatic obligation to follow everyone. Be selective of who you truly are interested in before you become "attached."
Ask for help. As I discovered, bloggers are more than willing to share what they know and hook you up. Whether you are a beader, mechanic, chef or bookworm, there is a "tribe" waiting for you out there.
For all you hotshot bloggers out there, my hat's off to you. Rock on, mama's with babies, businesses and communities all at the same time. These are the women who will run for office, manage major companies or end world hunger in a no-nonsense, inclusive and innovative way.
Please feel free to follow me on Twitter (@karihenley). My tweets will be lame, but I look forward to bringing a few of you with me into the new world. Come on! The water's fine once you jump in. Tweet me why you're awesome.