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BlogHer ’09 – Proof that Bloggers Aren’t Anti-Social Drones

My friends are divided roughly in half by those who are rabid tech users and those who barely check their emails.  I consider it an extreme compliment when the non-email-checkers tell me they’ve actually read my blog (or “blob” as some say, which I actually kind of like.) 

So when discussions about social media and the future come up, either my friends can dream up all kinds of fantastic ideas of a complete virtual world where geography is irrelevant and we all know each other it’s just in a way where physical objects are no longer a barrier or they see the year 2020 as utter doomsday when no-one interacts with each other anymore because everyone is glued to a computer screen.

It is at this point that I get a bit frustrated.  How did the “social” part of social media get lost in the discussion? 

Next week I am going to the BlogHer Conference in Chicago — which sold out of its original 1000 tickets in MARCH.  A corporate sponsorship helped open up a few hundred more slots, which immediately sold out.  Then, because there was so much clamor about people wanting to come, they actually created an event called LobbyCon where people are paying to come hang out in the hotel bar so they can watch TV screens of  the general sessions, go to the expo and go to the much-discussed cocktail parties after the seminars.   First of all, how brilliant is that?  But secondly, sold out tickets and people willing to travel and pay to hang out in the hotel bar to see only a small portion of the programming — that’s not about the content of the conference, that is about interacting with the people.  That’s about the social aspect of social media.  Real life interaction.  Human-to-human exchange of ideas, without a keyboard and a computer screen between them (I’m not saying there won’t be Pokens, iPhones, Blackberries, nettops, etc. around, but there will be actual conversations going on.)

Twitter is atwitter with hashtags about BlogHer — even people not going are talking about it.  People want to know who has a sponsor (someone paying a blogger to go) and who doesn’t.  Who is going to which after-conference cocktail parties (note the many “badges” on my sidebar — I promise my sidebar will stop looking like a tattooed lady when I return).  People are excited about what we’ll learn, absolutely, but more than anything, we’re excited to meet people we’ve corresponded with online, or have read about through their blogs and never been bold enough to comment but hope to meet in person, or maybe have even partnered with on a project but haven’t met “in real life” yet.

All around the country, people are organizing “pre-BlogHer meetups” and I was lucky enough to attend one in my area, organized by Devra of Parentopia for those of us in the DC/VA/MD area who are going to BlogHer.  And when I tell you more about it, you will see that bloggers, or at least female bloggers, are certainly social! 

Because the get together was at a swanky art gallery called Scene in Baltimore’s National Harbor, several of us from DC Metro Moms decided to carpool and through a complex set of emails and voicemails, the last set of which I was completely not part of because I was in the middle of registering my bone marrow, it was decided that Wife and Mommy and I would meet Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes outside a popular store on Andrea’s route to the harbor.  Now, Wife and Mommy and I have been to a few blogger events together, so I was fine with this arrangement.  But as she and I got out of her husband’s minivan, she said, “oh by the way, I don’t know what Andrea looks like…”  Fortunately, I had met Andrea at the BlogHer DC Reach Out Tour and I’ve seen Andrea’s picture many times, but I did NOT know what her car looked like, so there we were, standing on the sidewalk, like some sort of odd suburban streetwalker, waiting for a car to slow down and say, “hey, are you going to the pre-BlogHer meetup?”

Um, yeah, kids, remember how we told you not to get into the cars of strangers.  We still mean it.  Seriously.

DSC03313When we arrived, I was relieved to see some faces who are starting to become more and more familiar to me — several women from DC Metro Moms, including: Teach Mama (who scored major points flattering me both on a new haircut and new shoes, I think I blushed), Urban Mama, Jessica, Lumpyhead’s Mom, Linda, Tech Savvy Mama (who wields a mean skewer – don’t mess with her kabobs!), Susan, De in D.C., Laurie, Sarah (who took this great photo apparently some time after I left), Kim, Jean, Devra (our amazing hostess), Sue, and of course Andrea, and Wife and Mommy.

And those are people I’ve only known since May!  And then I got to know more people that night.  I really didn’t get a chance to talk to CaraBee (maybe in Chicago!), but I did talk to Kristen (whose BlogHer cocktail party badge I have in my sidebar), Jill (with whom I have tweeted), Jen (with the double-entendre puddle-jumper blog name), Kim (taught me a lot about Laurel), Katherine (we had a quick chat over dessert),  and unfortunately I only had very brief interactions with the bloggers with the two best names in the bunch — Zandria and Examorata.    I hope to see everyone in Chicago and if not there, at another local meetup.

I am fighting one nasty ear infection which makes me miserable at night when I write, so I am relying on Wife and Mommy’s excellent notes for the list of attendees (thanks!) so if I missed anyone…  uh, blame HER! 

While at Scene, we dined on lovely food by Chef Deryl Shouf.  Every time I thought the gallery was going to tell us it was time to go home, more food came out!  When Devra called out the names for the doorprize of the Safety 1st Air Protect car seat and other prizes from our sponsors Safety 1st and Giant Food, I thought surely the evening was over, but no, dessert was coming out.  Nothing bloggers like better than bonding over brownies.   (Say that ten times, fast.)

With our reusable Giant bags filled with Safety 1st ProGrade mirrors and rollershades, Andrea and I broke off from the party, admitting with defeat that though we may not be anti-social drones, we are (ahem) semi-middle-aged mommies of much-more-energetic-than-we-are children who were going to wake up at the crack of dawn and we shuffled off in the dark in search of the parking garage (don’t worry, we didn’t forget Wife and Mommy in some sort of middle-aged-brain haze, she opted to stay later) and unlike the people ahead of us, managed to remember to follow the directions and pay for our parking before getting into the car and reaching the exit gate.

On the way home, I sponged up all the gardening knowledge I could from her (because seriously — look at the woman’s site) and we talked about kids, and once I discovered she also played Bunko, that settled it for me, I decided like it or not, I’ve officially adopted her as a friend.

Check It Out: Compass/BlogHer Study – Differences In How/Why Women Use Blogs and Social Networking

In their 2009 Women In Social Media Study, BlogHer, iVillage and Compass Media found that women online were twice as likely to use blogs as sources of trusted information for advice or purchase decisions, but turned to social media sites for connecting with friends and family. Women continue to turn to blogs, social networking and online status updating resources in increasing numbers.

Go to BlogHer to read the press release and see the executive summary slides.

I’m still mulling over all the datapoints, but I have to say that I agree — I do comb blogs for reviews and real-life experience with products. Sadly, some bloggers have now been sued for their reviews, which is why you will soon see some fine print on this blog to remind you that any reviews, advice, or opinions on a product on this blog should be considered about as worthy as if they were given by a stranger in the supermarket. I’ll give you a real-world opinion on something, but I’m not a Consumer Reports test engineer — get the picture?

So if you are as geeky as I am about studying the blogosphere, go check out the study, and I’d love to see your comments about the findings here!

JuiceBoxJungle — the New 300-Pound Gorilla?

Is JuiceBoxJungle.com social media’s new “It Girl”?

BlogHer’s Elana Centor is making waves with her article, “Can Juicebox Jungle Succeed Where Twitter and Facebook Have Failed? Monetizing Social Media.” (Read the article.)

In the same week, Entertainment Weekly referred to JuiceBoxJungle as where “the Carrie Bradshaws of the world go when they start breeding.” (Read article.)

The site debuted its first video February 11 and is already raising eyebrows — both for its business model — and on Yahoo’s Shine, for it’s counter-to-other-media stance on parenting topics such as TV time for kids (read blog posting).

How It Works

JuiceBoxJungle (JBJ) produces weekly online video clips about parenting topics, and then invites bloggers to write about these topics and embed the clips into their posts. These posts are then brought back to the JBJ site, where JBJ visitors can read them and rank them. The relationship between JBJ and the blogger is win-win:

  • JBJ provides “starter topic” content
  • Bloggers then provide follow-up content to flesh out the topic and keep the conversation going
  • JBJ provides a way to drive more traffic to the blog sites by publishing the blog posts — JBJ visitors discover new bloggers they may become loyal to
  • The blogs also drive traffic to the JBJ site
  • The media player the JBJ video plays in can be coded to include the Amazon affiliate code — which either uses the JBJ Amazon code or the individual blogger’s code — for example, in my post last week, it uses the caffeineandaprayer.com code — should anyone choose to shop at Amazon.com for parenting books directly from the player, this site would get a tiny percentage
  • What I Like About It

    I tried JBJ out for the first time last week.  Having been in the television news business, I found the idea intriguing, and wanted to see how this push-pull model would work.  From just one post, I did indeed receive some additional traffic to my site.  Am I “monetizing” (the hot buzzword in the blogging world!) my site yet?  No, not really, not yet.  But this may be a step in the right direction.

    Just as there have always been content providers for drop-in articles for newsletters or radio shows, content providers for web sites are a smart idea.  This is an even smarter idea — a way to get a conversation going, and then to help drive traffic, and even to help make use of “monetizing” programs you may already have.  I’ve had my Amazon affiliate status for a while and haven’t even put up anything because I frankly didn’t know what to do with it — last week was my first experiment with it because it gave me my first relevant opportunity to do something with the code.

    As to Elana Centor’s original question — I would say that Facebook, Twitter, and sites like JBJ each have their place and are different tools used in different ways.  At the moment, Facebook is one of my top referral sites for this blog — not a surprise since I “share” each posting with my network on Facebook.   I don’t tweet much (although I have finally given my JavaMom persona her own Twitter account – caffandaprayer), but one of the fascinating uses of Twitter in business is how companies are using it for customer support.  (See Network World’s Tweet to Compete.)  I have signed up to be a JBJ VIP and you will probably see more JBJ videos on this site.  I like what I have seen of their videos so far — smartly produced, humorous, and down-to-earth, and I think you will, too.  I think we can start some interesting discussions based off some of the topics.  

    Social media, social networking, Web 2.0 — whatever you call it — it’s going through some interesting changes and I, for one, and thrilled to be a part of it!  While working in Silicon Valley in the ’90s, I saw many giants rise and fall, so I expect the same this time around as well.  I won’t even dare to predict who will come out to be the next champion — but I will say that JuiceBoxJungle is one to watch!