Looking Forward to BlogHer! (Warning: Major Reminiscing Ahead)

With Chris from Notes from the Trenches and Mir from Woulda Coulda Shoulda at my very first BlogHer, in 2006

(Edited to add: We were bumped from the cabanas at the Marriott and will now be joining forces with Babble at the cabanas of the Hyatt, just next door. Please come find us at the 3rd floor, adults-only pool. We’ll be there Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11am – 7pm.)

This will be my sixth BlogHer, and man how things have changed. I know it is so cliche to lament the “good ‘ol days,” but it’s hard to not feel just a little bit wistful when I think back to that first BlogHer.

In 2006, I had been blogging for less than a year. I had never met a blogger in real life. I was still living in Toledo, and social media was still Web 2.0. I attended a panel that conference about the validity of corporate blogging. That discussion actually generated debate (meaning some thought that corporate blogging wasn’t valid). I remember attending a breakout session (sitting on the grass near the pool) about video blogging. It seemed so technically advanced.

Mostly, though, what I remember about BlogHer 2006 are all of the amazing women I met. I’m still friends (and colleagues) with most of them. Because the conference was so small, it was easy to just sit by the pool and get to know each other. There wasn’t a giant expo hall. The sponsors were set up on tables in a tent, and they were only around during breaks.

In many ways, I am glad that the blogosphere has evolved. If the industry hadn’t grown as explosively as it has (which is what has caused/allowed BlogHer to become so big), I probably wouldn’t have started Sway Group. That said, it is hard to show up at a conference with over 3,000 attendees and not feel overwhelmed.

So, here is what we are doing. Sway Group has reserved a cabana poolside at the Marriott on Friday and Saturday. Please come say hi and relax for awhile. We’d love to get to know you and party like its 2006. Who’s in?

Sway Group Press Roundup 6/20 – 7/20

Our first month in existence has been an amazing one! Thank you to everyone for all of the support. Here are links to some of the amazing articles that have been written about Sway Group to date:

MamaPundit, 6/19 Meet the Ari Gold of Mommy Bloggers

AdAge, 6/20 Mommy Bloggers Have Their Own Talent Agency, Sway Group

A Blog Job, 6/23 Sway Group Connects Bloggers and Brands

Claire Diaz Ortiz, 6/24 Why Blogger Agents Will Change the Future of Blogging: How Danielle Wiley of Sway Group Has Turned Blogging on its Head

Loralee’s Looney Tunes, 7/13 Making Money Blogging. When and How Should Bloggers Be Compensated


Congratulations to the BlogHer Voices of the Year!

Yesterday afternoon, BlogHer announced their 2011 Voices of the Year. We’d like to offer our huge congratulations to all of the honorees, and give a special shout-out to the multiple Sway Group bloggers who made the list. We are continually amazed at the talent we have within our ranks. What an amazing group of women.

The Sway Group bloggers who were honored include:

Alice Bradley of Finslippy, Humor nominee for her post Uh Camping We Did Go

Katie Allison Granju of Mampundit, Life nominee and People’s Choice for Henry’s Body

Kristen Chase of Motherhood Uncensored, Life presenting blogger (post to be shared at the BlogHer Voices keynote)

Ellen Seidman of Love That Max, Perspectives honoree for her post Raising Kids With Special Needs: The Girl Next Door

Karen Walrond of Chookooloonks, Visuals honoree and People’s Choice winner for A Response to Satoshi Kanazawa, Psychology Today and the Horses They Rode In On



What do Sponsors Want from Blogger Conferences?

Sway Group’s sister company is called Sway in Real Life, and is focused on selling sponsorships to social media conferences. We love having this service in our arsenal, as it allows us to create comprehensive programs that include both online and offline components. A couple of weeks ago, I drew this spider chart to show how that would translate for a product. This example is for the launch of a new healthy dip:

I know this is hard to read, but I hope you get the gist. A company is launching a new dip, so we create a multi-faceted campaign to help promote. This includes online components such as sponsored posts, FB chats and video series, but also offline components such as use of the blogger as a spokesperson and a presence at multiple events.

This brings me to the question on my mind. What do sponsors actually want from blogger conferences? Allison and I certainly have our own opinions about what conferences can provide to sponsors, but we’d love to hear from you directly.

Are you, as a sponsor, looking to network and make connections? Do you want to get impressions? Photos of ladies wearing/using/holding/eating your product? General awareness?

Tell us!

Thoughts on “Pay for Play”

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve heard some brand folks dismiss a blogger program because, “we don’t pay for play.” I’d like to take the opportunity to clarify the Sway Group position on this.

To say outright that bloggers should never be paid by brands is foolish. As influencers and storytellers, there are many instances in which bloggers deserve to be paid. I taught two workshops on “The Business of Blogging” at the evo Conference this past weekend, and one of the points I shared with the audience is that many bloggers are now so much more than bloggers. Many bloggers (including quite a few in our stable of talent) are full-blown media entities.

What does this mean? This means that they have both paid and unpaid real estate available on their sites. The paid includes advertising, advertorials and sponsored posts. These are all clearly labeled as paid, and consumers are able to make their own determinations on the influence of the payment. The unpaid includes editorial content and reviews (some bloggers do accept payment for reviews, but I don’t believe that this practice is an ethical one).

As Sway Group blogger Kristen Chase pointed out on Twitter last Friday:

If [they]’re saying, I’d love to send you product to try to see if this is something you might want to feature on your site = editorial.

If they’re saying “We want you to try this, mention this, tell your readers about this, and include link graphic etc” = sponsored post.

There is another area in which bloggers are now receiving payment, and it is one that I think will grow exponentially in the months and years to come. And that is the practice of using bloggers as spokespeople. In the presentation that Sway Group shares with brands and agencies in meetings, we showcase a statistic from the 2011 BlogHer Social Media Matters study that was co-sponsored by Ketchum. According to the study, bloggers have more influence on the purchasing decisions of women than celebrity endorsements. This is a tremendous finding, and one that will hopefully change the face of endorsements moving forward.

To those brands who question the practice of paying bloggers, I ask this: Do you also oppose the practice of celebrity endorsements? If the answer is no, I see a huge contradiction here.

I’d love to continue this discussion. Share your thoughts in the comments!

Blogging for Philanthropic Causes

I was out of town all last week with incredibly limited access to my laptop, so I missed a lot of the brouhaha that erupted following Heather Armstrong‘s trip to Bangladesh. As my family and I drove south through Michigan, back into civilization, I sat shotgun, and scrolled furiously through posts about the controversy on my iPhone, trying to get up to speed with what went down.

For those who were also out of the loop last week and are clueless about the above, check out these posts by Sway bloggers Liz Gumbinner and Katie Allison Granju, and then come right back. I’ll wait. :-)

OK then, here’s my take:

I created Sway Group to generate revenue for bloggers. For the most part, bloggers do not receive revenue commensurate with their influence and value. However, there is one instance in which revenue isn’t first and foremost in a professional blogging relationship, and that is when philanthropy comes into play. Full disclosure, I do paid consulting for Johnson & Johnson, and my work for them is centered around their corporate equity initiatives (highlighting the philanthropic good that they do throughout the world). As part of this work, I have been fortunate to hear from multiple charitable programs about their specific needs. They all need money, of course. But, do you know what they all need as well? Awareness. They need people to know that their initiatives exist. This is how they can raise more money and help more people. And guess who excels at raising awareness? That’s right… bloggers.

Good bloggers have influence (sway) over their readers because they are amazing storytellers. They can create compelling stories out of anything, be it the mundane (what they ate for dinner) or the not-so-mundane (the suffering of women in Bangladesh for example). For the life of me, I can’t understand why anyone would begrudge the benefits of great storytelling to a charitable organization.

Again, as per my disclosure, I have indeed profited from advising a large company on this exact concept, so I might be somewhat biased, but from where I stand, there need not be any controversy here. Heather lent her amazing storytelling abilities to a charity with a story that needed telling. End of discussion, and time to move on.