BlogHer '13 is long gone, but I'm still thinking about the interesting sessions, people, and questions I encountered at the conference. I kept notes of things I was thinking about, and today I'm going to share my response to The UnMarketing Manifesto, which was hosted by Dresden Shumaker, Michelle Hammons, Veronica Arreola, and had Jenna Hatfield as the moderator. You can click on the title link to read the entire transcript of the session. The nutshell version is right there in my notes: "If you're not a brand, how do you define success on your blog?" You can see I jokingly answered the question myself before writing down Dresden's really good answer: "When someone says, 'Me, too!'"
I liked Dresden's answer so much that I tweeted it and underlined it and rolled around in it for a long time. But it's not my answer, so I gave myself some time to think about What Blondie Would Say.
This is my business card for this blog:
I created this card many years ago because I was told I should bring business cards to blogging conferences. I didn't know why, but I did it. Now I know that you bring cards so you can exchange them with new friends. That's the quickest and easiest way to get to know a stranger. You exchange cards, look at each other's cards, and suddenly you know that so-and-so has a name and a business and perhaps a few kids or a fitness blog or writes for a fancy magazine. Some cards are filled to the brim with marketing information, as are "regular" business cards. But blogger cards usually get silly or wildly pretty or crammed with official blogging business.
I personally exchange the cards to make new friends, but there is a whole world of bloggers out there who are exchanging the cards to make business contacts or for marketing purposes. There is nothing wrong with that. I promise. I'm all about creating your own business through a blog if you want to. GO. FOR. IT. But I don't roll that way. Instead, my card leads you straight to my blog, where you won't learn a damn thing. You're just going to read my scribbles, plain and simple.
My dear friend Sassymonkey has kindly granted me permission to post her card as well. Here it is:
If I was smart enough to figure out how to make a Venn diagram on my blog, I would, but I'm not that tech savvy. Instead, I'll just tell you how we are alike and different.
- uses a pen name
- uses Statue Face instead of real photo
- uses real name
- uses a real (and strikingly beautiful) photo
- lists her born-on date
Blondie and Sassy:
- give a brief one-liner about the subject of the blog(s)
- include blog addresses and contact information
When I look at Sassy's tag line, I see instantly that she writes about "Life," which tells ME that she's not a parent. I don't know if that word triggers that response in you, but that's what it does to me. I also tend to call myself a "Life" blogger because I'm lacking in other labels. I could easily edit her line to say: "Life
If I had a dollar for every time I gave out my card at BlogHer and got a blank or confused stare after viewing, I'd be a very rich woman, indeed. (I'm also betting Sassy might get these looks, too. Except I bet people probably recognize her more than they do me because I don't actually look like Statue Face.)
Anyway, the point here is that neither Sassy nor I are "marketed" per se. We're mostly the kind of bloggers who write about Our Little Worlds. But like the question said: "If you're not a brand, how do you define success on your blog?" I will let Sassy answer that question on her own. Back to me.
In my notes, I scribbled down the following thoughts from other people in the session:
- Am I learning and am I listening?
- Connect well with people who disagree; address controversy with dignity and make connections between two sides.
- Success is being brave enough to write something down.
- Seeing social change.
- When something sparks talks in Real Life.
These are all wonderful answers, but I can't take credit for them.
I started this blog because I was lonely and sad. I wanted people to talk to. But over the years, the blog has grown and changed with me. I'm no longer desperate to make new friends and deep connections. I have many of those already. I've done some product reviews and book reviews over time, but I don't have that as my main focus.
What am I doing?
I'm journaling. I'm sharing. Sometimes, I'm lecturing (I can own it). I'm forcing myself to engage in conversations or pull back the veneer to tell you what I'm really thinking. I'm facing my own Ugly sometimes and babbling on about Stupid Things at others. I'm giving myself a paper trail of my own mental health ups and downs so I can return years later and marvel at how different I suddenly feel about that one post that seemed so intense when I wrote it. I'm putting myself out there and wondering: "Am I the only one who feels this way?"
Sometimes, I get crickets for answers. Sometimes, I get a slew of fascinating or encouraging comments (love). Sometimes, a bunch of people respond on Twitter instead of leaving comments (which doesn't bother me one bit, no it does not). Sometimes, I get emails from total strangers who want to talk offline about whatever I mentioned. Sometimes, I'm convinced that the only person who reads this blog is my mother. Sometimes, not even Ma reads it. Sometimes, I write something intensely personal and it just hangs out there in space all by itself.
So why write at all?
Perhaps it's my way of staying relevant -- to prove that I Was Here. This is my new photo album. My online scrapbook. In the end, it's simply for me.
At the conferences, I give away fistfuls of cards, but in my Real Life, I don't give out any. I keep maybe 5 in my wallet at a time -- and they stay put for years. I'm fearful of letting people I just met into Blondieworld. I've been so raw and open on this blog, and all of these things I share can be embarrassing or make me feel small or make me want to hide or scream or shrink when someone mentions them to my face in the Real World.
Stranger: Oh, you're the one who cries and freaks out about being single and childless, right?
Blondie: Um, yes. That's me.
I wait until I've gotten to know someone a bit before I introduce them to Clark Street. I worry they won't understand. The bloggers certainly WILL understand, so I don't fear them. They get it -- even the Mega Business Bloggers. We all share a core understanding about what it's like to open yourself up online.
I don't know why I'm so shy about handing out cards to acquaintances I see on a regular basis. I'm basically the same person in Real Life. If you are my friend long enough, you'll hear all of these tales (and even BETTER ones that I can't share here, which is truly a shame) and everyone's Real Names and I might even cry or snort or have a panic attack right there in front of you. In my Real Life, I'm an open book, much to the chagrin of intensely private people or anyone who has knowledge of basic social etiquette. This is just the way I am. I want you to know me, I really really do. But I also want to hold my paw up against your chest and not let you hug me too tight. Not just yet.
I blog because I can. I'm not practicing writing, which is one of the standard blogging answers. I do that for work and in my own creative writing time, so here I'm just babbling. There are no rough drafts. There's no underlying agenda. And there's no real success. Interesting. No success.
I suppose that's the good thing about my blog. There is no measure of success. I used to DIE for comments. I craved them SO much. I also watched my stats like a turkey vulture eyeing a three-day-old raccoon carcass. That was the first year. I'm over it now. Don't get me wrong, I do care if people read my blog. I'm not Too Cool for School. I love my readers and all of the interesting things they say back to me -- especially when someone pokes my brain in a way I'm not used to. But I don't care if I "make it" as a blogger. My goal was never to build something or market something or become a brand. I've never wanted to be famous as Blondie. I prefer to stay behind the curtain.
"If you're not a brand, how do you define success on your blog?"
I don't have a quick, clever answer for this.
I define success as having something on my mind and getting it out. Whether it's something that totally amazes me or something I'm worrying about or some great book that I want to share, I just need to Get. It. Out. The End. Amen. Fin.
I need to make room in my brain for other thoughts. I need to share and be heard -- I need to hear myself. I need to give myself permission to type out scary things and admit to my own character flaws and pat myself on the back once in a while for doing something good. I need to be a raging narcissist sometimes and blast my thoughts out into the Internets because otherwise, I might forget that I'm alive or that I matter. I might come to a point in life where I think: No one cares what I say, so why speak at all? And then I'd become a Real Life depressed hermit.
I write on my blog to keep myself from becoming as depressed as I've been in the darkest of Dark Times. To pull myself up and out and over my own head.
Success is coming back to this blog every day or once a week or a few times a month year after year after year. Success is staying alive.
And yes, to copy the wise words of Dresden, I really do like it when I share something deeply personal, and someone else says, "Me, too." I love that part.
See, and you thought I just went to BlogHer conferences for all of the great swag. I really go to see and make new friends and learn mah brain. I go for the questions -- and for the challenge of answering them.