On a brisk Saturday morning this month, a dedicated crew of about 90 women, most in their 30s or thereabouts, arrived at a waterfront hotel in Baltimore, prepared for a day-long conference that offered to school them in the latest must-have skill set for the minivan crowd.
Teaching your baby to read? Please. How to hide vegetables in your children’s food? Oh, that’s so 2008.
The topics on the agenda included search-engine optimization, building a “comment tribe” and how to create an effective media kit. There would be much talk of defining your “brand” and driving up page views.
You know. For your blog.
Yes, they had come to Bloggy Boot Camp, the sold-out first stop on a five-city tour. It is the brainchild of Tiffany Romero and Heather Blair, the founders of the Secret Is in the Sauce, a community of 5,000 female bloggers. Boot Camp is at once a networking and social event, bringing together virtual friends for some real-time girly bonding, and an educational seminar designed to help the participants — about 90 percent of them mothers — to take their blogs up a notch, whether in hopes of generating ad revenue and sponsorships, attracting attention to a cause or branching out into paid journalism or marketing.
“You’re here because you want to be seen as a professional,” Romero told the group.
A summer-camp director from Los Angeles, she steered the proceedings with the good-natured sass of a sorority social chairwoman and the enthusiasm of a, well, summer-camp director. (She went barefoot for much of the day and said “You guys!” a lot.)
After the obligatory announcement that participants — who’d paid US$89 and traveled from as far as California — should “feel free to tweet” (hashtag: bloggybootcamp), the women splayed their laptops, pecked at their Blackberries and traded business cards. A handful drank mimosas out of brightly colored plastic sippy cups.
“Do I call you ‘Jill’ or ‘Scary Mommy?’” a participant asked Jill Smokler, a speaker, whose blog, about her life as a mother of three, typically draws about 36,000 page views a month.
Discussions ranged from how to let public-relations firms know that you don’t work free. — “Your time and your experience and your audience are worth something,” Romero said. “It’s capitalism, plain and simple.” — to the benefits of using Facebook fan pages and Twitter — “My entire life in social media changed when I got on Twitter,” she said to knowing nods.
There was a presentation on the new Federal Trade Commission guidelines requiring bloggers to disclose their connections to advertisers and another on how to use keywords to make a post more visible in Google searches. Heed the speaker’s advice and you too might get 28,549 views of your tutu-making tutorial.
Whereas so-called mommy blogs were once little more than glorified electronic scrapbooks, a place to share the latest pictures of little Aidan and Ava with Great-Aunt Sylvia in Omaha, they have more recently evolved into a cultural force to be reckoned with. Embellished with professional graphics, pithy tag lines and labels like “PR Friendly,” these blogs have become a burgeoning industry generating incomes ranging from US$25 a month in what one blogger called “latte money” to, for a very elite few, six figures.
A study by BlogHer, iVillage and Compass Partners last year showed that 23 million women read, write or comment on blogs weekly.