Why Going To Conferences Is Worth All That Money
In the post-BlogHer 2010 mania, including the many posts about bloggers crying in bathrooms and being snubbed by people with social skills that are at the preschool level, we were hypothesizing (in the comment section to a post here recently) as to why anyone would bother with going to these kinds of conferences only to undergo this kind of torture. Yet I keep maintaining that you must — you simply must, if you want to build your blogging business, and I’m going to try to explain why with this post. The short answer for why is that, quite simply, your traffic will increase. My traffic increased about 20% overall (sustained) after BlogHer 2009, and another similar jump after Mom 2.0. It’s too soon to say the effect of BlogHer 2010, but I maintain that there has always been a significant traffic jump for me in the wake of a conference. As to why, well, that’s a tougher question, but I’ve worked out some hypothetical explanations below.
The Conference Is a Constellation Out Of Which A Potentially Viral Number of “Sales” Or “Leads” Are Made
When you go to a big conference in your niche — I’m talking about something like BlogHer for the mommies here — there is a viral effect to your attendance that cannot happen any other way to the same degree. You meet a few people, make a few connections, have a few connections: it doesn’t seem like a big deal or any different from anything else, but it is, and here is why. A conference like BlogHer ends up with a ton of tweets, posts, Flickr uploads, and incoming links, both before and after the conference. If you meet one person there, at one party, and make a good impression, you might end up on their blog, with an incoming link, on their Flickr page tagged into a picture, @replied on Twitter, follow friday’ed on Twitter because of it, discussed later in some hotel room with that person’s roommate because of it, discussed later with someone else’s roommate because that person saw you talking to that person at so and so’s party, or because you showed up talking to so and so in the background of a picture that showed up on Flickr.
These are just some of the possible combinations of social media that can lead to your “brand” being viral as a result of a few connections made at a big conference like BlogHer. I haven’t even discussed all of the possibilities presented by the Flickr Frenzy, but suffice to say that there is a good reason that people freak out about losing weight every year before BlogHer. If you look good in photos, you will show up in more of them, and people will put you on more pages, in more blog posts, and that is a form of acceptance. People will wonder who you are, and that is a kind of advertisement. This is all about getting people to look at your blog, and that is the name of the game.
You Cannot Understand The Real Of The Community Without Going To A Conference
Particularly in the mommyblogosphere — though I would guess this applies to all different online communities — there is a gap between what happens out in the public online space and what happens behind the closed doors of DMs and private emails. You cannot get a feel for what is really going on in a community, therefore, unless you go to a conference and observe things in real life every once in a while. You need to see people in person to figure out who is somebody you want to partner with and who is somebody you want to stay away from. You need to see who is really friends with whom and who is just in a strategic alliance. You need to see who drinks too much to be a reliable business partner and who is a social climber. This is all stuff you’d be able to figure out in an office job by working with people face to face but because we are online, we can sometimes hide this stuff — sometimes, but not always — behind our screens. The offline stuff is key just to cover our asses.
Now. Maybe you’re not going to be able to do this to the same degree with every conference. Not every conference will have every person you need to meet in attendance. But find the ones that do and go to those. Don’t bother with ones that don’t have people you don’t need to meet — I don’t. And by the way, who I need to meet (or observe, or whatever) might not be the same as who you need to meet. We all have different criteria for these things. Figure out what kinds of connections you need to make and figure out where those people are going to be, and go there.
It Works If You Work It & Other Cliches
Inevitably somebody will tell me they have been going to conferences and have never had these kinds of traffic jumps, I’m sure. I’m guessing, though, that they are not doing what I am doing, and repeatedly going out of the comfort zone to make new connections (or difficulties, as the case may be, with me) on a regular basis. For instance, I went to lunch by myself at BlogHer on both days so that I met new people, I went to several parties at which I’m not sure I was particularly welcome that led to interesting connections, I wandered around the conference alone and met some new people with interesting stories to tell and new perspectives to bring to the table. I did not rely on my friends 100% of the time and it forces me to grow, and my traffic tends to grow as a result (I suspect, anyway). Please share any other strategies or theories you have for this kind of stuff in the comments.