I’m back from the Design Bloggers Conference in sunny LA. I extended my stay after the conference to visit with a friend and arrived home just in time for the next major snow storm…lucky me. The Design Bloggers Conference never disappoints. The speakers inspire and educate and I always walk away with fresh ideas and new goals. Honestly though, one of the best parts of the conference is reconnecting with my blogging friends and meeting new friends. The connections that are made are priceless.
One thing I learned from the Design Bloggers Conference is that blogging and social media in general is an ever changing beast. Just when I think I have it figured out, the rules change. Facebook and Instagram have changed their algorithms so fewer people see your posts. Facebook has already become a play to pay platform for business pages and soon Instagram will probably do the same.
Too bad there isn’t a single set of social media “rules” that we could all follow. I laughed when I saw this sign on exhibit at the Broad Museum in LA because this is what we all need!
Fortunately or unfortunately, there are as many pathways to blogging and social media success as there are bloggers. Everyone has a different goal and everyone achieves success in a different way…and then everything changes again.
Since so many of you asked me to share my key takeaways from the Design Bloggers Conference I have compiled a list of five things you need to know.
1. Good photography is of the upmost importance for blogs and on social media.
We have become a visual society and without good images you may as well not even play the game. Most of the designer/bloggers who spoke either work in close partnership with a professional photographer or have invested the time and money to train themselves. Carolyne Roehm, who was one of the key note speakers, studied photography and did all the photos herself for her new book on flowers. This was music to my ears as I get ready to create an online photography class that will be geared specifically to interior designers and creatives.
2. Getting published is both an art and a science.
There were several panel discussions about how to get published. Bottom line, do your homework. Spell the editor’s name correctly, submit decent photos (professional ones if possible) and be brief with your introductory email. Editors are very busy and they do not have time to read your three page pitch about your project. A few sentences is all you need. If interested in learning more, they will reach out to you. One of the editors shared she gets up to a hundred pitches a week so be patient if you don’t get an immediate response.
Editors and readers love a good story. Along with submitting your photos, tell the editor why this project is worth publishing. What is the back story behind the project? When I had my One Room Challenge family room make over published in the Boston Globe the editor wrote the story around my recovery from Cancer. I cringed a little that she wanted to take that angle but I understood it added interest and a human element to my makeover story. Lastly, be sure what you are submitting is in line with the magazine itself. It seems like common sense to me but one editor pointed out that if you want to be published in Coastal Living, don’t submit a project of a snow covered log cabin in Colorado…okay, Got it!
3. Affiliate marketing is the new buzz word in the blog world.
I have yet to jump on this band wagon but many of my blogging friends have great success with selling product on their blogs through affiliate marketing links. Affiliate marketing is when you make money by linking to products that you feature on your blog. When a reader clicks through to the product and then makes a purchase, you get a small percentage of the sale. It’s the “make money while you sleep” business model. It sounds so easy but unfortunately, the one fact that rarely gets mentioned is that you need a LARGE blog following to make any real money with affiliate links. If you only have a couple hundred blog readers then it’s really not worth the effort involved in setting it up.
4. Instagram stories is where it’s at.
If you only have time for one social media platform it should be Instagram. Instagram is crushing the other big players, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest in user engagement. All the cool kids are there and the consensus is that Instastories is where it’s happening. I personally don’t understand the whole Instagram stories craze. I find them a waste of my time and frankly most of them are boring. The reason why you want to be on stories though is because stories boost your ranking on Instagram so more people will see your photos. It’s also a way for followers to get a more intimate look at the person behind the account. According to one social media expert, Instastories are where brands are now searching for and finding partners to work with.
I bit the bullet while at the conference and had my good friend Carla Aston show me how to post on stories. Now that I know how to do it I will try and be more creative and interesting than my initial post which was a photo of flowers. In fact, posting regularly to Instastories is the number one action item I plan to implement from the Design Bloggers Conference.
5. Be open to spontaneity
Adam Japko gave what I though was one of the most inspiring talks of the Design Bloggers Conference. He talked about how social media algorithms track our posts and group us with like minded people and similar postings. Also, by choice, we filter out (unfriend) people with opposing values or politics. He pointed out that this is a slippery slope in that it isolates us from different opinions and values. It is dividing us as a society more and more. It can also crush our chance for spontaneity and unexpected discovery. Ultimately, social media is playing a role in determining our reality. Kind of scary if you think about it but I can see the truth in this statement. Here is a link to an interesting article about You tube videos and how Google (which owns You Tube) is feeding us more extremist videos based off what we are watching.
I have a personal story to share that happened right after Adam’s talk. It was lunchtime and the group of friends I was with lingered a bit too long and there were no seats available for us to sit together. We split up and I took a single seat next to a stranger. We started talking and much to our surprise, she had wanted to seek me out at the conference and I her. You see we have a mutual friend and wanted to discuss the possibility of working together. It was the last afternoon of the conference and had I not randomly sat next to her I most likely would not have met her. It was spontaneity in action. The decision to sit next to her and make a wonderful connection wouldn’t have happened had I sat with my friends.
Next year the Design Bloggers Conference will be held in Atlanta. Good news to those of us on the East coast.
So my one question to all of you, what do you all think of Instagram stories?? Love it? Use it? Please let me know.