5 Takeaways from the Blogging While Brown Conference

A couple of months ago, I decided to get my act together, start blogging again and figure out ways to get my name out there.  One idea that came to mind was to look for speaking opportunities at conferences where my story might be unique.  That’s when I remembered a conference a friend mentioned to me back in the day called Blogging While Brown.  This year’s location?  Washington D.C., which happens to be my current place of residence.

The main point of any conference is to network, but my plan was to attend as a more passive participant.  After all, 90% of what I learned about blogging came from Google and trial and error (I learned the other 10% from Joe Bunting and The Write Practice), might as well attend a real life session or two. Also, I thought I’d check it out to see if BWB was a place where I could pitch something in the future.

I went, and here are my takeaways:

I can make the mobile version of my blog look better!

I attended a session on the Mobile user experience and discovered that it is sooo 2012 for a blog to not look right on a smart phone.   Naya Scarbrough gave a great presentation about designing a blog with the user in mind.  She reminded us that there is a pretty good chance people are reading our blogs on a phone and we should act accordingly.  She also provided some thoughtful tips on how to assist readers who are visually impaired.

I agree with the concept (I mean, my favorite writers are the ones who write with the reader in mind) I’m just lacking a bit in the skills.  Still, I was inspired by the session and, as of today, you no longer see a weirdly cropped version of my header when reading my blog on your phone! Woo hoo! (But I had to change themes to make it happen, which is why my blog looks slightly different now).

Podcasts are the new blogs.

Last month my friend Nicki (who I’ve known since high school) started a podcast called Side Hustle Pro focusing on women of color who turned their side hustles into full on businesses.  When she first told me about the idea, I was really impressed- a podcast, wow!  So cool!  Even though I listen to podcasts literally every day, it never would have occurred to me to start one.  Nicki was at the conference too so I joined her at a workshop hosted by Rob Walsh called “How to be a Podcasting Rock Star.” By the end of the session, I knew Nicki was onto something.

I don’t remember the exact stats but basically there are a million blogs out there and like 1000 podcasts.  Of those podcasts, 75% are hosted by men.  This means that the podcast market is a lot less saturated than the blog one, especially if you’re a woman.  Rob Walsh also pointed that it’s simply easier for people to consume podcasts.  Where it’s hard to multi task while reading a blog, you can listen to a podcast while walking, driving, riding the train, working, exercising, whatever.

So why is everyone blogging?

Black people blog about gaming.

And everything else.  One of my favorite parts of the conference was the Black Weblog Awards*.  The awards ranged from Best Fashion to Best Business to Best Gaming or Comics Blog.  I loved that because it was a reminder that black people blog (i.e., write) about all sorts of topics and do it well.  So shout out to the gaming/comics winner The Deep End Review as well as the person behind Quirky Brown Love (Best Original Graphic Design winner), who made this point in her speech.

There is a point to personal blogs.

At the start of the conference I was still wondering if I should change the direction of my blog.  It is essentially a personal blog because I write about my views and experiences and don’t really try to teach anyone anything or sell anything (although those are welcomed side effects, especially when this book comes out).  I thought, should my blog be more intentional in these ways?

Spoiler alert: The answer is no.

It was the winner of the Best Personal Blog award, Yetti Says, who reminded me why personal blogs are important.  On Yetti Says, she writes openly about mental health issues and made the point that sharing your experiences publicly does a service for people who find themselves in situations similar to yours.  As she spoke I remembered that they was a large reason why I started this.  I imagined that one day I would reach my goal of publication and people would want to know how I did it.  My blog would show them that it wasn’t easy, that I had doubts along the way, but I was able to make it happen- and therefore so could they!

On the other end of the spectrum, words from Arsha Jones–a speaker at the conference who is all about turning page views into dollar signs also convinced me to keep doing what I’m doing.  I told her I had this blog and eventually a book to sell.  She said that authors really do have to sell themselves on their blog to get people interested in their books.  I took that to mean I should keep doing what I’m doing.

 “Writing Your First Book” is a valid topic for a session at Blogging While Brown.

As I mentioned, one of my goals of this conference was to identify potential opportunities for me to potentially speak at it in the future.  What do you know, one of the sessions was called “Writing Your First Book” by Stefanie Newell.  I couldn’t go because I had a conflict, but I think that’s something I’ll be able to talk about one day!


*If you’re wondering why the Blogging While Brown conference had Black weblog awards, I believe it is because they took over the awards from another organization.  Still, it might be worth expanding in light of the conference name…