After months of anticipation, I recently had the pleasure of attending Blogging While Brown 2014. This year’s conference was held in Harlem, NY, at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. This was my first time attending Blogging While Brown (BWB), as well as my first time visiting New York City. I must say, it was an awesome experience and I am grateful I had the opportunity to attend.
Launched in 2008, Blogging While Brown has been the leading conference for bloggers of color. BWB provides education, networking, and inspiration for current and future bloggers. Gina McCauley, founder of Blogging While Brown, wanted to provide a platform for bloggers of color after seeing a lack of recognition for their contributions. Since its beginning, the Blogging While Brown conference has been the place where bloggers across the United States, have gathered to learn and share their passion for blogging.
This year, the BWB conference kicked off with a general session that highlighted blogger collaboration. The presenters were a group of ladies, including the Frugal Fab 5 and Mama Mash-Up, who used their individual brands to form partnerships with other bloggers in their niche. Conference attendees were taught how collaborating with other bloggers can increase web traffic, social media following, and brand awareness.
During the session, conference attendees participated in a group exercise to put collaboration in action. Some groups were chosen to present their ideas to conference attendees. It was amazing to see how quickly bloggers identified their strengths and skills to come up with great collaborations. This exercised proved to be very powerful, as some attendees formed official partnerships and planned to follow through with their ideas after the conference.
On day two of the conference, a technology keynote was delivered by Markus Robinson of Interactive One. Robinson taught about the qualities and skills that successful bloggers possess. In addition, he provided a variety of helpful tools and apps for bloggers to utilize. A golden nugget for me is when Robinson explained that bloggers should strive to “build a community” and “deliver happiness” to their readers.
Lamar and Ronnie Tyler, the power couple behind Black and Married with Kids, presented a dynamic session on the Six Ways to Make Six Figures from Blogging Without Ad Revenue. The Tylers showed how they turned their blog into multiple streams of income by offering a variety of products and services. They described the work ethic they had while building their blog, which ultimately gave them the ability to replace their full-time jobs. The Tylers possessed a vast amount of knowledge and provided several helpful tools and resources.
After general sessions, blog attendees headed to their chosen breakout sessions. The first breakout session I attended was Blogging 101. Hence its name, this session covered the fundamentals of starting a blog. Arsha Jones, founder of BrandBuildSell, taught on content management systems like WordPress, domain registering, web hosting, plugins, and a variety of blogging tips and tricks.
The next session I attended was the New ABC’s of Growing Your Business, presented by Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of BlogHer. Camahort Page taught attendees how to think of alternative methods of funding a business, in addition to how to create multiple streams of income. She also taught about partnerships and the qualities needed if you are planning to become a co-founder.
I also attended a session that focused on optimizing a blog for mobile use. Presented by product managers, Kristin Bolton-Keys and Alicia Dixon, this session covered topics including native apps vs web apps, responsive design, mobile trends, and mobile design best practices.
The next breakout session I attended focused on visual blogging. One of the presenters was Sarah Glover, social media editor at NBC10. Glover did a great job of teaching bloggers how to tell stories through photography and video. She explained that in visual blogging, “content is king.” Glover explained that shooting images on a consistent basis is a way to improve the craft of photography. In addition, she stressed the importance of using images legally to avoid lawsuits.
Stephanie Smith, founder of 300 Sandwiches, showed attendees the progression of the photography on her blog. It was nice to see how her images improved over time with consistent practice. Michael Scott Jones, director of multimedia at Interactive One, reported that “188.2 million Americans watched videos online,” and there are “52.4 billion online content videos.” Jones explained that because of social media and technology, the barriers that videographers once had to a large audience have disappeared.
The conference concluded with a panel discussion, Faith in a Mobile World. This discussion, moderated by Jason Caston, social media director at T.D. Jakes Ministries, focused on technology and how it has changed the traditional form of worship in many churches. Questions were raised if there should be form of etiquette when using technology in church. I feel this was a good panel discussion that created open and honest dialogue about the perceived pros and cons of using technology in faith.
BWB did not disappoint when it came to fun and entertainment. After parties were held at the Aloft Harlem, where many bloggers resided during the conference. This was the time where attendees could get more one-on-one interaction with each other. Everyone was excited to see Jamie Foster Brown, editor-in-chief of Sister 2 Sister Magazine, in attendance at one of the after parties. Foster Brown was gracious, kind, and supportive to the bloggers in attendance.
The thing I value the most from attending Blogging While Brown is that I was able to connect with bloggers in person. Curious as to what some other attendees thought of the conference, I reached out to a few of them to get their take on the conference. These were their responses:
- “I learned to be authentic at all times, and that blogging is more than sitting in front of a computer typing my story. I need to build a community, to ensure my readers are getting what they need and want. I also learned that this is the passion I’m willing to lose sleep to develop. It’s not something I just do, it’s my life.” – Pamela Davis, 2Chicksand1OldLady
- “The most important thing that I learned is that there are many African American bloggers with strong voices on topics that matter. These individuals are successfully developing and growing audiences through professional blogging and marketing. Definitely inspirational and makes me want to step-up my game!” – Carolyn Williams, Money reVerse
- “I learned during BWBNYC the importance of supporting and collaborating with other bloggers. We need each other to be successful and it’s important that we lift each other up. “Women empower each other, not compete with each other” – Adanna Dill, Rattles and Heels
- “The BWB 2014 Conference benefited me in so many ways! It was a pleasure to meet and greet fellow bloggers in person. That personal connection that may be missing from communicating through blogging & social media is bridged through conferences like BWB, informational sessions, question & answer sessions, meet & greets, & sharing meals with each other. – Michelle Forrester, Queens, NY
Overall, Blogging While Brown exceeded my expectations. Being around so many people who have the same passions seemed to ignite the “blogging fire” in me even more. I learned some great things that I plan to implement during my blogging journey.
I believe that I have formed connections with other bloggers that will be both positive and uplifting. The conference has confirmed that my writing should keep my readers happy, to encourage, inspire, and motivate them. I truly believe, the best is yet to come!