SimplyLA: Attending My 1st Influencer Conference
When blogging and building influence becomes more than words and pictures. My guide to Blogging 101 and my experience at my second content creator conference
I never knew blogging and becoming an influencer required so much time or how much I needed to learn about digital marketing and social media to really be successful at it. When I started my blog, I just wanted to write about my life and how I navigate a word not made for me or my needs; my only goal being… to help others in the same or similar situations. Show them that life could still be lived well despite the many obstacles and modifications that would present itself.
Blogging to me was meant to just be a creative outlet, but as I continued to write I quickly knew that just writing would limit me and would not allow me to help and advocate at the highest level. I want change to occur, I want to change the look of disABLED people and the stereotypes that continue to haunt us. I wanted to be a true advocate for my community through speaking engagement, public policy and a global nonprofit. They say “ Dream Big” well I want my dreams to be real and this would not even be an option if I didn’t challenge myself beyond the computer screen. I needed to create the platform that I wanted, build myself into a full brand.
Blogging would be the staring point but it would not be the final destination, and during my reflection process I realized how much I needed to learn to execute my plan. Unfortunately, the blogger/influencer world can be VERY competitive and many bloggers aren’t willing to give out their secrets of success, too concerned with losing their status.
So it was up to me to navigate this world of brands, hashtags, ads, advocacy, and creativity. Where do you learn the in-and-outs of being a successful content creator and creating successful partnerships with local and global brands? One Word… Conferences! One of the best ways to learn, network and create a foundation of knowledge is through conferences geared toward digital marketing, branding and content creators who are sparking the real conversations. I made it my business to find the best conferences that were going to help me grow as a blogger and challenge me as a business woman.
I recently came across a company called Simply, and they focus on educating bloggers on the in-and-outs of blogging, marketing, social media presence and how to make a profit from being yourself. When I found out they were hosting a conference at the Americana at Brand in Glendale, California on August 11, 2018 featuring influential speakers and heavy-hitting topics …covering all things branding, monetizing your influence and creating content that engages and sells…I knew I had to attend.
Simply offered two different tracks: The influencer and digital marketing. I chose the influencer track. Unfortunately, once you choose a track, you are not able to intertwine them, which in my opinion limits your experience. There were some speakers in the digital marketing track I was interested in seeing but unable to. Nonetheless, the influencer track did not disappoint. From 9am — 6pm, SimplyLA was jam-packed with panels, keynote speakers and an amazing “Brand Experience” that allowed attendees to meet, network with the owners or with the companies social media representative and of course try out products and services. My ticket included a breakfast and lunch and access to eight panels. I was most excited to attend:
- Grow Your Engagement: Increasing Your Visibility on Social Media
- Land Your First Deal: The Art of Negotiating
- Monetize Your Influence: Turn Your Blogging Hobby Into A Career
- Create Your Own Voice (And Make An Impact)
As a new blogger and budding influencer, these topics were most important to my growth at my current stage. I learned the most insight at the topics I bolded above. Here are a few tidbits I gained during the conference (and a few sound bites via my videos below) that I hope help and/or guide you if you’re thinking of blogging or need help with your next steps.
As many new bloggers, I am juggling my 9–5 and blogging, my goal like many, is to turn my words of passion into true influence and working partnerships with brands so that I can build my brand and work it solely. We all want to be our own boss and learning how to turn influence into dollars is apart of this. Passion for what you do is mandatory if you want to authentically showcase yourself and your brand; it also keeps you grounded when the rejection and criticism comes (because it will.)
Each panelist at the conference, regardless of their topic spoke about passion, patience and consistency as major key components/formula to being a successful and authentic blogger/influencer. Without passion, the pure frustration from the hustle and bustle of blogging and networking can take you under.
My passion for disABLED rights, equality, and awareness is what fueled me to open my life up to full transparency and allow me to put my insecurities and personal journey on public display… in the hopes that I can help others. Patience is my downfall lol, I’ve never been a patient individual, and although I’m getting better the wiser I become, I still have a ways to go. Each panelist spoke on their journey and the multiple years it took to get to their current position/level. Living in a world of “give it to me right now” it’s hard to wrap your head around the time it can really take to see the fruits of your labor start to blossom.
Every panelist stated it took years (5 years or more) to get their recognition and influence. Nothing happens overnight, despite how Hollywood tries to make it seem. Quality content and subscribers are grown over time. We get so caught up in the numbers, the likes on Facebook and Instagram, that we forget about making great, long-lasting content that has a shelf life of years.
Quality is always better than quantity; just because you post multiple times a day/week/ month and receive a spike in ‘likes’, ‘impressions’ or ‘followers’ doesn’t mean you are actually engaging with your audience or even reaching your target audience. As an influencer, it can be easy to get caught up in the numbers, but personally… even though it is hard (even for me) I can’t be controlled by the numbers. A “spike” will never out live the shelf life of a well curated post that can live for years due to it’s quality and overall relevance. The analytics are great to look at every now and again to gauge your growth and development; however, when you focus too much on the numbers you tend to subconsciously lose the creativity and passion that prompted you to start your blog. Remind yourself, you didn’t start the blog to get likes, you started the blog to help people, teach people, share your authentic self, everything beyond this is walking a fine line of authentic content and click-and-forget content.
It’s ok to plan out your content, blogging isn’t what it use to be (spontaneous post/rants), blogging is a true art form and should have an element of planning and precision. This can be achieved by creating a content calendar for the month or even up to 3 months.
Consistency, is one principle content creators tend to forget about, but it’s one of the most important elements to being successful. A blogger that is inconsistent but has a large readership/ follower-ship is more of a risk to brands and collaborations then a blogger with less followers but consistent content.
Readers (and brands) want to know that you are invested and have the time to dedicate to them. Content should always be up to date and relevant. If you know your time is limited and you can only devote one day to blogging…that’s ok. Don’t agree to curating multiple blog posts if you know you can’t keep that rhythm up. Keep it simple; readers shouldn’t wonder when you’re going to post… they should know which days and times you will post; consistency is king.
Part of the reason I wanted to attend the SimplyLA conference was to meet certain bloggers/influencers, including Kristin Thompson of TrendyCurvy.com. As a Black, plus-size blogger she really motivates me to stay on my path and build up! Her panel with Sarah Parker, VP of United Entertainment Group on how to “Land Your First Deal” really helped me break down what I needed to know to approach brands, what I can offer and how to remain true to my worth.
Meeting her and opening that relationship is something that will create future opportunities to network and build together. I learned how to set your worth and negotiate your contracts; how to stand out in a sea of influencers when approaching brands. I definitely suggest taking the the time to create a media kit; a simple document of who you are, what you offer (influence) and professional visuals can go a long way in distinguishing you from the others.
If there is a brand you’re interested in collaborating with, study their social campaigns and their products. Brands are more likely to repost your content if your visuals are aligned with their visuals, so study them and make it your personal goal to open that door of communication. I also believe there is no harm in using social media to start a conversation with a brand. Most brands are becoming more accessible and transparent so it’s a bit easier to reach out. You can’t afford to be shy and timid, the squeaky wheel gets the oil, so make sure your presence is noticed but don’t confuse this with becoming annoying. There is a fine line between being persistent and becoming annoying and creating an unprofessional connection.
During my lunch break I took som time to visit the The SimplyLA Brand Experience; it was a great area where influencers/bloggers could network on the spot with brands. Each brand offered complimentary products / services and giveaways. This was a great opportunity to engage and see how each brand created an experience that allowed the attendees to feel like they were apart of each campaign.
By the end of the day, I was more knowledgeable and had a better understanding on what my next steps were in my journey as a blogger, advocate and influencer.
As an attendee, Simply LA offered an overflowing gift bag with full size and travel size goodies from brands such as Aveeno, Dove, Diff Eyewear, Foster Grant Eyewear, Ogx, FHI, Secret, L’Oréal, NYX, BH cosmetics, Nest, Luna Bars, Kind Bars, and many more. Check out my pictures below to see the full haul of products provided.
I would definitely return for next years SimplyLA conference and I plan to keep my eyes glued for more opportunities to learn and network in this community. Preparing yourself for the right opportunity is important, even more important than the content you are publishing. If your unprepared or not educated in what steps to take, your content and branding will under perform and this will lead to disengagement from your audience.
Remember to stay focus, stay true to yourself and stay humble! Never forget why you started your journey; I guarantee it wasn’t for likes and shares… it was to share your journey and help others through their journey. Remain passionate, patient and consistent; what is for you will be for you. Your only true competition is you and breaking your own limits.
Until next time, this is my world… on wheelz