Last week I attended Alt Summit, “the premier business conference for pioneering bloggers and rookie bloggers alike”.
For any bloggers reading this: I am going to give you a real honest rundown of what it was, what I learned, and some things you might want to consider if you plan to attend one in the future.
For any non-bloggers reading this: I’m sorry.
So what is Alt? Essentially three days of panels led by the biggest and best in the industry, and networking. Because Alt caters to bloggers in creative industries there was a lot of pretty, party, and entertaining fluff surrounding the panels that were meant to provide real, useful information on how to elevate and improve ones blog.
The panels this year included a Track A for beginning bloggers, Track B for advanced bloggers and Track C for everyone.
I attended panels in all three tracks and picked up a few tips and insights that I think will help improve things around this little internet space Peppermint Bliss occupies. Here are a few such items:
1. The importance of a Media Kit: Whether you are trying to take on advertising, get a book deal, use your blog as an item on your resume, or parlay your blog into your own business- whatever your end game is- you need to be able to make a case for whatever it is you are accomplishing on your blog. That case should be made in the form of statistics on your traffic and reader engagement. Traffic statistics should reflect how many people are reading your blog daily/monthly, as well as information on who those readers are and where they are coming from that might be important to the individual or company reading it. These statistics can be collected through Alexa, installed sitemeters, surveys and Google analytics, and should be presented in a way that highlights your achievements. Reader engagement can compensate for less impressive traffic stats by showing the power behind those numbers. You can have 10,000 readers a day, but if those readers aren’t commenting, following the links you present, or otherwise supportive and invested in your blog- that doesn’t mean much. However if you have 100 readers that comment passionately, read the things you write and buy the things you buy- that has a significant value. Any information you can get to demonstrate reader engagement- click through stats on your links, survey results showing their interest in your opinion, comment community- gives a context that should prove your blog value.
2. Keeping an editorial calendar. This was a particularly helpful concept for me. When I first started blogging I did a pretty good job of this. I would think of what I wanted to post at least a few days in advance, and tried to have a schedule where I posted on different subjects on different days. As things got going I felt too constrained by that format and found it more productive to write as the spirit moved me. Now, however, I find I am frequently scrambling at the last moment to get something up. Sometimes that means posting something inadequate, and sometimes that means posting about something good inadequately. Overall it means that there isn’t any organization to the content I am trying to bring, which I am sure as a reader is a bit unsatisfying with some weeks being all meaty design posts, others total Biscuit-blitz, and others just a bunch of random junk. While you don’t have to be as rigid as “Moodboard Monday, Tastey Tuesday, Wedding Wednesday etc.” it can be helpful to identify themes in your posts and make sure you address each topic evenly throughout the month. It is no longer enough for blogs to just repost and regurgitate. We are expected to and should be creating original content- whether that is a well-written critique or a craft DIY- you need to give yourself the time to develop your work.
3. How to earn money from your blog. Jenny Komenda was refreshingly frank in talking the real talk about how to make money from your blog. She talked about how banner ads are out and the new ways of integrated creative content and sponsored posts. She gave actual numbers to start from when negotiating CPC vs. CPM rates with advertisers. We got advice on how to begin incorporating advertising into your blog without selling out and losing your audience. It was extremely candid, straightforward and helpful and made me rethink my stance on earning money from Peppermint Bliss- which I will discuss more tomorrow.
4. In a blog shop panel I learned some stuff I probably should have already known about when in the week and month to market, tips on promoting your store through social media etc.
Other than that…Everything I gained from the conference either came from having the freedom to chill and let my mind wander and think seriously about Peppermint Bliss and Biscuit- and from conversations I had with the other ladies in attendance. Which I know only happened because of the conference- but I have to say I was a little disappointed in the panels.
I didn’t attend every panel, but I felt like a lot of the ones I did attend were at best frustratingly vague and at worst solely self-serving.
And I get it.
It is a tricky thing to ask anyone who has worked hard to gain expertise or advantage to just give it away for free. There is a responsibility people have to protect their trade secrets and their business and to not hand out information they have struggled for years to gain.
BUT- They weren’t giving it away for free. They were being provided a platform to promote their business, to be verified as a success story. Speakers were exposed to a new audience, given a free ticket to attend, and a sort of VIP status at the conference- after every panel there was a line of people waiting to talk to the panelists and give them their business cards. And the exchange is that the rest of us who paid to attend and hear them speak needed to learn something. And not something about how fun it was to work with Anthropologie- but something we can actually use.
If the incentives provided by Alt itself were not enough to make it worth it for panelists to give up more useful information- then that is something that needs to be addressed between the Alt organization and the talent they are trying to attract. But I paid for my ticket to learn some stuff, and that didn’t realllllyyyy happen as much as I thought it should.
Also, there is a difference between giving it away so a less motivated, less creative people can copy you, and nurturing the talent that could contribute something that will elevate the whole industry.
And I know that is a tall order. Overall I am really pleased I went. The keynotes were fantastic. The meals and parties and facilities were great. Everything ran incredibly smoothly & efficiently. The framework and organization were really impressive. It seems like Alt has nailed the framework, now it might be time to refocus on the content. The medium is great- we need more message.
So that was my review of the panels- tomorrow I will share some thoughts on the networking, the famous Alt business card exchange, and pictures from the trip.
Right now I am going to hide in the back room at Biscuit because I am sosososo sick. Have any of you been to Salt Lake City? Do any of you live there?? What is UP with the air quality? I think I have the black lung. What a crazy bummer for such a beautiful place.
Did any of you reading attend Alt? Or have you in years past? What did you feel about the panels?