This year, BlogHer, the largest women’s blogging conference in the world, fell on my kids’ camp visiting day. It is the one day in seven weeks I get to see my kids. And, since my kids are teenagers, it’s also one of the only days my kids are totally, completely happy to spend an entire day with me. I wasn’t going to miss it.
So for the first time in four years, I did not go to BlogHer.
It was weird.
Even though a large number of my East Coast blogger friends didn’t go to Chicago for the conference, my Twitter stream was filled with all-BlogHer all the time. Instagram was wholly taken over by shots from the parties, people winning $10,000, and blogging friends with semi-celebs. Facebook was rife with shots of bloggers smiling, arm in arm. Across all of my social media channels, bloggers were giving each other shout outs and praising the event.
I felt left out. FOMO to the max.
But then I started really looking at the tweets and posts and pics. And I noticed something; no one (well, hardly anyone) was tweeting content. I saw lots and lots of tweets about brands. I learned that Shark makes floor cleaners – don’t call them vacuums, Windex can build a house on a convention floor, Lean Cuisine has gone healthy, Folgers packs ’em in at the lounge, Hasbro and American Girl both throw one heck of a party, and bloggers, evidently, are extremely fond of vibrators and lubricant.
I learned that people got coupons, and chocolates, and energy drinks, and Bitty Babies. I learned that Aveeno and Lubriderm and PediaCare are all giving bloggers free stuff. That Coca Cola cares about my Health and Wellness. Really?
In other words, BlogHer seemed, at least from the streams I saw, to be all about the brands. Which I guess makes the brands happy, but it made me kind of sad. Cecily Kellogg, Uppercase Woman, wrote of her experience at BlogHer this year, that it reminded her that “bloggers are storytellers.” She goes on, telling bloggers “whether you write about products, fashion, politics, feminism, sex, or like me, just your one small and beautiful life, you are a storyteller.”
And I agree with her. It’s just that so much of the story has been clouded by sponsored posts, and swag and blogging for bucks rather than blogging to tell a story, to reveal the small truths, to feel welcomed and warmed by a community of like-minded women.
When I look at the sessions offered this past weekend, I see Marketing, and Tools of the Trade, Monetization, Activism, Politics, Work-Life balance. All topics that seem useful and interesting, and rife with tweetable moments. But I didn’t see a whole lot of tweets from those sessions. I saw almost none. Because when bloggers become more about business than anything else, they know that tweeting advice for other bloggers will get them less free stuff than tweeting about the great new recipes you can get from the Eggland’s Best newsletter. (For a terrific take on swag and blogging and how to deal with it all, check out this post by Kim Moldofsky.)
Look, I write posts for brands, I tweet brands ,Just this weekend, I got a loaner car from Dodge to drive up to visiting day, and I tweeted about it all weekend long.
So it’s not that I don’t “get” the brand/blogger thing, I do. I even participate in it. But from the point of view of someone who wasn’t there, BlogHer seemed to be ONLY about that. And that’s a bummer.
You might argue that I can’t possibly know what it was really like. I wasn’t there, after all. But perception matters. And from an outsider’s point of view, BlogHer – and bloggers – seem to be all about free stuff, parties, alcohol, and lots and lots of lubricant. (In addition to the alcoholic kind.) That’s not the blogger I want to be perceived as. Do I want to get some kind of remuneration for blogging? Sure I do. Sometimes. But what I want more is being in the blogging community. Sharing, supporting, and learning together.
I wish I’d seen more of that.
I’d love to hear from people who were there who did feel the love. People who learned, and shared more than a free cup of Folgers. Was it really all about the brands? Or do we, as bloggers, need to think about what we put out there about the conferences we attend, to let people know that we aren’t just in it for the swag – we’re in it because we are, like Cecily says, story-tellers? Because in truth, we are a community of women: finding our voice, and sometimes, only sometimes, lending that voice to brands we can believe in.Liked this? You might also want to read: Proud to be a Digital Housewife Social Media, Sexual Assault, and Today’s Teens and Tweens Real Life Lessons from a Virtual World What Not to do When Working with Bloggers