Monday, 17 October 2011
Smoke and Mirrors
For the second year in a row, I attended the Blissdom Canada conference in Toronto last week. I bought a ticket before the agenda was even created, trusting that I'd find the whole event as exciting and inspirational as I had the year before. Stories being shared about bloggers' lives changing thanks to friends and connections made online, businesses being developed and grown through social media platforms, parties and fun, swag and "mapletastic" activities were what we were seeking. Yes, the conference absolutely delivered. But something was a little different for me this year. Something didn't leave me with that exciting high I had last year. So what was it? What changed?
Certainly not the personal connections, I loved those. It was so great escaping for coffee with friends, discussing our businesses and experiences. It was wonderful hugging the people I tweet with, and meeting the ones who support my business. I absolutely loved meeting some of the sponsors and learning how they're communicating with the public in a new way thanks to all this crazy social media "stuff". But... but it was somehow different all the same.
I come from a different perspective when I attend events like this. Once upon a time I had a very popular blog where I wrote about, well, absolutely nothing of substance, actually. It was way back in the blogging stone age when advertising on a blog seemed bizarre, and monetizing one was just not something we even dreamt of. People loved my useless blog, though, and I had "fans" from 'round the world sending me bizarre gifts (like a stuffed platypus toy... uh, what?), emailing me for advice (so not qualified), photographing me while on vacation (scary) and of course, leaving me hateful comments. I chose to withdraw from that life, realising that I just couldn't live up to the persona I'd created.
When I started Tweeting, it was to grow my customer base for Clippo. I had absolutely no idea just how effective that endeavour would be: Twitter expanded my sales triple-fold within a year and yes, that was very exciting and all that but there was more of value to me than sales figures. The real-world connections I made there were amazing. Genuine friendships developed and I learned that building these natural relationships took a lot of time and effort just like, oh hey, the "real" world offline. There is no easy, quick way to build trust, develop relationships or even build a company. And nobody can do that FOR you. No matter what courses they want to sell you. Honesty cannot be bought, even if a trending topic can be.
I've watched internet stardom come and go. I've seen bloggers, tweeters and everything in between rise up, have their 15 minutes and descend back into anonymity and I've seen true incredible talent come from the most amazingly unexpected places and make dreams come true. The conference brought together a bunch of truly incredible women seeking... well, I really don't know. Seeking friendships? Connections? Sponsorships? Money? Exposure?
I left feeling like there was a definite divide between companies (big or small) and the bloggers seeking to connect with them. I left feeling like there's a vast divide between traditional writers and the newer wave of bloggers. I left feeling like this whole social media "thing" just might be a smoke and mirrors trend that will burst when companies no longer fork out thousands to reach people they can essentially reach for free.
Call me disillusioned, cynical, snarky or "fiesty" (I heard that one a lot over the two days of the conference, actually... is that a compliment? I'm still unsure.), I call it being critical.
I'm questioning the true value of companies throwing huge dollars at bloggers to spread the word "naturally" about their brands. Is that natural? Effective? Worthwhile?
I'm worried that people spend too much time trying to "brand" themselves when what we all want is to be loved for ourselves, not some bizarre, constructed version of ourselves. I worry that this focus on creating a brand out of a person dehumanizes what makes blogging so incredibly wonderful.
It concerns me that all companies are being painted with the same brush and that swag has become the way to the hearts of the masses, not social responsibility and honesty.
I worry that the bickering between bloggers and writers is one that will result in a washed-out, watered-down world of journalism.
As a "brand" (Clippo), I am hesitant to rely on social media to spread the word about our products. I want the most honest feedback and frankly we do not have the capital to pay for reviews even if we wanted to. We can't afford to give flashy swag, and we cannot justify expensive gifting suites just to show photos of celebrities loving our products.
As an individual (and a consumer, let's not forget), I feel I can't trust most reviews anymore, and that this whole social media revolution has shown once again that those with the most money to throw at a medium will win the exposure game and the love of the consumers.
As a person who loves to write, and has always dreamed of becoming A Writer, I felt like I was just one small fish in a sea of people who want the same thing, and so, what's the point? How depressing. Ha.
So while I left Blissdom with a sense of excitement and hope last year, this year I leave with heavier thoughts and concerns we'll be addressing with Clippo and in my personal life in the coming months. Food for thought is always a great outcome, so I still consider the conference a success.
Posted by Alexandria at 08:58