I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to attend the Fall 2011 Independent Fashion Bloggers Conference (#IFBCon) in New York City. I knew that attending IFBCon would give me the opportunity to meet other bloggers who I follow. It would also give me the opportunity to sit in on the conversations and advice on blogging from some of the industries most seasoned bloggers and fashion industry insiders who were invited to serve on the panels. So the week before the conference, despite my limited vacation time at my 9 to 5 and budget, I made my decision and bought a last bird ticket.
Sleep could not find me on the night before the conference. By 4:00 a.m. I was already showered and dressed in my third alternative outfit (it kept changing the heavier the rain was beating against my window). An hour later, I was on the New York City bound Peter Pan bus with two other passengers. At 8:30 a.m., the bus finally pulled into Port Authority after encountering delays due to the rain and NYC morning traffic. By 9:15 am, the taxi driver dropped me …somewhere after promising that the Milk Studios was just a hop and a skip to my left .
Thank goodness the conference started late because if you missed a minute, you missed a lot. IFBCon was like a pep rally for bloggers. The energy of creative people that filled the space was contagious. In addition to the panels and networking and gawking at people who didn’t let torrential downpours deter them from wearing their most fashionable items, there were things like the minx manicures sponsored by magnum ice-cream bars. Many of the conference attendees got their hair situation straightened out (or curled) thanks to the stylists repping KMS California hair products. Aldo’s had us playing shoe roulette in the back and Marina, the ginourmous robotic doll from Target kept us mesmerized as we watched her tweet her way through the conference.
The conference and all of the blogging energy in the room made me feel syked and pumped to blog. I walked away with a new perspective on blogging. I can’t just think of my blog as a hobby anymore. As bloggers we have a collective influence in the fashion community and to refuse to own this and or refusal to utilize all of the great advice that was given in order to grow our sites and therefore our influence would be unfortunate. Here are my take aways from the conference.
Be unique and authentic. My site’s name isn’t as unique as the Man Repeller or anything, but I am keeping and working with the one that I have. (For more information on choosing a name for your blog, please read Terence Sambo’s article here). My uniqueness will have to come in the form of my voice and the content that I curate for the site. On authenticity, well what does this mean exactly? You can’t strive to be authentic. It’s either you are or you are not and if authenticity means that you shouldn’t be afraid to show your point of view on something…when it comes to products, is it fair to the brand to give a negative review on something that just might not be to your own personal taste or liking? (See StillBlondeAfterAllOfTheseYears take on this very issue).
Build my brand(s). I heard quite a bit about branding and consistency during the conference. When I hear the word “brand” I always think of Tide and Kris Jenner (the word “brand” and “Kardashian” are her two favorite words). It never really dawned on me to treat the title of my blog as a brand. As a result, there was no consistency across any of the platforms on which I choose to share and promote the content of my site (I mean brand). This weekend I made an effort to make my online presence more consistent. For example, I changed my twitter handle from @1we_tweets to @OneWomansStyleE to make it a little more consistent with my site name, One Woman’s Style Evolution. I also registered and now own OneWomansStyleEvolution.com. In thinking about this, however, I discovered that I actually have two brands. My product brand is One Woman’s Style Evolution and my personal brand is Natasha Samuels (my name) which is aligned, of course, with my product. (It’s an old article, but for more information on how to build your personal brand, read here).
Write a brand playbook. Ari Goldberg of www.StyleCaster.com was the breakout star of the IFB Conference. He was funny, interesting and had quite a bit to say. He encouraged us to find a brand that we love and after studying how they market themselves, emulate, apply or retrofit their *ehem* strategy to our own brand in a brand playbook.
Look outside the box to build followers and increase traffic to your site. I already knew about FaceBook, Twitter and Tumblr, but there was a lot of talk about Pinterest, StumbleUpon and Youtube from bloggers who have tried these platforms and found that it has worked for them. There was also mention about SEO or Search Engine Optimization. SEO is a unique way of presenting content on your blog which helps to increase your stats when people perform searches. The New York Times did a great feature on this earlier this year on how it works and why you probably shouldn’t pay a company to optimize your site for you. (Read it here).
Visit the blogs/sites of each of the panelists. They weren’t invited to serve on those panels just because of their great looks. The panelists were people who were up and coming just like you and I. Their efforts and method have resulted in something that we all want in order to validate our time and efforts, S-U-C-C-E-S-S. So why not spend some time to peruse the sites (I mean brands) of the individuals who have so to speak “arrived.”
Networking and what to do with all of those cute blogger cards. I am introverted (believe it or not) and as a result, I suck big time at networking. I still can’t believe that I missed the opportunity to at least make eye contact with Lee Oliveira. Dude lives all the way in Australia. There might not ever be a next time. I think if I had kept that mantra in my head I probably would have networked with far more than the 25 people whose cards I now have. And what to do with all of those cards? Follow up and follow through, of course. Visit your fellow bloggers site, drop them a howdy doo, comment on their posts and build and strengthen those relationships.
Next time. (1) First and foremost the back and forth thing between New York and Connecticut was insane. I am staying in New York City the next time. This is where that building and strengthening relationships with fellow bloggers will come into play. Got expensive hotel room? Split cost with blogger friends—ehhhh! (2) In order to be noticed at these events you have to really bring it, fashion wise (but of course still being true and authentic to who you are). Check out Marley Simone in the pictures above. She made it to New York Magazines list of the 17 most stylish people NYFW. (3) They should offer at least wine at the conference venue. I am far more talkative after a few sips. (4) The socializing of bloggers during panel presentations was really distracting. Hopefully Milk Studios will gift a second room where bloggers can lounge and interact with each other and also conference sponsors. (5) I am bringing my photographer next time and/or leaving that DSLR at home. It was too cumbersome and heavy. (6) If you see someone you want to talk to, do it. There might not be another opportunity to make the introductions. (7) What was with that glass wall in the bathroom? I almost walked into it. Maybe add a big X across the wall or a sign that says specifically Natasha “this is a glass wall, please don’t walk into it.” (8) Fashion is an image based industry. So what is with all of the business cards that doesn’t include at least a headshot, logo…something that connects back to person I spoke with. (9) What no tumblr, wordpress, pinterest stumbleupon reps there giving us demos or trying to get us to move over onto their site? (10) I would have loved for us to have at least 2 break out hands on learning sessions on I don’t know…maybe how to put together a brand book or even that SEO thing.
Photos: Unless otherwise noted, I took these pictures.