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Takeaways From The Blogging While Brown Conference

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jul 21, 2016
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A week and a half ago I wrote a post talking about the need I felt to go to the Blogging While Brown conference in Washington DC after a week of reading & hearing about too many racial issues in the news. My initial plan was to write my follow up post about the conference and post it this past Monday.

IMG_20160717_110317_resized
George & I

Two things got in the way of that. The first is that I realized that I had missed writing about my 1,700th post by one, so I had to get that in there. The second is that I didn’t get home until after 1AM because my flight got delayed a couple of times, then I couldn’t find my car at the airport (hey, I was tired! lol), so I wouldn’t have been in any condition to write the article once I got home. Luckily I wrote the other article before I left & scheduled it for this past Monday, while saying I would write a second post this week talking about the conference… this is it. 🙂

Those of you who read these posts (I think 10 of you lol) know that I don’t necessarily write traditional posts like everyone else. Thus, what I write might not conform to your expectations. They’re going to be my honest thoughts, so if you went to the conference be prepared for that. However, I didn’t have a bad time there so there won’t be any negative shockers that will upset anyone… at least I don’t think so.

Further down I’ll be embedding the video I did of my entire weekend in DC to add a bit of flavor to the presentation, but for now, let’s get into my observations, takeaways and commentary.

1. The location wasn’t what I was expecting

This isn’t good or bad… just different. It was held at the Marvin Center… which turned out to be at George Washington University… which happened to be a college that’s actually a bunch of buildings on city streets with restaurants and shops around it that would be easy to miss if you didn’t know it was there.

That part is shocking because supposedly they have an undergraduate class of 26,000 students. However, those numbers are different than any other university I’ve known. For instance, out of that number only around 11,000 are undergraduate students, which means the majority of the students are graduate students; that’s just phenomenal! Second, there are more female undergraduates than males; that would have been a nice ratio when I went to college. lol Third, the college is just under 57% white, which means the college if fairly diverse, ranking at #477 in the nation.

Most of the presentations at the conference were in the theater, which was intriguing. There were breakout sessions in a room on the 3rd floor and in the cafeteria area. As for the food… well, at least they had food. 🙂

2. The people were what I was expecting

It’s rare that I’ve had the opportunity to be around so many black people like this. Not counting family or weddings, the last time I was around this many black people was 1995, when I left my job at Syracuse Community Health Center to go work up north in Wayne County (that’s in New York for those of you who don’t know where I live).

This was a pleasure because I had a feeling I knew what I was walking into and I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. Everyone in that room gave off a feeling of accomplishment, whether they were young or older (I was one of the oldest people in the room; gasp!). If y’all had any stereotypes of what a gathering of black people might look like this would have blown your mind.

It was nice being in a room full of professionals in many industries. Some were solopreneurs (that’s a word now lol); some worked traditional jobs. Everyone was extremely nice. I only ended up getting a picture with one of the presenters, but could have had way more. I felt really comfortable with this group, which doesn’t happen often these days; that was nice.

3. No one knew me

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Me & Yasmin

That’s not totally true. I knew my buddy Yasmin Shiraz was going to be there and it was great being able to finally meet her in person.

However, no one else had any idea who I was or what I did and that was kind of a shocker. As I said in the video, it’s the first time I’ve ever gone to a conference where no one knew who I was. I thought that with all the things I’ve done and people I’ve met over all these years online that I might meet at least one of the folks I’ve talked to. Nope; didn’t happen.

Thus, for the most part I tried to stay quiet and just take things in. I almost did it for the entire conference but I asked one question and that turned into something else that I wasn’t expecting. Folk were trying to give me advice that would have been helpful if I didn’t already know what they were advocating. Yet, because of all the attempts they made I’m doing an experiment on Facebook the next couple of days that I’ll get to write about at another time, so that worked out fairly well.

4. Few real bloggers or conversation about blogging

Okay, time to get real. During the opening session on the first day of the conference the moderator asked the audience how many people didn’t have a blog… and half the people in the room raised their hands. I was shocked by that because I had assumed that the overwhelming majority of people were bloggers. Turns out that was the first shock.

The second shock was that, in general terms, no one really talked about blogging… at least not in the ways I’ve always talked about blogging or the way a lot of bloggers talk about blogging.

There were no real conversations about writing, content, how often, etc. True, there were a couple of people who talked about scheduling blog posts along with scheduling how to promote oneself using tools, and there was the conversation about trying to find one’s voice when blogging. A guy named Linal Harris talked about storytelling and how it can make your blog compelling; I liked that a lot.

So, if no one talked about blogging all that much, what did they really talk about?

5. It’s all about the hustle, recognition and sponsorships

Dasha

If you want to feel old, just listen to younger people who are bloggers but not the type of blogger you are (or at least I am) talking about how they’ve figured out how to engage their audience so that they can generate money from their readers. Some have been highly successful at it, even if they were what I’d call non-traditional.

For instance, one young lady named Cari Rene and her sister have carved out a style empire by making one unique choice. They model all their own pictures but they only wear either white or black clothes for the most part. The images are high quality and compelling, and they’re masters of photo editing. By switching to that style they’ve been able to make a career of being image consultants as well as models. As for the content, you can look at 2016 and see they’ve only posted 5 articles, and in the previous two years just 72 articles. As I said, to people like me it’s a non-traditional way of blogging, yet they figured out how to use the blog to create a career; that’s so smart!

At one point Yasmin said to me “We’re doing things all wrong.” It certainly felt like it, that’s for sure. And yet…

6. Almost no one who presented is sustained by only blogging

This is important, and it’s something I had to figure out later on. Some folks were independent but had used blogging as a means to a better end, something I’ve talked about when I’ve mentioned the different ways people can make money via their blogs other than trying to sell products.

I consider myself a content creator, but I’m also a consultant. I make the majority of my money by consulting, yet I haven’t figured out how to translate my business blog into a money making machine. The thing is, I’d rather turn this blog into that machine because it’s better placed. I’d also like to figure out how to turn my finance and medical billing blog into money making machines because both are better niched for specificity. These young people have that part figured out, and with way less content than I have. I ain’t pretty but I do have a following in some places; maybe…

7. Other platforms are valued more than blogging

Well, this was a blow to me. More time was spent talking about all the other ways to reach people than blogging. Sometimes the talk was about how to promote one’s blog posts but overall the conversation went towards things like podcasts (which I’m not doing) and live video (which I’m definitely NOT doing) using platforms like Facebook Live and Periscope.

Those are definitely viable ways to reach an audience and lots of people seem to enjoy that these days. Frankly, it’s another thing that makes me feel old because for the life of me I can’t figure out why so many people are interested in absorbing a few seconds here and there of someone’s life (Snapchat) or need a daily dose of wisdom that may only last for a day (Periscope). What was interesting is that a few people did acknowledge the longevity benefit of YouTube; whew! lol

I think that’s enough of that for now. All in all I had a good time, learned a lot even if it wasn’t what I was expecting, met a lot of nice, intelligent people and might even think about going to another conference some day. In the meantime I’d like to highlight a few more people who I saw at the conference that I haven’t already mentioned; not all of these folks are bloggers:

Gina McCauley – she’s the founder of the Blogging While Brown conference
Dayvee Sutton
Arsha Lones
Lucrecer Braxton
Sheila Marmon
Vashti Patrick-Joseph
Alexzandria Cormier-Hill
Dasha Guyton

And now, the video I talked about:


https://youtu.be/ofUYYms51vY

 

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1,701 Blog Articles… Oops!

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jul 18, 2016
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I’m probably having two blog posts this week. The next one will be my synopsis of the Blogging While Brown conference I went to over the weekend. This one is about hitting 1,700 posts… a post late. That’s okay though; at least I realized it and now have something new to talk about.

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As I did with Post #1,600, I get to mention highlights of the past year as it pertained to my life, positive or negative, and then I get to highlight some of my favorite posts of the year. While that’s always fun, I’m going to begin this one by talking a bit about my present blogging mood.

My mood is kind of “meh” lately. It’s not because I don’t still enjoy the process of blogging. The issue is that real life has been affecting me more than anything else. I’m worried about my mother’s mental health, and it seems to be carrying over into my own health. I’m averaging 2 1/2 hours of sleep a day, which sometimes includes a nap; that’s not great.

It means that my mind is a bit foggy, which I really can’t afford being self employed. It’s also affecting my overall writing, which means my income. Other than this blog and my business blog, I’m not paying much attention to anything else. I’m not even doing as many videos as I usually do, although I did do this one which, though geared towards YouTube, applies to some of the folks who comment here from time to time:


https://youtu.be/pcAzF39wdeQ

Still, I get by, so if you’re worried about me don’t be (like you’d worry lol). After all, within the time it took to write the last 100 posts, I’ve had some intriguing things happen.

I had the anniversaries of both my 14th and 15th year of self employment. I had the 8th anniversary of this blog in December (which I forgot to write about) and the 11th anniversary of my business blog. I wrote my 2nd book on leadership titled Leadership Is/Isn’t Easy. Finally, I was interviewed by podcast on the topic of leadership by Jesan Sorrells, whom I also interviewed on YouTube.

That’s not too shabby, even if I still had bigger plans for myself. I’ll get beyond this brief funk I’m in, hopefully inspired by many of the people I’ve just seen at the conference this past weekend I work best when I have something to compete for. 🙂

This is usually the point where I’d just list all my favorite posts of the year. I’m still going to do that but, because these days people are also hoping you’ll share something of value that they can use, I’m going to write 5 tips that have helped me this past year, things for you to consider:

1. Be consistent

As I mentioned earlier, I wrote at least a post a week on two of my blogs this year, and those have proven to be the most successful. Except for two anniversary dates, I posted the blogs on the same day, this one on Monday, my business blog now on Wednesday, as it used to be Thursday. It’s helped because people get used to looking for a post on a certain day, and that helps keep visitors coming.

2. Promote

I started promoting my blog posts more in 2015. I realized that I wasn’t promoting them enough, as I was only doing it twice at the most. Now with each blog post I promote it twice on the first day, and then at least once the next 4 days (sometimes I’ll skip either Saturday or Sunday) and I stagger the times. An important time was late at night for me because the other side of the world is just waking up so they’ll see it early day where they are.

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3. Some automation

I’m not big on a lot of automation, but I finally acquiesced this year and started using first Tweetdeck and now Tweeten to schedule both older posts and my little motivational missives. I realized it not only saved me time and allowed me to concentrate on other work, but I get to select what people are seeing that I’ve previously created, and I’m not hammering the same thing over and over so people can get tired of it (you should see my files lol).

4. Writing ahead

Most of my articles are written at least a couple of days ahead. When I can, I’ll write multiple articles on one day, at least 2 or 3. That helps to cover those times when there are other projects to get to but I still want to get a post out. It’s what helped me write a post a day on my business blog last December. I need to get back to that for my other blogs because it’s really a good idea.

5. Be authentic

A few month ago I fussed about people who write things that not only seem to be carbon copies of what someone else has done but are boring as sin. What I’ve noticed on blogs I visit more than once is that a lot more of my blogging favorites have started to do the same type of thing, and that makes what they’re doing more enjoyable. It kind of touches on the concept of pure blogging that Danny Brown talks about all the time, which he’s absolutely correct on.

There you are; if you can’t do anything with those 5 tips you’re not even trying. lol Enough of that; let me share my favorite posts in the last 100 so you can get on your way. There are more than normal, and this is because last year I started trying to write more comprehensive posts so, in my opinion, the quality went up a bit from what I was writing previously. Of course this is my belief; hopefully you’ll agree with some of these. 😉

9 Relationships Between Blogging And Social Media

The Stuff You Haven’t Been Told About How To Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

5 Things You Should Do Before Commenting On A Blog

Why I Hate Auto DM’s And First Contact DM’s

6 Answers To Questions From New Bloggers

The Ethics Of Social Media

7 Definite Rules Of Marketing Online And Offline

10 Ways To Find Inspiration To Write About In Your Niche

9 Social Media Mistakes People Make

9 Reasons You Need To Keep On Writing

Someone’s Still Going To Hate You So Do Your Thing

The Proliferation Of “Fake” On Social Media

The Case Against DM’s On Twitter As A First Contact

Controversy, Publicity And Social Media

Try Something Different, Say Something Different On Your Blog

Popups Ruin A Blog Readers Experience

Misleading Titles, Disappointing Blog Content

31 Big Mistakes People Make Blogging And In Social Media

The Spam In Our Blogging Lives

What Muhammad Ali Meant To Me And The Social Media Lessons We Can Learn From Him

The Syracuse Orange & 5 Lessons To Learn About Social Media

How Are You? Life And Blogging

What Muhammad Ali Meant To Me And The Social Media Lessons We Can Learn From Him
 

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Why I Need To Go To A Blogging While Brown Conference

Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Jul 11, 2016
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I’d like to share a couple of mentions I got this week, both on the same day. The first was from a post by my buddy Steve Borek, who credits me for convincing him to start blogging, titled The First Step Is The Hardest To Take. The second is from Ileane Smith‘s site Basic Blog Tips, where Lisa Sicard wrote a compilation piece based on advice as to why Twitter is great for marketing titled Twitter For Blogging – 15 Reasons It’s Proven Powerful. Go check them both out, as both articles are excellent.

Street art: 1968 Olympics Black Power (human rights) salute
Melbourne Streets Avant-garde
via Compfight

This coming weekend I’ll be going to my first ever non-medical billing conference. It’s called the Blogging While Brown, and it’s a conference for people of color who blog, this year being held in Washington D.C. I’m hoping it’s a lot of fun and educational at the same time, and my buddy Yasmin Shiraz is the only person I definitely know who’s going to be there.

Some of you might ask why there’s a need for a specific conference for people of color. After all, aren’t we all supposed to be one with each other?

Actually, that would be very nice, but unfortunately it’s still pretty much a pipe dream in America. This past week was more proof that there’s a problem with race and that each side blames the other, to the point that I’ve changed my overall outlook on life as I know it and can’t see any time in the near future where we’re all going to get along with each other.

This isn’t a new thought that’s just come to me. After all, I wrote this post back in April on my business blog and created the video below yesterday:


https://youtu.be/HuJM0v5TQtY

I also created this video in April asking if we could all get along… y’all know that answer…


https://youtu.be/KBo2AFW47kI

I took a tough position on the blog post and kind of a tough position in the second video but not in the first. With the second video I took the position where I said that if we ever hope to overcome the issues we have with race, the police and anything else we can’t agree on we’re going to have to sit down and have a legitimate conversation with each other.

I’m of the opinion that there are really only two ways to solve issues permanently; one is by talking to each other, the other is by totally eliminating every single person who’s unwilling to try to find common ground so all that’s left is a lot of people who agree with each other. However, I’m thinking that second idea is fairly problematic, probably unattainable, and pretty much horrific so I’ll stick with the talking option. 🙂

Unfortunately I don’t see it happening any time soon. I’ve had to block or move a lot of people around who don’t seem to understand the issues or feelings of people like me. People who want to blame President Obama for a mess that’s been going on for almost 400 years are clueless. People who want to blame the Black Lives Movement are clueless. People who want to post stuff like All Lives Matter are pollyanna.

I know the question those who visit this blog want to ask; what’s this got to do with blogging or social media? Everything!

The posts of mine that get the fewest views or comments on my business blog are those that talk about race or diversity issues. Unless I’m addressing freedom of speech, the articles on this blog that get the least amount of traffic are those on social issues. I know few people who write on topics like these when mixed with other topics like those I write about. I’m kind of an anomaly; as if y’all didn’t already know that.

I’m not close to the radical some people might think I am. What I am is someone with a social conscious on a few issues that I feel the need to bring up from time to time. True, it might not necessarily always be good for business, but if that’s the only thing you care about then you’re not really a blogger but an entrepreneur.

Nothing wrong with that because not everyone is expected to stand up for something they believe in. After all, if you don’t stand up for something you’ll fall for anything, and it’ll probably be something negative.

Mark
Christoph Boecken via Compfight

That’s why I’m going to this conference. I don’t expect the topics to have all that much to do with race and I’m good with that; heck, I might be elated if none of it comes up. I’m even expecting to find people who don’t agree with a lot of other things I happen to like.

What I do know is that, for once, I won’t be an “only” at a conference, or one of the “chosen few” who shows up and spends most of my time alone because I didn’t fit in. Sometimes you just want to feel as though you’re part of a crowd where you actually possibly belong.

Four and a half years ago I started a series that I ran for 19 Fridays in a row called Black Web Friday. My intention was to bring websites and blogs that were created and written by black people into the public conscious because I’d been to too many sites that talked about the top 25, 50 or 100 whatever and never seen a single black face on the page. When I asked one writer about it she said ‘I don’t know any black bloggers.”

I felt it was important then to try to help bring some publicity to people who deserved it. I still think it’s important to do while acknowledging that it’s more difficult to find these days. Goodness, it’s difficult to find people in general who are creating new content on their own; even I can’t find that many anymore, which is another great reason to go to this conference.

If you’ve made it this far into the article, I first want to thank you for that. However, I’d like to ask a favor of you, if I may. If you know of any black bloggers you’ve found on your own, please share their name and link in the comment section of this post.

I have to warn you, if you post a link like you normally would your comment is going to spam. Please leave off the “http://www” part of the link so you won’t go to spam, because I think my program sometimes totally bounces some folk who try to post a full link. I’m curious to see who others might put down who I might not already know or who I might not have highlighted before. This could be an interesting experiment; I’ll hope to be pleasantly pleased. 🙂

If you don’t know any don’t fret; I’m sure I’ll be able to share a lot of names and folk with you after I get back next weekend. In the meantime, let’s try to be nice to each other for a while… please?
 

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