Jacqueline J. Holness is an avid blogger. In fact, it is rare for weeks to pass without her updating her online journal.
The Atlanta-based journalist-turned-blogger started afterthealtarcall.com in 2008 as a forum to discuss issues relating to the church. Since then it has morphed into a space for a myriad of topics, from politics to pop culture and personal relationships.
“When you are blogging on your laptop, there is a tendency for you to feel like it is just you and your computer, but when you come to a conference like Blogalicious, you realize that blogging is a truly a communal experience,” said Holness.
Indeed, she was one of around 400 social media mavens who attended the 2013 Blogalicious conference at Hyatt Regency Atlanta over the weekend. Now in its fifth year, the annual three-day event is fast becoming one of the premier seminars for bloggers, small businesses and social media enthusiasts.
The convention draws bloggers of all interests and experience levels, from personal to business. Unlike other forums it is supportive platform for women, predominately, although not exclusively, African-American and Latino sistas.
The list of impressive speakers this year included Amy DuBois Barnett, the editor-in-chief of Ebony magazine, who shared her business and branding insights as the headline keynote speaker. Not only did her talk give valuable insights into the competitive publishing industry, it was an honest dialogue that inspired.
“Realize your value and demand the best,” she told a room packed with attendees tweeting out her comments. “No one will give you the opportunities you don’t think you deserve.”
Later DuBois Barnett caught up with theGrio. She said she viewed blogging as valuable tool to cultivate cross-platform engagement and an opportunity to develop an authentic, “unfiltered” voice on a social media platform. She also said Ebony was pushing forward to keep abreast of social media innovations in its business model.
Bloggers looking for more inspiration attended the All-Star Blogger Keynote Panel, where 8 highly successful bloggers talked about how they built their media empire. Luvvie Ajayi of awesomelyluvvie.com, Lamar Tyler from blackandmarriedwithkids.com and Denene Millner, the founder and editor of mybrownbaby.com were just some of the names on the panel.
One of the reoccurring themes during this discussion was how important it is for bloggers to preserve an authentic voice, without compromising their integrity because of business opportunities.
Other noticeable speakers were actress Kerry Washington’s digital director, Allison Peters; Jen Shetterly and Karen Cooper of PicMonkey.com; Hamilton Brown, senior marketing director, Taco Bell company; and Elisa Camahort Page, COO, BlogHer.
Topics of discussion at the multitude of sessions encompassed setting your blog apart, building your brand, managing your online reputation, creating compelling content, working with advertisers and making money.
Aside from learning, other highlights were the Scandal premier party, the BlogaliciousFIVE Pop Up Shop Party, and a Wells-Fargo-sponsored event where contestants pitched their businesses to a panel of judges to win a prize package including a monetary business grant.
Another impressive feature of the convention was the use of technology to engage attendees. From the mobile-friendly website to the social media wall, Blogalicious had it all. “It helps to attend a conference where you can learn about the business aspect but it’s important to get to grips with the technology as well,” said Terrance M.Gaines, the conference’s technical advisor.
Blogalicious is the brainchild of Stacey Ferguson, a former technology lawyer who started blogging in 2006. She co-founded the conference in 2009 to establish a platform for multicultural women to connect, collaborate and motivate one another in a social media space.
Ferguson, who is African-American, said she felt compelled to set up Blogalicious because there wasn’t a social media forum for women of color. The majority of blogging was geared towards a mainstream audience, she said.
“I wanted to create a community of multicultural women social influencers that would celebrate digital diversity and serve as a platform for its members to develop their social media presence, blogs, brands and businesses.”
Interestingly, Ferguson said she never advises aspiring bloggers to start writing solely to make money. It needs to be a passion, which can be used to cross-promote work or part of a marketing strategy, she said. Though, she said with time bloggers can make money, “enough to buy a coffee in Starbucks or for the lucky, to pay your mortgage.”
“I am aware of how powerful bloggers are now, and this convention inspires me to continue blogging,” said Holness. “I started blogging in 2008 without much of a clue of how much power you have as a blogger. Each year that passes by, I am surprised about the opportunities that have come to me as a result of this platform.”
“I was able to get a book deal partly due to my blog. I have gotten some speaking engagements. I have attended some wonderful events due to my blog. And I have even connected with new friends! I look forward to what is to come,” adds the first-time author.
Indeed, even successful bloggers like Lamar Tyler from blackandmarriedwithkids.com said there is always something to learn at Blogalicious.
“We’ve been to all five Blogalicious conferences and I think each one has benefited us on both personal and professional levels. [This year] Elisa Camahort-Page from BlogHer gave great information on growing and funding your business.”
Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter at @Kunbiti