I think if you don't know I went to Spark Sessions this past weekend you might be living under a rock. I only say this because I went absolutely social media crazy - Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, you name it and I was on it. But with good reason!
I was insanely lucky to attend. I had my eye on the conference for month but with a part-time job and rent I knew it wasn't in the budget, which broke my heart a little. I entered two contests to attend and thankfully (I screamed, teared up and danced upon finding out) I won a ticket for the weekend from one of my fave bloggers Amanda Montgomery of Latest Wrinkle. Full disclosure: she was one of my faves way before the contest, and she's beyond adorable and kind in real life too!
It was amazing to spend a weekend with people that get it. No judging over taking one too many pictures of flowers for Insta or wanting a million pictures with the balloon letters.
I still get flack from family about my blog, and it's just not taken seriously and that I talk about it too much. Or people not reading anything but the minute I receive a product for a company you bet they want it. It was so refreshing to be in a room of women that have the same dreams, that have been blogging for years, that have the same passion and put all their work into it.
I set off Saturday morning bright and early like it was my first day of school, that's really the best way to describe the feelings I had! Kind of nervous, but more excited about it. I had looked over the agenda way too many times before climbing into my Uber and I was prepared to learn everything I could...I took notes like we were going to be tested!
I've been asked my fellow bloggers, friends and even those curious to attend next year what I learned and it is so hard to sum everything up but I'm going to try. Keyword is very much try because there was a lot to take in, it was overwhelming at times. But that's what notes are for!
The State of the Industry
This presentation was from Media Nexus and the number one thing I took away from Nathan's talk was to focus.
If you're an avid reader of Sincerely, Bri (do those exist?) you might already notice some changes that I've made, and I'm going to be making some more. I decided I had too much going on category wise, I had six. I was trying to push out content to each as much as I go and I was wearing myself thin. Posting for the sake of posing, you know? So I cut it down in half and now there's just beauty, wedding and lifestyle.
Going forward, after the next couple of posts that I already have in the works, I'm going to try to stick to a general wedding theme throughout all posts. A lot of the sessions pointed out how many beauty bloggers there are, even at the conference alone, and a niche is helpful of you have one. Weddings have always been a love of mine so it makes sense for me to focus a little more on that.
I never considered my blog a business but I can understand why I should start doing so. Focus, be proactive and do it, to paraphrase Nathan.
Mastering Content Creation
Our first panel discussion of the weekend and I loved it.
Talya Macedo kept the conversation going between four style influencers: Christina Cavaro, Daniel Ocean, Jill Lansky and Justine Iaboni. This session covered a lot, and it was also entertaining because it felt like a conversation instead of a lecture, if that makes any sense,
Sometimes I get caught up in the world of Instagram and feeling the need to post the "perfect" image. I recently move on from my whole white borders phase which I had for years and it was way more stressful than it should have been. I get that it's how brand and others see you but my goodness I take it too seriously sometimes!
Anyway, I think it was Daniel that pointed out you can have bits of all that's you, beyond your personal brand. Really the importance is to be authentic, which I've always done (save a little too many placement adjustments).
The four of them gave some advice that Talya had asked something like if you could have heard this at the start, that sort of thing, and here's what I jotted down:
- Don't care about the numbers
- You can charge brands
- Don't be hard on yourself
- Try not to compare
- Photo quality is key
- Approach it like a business
- You do you
The Power of Storytelling
I missed a chunk of this presentation as I ran out to grab a snack and chat with a few people but from what I gathered it was all about film, which is something I don't do a lot of! I've been toying around with the idea of starting a YouTube but I am too afraid I'd run out of ideas.
Anyway, Steve (from dubdub) brought up a great point that thankfully I was well aware of because j-school: always shoot horizontally. This makes sense visually for sure, you capture so much more instead of cutting it off filming vertically. Something I didn't consider was when you're shooting don't hold the camera perfectly still but let it wander just a tiny bit, like the natural eye does.
Another session that I missed a bit of, this time because of lunch. Can you blame me?
I write down "build your brand" in capital letters and I do agree with my note-taking self that that is important. I've always been keen on branding myself, both with my Instagram and with the look of my blog that matches my business cards.
It's important to focus on quality, which will be key moving forward for me as I focus on quality over quantity. And this ties into two other tips I wrote down: stay consistent and play to strengths which really supports my plan of focusing on wedding related posts.
Perfecting the Pitch & Brand and Bloggers
I'm combining these two sessions because they are so similar and both were so helpful, maybe the most helpful!
This first session was all about selling your brand through media kits, pitches, collabs and brand messaging.
Something clicked for me during this session: I can reach out to brands.
I know that sounds silly but up until this point I've never done that. I've been lucky enough to have brands come forward first, and I really had never thought of reaching out myself. Isn't that silly of me?
I've been blogging less than a year but since the summer I've started working with five PR companies here in Toronto, a company in Quebec and multiple brands. It's been sheer luck and I am insanely grateful. I have at least one event for the next three weeks and I am so excited to see what they bring for me, and a collab coming up with a brand that I've admired for years!
I'm going to rework my media kit and start sending it out to brands I would love to work with. It's about being proactive right and I can't just wait for things to happen. Even though I truly have been so busy with my existing companies, it won't hurt to try. Rejection will happen and that's part of it but I did like the idea to keep that ball in your court at all times so always saying you'll follow up sort of thing, until you get a straight answer.
The most important pitching tip I took home was meet the right people. I haven't been to too many events as a blogger but from now on that's at the front of my mind: yes the events are fun but you're there to work essentially and why show up if you're not going to meet the top people while you can? This goes for emails as well! If you can get to the right person through email than that will make all the difference.
And be kind, always be kind.
SEO for Style Influencers
I only did half of day two this year, something I would change for next year. The reasoning being that day two there's a networking lounge where you sign up for appointments and you get 10 minutes with the brands you select to work with. This was the only downside of winning my ticket for Spark Sessions: I never received any of the emails giving more info on this. I tried to sign up the night before but between dinner plans, my spotty internet and waiting for a confirm email I didn't make any appointments. Next year I will certainly take part in this!
During the afternoon I attended the workshop ran by Kat Andrikopulos and it was like being right back in school. It was a lot of technical talk that I did my best to keep up with, even though I think they're sending out the workshop powerpoint! Kat went over a lot of Google programs I wasn't aware of that you can take advantage of to get your blog ranked higher, which helps with page views of course.
My notes mostly make no sense - lots of links and short forms I haven't wrapped my head around just yet but what I remember the most is what she said about anchor text that I've started implementing in my posts. Instead of putting 'click here' as the hyperlink, hyperlink the words leading to the article like 'this is how I contour.' I hope that makes sense because it's such an easy change that can make a huge difference!
On top of walking away with so much knowledge I managed to walk away winning three giveaways too!
I managed to leave with the (kickass) swag bag, DECIEM goodies, $100 from Ebates Canada and $500 worth of products from Tweezerman Canada! So very thankful for this, makes my wish lists a little more attainable...after getting my brows touched up at the Tweezerman both I must have the ABH Dip Brow and now I'll already have the amazing Tweezerman brush they used on me!
It was one of the best weekends I've had in a long time and I'm so grateful for it. I'm excited to see what's coming next for my blog and my one year blog birthday (anniversary?) is coming up quickly! Hint: totally having a giveaway for that! All this excitement has happened in less than a year I can't even imagine what's coming next. But I'm excited about it and very optimistic!
If you attended Spark Sessions this year I would love to hear your thoughts and what your favourite session was, if you can make a choice!