MINDING YOUR OWN BUSINESS: Peer Networking
BlogHer '11 Panel Transcript: Peer Networking, Working Together To Help All Boats Rise, August 5, 2011. Conference Track: Minding Your Own Business. Speakers: Liz Strauss, Vikki Reich, Heather Mann.
AUGUST 5, 2011
MINDING YOUR OWN BUSINESS - PEER NETWORKING:
WORKING TOGETHER TO HELP ALL BOATS RISE
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>> LIZ STRAUSS: There's this thing about clocks and time. I'm not good with the clock algorithm. And I often talk very quietly when other people are talking because I don't want to be rude and I want to let them finish their conference. So when they're all finished with their conference, I'll talk louder so they can hear me. And it always works. Welcome. This is the session called minding your own business, which I'm not very good at. Peer networking, working together to help all boats rise, which is if you've seen the water, like awesome. You know, like we should be out on the terrace watching all the boats rise. I'm Liz Strauss, and you're not. At least I hope you're not. But, if you want to be for a little while, go ahead. It will work. I would like to introduce you to this lovely panel of people that we have spent some time together talking to each other about this lovely topic. And so I'm going to pass the idea and the microphone right down the way to my to the person to my right whose name is Vikki and I'm going to say Vikki, will you tell people who you are and what it is that you do when you're not doing this?
>> VIKKI REICH: I've never done this, so I do a lot of other things, but my name is Vikki. I'm a social worker by day and a writer by all the other times and I write at atpoptofox.com and then in my (scattered applause) nice, thank you. And then I've also done a lot of political organizing over the course of my life and then also have done some organizing in terms of banding people together to do practical community. So that's kind of why I'm here and why I'm talking on this topic.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: And then a little further to my right is I hear my men tore granddaughter is that what you called yourself? Because I have a mentor relationship with a wonderful woman and she do you see her?
>> I think she's in here.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: There she. The world famous Wendy Piersoll who says that I mentor her and she mentors me right back. And she mentors Heather and Heather mentors her right back so it's like a menage a trios of mentoring so to speak. So Heather, would you tell people what it is you do when you're not doing this.
>> HEATHER MANN: Yes, my name is Heather Mann and I blog at a blog called dollarstorecraft. It is a craft niche blog which you probably never heard of but everyone in the craft screen has. But when aim passionate about is hanging out with other bloggers, mentoring them. I also have a site called crafterminds.com. Sort of like master minds and what we do is every week we have a Twitter chat about creative blogging but really blogging but with a focus on home, DYI and creative blogs. And we try to give bloggers tools to get better and be successful and make money and make connections. So that's what I love to do. I love to connect people and I'm so excited to talk to you today. Hopefully I can give you some good stuff to take away with you to help you connect.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: And then just a little bit to the right of Heather, so we've got Liz, Vikki, Heather is Ananda Leeke. And Ananda, she figured out we figured out together that I'm tall and she's short. All by ourselves. She went oh, wow you're tall. And I went ow wow we're not. We're going to figure out other things later I'm sure of it and mentor each other on the subject. So would you tell people what it is you do when you're not doing this?
>> ANANDA LEEKE: Sure. Wanting to be 6'1", my name is Ananda Leeke and I'm the founder of digital sisterhood. And it's a movement of self care, self discovery and social justice. And there's digital sisterhood month in December. It will be the second annual. And the celebration is about all of you in this room, women in social media. And so every Wednesday we have a digital sisterhood Wednesday Twitter party where we tweet out our digital sisters and there it's organized around causes at times depending on what's happening. But it really is an opportunity for women to reach out and connect and build community. And I'm all about women connecting, communicating. Collaborating. And all those other Cs, the creating, and coming together. So that we support each other. I'm also an author, yoga teacher and a coach. And I'm really happy to be here and to share. So thank you.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: And all I do is talk. Now that we've got that covered, where is Kristina.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: There she. The beautiful and lovely Kristina who has the microphone is now fully prepared to ask you I want to ask you a question before we even start. We had this long description of what peer networking session was going to be about having all these boats rise. But you might have thought it meant one thing and we might have thought it meant something else. So if you came here with expectations, does anyone want to share what it is they would like to know? There's one. Survey says.
>> AUDIENCE: I'm Jen from need to learn how to talk into a microphone. I'm Jen from live with Levi and I would love to learn more about building a forum community in particular and some of the online tools we can use in our community building.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: So you want to know about tools. All right., of course. Way at the other side of the room.
>> I'm coming, wait for me please.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Let's just collect a few first. I'll weave them into the
>> HEATHER MANN: All right.
>> I'm Jill from baby rabies.com. And I just want to know how to go about finding your tribe. Because I feel like I've come close with some like graduating class of bloggers. And I think it's important that we have the skills to find those who are kind of in our own little realm.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Gotcha. Anybody else like maybe somebody in the middle., of course, way down here. There's one there.
>> AUDIENCE: I'm Danielle wood from education.com. I'm kind of interested in talking about what's an appropriate way for someone in a content site to network with bloggers in a way that's not offensive to them. In terms of sharing content and that sort of thing. How we help you, how you help us but when I'm not a Proctor & Gamble or something like that I'm just another content person?
>> LIZ STRAUSS: So being up here with someone you don't feel very peer like.
>> AUDIENCE: I would say I feel peer like from the perspective that we're both doing content but I think that I don't see that big a distinction between people writing for the web in article form versus blog form. But sometimes it seems like there is a distinction so I just want to understand that
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Oh, yes, there is a very big distinction you need to know. But it's okay. Okay, one more and then we'll get this boat rising.
>> I'm Callie Miller with Whit life L.A. and I'm more interested in finding a mentor and how we can also be mentor. So sort of helping each other in that way.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Okay, these are all things that we were going to talk about. Whew, what a relief. Sorry. So relieved. I can breathe again. Whew.
So we actually had some ideas sort of in I'll try not to whistle like that again. But you know, it's that pace in between my teeth. So we had some ideas and one of the questions we thought would be a really good way to approach this whole topic was really that question that came up. It's like where do you start? And it's where do you start even if you're just one person and you want to find a mentor or a peer or somebody who is just going to help you, you know, be there with you because I know when I went online, it was just me and my blog. There were 12 million blogs which is just a few million less than out there now but it still feels lonely and nobody it talk to. So how do you find that first person to talk to. And who wants to who wants to say how did you ow did that digital sisterhood first person get started.
>> One of the things I love about people is they love to talk about themselves.
(Ananda Leeke) most people do and not in a sense of they want to brag. But in that people are opening up to you when you ask them questions about yourself. About them and that's one of things I notice about digital sisterhood. I've been coming to blogging conferences for a couple years and I always knew women were powerful but this whole experience of women online has just been explosive and I decided I wanted to write a book about it. So I knew I needed to find out more about this experience. And I started interviewing people on a radio show. I didn't know about them, I would e mail them and invite them on my blog and as a result of those relationships of me deciding to have a space for them to tell their story, you get a comaraderie going. And then if you're commenting on their page and you happen to be in the local area because I was really strategic, I picked a lot of people in Washington, D.C., the metropolitan area, you can invite them to come to meetups or find out where they are. And that's that one interview leads to all kinds of things. And sometimes in that interview, they might find something that would support your business and they might say can we have a conversation off line. A lot of people really are generous. That's one thing I noticed about women on line if you ask a question and say hey can we have a conference about T an actual phone conversation or meetup, lots of people will respond but I find it starts with asking that question. Like who they are. And if you don't have a radio show, just doing an interview on your blog. If you're not at the place where you want to have interviews on your blog, you could just interview them in general. People want to share.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: That's a really good point. Don't lose that point about asking questions, in fact, use that point all this weekend if you walk into a room and feel like you're the only one, the quickest way make a connection is to ask a question.
>> VIKKI REICH: It doesn't work to run away, I tried that.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: I know, I grabbed her. Hey, come back here, you're on the panel.
>> VIKKI REICH: I want to add one thing, I think it's really important the authenticity you strive to build with people online, start out by finding those people that you like. I mean, it's kind of like dating, look for the people that you're interested in. They don't have to be writing about the things that you're writing about or whatever. But, if there's something about who they are and how they represent themselves and the way they act and interact with other people that you have respect for, then those are the people that I think that should be seeking out and then you know, then you get yourself a blog life like I have and then the sky's the limit. But I think you have to look for people that you admire and create connections there and really focus on making it a real connection.
You know? I don't know.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Okay.
So Heather, what do you look for?
>> HEATHER MANN: Okay, so I wrote that down too. Dating. First of all, you're not going to go up to the first person you see at BlogHer and say let's northbound a group, let's talk on the phone every day. You're going to say what do you like, what do I you're going to share a little bit of that you're going to feel out the relationship, first. And as soon as you fine somebody you felt you had a good connection with, you can say can I email you? And start e mailing them once a week just for a little feedback and when the e mail relationship is going well, maybe you can talk to them on the phone next. I mean, it's just like dating, I think of it that way. If you're uncomfortable with the idea of networking with your peers, if that makes you feel weird, it really does start with reaching out to other people. Even if it's somebody you admire and you think they'd never talk to you. People love to be asked about themselves even when they're what you think is beyond your level. We're all people. We all put our underwear on the same way.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: We all pay somebody to help us put on our underwear every day.
>> HEATHER MANN: Any way, sorry, underwear.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: But there's a big word you used in there. If you're uncomfortable networking, first of all, if you're uncomfortable networking, call it something else. You know, it's like call it
>> VIKKI REICH: Social anxiety.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Call it meeting people. Call it I've noticed something in the hallway here. Why is it that nobody smiles? I've been smiling at people in the hallway and having a hard time getting people to smile back. One of the best things to do is smile at people. It makes it a lot easier to talk and if you're in the company of people you want to meet, somebody told me this once. I never heard it before, wear some really striking piece of clothing or jewelry because it gives people something to comment on.
>> HEATHER MANN: Purple tights.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Those are really awesome knee pads you're wearing to this formally vent. It gives people something to comment on. But you know, it's like I have this one necklace I wear that I go shopping in a drugstore and people comment on it. I could make friends everywhere I go. I could meet stalkers, but you know, so that's something to do. But what you need to know is what you're looking for. You know, so it's not do you want a mentor, it's why do you want a mentor. And why do you want a peer networking group. What is it you're looking to change about your life? That will tell you who you should be looking for. So what are the values, which is what Vikki was saying you have to know who you're looking for.
>> HEATHER MANN: I think it starts casual like dating. We're going to use that metaphor here. Is it starts casual. You don't start out with some grand plan when you meet your friend. You just want someone to talk to and you feel it out from there and things develop from there. So don't even go into any conversation expecting some crazy networking, but you know, also if you feel uncomfortable about it, turn it like we weep saying, ask them a question, turn it to them. Then you won't feel so awkward. You're not talking about yourself, you're talking about them. It's so easy when you're I feel like all of us are kind of we have super powers in networking. So sometimes when you are good at it, you're like oh, just do it. You can just do it. That's not what you do, just you know, I guess it's reaching out, everyone here, I'm sure everyone's had this experience at BlogHer this weekend. Someone comes up to you and they just say something nice to you or they notice something about you. Everyone at this conference wants to be noticed and that is why we're here. And you are someone who has the power to notice somebody else. So when you notice someone else, you're making that networking connection. And you're giving you know you're empowering them by giving that that attention that every here is worth talking to. So you've got to think of them that way.
>> VIKKI REICH: I would say though I have no super powers in this area. So basically, if I can manage to find people that I can work with in a group, then everybody in this room can, because seriously, I spent two hours in my room yesterday afraid to leave. So I think seek out those relationships and we're all online for a reason, because it's easier for many of us to talk to people online. And once you make that connection and then it's just a little tiny baby step to taking that connection deeper. But seriously, if I can do it, anybody can.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Sometimes it's just
I wore brown knee socks all through high school, so believe me, I wasn't very good at it either. I'm still not. My brothers paid people to be my friends.
So one of the things though and I'll bet this is true of digital sisterhood particularly is you know putting your I hate using this word because it's so been put into the LOA thing. But putting your intention out there. Just going out and saying hey, I'm looking for someone to help me build my blog, I'm looking for someone to help me build my business, I'm looking for a sounding board in life. I'm thinking of starting something called digital sisterhood. Does that sound interesting to you? Would you like to be a part?
>> ANANDA LEEKE: Yeah, that's something I was called to do but I didn't know exactly how it was going to happen and it happened organically because I put the call out there. I started with some focus groups in D. C., using a public library. And just inviting different women. I had five different areas. I went to their blogs. Some people referred me to the fashion, the beauty, the hair folks, I knew folks with the yoga, the wellness community, the entrepreneurs, the techies, you know, how we got it all segmented out. And I invited folks. I didn't know who was going to accept the invitations. But people accepted the invitations and those would couldn't recommended other folks and from those focus groups I really saw that people embraced this topic of digital sisterhood. I had a definition but I asked a question at the end of each focus group and people expanded on it.
And I think it's true what Liz says and what everybody else is up here saying is put it out there. I'll give you an example of peer networking. I needed a roommate for BlogHer because my mentor and PR could not come and she found out at the last minute she couldn't come and I found out at the last minute so I put it out on BlogHer and Chinese grandma Lillian Chang responded. We don't know each other. I'm on the East Coast, she's on west coast, I loved her blog and we connected on to the end and we're roommates. In the last day and a half we connected on so many things and now she's going to be part of digital sisterhood month 2011. That's just one example of I just put it out there and I put it out there on Twitter too when I needed. Just ask the question and let the universe bring you what you need. Trust that it's there. Because people and if you don't an answer, people will refer you to folks. It's like Alice in Wonderland, when you go down the hole and you just keep going and going and going and going and going, you do hit a bottom meaning the place where there's the treasure. You will hit it. You just have to step out and it's not easy to step out but it's well worth it. I don't know if that helps. But that's what I got.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: So and I notice the person who wanted to talk to us, are there still people in the room who want to talk tools? We're going to split into a couple conversations here. So, if you do, make sure that you let me know. We talked a little bit between the four of us about structure. You find this person and do you talk to them once a week, do you talk to them online, do you talk to them offline, do you bring five people in right away. How do you build it? How much structure is too much structure? Do we have to have rules about this? Mentoring networking kind of thing, and how do you tell a mentor from a stalker? You know? Kind of thing. And who gets to give the advice and get the advice. So those are the kind of questions on the table. Like structure. What do you do about structure?
>> VIKKI REICH: I think it depends on the kind of project or goal that you're setting out to do. I think for example, for me, it's I'm really interested in writing. I want to move my writing forward and then I also have, you know, political issues related to the GLBT community where I'm interested in that and any kind of activism that we can do online around that. And I think you have to figure out what your project it is really before you can decide any type of structure because maybe you don't need any structure or maybe you need a lot. But I think it depends on the specific project or the goal. Or whatever.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: What's your experience with structure, Heather.
>> HEATHER MANN: For me I have two different kinds of groups, I have a group I talk to every week on the phone we're all online, we know it's easier to e mail. But I want to get away from my computer, I'm typing blogs all day and stuff. I want to actually talk to somebody in person. So once a week I talk on the phone to a couple other girls and that evolved from an e mail group. It was so informal. We were e mailing and asking questions to each other and we said let's just talk once a week. That's one thing I would recommend to you if you have even one other person you connect with set up just even once a month or just one time. Start with one time. Can we talk on the phone next week? And then secondly, I host a party and anyone who wants to can come. Its a Twitter party. I think that's a great easy entry low risk way to get people involved. You know, you just say here's the date, here's the time, here's the hashtag, this is what we're doing. And then people come. So you know, there's different ways to do it.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: I was just going to say it's time to ask the audience and Francine read my mind.
>> AUDIENCE: I mentor a lot. Mostly I mentor startup companies and I hold three regular office hours a week once a week at an incubator where they are. And I do that because I was getting asked to mentor on an unstructured and informal basis. And I couldn't figure out how to I wanted to do it but I didn't want it to take over my life. So, if you're on the mentor side, that's one good way to organize. If you're on the mentee side, I would say just, you know, from the standpoint of someone who mentors all the time, that people love to be asked. Whoever said that was right. People absolutely love to be asked. I was talking to Liz at lunch about what do you get with age? You get wisdom. And if you can't share that wisdom, what good is it? So I think people who know what they're doing are not afraid to mentor. I think you guys if you guys are bloggers and you want to be businesses, that you should treat yourself like startups and every startup gets a board of advisors and they just ask people to be on the board of advisors and people usually say yes. And then they do a conference call or a Google group or something with that board of advisors and just ask them things. I'm on one board of advisors of a company that just sends me an e mail when it has a problem that it thinks I can comment on.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Perfect question. How many people in here are interested in talking about a board of advisors? Okay.
Because I think that's a really because I have a powerful popular is really the word I want blog post on my blog about building a personal development board of advisors just for yourself even. It's like take five minutes to think about who what kind of people you might put on your board of advisors for yourself or your business. You know, who you might ask. And then let's you know, let's throw the question down the table and around the room to see if we can design a board of advisors that would be useful to people, who should be on it. And so whenever somebody up here is ready, you can just talk. But think about because we're going to throw it out to you too.
>> HEATHER MANN: I like to think of Gilligan's Island. You don't want all Mary Anns, your friends can be your Mary Anns, but you need to have some people who are going to ask you the questions you don't want them to ask you because that is where the growth comes from. You want to talk to people who you at least can talk with comfortably but you do need someone who is willing to ask you harder questions. Who has a different personality type than you do and think about things from a different angle than you do. If you're an extrovert you need to talk to an introvert or if you're a technical person, you maybe want to talk to someone who is more emotional. You definitely want to assemble a team that has expertise in areas you do not.
>> ANANDA LEEKE: I totally agree. I have team Ananda and there's a personal development team Ananda and then there's the team Ananda projects because I'm on a quarterly basis, I try to look at the things that I do and what's going on in my veer based on what's happening and where my energy is and December is my birthday month and I want to close out the year with a bang. So digital sisterhood month that's a no brainer for me. But there's also the fact that I write books. So I've got to leave time and space there for that entire process. And so what's worked for me is looking at when I do say I want to work with someone to support them in their own efforts really being honest with me self on how much time and on a quarterly basis working on the first three months and saying hey, I can get you from January through March. I might have to dip out in April and just be available through email and come back and check with you in the summer. And if there's a hot fire or you feel there's a hot mess brewing, then we can have those kind of conversations but just monitoring people and looking at it on a quarterly basis. But as far as Team Ananda for business, I make sure that I have a couple of anal individuals who are I call them I went to law school so I've got a couple classmates that are like they'll run after you. They'll run you down. So I've got them on the team because they really keep it real. And they'll straighten me out. Then I've got the marketing folks that really try to get me to clean up my stuff and I'm still in the process of doing that. And the PR people. And what happens with a lot of these people is I swap services. Like I'm a coach to some of these folks just like they coach me. So I give back. So there's that generosity. Or I just make myself available to them if they have a project, even if it's just I'm a constant retweeter for them. That's how I give back to them. But I try make it a reciprocity kind of experience. Some people don't want anything from me like my writing mentor. She just wants me to finish my book. That's it. But I still promote her. I'm going to be quiet on that and let you all go from there.
>> VIKKI REICH: I just wanted to add, I think when I'm networking or working with other people, I'm not necessarily looking for people to fill a certain role or a skill set. I think if we all get along and we have a common purpose or we're all just interested in something, I really think that's enough. And I think you can always seek out people to fill information gaps or skill gaps you don't have when you're trying to work with a group toward a common goal. But I think whoever's willing hand has passion and commitment and a general loyalty and support to each other, I think you can do anything. I don't think you have to have all the pieces in place or whatever. I think just work with what you have. Work with the people that you know and you like and I think yeah, I think you can do anything. Really.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: I think you have to be careful about that. I really do. Because my experience is that if let's take it in the realm of content. If you're building a math book. It's human nature you're going to put in the math book what you find good and easy and fun and not put in the math book what you don't like. So, if you like and I've worked with people who have done it. If you like statistics and probability, you will put more statistics and probability in your math book and if I like fractions and geometry, I'll put more geometry and fractions in my math book. It's human nature to go towards the things we like. So one of the ways that I got pulled up most strongly in my career is it's the story of the copy editor. I'm a big picture global thinker and we were building these cards sort of like the SRA reading cards where they were programmed learning. And on the front it said X is what percent of 43 is what percent of 160? And the kids had to work out the algorithm. And on the back there were 30 problems that said basically 22 is which percent of 160? And so this copy editor took 30 Post it notes and wrote change which to what? And the 3o Post It notes were just big enough that they overlapped. So, in order to check her work, I had to go peel them back one at a time to to make sure they all said the same thing. The whole time I'm doing it I thought why didn't she just write one big post it note that said change which to what 30 times. I was in my 30s, I was a little bit nuts picturing my hands going around her neck, you know. so I went before I killed her, I went for a walk around the building. And half way around building, I figured out that you know, what is it that would make somebody want to do this? And I realized she obviously cared way more about them getting that right than I ever possibly could. And that I really should be valuing this person who is way different than I am than being irritated by her. So that's kind of the balance I'm talking about. I know you don't disagree.
>> VIKKI REICH: Yeah, but I think also there's so much to be learned from working through difference, working through those differences. And I did a collective childcare with a group of friends. You know, we're all friends, we all think we have the same parenting ideas, whatever. But when it comes to your kids, you lose your mind, you're insane, you want to kill the person you've known for 25 years because they looked at your baby funny. And we stuck it out and we did the cooperative childcare ran for 10 years, it's still going on with different people and we learned so much and grew so much from working through difference so I do think I think if you find a group of people that you connect with and you relate to and you like each other, it's worth doing the hard work to work through those difficult times.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Okay.
But you're saying a very different thing. I mean, I want to not that you're saying a different thing. I want to make sure it's clear what you're saying. That it's the commitment. The true commitment. So what I've heard down the table is you want to find people who think, you know, who think many different ways. And who share a commitment or what I like to say is people who won't let you fail, you know, in your arrangement. But I'd really like to know what you think. As far as setting up, you know, Wendy, I'm sure you have something to say. But does anybody else have ideas.
>> I totally agree with this point about working through differences, with my network, nobody that I'm very close to in terms of whether it's professional support or whether it's personal support is exactly or really anything like I am. I think it's a much deeper people try to focus on what they have in common on the surface instead of what they have in common in terms of their integrity and as long as you have people that have integrity that will my friends are very I have one friend who's will always tell me the truth no matter what. That's what her job is in my life is to tell me the truth. I have another friend that will say I love you no matter what and everything is you do is wonderful and that's her job in my life. And that's valuable. And so I think that it's instead of and the other thing I wanted to really quickly assembling a network, I think that I hate that word. I hate it. And I hate it because it reeks of disingenuity, you do you know what I mean? It reeks of this idea that I'm going to create a network it's not like that. As you meet people you go through life and you say everybody has value, you may not be valuable to me in terms of what I'm trying to achieve but I know you're valuable to somebody else. And I you know, and I can identify your value. Do you know what I mean, and connect you with someone who will find you valuable. That's what networking is. I mean it's really about helping people get together so that we can create something. I didn't bring business cards and the reason I didn't is because I said this time as opposed to last year, I'm going to talk to people. And they're going to remember me because we talked. Not because I handed them a business card and they walked away. To me that's more powerful because I feel like I can have you know, this is my third conference so, if this is your first one, good job, bring your business cards. But, you know.
>> VIKKI REICH: I'm burning my business cards.
>> AUDIENCE: You know what I mean? It's about seeing value and it's about connecting people and not, like, where can you get me? People, can you get me?
>> LIZ STRAUSS: That's really critically important for finding a mentor as Francine was saying, as everybody here was saying. The thing about meet with your friends, your mentor, your peers, the people who help you. Actually, that's how you find the people who help you is to clearly know your values and then find the people who be able to recognize the people who value the same things you do. Because your values are your brand, your values are who you are. Your values is what attracts other people to you. You might have another word for them. That's my word for them. And your values are what's going to keep you committed to each other for the long haul. Whether the person who is helping you on your advisory board an artist, a mathematician, an engineer, a painter, a scientist, it's good to have all those other points of views around you because they change and stretch your thinking. You want to have somebody who thinks inside the box and somebody who thinks outside the box and everybody who thinks from an opportunity point of view, you know every change is a good chance to win something, not like oh, my God the sky is falling again, woe is me and let's cry some more. I think the only thing we could possibly agree on is that we don't want more drama in our lives.
>> HEATHER MANN: I think the word you're looking for is community, not network. Network is kind of a computery term but community is a really warm term and it's something everybody is looking for today.
You know? Everybody wants to be noticed and loved like I said earlier. And I just want to take a minute to tell you about the craft blogging community because that's really what we are. And we never come to BlogHer because we hear it's mean and you know, we hear withdrawal a. And we don't do that in our community. We try to help each other, we talk about each other. I built my blog and I will tell you my stats because somebody said stats earlier in a thing and I was like wow, that like that number got my attention. I got 750,000 page views last month. I bill my blog on promoting other people. And what I do is I do have some of my own original craft content. But what I do is every day I say I found this awesome project at my friend's blog. Go check it out. You know, I'm just going to tell you one paragraph about it, show you a photo of it. Please go over there to someone else's blog off site and see it. And people know that they might come to love that other blog. But they love me because they know they can come to my blog and find the best idea or the best resources. It's like in Miracle on 34th Street when Macy's say go to Gimbles. They have this thing. That's what I do, Macy's Gimbles. I love to tell you my friend who is brilliant at making rainbow cakes or whatever. I love that I'm not good at everything. But I can tell you who is. So you know, it's I think in Mommy blogging, I'm sorry to say that word I don't know if you guys don't like it but in some other blogging niches, you're like I want people to come see me. Why are they not reading my blog. Come see me. And it's really so counterproductive to try to grab people towards yourself. That's so unattractive. Nobody likes it. But when you're giving to them and you're saying oh, I have this thing for you. Please go to this other person.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: There's a good way to remember that. Whenever the world revolves around you, the universe flies out of balance. Did I see somebody else had a question?
>> AUDIENCE: First of all, I'm new to BlogHer, and I'm new to blogging period. So I'm a little out of sorts here. I'm trying to figure it all out. I just want to get an understanding from the panel when you're talking about all this business, are you talking about the business of your blog or your actual because I'm sorry, forgive me, I don't know y'all so I'm just trying to get an understanding as to whether you have business that's are separate from your blogs or whether your blogs are your business.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Yes.
>> HEATHER MANN: My blog is my business.
>> ANANDA LEEKE: My blog is an extension of the business. It's just another piece of it. That's a place I go and I talk about what I'm doing or who I'm meeting. And so that's just one more way for me to reach out in the community.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: We really ought to make it sort of clear that a blog is not a business any more than a building is a company. You know, you can make the blog the same way a storefront can be the primary location of what you do for a business. But the blog is not the business, you are. You and your relationships with your customers are. And that's critically kind of important, not just for you but for everybody in the room. Just became the catalyst to throw that out there.
>> AUDIENCE: Thank you, that wasn't actually my question. My question was in relationships to your community groups or networking groups, do you mostly, for instance chat and network with other craft bloggers or are you looking for varying other bloggers, design bloggers or Mommy bloggers to kind of help you design what your content should be?
>> HEATHER MANN: Okay.
I have a group and they're sort of in the same arena but not necessarily all on the exact same topic. So I would say creative bloggers. And what we do is every week, one person gets to talk about whatever they want. They have questions, they can talk about or we can do two people for half an hour and half an hour. So 1 person brings up any topic they want, everyone can weigh in on it many we all learn something. Or we can set a specific topic to talk about. But it works really well when you give somebody 30 minutes that they can do whatever they want with. Because then it's more useful.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Are you specifically talking about generating content ideas?
>> AUDIENCE: Not necessarily. I'm just trying to get an understanding as to whether or not when you're looking at a board of advisors, like for instance I'm an interior designer by trade. I've been working in the industry for 13 years. So the media platform I've been using traditionally is articling from older magazines and various things. Now that I'm starting this blogging content I'm not clear whether I should be trying to find other design bloggers or if I'm really looking from a community standpoint to find other people because I tried to kind of connect with Mommy bloggers and other things and I'm thinking they're feeling it's not a fit. I'm not sure.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: I'm thinking and you guys jump in if you disagree. I'm thinking in a situation where you're bringing so much expertise already, that you probably ought to identify somebody who's doing something fairly close to what you're doing in another field or who has, like, a good understanding of the space and get a mentor as opposed to an advisor group. Because to randomly go across the field of bloggers whether they're Mommy bloggers, tech bloggers, any kind of bloggers and just randomly meet people so that you might bump into somebody who can help you is like sorting through the library so you might find the right book. I just don't think you have time for that. I think you need to find somebody who has expertise. So I think rather than asking what you should do, you should be asking the question who should you be talking to and having people pass awe long until you find the right people who can help you. And one of them is sitting right across the table from you right there.
>> Poor Wendy. Pressure.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Wendy Piersoll. She's like built two businesses in that field. But you guys have anything to add to that?
>> HEATHER MANN: Sometimes it's easy as asking someone straight up saying hey, do you want to be my partner saying hey do you know anyone who's interested in talking to me about interior design blogging? That takes the pressure off of them and then they're like yeah, I can think of two people and they give you the names or they say yeah, I want to do that. If you ask them but keep the attention off of them, then it makes it easier for them to network, even if they're not good at networking, they might think of somebody.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: On the other hand, you know, when someone asks you that question and the right answer is you, don't be afraid to uh, yeah, me. You know, there was a long time in there where I would, like, listen to people say you know do you know somebody who's good at speaking to small businesses on X and I would go well yeah, Larry and why didn't you ask me and uh, yeah, me, is a good answer, if you are.
>> VIKKI REICH: I think once again for me it always comes back to the relationships. The people that I interact with online it's all about the relationships that I made and met through sensing that we were like minded in some way, not necessarily that we were the same or that we were blocking about the same thing but we had, like, a similar outlook on life and it goes back to what Fica said about your integrity and your values and whatever. So nor me it doesn't matter what you blog about or what you write about or what your goal is. If we share something beyond that, then I think you don't know what's going to come out of relationships. It's a chance you take. And sometimes amazing communities unfold from the unexpected. So I think you need to be open to everybody.
>> Question over here.
>> I'd like to point out first how awesome the shoes of this runner is and how I'm impressed she's been able to run around this room in these amazing heels. I have two questions for you guys. One, I was wondering how much you use social networking things such as Nings for example. I know there are two members in here from shewrites.com. Three, yeah. A Ning. A Ning that's dedicated just to female writers and I wonder how much of that is helpful and is it just another thing like Facebook that is just there to distract you and my second question is on that site they have things like professionals that can help you with this kind of thing. How often do you go if you recognize you may not have the peers, how often do you go or when is the point when you seek professional assistance in that advisory group?
>> ANANDA LEEKE: I'll take question number one. Shewrites is a great example. I'm so glad you mentioned it. When shewrites was established three years ago Kamy Wycoff, the founder, put in a call to celebrate it in different cities. They had meetups. Really simple thing. People getting together at houses or a coffee place or a restaurant, whatever it is that people wanted to do. And so I told her from the day one when I met her at BlogHer in 2009, I'll do anything for you because I really believe that women writers need a place and shewrites was just a great place for me and I learned so much just from the various women that posted and the radio shows that they D. because she had social capital. And that's what I wanted to talk about. And that social capital is that authenticity, that generosity, that giving back and not looking for anything but trusting. Because we connected. And so what I do is I hosted the D.C. meetup and it was such a great experience. It brought women who I never would have met. Some of whom weren't on She Writes but they found out about it because stuff gets passed around in the web. And as a result of that I started doing quarterly because I'm all about quarterly things. Having quarterly meetups so we're in our second year of having meetups and I started featuring different writers and we meet at a woman's owned cafe’ in D.C. And it's just a great space. Sometimes 5 people come, sometimes 7 or 8. But that one on one connection.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: But, if that site were built by someone you didn't know and it was called Larrywrites, you know, or you know, pink tightswrites and you went in there and didn't know anybody, do you think it would be equally as likely that you would have had the same experience?
>> ANANDA LEEKE: Yes. Because I'm the type of person where if I'm if I'm in need of support, I'm going an extrovert kind of hiding in an introvert at times. I'm going to go and seek it out. That's just me. I'm just that kind of person because I believe in the social networking sites and reaching out to people. I don't know how that would work the opposite side because that's not my personality.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: I'd like to know your answer.
>> VIKKI REICH: Could you repeat the question? I might have you know.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: I'm not sure if I can.
>> VIKKI REICH: I might got have gotten it confused. Actually, I can say that I have been to She Writes and I joined and I have no idea what it means. It goes back to me being about a relationship and there was no relationship for me to that site or to any of the people there. There was no give and take or anything like that. So I don't go there any more.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: That was exactly my point. And I didn't know whether you had a relationship to the site or not. But it's the experience that I have is that if someone I know, love, and trust to somewhere that's a networking site, then I feel a different relationship with the site that makes me want to explore it and the people there. Whereas, if I just randomly end up on a site or someone I don't know in those ways, I'm far less likely there's no trust. There's no time for places that I don't have a relationship with going in, so to speak.
>> ANANDA LEEKE: But can I say this, too, because I'm a huge risktaker. I think that there are some things that you may not have access to the folks and you might want to keep a risk card.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: It's not about a risk, it's only having so much time and wanting to spend it going deep in other places. Then there's the whole other side where there are the people who just want to try out every tool and everything. And that's even yet another way. But what I hear you saying is that you go find the information you need and the people who can give it to you and I lead by relationship.
>> ANANDA LEEKE: I do both.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: I find the relationship. I'm ask anybody, I'm highly relational.
You know? I'll meet you behind the bleachers after the game.
>> AUDIENCE: I'm also a She Writes member and four months ago I never even heard of it and I came across it on someone else's blog and I saw it on their badge and I clicked on it. The name She Writes was exciting to me. You have to apply to become a member. To me it's about taking initiative. I now have many friends, people I've never met but who I feel very close to because we've been able to interact in meaningful ways sharing each other's blogs, commenting and just sharing stories of each other, so I'm a firm believer in it. It's not for the shy people. You have to come in and just start introducing yourself and you make relationships. And that's what it's all about. And since then I've become quite close to Kamy who is the founder and she's recruited me to be one of their volunteer coordinators so I'm goodwill ambassador, I represent She Writes and I'm here and I'm blogging about it and it's on their home page. I'm writing about this conference.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Congratulations, thank you. There's one up here first. I suspect if I discovered something like that when I first started blogging back in 2005 when I had both the time and was spending more time on my writing that I would have had the same experience.
>> VIKKI REICH: And not everything works for everybody. That's the thing. If it's not working for you or you're not finding your people there, then you need to go look someplace else for your pep. They're out there.
>> hashtags. Hi there, my name is Christina. I write mytravelingtruth. It's a blog where I chronicle my military family's journey moving and traveling across the world. And I've only been doing it for four months so I'm just trying to get my brain wrapped around blogging. Now I'm hearing all these terms, Facebook, blog frog, Google is coming out with something, Twitter, what are your favorite ways of online networking, how do you use them and are there even creative ways like I've heard Twitter parties, I've never heard that before.
>> HEATHER MANN: Can I talk about this?
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Oh, my God. How many hours do you have?
>> HEATHER MANN: I'll try to be quick. Facebook, I use it to network with other bloggers, I use my Facebook account as a personal account. I don't just friend anyone on it. However, I make an exception for bloggers. So I do I am able to interact with some bloggers on there. If I'm not friends with them on there, I have a private group of bloggers that has, like, 50 members in it. So people can interact on there. It's like a forum but it's on Facebook. Everyone has Facebook. It's easy. It doesn't require membership somewhere where you've never been before. So there's that. And then on the for your blog site I have a Facebook fan page and that's the best way to find your people. I have a girl sitting here in the audience who came with me, she writes for another blog that I have. And she found me on my Facebook fan page and she just said hey, can we hang out. I do dollar store crafting. Can we go to the dollar store together? Sure, let's do it. And now we're roommates. So the fan page is a great way to find people who are interested in your message. These are your people.
You know? And then Twitter. A Twitter party, I would just encourage you to join one. Maybe blog chat. It's a really, really good Twitter party. It's I think it's on Sunday nights. It is fantastic. People willing to share anything you need to know about blogging. And that will kind of give you a good idea about
>> LIZ STRAUSS: A Twitter party is basically marked with a hashtag and the word that one is blog chat. Hashtag blog chat so that everything everyone says comes through on that hashtag so you can follow a conversation all at once and it it's blog chat is Sunday night at 7:00.
>> HEATHER MANN: Mine is crafter minds. It's on Mondays at 4 people eastern.
>> HEATHER MANN: And you can use twit chat to follow all of that. Tweet chat and tweet grid are great.
>> HEATHER MANN: Just start slow. You don't have to do everything at once.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: The point is if you want to know which tool you should be using, start by asking the people who read your blog where they are. And talk to them where they are. Because it really like Heather said, that's where you'll find your fans. And that's not necessarily so. So I mean that's where she finds her fans.
>> HEATHER MANN: Not my fan page, they're my fans because they said they liked it.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: But there are certain people, certain industries, certain other things that don't go near Facebook. They're all on LinkedIn or whatever so you really want to pay attention to where the people reading your blog are. And the thing is I have a sentence that I think Vikki would probably like a lot. It's lead with the relationships, not with the tools. Pick one tool, get to know it. Build your network around that and then move on and starting with your blog is always a good idea because that's your home base.
>> HEATHER MANN: And then do Twitter. And no parade is going to pass you by. Don't worry about missing out on some party. You just build it as you go and there's always going to be another chance. There's always going to be another thing for you to do.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Did we have another question over there? All gone? All gone?
>> ANANDA LEEKE: I wanted to say one thing about just the local community. You never know who's in your local community and meetup.com is a great especially if you're just getting started with blogging. I bet you there's a local blogging just a basic blogging or social media meetup group. Social media club is in most cities. Just taking the time to go just one event and explore and see how you feel with the people if that's your tribe or if you get a connection or if you feel don't want to do this any more. At least you know. That's most of the events are free to go to or a cup of coffee or tea. That's been real good for me in the D.C. area. I've learned a lot and a lot of free knowledge from those individuals because they love to talk about what they love.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Especially if you're moving a lot. Twitter might be a about tool for you only because Twitter has people from everywhere in short bursts, et cetera and you get to see their faces and 1 of the nice things about going to a tweetup is it's like networking except everybody in the room has one thing in common. So you know you can at least talk about Twitter and even if you don't recognize someone, you can look at them like this and go
>> VIKKI REICH: Because Twitter avatars are really tiny.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Do I know you on Twitter, you look familiar.
>> HEATHER MANN: I like starting casual. I'll tweet at you and that is no commitment whatsoever and then you move on to the can I have your e mail address or I'll comment on your blog and that's a little more intimate and then you just develop a relationship just like dating like we already said.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: One of the biggest mistakes I made online the first two or three years I was online, I knew I had all my clients everywhere in the world except in my own hometown, you know? so it's like get to know the people in your own town. Go to a tweetup and get to know them too. Be networked online and off. Have friends close by as well.
>> ANANDA LEEKE: And don't be afraid to use Skype. That's sometimes you know the phone is great but to actually talk to somebody with Skype with that face to face, if you have the video component with that, that's an amazing opportunity because you get to see the facial expressions, you get to share, you get to laugh. And there's that it's not the same as face to face. But you do have an opportunity and Skype lets you talk to more than one person now. So you could do two, two people if you feel like if you have a topic or you see something happening on Twitter where it looks like it could be taken or expanded or you want to find out just a little bit more, you can invite people, like hay, I'm going to do a 3 way conversation, would you like to join me? Could you do it on Skype. That's fun?
>> LIZ STRAUSS: A menage a Skype. There you go. Everyone's keeping up with that. There you go. So are we good? Uh oh, Christine is she broke the microphone.
>> AUDIENCE: Hello, I'm just wondering how you handle visibly promoting other bloggers on your site. And have you ever found yourself in the position where you met someone face to face in a meetup or here and you went and looked at their blog and you felt it wasn't a good fit but maybe they wanted to cross promote? Have you ever had any awkwardness?
>> HEATHER MANN: There is some awkwardness once in a while. In my opinion all your social media accounts are your domain and you're never obligated to do anything with them that you don't want to do. So, if somebody asks you to promote something that doesn't fit with your blog, you just say sorry, I can't. It doesn't fit or you know, it's your domain, I believe that for every social media account. So you always need to be true to yourself. But sometimes you can think of it like is there another way I can promote this person? Is there something else I love that they're doing that they didn't bring to me. I do that sometimes where if someone in my case they submit project ideas, if they submit something to me that isn't a good fit, sometimes I'll check out what else they're doing to see if there's some other way I can promote them and still keep the relationship open without doing what they're trying to dictate to me. So you know, either I can tweet about it, I love Twitter because it's such a low commitment way to kind of support people. I mean, I hate to say that. That sounds kind of rude. But I mean it in a nice way. You're not saying I totally endorse this person and everything they're all about. I'm writing a whole blog post on them and that. But you can just say oh, look at this project or I love this article that this person did or you can follow them on Twitter, just at least follow them and see what they're saying.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: But let's back up a step. You know, if somebody is asking you to promote something, before they even ask you, they ought to be your friend. The biggest mistake people make in promotion is they make the ask before the relationship. If you want to not make the sale, don't build the trust. The size of the ask should equal the amount of trust you've ever built. It shouldn't like this, hi, I know your name. Now will you sleep with me? There's a perfect example of where the trust doesn't match the ask.
>> HEATHER MANN: Also sorry.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: So you know, I get I'm 83, 84,000 followers on Twitter. You wouldn't believe the number of people who back channel me saying will you retweet this because I want you to. Will you retweet this because I want you to. And I sit there and go no, I don't even don't know who you are. And I've actually written somebody back and said you know, I'm a person. You know, you could say hello first. Kind of thing. If they are not a friend, you don't owe them anything and if they are a friend and you don't like the way their blog looks, why aren't you telling them? Why aren't you offering them some help and saying you know what? Here's what you would have to do for me to promote what you've got.
>> HEATHER MANN: Community is the way of the future. Self promotion is kind of old school advertising model and that is not what young people want and that is not what the young wired people are looking for. They're looking for community and they're looking to belong and they're looking for you to understand them. And so also they're looking for curation because there's so much blabbing going on online. They're looking at your blog because they like what your taste is. So they say I like what you're writing about. So, if you're writing about something that's not of interest to you, you're not curating.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: Did you have your hand up?
>> AUDIENCE: Can I ask a quick follow up. How effective do you blog rolls and links pages are and do you have any rules in terms of how long they should be?
>> VIKKI REICH: I gave up doing that first of all, because I felt bad I was going to leave somebody out. You know, I don't know,.
>> HEATHER MANN: I call it the bridesmaid factor.
>> VIKKI REICH: Can't we all just love each other. So I don't do that any more. But one of the ways I support my friends and the people I consider to be my online community is really mostly through Twitter, through being on their sites and being a visible presence on their sites and interacting with people, not necessarily even just the content that was published but the other people that are responding to it as well. And being like a good digital citizen for the people in my online life. And then retweeting things that they write that I have a great deal of respect for or looking out for them and trying to support them in whatever way I can. So I do have a blog roll right now. It's very tiny and I'm just right now, after this, I'm going to just go delete it.
>> LIZ STRAUSS: The origin of blog rolls really was in homage to Google. It really was an SEO purpose to show connection between blogs. And you know to show trust networks, the way things were linked and the algorithm has changed so much that first of all, how often do you actually click on the links in a blog roll to go read the other blogs? At the time blog rolls were invented, there weren't that many blogs and they were really useful in helping find other blogs. If you build your blog roll to help people find other blogs in your niche like I know of a blog on tea that, like, puts all the other teapot blogs, that's pretty useful. I'd say keep it. But, if you're just building a blog roll to say hey these are my friends and buddies, people aren't clicking through on it. And it's not really that useful. Go retweet them on Twitter instead.
>> VIKKI REICH: Or highlight posts in your own blog like hey, this week I read this amazing piece and give it some time and say I think you should go check it out and I think it holds a lot more weight and I think it's a more meaningful not only to the readers but also your connection back to your people.
>> HEATHER MANN: Like I said before, it's your space, so you do what you want with it. Don't link to somebody because they expect you to. I have a little blog roll and that's because I want my readers to be able to find other blogs that I think are awesome. And that are similar to mine so it's like another tool for them and also I do get referrals from some people's blog rolls so it's not a totally useless thing. But
>> LIZ STRAUSS: So here we are at 4:00. And there are some awesome mentors in this room. If you don't know who they are, introduce yourself to each other because I'm looking at a bunch of you. And you've heard a few of them ask questions. Francine is gone but there's still plenty more in this room. Thank you, Kristina. If you want to know more, we're up here for a few minutes, I'm sure we'll hang around and talk but we'll also be around the event the whole time. So it was really great to meet you and thank you for listening.