Networking Lunch Featuring Keynote Co-Interview with Lynne d Johnson and Stefanie Wilder-Taylor

Liveblog

Stephanie Wilder Taylor, @swildertaylor
Lynne d Johnson, @lynneluvah

Stefanie: So now, can I say that I've opened for President Obama?

Lynne: I think I owe everything that has happened in my professional life in the past 10 or 11 years to my blog. I've spoken at almost every BlogHer since it started, plus other places. I've gone to conference in Australia and London, about blogging and social media, about women in tech and African Americans in tech. I've been exploring and discussing these on my blog and as a journalist. I've come to be known as an expert in these areas.

I started my career as a journalist but very early on started working on the web. In the late 90's, companies wanted to talk to me about media being presented in that format. How can media use digital platforms effectively?

Early on, I was working for a great community website called BlackPlanet.com. It was the Facebook then. A lot of web 1.0 companies - money was a problem. People were trying to figure it out. I got laid off. Then I started a blog as a place to write, to continue to write online, as a portfolio.

In 2000, 2001, journalists thought blogging was the lower rung of writing. I started that early on, and every career opportunity I've had since then has come from that blogging. My friends and I were the first African Americans to have a panel at SXSW in 2005, called Blogging While Black.

Blogging has been a great part of my life. I don't blog quite as much now, but I do a lot more Tweeting and Facebooking and Google+. Those have taken the place of blogging a little. I signed up for Path about a year ago. It's a social network where you can only maintain relationships with 50 people at one time, instead of having a huge network that's really spread out.

I try all of these social media tools and help businesses and people like you to use social media tools to promote their business and increase sales.

Stefanie: We were going to do this in a different way, but I have a couple of questions. I feel like LinkedIn has gone the way of the metric system. I don't know what it does.

Lynne: LinkedIn does a lot professional-wise. B2B companies are having a lot of success on LinkedIn. That's a company like Sisco who's not necessarily selling routers to me and you, consumers, but selling routers to IT people at companies. They would build a group on LinkedIn and try to get people involved in discussions there, and having executives lead discussions there.

There is a book about using LinkedIn for professional advancement. Recruiters are on there all the time, heavily searching for specific keywords. You need to be have a well developed profile. Make sure it's keyword rich. LinkedIn connects people who want to do business together.

Every day, people send forwards through me, "I see you're connected to this person. Can you forward this on her?"

Stefanie: What do you think is the most influential tool of social media? What's the thing that's really helping people build their platforms?

Lynne: It depends on what their focus is, what they're trying to do.

Stefanie: Let's say, hypothetically, that person is an author. (Everyone laughs)

Lynne: You're trying to get free consulting out of me! I'd say that author should keep writing a blog. Using Facebook not just as a person but as a page, helps with branding.

Audience: I don't know what to do with my blog's page. I've done nothing.

Lynne: You can use it as an amplification tool. Promote your stuff. You can also use it to try to start conversation. Asking questions. Posting photos. Posting videos. Interview other people in the area you're focusing on. Definitely blast broadcasting works for some people but not everybody. They're already reading your blog, what can you do for them that's more?

Stefanie: How was it to transition from being a journalist to marketing and social media? It seems so disparate to me.

Lynne: Back in the days of print journalism, (I say that like it doesn't exist anymore) the business side didn't mess with the editorial side. That changed with the web. Business has to talk to the creative content side a lot more. I've had to help business sell the website to build out Facebook apps or micro sites. As I've gotten into more of a marketing role within media companies, it's become more natural. I've had to work with moderators, bloggers, many more groups. It kinda just evolved over time.

I was on a panel with the New York Times and I remember her saying she had a really hard time condensing things into 140 characters. It's hard to make meaningful messages.

A lot of companies are trying to sell to the sweet spot of 18-25-year-olds. A 25-year-old community manager (person who's writing the tweets, posting photos, etc) but they still need someone who has more gravitas who understands how business works, who has a broader understanding of the overall strategy.

Stefanie: Do you want me to describe my path? I am still a mom, yeah.

Here's what happened. I had a baby, and when the baby was a few months old, I realized I was in hell. I was home all the time, and my big day out was going to Target. I felt like I didn't have a lot in common with the moms I was meeting. I didn't know where I should meet people, and I was confused. I'd heard about blogging, and I knew it was free, so I started a blog on blogspot. It was called the Cult of Mommy, and it was dark. I called out all of the parents out there.

To make a long story short (this has a lot to do with being best friends with Chelsea Handler), I got a book deal. I wrote this post about being tipsy after a long day. I sent it to a few of my girlfriends. I thought it was the greatest thing ever that somebody I didn't know would read something I wrote and comment on it. It was like crack but cheaper. I think I got a comment or two on it, and then the next day, I got a phone call.

Chelsea had just gotten her first book deal, and her agent was super into her. I think that could only really happen in LA.

He called me and said, "This could be a book! You're kinda talking about your motherhood in a negative way, and I like it!" He told me to write some essays but not put them online. I kept blogging, but not the same stuff.

I used every connection I had to make the book work. I ended up connecting with other moms. I was being funny, but I was really telling the truth. I didn't know there were other books out there, I didn't know how judgmental people would be.

Even though I got a lot of flak about some of the things I said in the book, you have to take some chances. If you whitewash everything and make it nice, it's hard to get a following. Since then, I've written three more books, but I've always been very true to what's happening in my life.

When one of my twins was born really small and I was scared and confused and overwhelmed, I wrote the truth. When I quit drinking, I wrote about that. I wrote about it right after I quit drinking. What had happened to my blog was it became an online diary but was also a real way to communicate with my readers. I always owe it to them to be honest.

Lynne: You talked about friends but also detractors. How do you deal with that backlash?

Stefanie: The first time I ever got a comment on Amazon that said I was horrible (and I didn't even say what they said I said), I cried. Here I am, still defending myself. It took somebody else saying, "No, authors don't write back to people on Amazon." I had to let that go. Eventually, I got used to it.

I found out that people online are INSANE. They're at home, anonymous. They'll say things that they would never normally say to a person. An article came out about me in the New York Times when I quit drinking.

I didn't want to be public about it, but I did talk about it on my blog. I'd only been sober for 4 months, so I wasn't an expert.

The New York Times had to shut down the comments on their article because they got so nasty. People were saying, "They should take your kids away."

If you think you have thin skin, don't read the comments! If someone is mean spirited and saying something that's just a personal attack, I'm going to delete it. It's my blog! I'm not going to leave comments up there that call me names or says I'm a horrible mom.

Lynne: Why do you think the first book was so successful? 80% of books aren't successful.

Stefanie: I hit the market at just the right time. The market was not inundated with mom books. It's a combination of things. I got on the Today Show. My book company didn't do that for me, I pushed and pushed and pushed for that. Because I had a blog, I had established a small following, I could continue writing and pushing messages out there.

I'd never read anything that said it's okay to quit breastfeeding, but in a funny way. I compared myself to a professional bowler because I was overweight and drank too much.

Lynne: How would you do it differently?

Stefanie: I say yes to every media opportunity that will further my message. Most media appearances don't pay. I make no money going on the Today Show or Good Morning America. I don't get money to go on Dr. Drew or go on a talk show. It doesn't even really help book sales, but it does help to keep your name and your message out there. I have to be careful with what that message is.

If someone offers me a segment that I think will be judgmental, I decline. Sometimes, you get asked to do media stuff and you have to be a little bit careful. Media wants you to love the person or hate the person.

Lynne: I was interviewed the other day about the social news, how social media is changing the Olympics. I had to be careful. I could tell that the author was going for a certain position. Fortunately, we had the same position.

Stefanie: I have not used a personal publicist. It's very expensive to hire a publicist, and you can do a lot of that work yourself. You can use social media and make connections yourself.

I get inundated with publicists for other people, and I usually delete stuff. If I have a publicist who's sending those messages out to other people, that's not helpful.

Another way that I branched out from my blog is writing for websites. Babble has been a big thing for me. My personal blog is my personal blog. My Babble blog is different. I think it's difficult to make money on a personal blog, but when you're writing little funny editorial things, you can make a lot of money that way.

If you can figure out how to write a great headline and how to get the eyes on your page, you can make a lot of money. I Tweet things out and share on Facebook. I wish I knew other ways to put the message out there, too.

Lynne: A lot of people think it's okay to just do amplification. Social media is about building relationships and engaging people. When people respond to you, you have to say something back.

Stefanie: It's so time consuming!

Lynne: Then you have to set some time limits for yourself, like "I go in for a half hour at 9 am and a half hour at noon." You can use tools like HootSuite where you can listen to conversations that are happening around that search term. Even if you respond tomorrow, people will be happy that you responded.

Stefanie: How much putting information out is just too much? When do people get annoyed?

Lynne: On days when I'm really prolific on Twitter, I see my numbers go down.

(audience question - I couldn't hear)

Lynne: Older people are really using social media more because they're to talk to their grandkids. Retired people are finding that they want an iPhone in their spare time. They want to stay connected with their friends. Maybe they've moved away from their friends, and they want to stay in touch.

The other trends that are happening, video is starting to take off more. There's more video based social media. Instagram and Pinterest will continue to be huge.

Stefanie: I'm still back on Twitter. I don't get Instagram.

Lynne: People think Instagram is just kids and Pinterest is just middle America moms. Neither one is true.

Here's what happens. Business think it's just an extension of scrapbooking, but we know it's a lot more than that.

Stefanie: It's for recipes and shoes, too, you know.

Audience: I want to clarify. You said that writing for Babble can be a money maker. Is that because it drives traffic back to your site?

Stefanie: Oh, no. I'm saying that there are lots of websites that will hire you for money to write on their website. Babble has money to pay people. Use the way you write to write for other, bigger sites.

Lynne: You know how to blog. There are a lot of companies that want to blog and don't know how. You can be a ghost blogger and blog for companies. I was a ghost blogger for the CEO of a company once.

Audience: It seems like 30-40% of the readers on Facebook are seeing my posts. Am I doing something wrong?

Lynne: Facebook's algorithm has changed. You have to post a little more on Facebook in order to get the eyeballs on your stuff. There's a lot of different things involved. Putting things up two or three times throughout the day helps it to get seen more.

Audience: If you put your link in with an image, it will double the views on the link.

Lynne: Images, videos, and polls all help.

(audience question - I couldn't hear)

Stefanie: I wrote a story for a recovery site called The Fix. I wrote a story that was really personal. They totally sensationalized it, and they changed the headline so much that I cried. I said no, you can't publish it like this. They changed it back to my original post, but they kept their headline. Stand your ground. You don't have to let them do whatever they want with your writing.

Lynne - You have to be really selective about where you choose to post your writing.

Audience question: It's a click thing and analytics game. What is the best way to measure your stats since they're all different? Which one do you use?

Lynne laughed: If you're using different analytics systems, you have to come up with a mean. Different companies are counting different things, clicks uniques, views, I think Google Analytics is pretty good and I would trust it.

Audience question: Your publisher did not get you on the Today show. How did you campaign to get on?

Stefanie: My husband is a reality tv producer who had a friend in talk shows who had a friend who worked on the Today Show who sent my book to her and asked if she would please look at it. And then she sent it to her boss and asked her to take a look at it. I stopped having any shame about asking for professional favors. I asked, "Hey, is this something that you feel comfortable doing? Can you pass this along for me?" DOing that enough times means you're eventually going to get something.

Audience question: Have you ever published yourself and felt like you've made a big mistake? What was it?

Stefanie: I've changed my mind about things and deleted them. Do they still exist?

Lynne: Companies do it all the time. A community manager who's 25 sends out a Tweet that's totally wrong, and the company has a big mess on their hands. They have to apologize and show what they're doing to try to fix it. Transparency is key.

 

[Editor's Note: Liveblogs may be missing bits of information or somewhat incomplete. We will be working to get them updated throughout the next week, complete with photos and links as needed. Thank you for your patience.]

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