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type aThis weekend, I attended Type-A Parent Bootcamp sponsored by Disney Parks at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Type A is a blogging-for-business conference that teaches bloggers how to work with brands, how to find new avenues of monetization, how to brand themselves, and more.
My KidzVuz co-founder, Rebecca Levey, and I gave a presentation on pitching brands for new business (rather than waiting for them to pitch you), called “From Pitch to Paycheck.” I certainly hope that attendees learned a lot from us about preparation, identifying targets, telling their story, organizing their efforts and more, since I know I learned a ton from the other presentations I saw and from the conference in general.

Here are my top five takeaways: (more…)

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In the better late than never category comes this post, about what I learned at BSM Media’s She Streams conference in NYC.  The conference, now in it’s fourth (I’m pretty sure) year, is all about getting beyond the written word in the social media space, and about empowering women bloggers to take their blog up to the next  level: video, audio, podcasting, and more.

Here’s what I learned:

1. You can hear two COMPLETELY different keynote speakers, with two COMPLETELY different messages and points of view, and learn a lot from both of them.

Tory Johnson, TV Personality, entrepreneur, and author of the new book The Shift, spoke mostly about monetization.  “Are you making money,’ she asked, “Or just moving it around?”  She talked about not being afraid to ask for what you’re worth, about making sure you make five calls by five PM every day – talking to five people (not just trying to.)  She was all energy, all “go for it,” all “You can do it!”

On the other end of the spectrum was Brad Montague, creator of the truly fantastic web series Kid President, which features his brother in law, nine year old Robby – aka Kid President.  Brad didn’t mention money once.  He talked about using the internet to be a force of good.  About using your social media influence to do something important — and not just play Candy Crush.  He’s sent Kid President to the White House! (The real one) And he’s making a real difference.

He was  self deprecating, low key, and absolutely inspiring in a completely different way from Tory Johnson.  And I think everyone in that room fell in love with him just a little bit.  If you don’t already know Kid President, you really should.  Check him out here — and share share share!

2. The best swag from an event is a great make up job.

When Maria Bailey, founder of the conference, asked for a volunteer to get a make-up makeover, I shot my hand in the air right quick.  And boy, was I glad I did.  Professional make-up artist Elizabeth Fried told us the cardinal rules of make up for camera: NO GLITTER.  Everything matte.  Use primer. Mascara your bottom lashes first, with waterproof mascara, so you don’t get mascara from your top lashes all over your face while you’re putting the bottom mascara on!  But the bottom line of her advice was: Even if you are shooting a video for your personal blog in your living room, you should look professional and look your best.

And as for what she did for me?  I never looked better.

4. Get the right equipment.

Amy Oztan, of Selfish Mom and Adam Cohen from Dada Rocks talked about the incredible array of tools available to make your video, audio, and pictures better.  But rather than listing them here,  I’ll send you over to Amy’s list of essentials.  it’s pretty awesome.

5.  And this, from Maria Bailey, the best advice for bloggers — though really it could be modified for anyone in any business – I’ve heard in a long time:  Stop worrying that people doing sponsored blog posts, or becoming blog ambassadors for no money are decreasing the value of your work.  Instead, think about how to make your work more valuable.

Words for live by.

 

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Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Only some of you will “get” this.  But for those that do…it was a surreal moment when this message came through:

On a more serious note – I actually think it’s kind of a good reminder that Social Media is terrific, and I love it, and I’ve written about how much I love it more than once.  But it’s still all run with a computer program.  Sp no matter what Facebook thinks.  No matter what info it sells to its clients – messages like this one prove that these services don’t really know us.

I find that oddly reassuring.

But Twitter Beccasara and I are together CONSTANTLY.  We talk constantly when we are not together.  We DM  each other all day long.  We have KidzVuz together, and The Blogging Angels, and we’re actual friends. So seriously, Twitter, get with the times!

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Yes, this woman was working the floor last year.

Like a lot of techies, techie wanabees, and social media junkies who just got sucked into it, I’m headed to CES this week.

Unlike a lot of techies, I’m dreading it.  But I’ve developed a few survival skills.  So here they are –   – especially for women. Hope they help.

1. Wear comfortable shoes. I live in NY.  We walk here.  A lot.  But schlepping around the convention floor is exhausting, and there’s really no where to sit. So leave the heels at home. No one will be oggling you anyway; that’s what booth babes are for. (more…)

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Yesterday, The Blogging Angels sent out our invitation to a small breakfast during Blogher.  Aimed (mostly) at up-and-coming bloggers, the breakfast is about learning to work with brands, to present yourself and your blog in the best light.  Already, the Twitter-sphere is a-flutter with the haves and have nots.  People wish they were invited, are jealous of those that were.  They’re hurt.  They feel excluded. You’d think that, as one of the Blogging Angels, I’d be immune to all that.

You’d be wrong.

See, all of the other Blogging Angels have been getting tweeted by the invitees “Can’t wait to meet you!” or by the non-invitees “Do you think there’s room for me, too?”  There have even been multiple tweets by people saying how much they are looking forward to meeting the Blogging Angels: @selfishmom, @c2cmom and @beccasara.  Notice any name missing from that list?

Of course logically, I know it’s silly: I am one of the people throwing the party.  I am one of the Blogging Angels, whether I’m in those tweets or not.  And, truth be told, I am the least social-media entrenched of the bunch, and the least well known. It’s not like it’s some big surprise to me to find out that fewer people know me than know the other Angels.  To some degree, that’s my choice.  My focus, for the past year, has been KidzVuz – which – while it exists in the digital space, is not a blog at all.  It’s an internet start-up, with all of the attendant business plan, fund-raising, and development issues. It’s been all-encompassing, and I’ve never been one who is particularly good at giving my all to all things. I wish I could be.  But that’s life.

I’m even hosting a second party – for 300 women – as KidzVuz, on the night before Blogher. And yet I still feel badly that I wasn’t invited to a bunch of parties  – parties that I wouldn’t have been able to go to – that very night!  It’s ridiculous, I know. But there it is. Over at Beccarama, Rebecca Levey (my KidzVuz partner and (tweeted) fellow Angel) wrote a post about party-envy. Part disclaimer (she is hosting two events during BlogHer) and part voice of reason, her central point is this: it’s not about how many parties you are invited to, but about what you make of the parties you do attend. Makes sense to me.  Now if only it felt true, too.

Look, I know that BlogHer isn’t supposed to be about the parties.  It’s meant t be about crafting your blog, developing your brand, joining the community.  But just like Twitter often feels an awful lot like Junior High, so do all Blog Conferences end up being a series of parties – which can mean a series of social slights – or social triumphs.

I wish I could be above it all.  I wish I could listen to the logical side of me that says “it doesn’t matter; it’s not about the parties; you’re hosting two of them yourself!”  But, alas, the 12 year old girl in me is still alive and well, and worried about being asked to the the seventh grade dance (The Snowball.  Nobody asked me.  I went in my Gunne Saxe dress.)

The one bright spot about watching all of this unfold is that it’s made me realize: I’m not the only one.  Prominent bloggers are angling for  invites. Even they feel left out.  So no wonder, that what with my less-than-spectacular klout score and blog-stats, I’m feeling insecure too.

I can’t help but wonder if men go through this.  Do they care if they’re invited to some industry event?  My guess is no. But neither do most businesses – male or female – have the sense of community that the Mom Blog world does. So I guess on balance, it’s not so bad.  On the one hand, I feel hurt that not only did those tweets go out without my name in them, but that none of my virtual friends even thought to tweet back “Hey!  What about @Hip2Housewife!?” On the other hand, just this weekend I had a lovely dinner with a friend – and our husbands – I met in the blogosphere.  Last week I turned a virtual friend into a real one when she came to NY.  And the person I spend the most time with in the world (aside from my husband.  At least I’m pretty sure I spend more time with him) is a friend I met through blogging, and who I can’t imagine being without.

Hopefully, I will go to BlogHer and have fun, and not care who tweets about how happy they are they met me.  Hopefully, I’ll just be happy to meet people myself.  And finally, stop worrying about what other people say or don’t say, stop minding if I’m not included in something I don’t really want to go to anyway, stop being twelve, and start being me.

Hey, it’s something to strive for.

 

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Last week, I appeared in the Wall Street Journal in an article that identified me as the co-founder of an internet startup.  It’s true.  Rebecca Levey and I have started KidzVuz.com, a video review site where kids can watch and leave video reviews of books, movies, TV shows, toys, tech and more.

That makes me a webpreneur. And this post is about helping you become one too.

I had a long freelance television career before blogging, before KidzVuz – before the wheel. And I was often asked why I didn’t start my own production company. I didn’t want to, that’s why.  I didn’t have an entrepreneurial bone in my body.  Freelancing was just fine.

Now, I’m talking about “scaling up” and “convertible notes.”  I’m writing business plans and creating spreadsheets.  I have a lawyer.

Go figure.

Every day in this process of creating/running a start up, I learn something new.  And in this post, I’m going to share some of the basics with you. This is stuff I think will help you whether you’re thinking of starting a business, or just trying to make your own brand, your own blog –  into a business.  Let me know if it helps.

1. Don’t be such a girl.

This may sound ridiculous, but it’s true.  There have been many, many times when I have a conversation or email exchange with someone that either starts or ends with an apology: “I’m sorry to mention this, but…” “I hope this doesn’t come across as harsh but…”

The thing is, most (not all) of the conversations happen when someone hasn’t delivered what they promised. Or they’re late.  Or they’re just plain wrong.  Yet somehow, I think it seems impolite of me to mention it.

Please. I am SUCH a girl.      There is no man who apologizes every time someone doesn’t deliver.  I’m all for civilized discourse.  I’m all for starting off all criticism with a positive.  But it’s business, not parenting.  Time to toughen up.

2. Tell Everyone How Fabulous You Are In business, no one is going to find it charming if you’re self deprecating or play down just how incredibly fabulous you and your business ideas are.  Just recently Rebecca and I were asked to put a valuation on our company. We didn’t want to seem too cocky. We low balled it.

Wrong!!

Cocky is where it’s at, people.  Do you have any idea how many 20-something men have nothing but an idea, and value it at $20 million?  We have a live site.  We have users.  We have partnerships.  KidzVuz is more than an idea: it exists.  And we KNOW it’s gonna be huge.

Believe in your blog or business.  Talk it up using phrases like “it will be” not “it could be.”  If you don’t believe in it, no one else will either.

3. Know Your Stuff – Every day in my new life as an entrepreneur, I learn a little bit more about what I don’t know I don’t know.  And that’s not a typo.  There is A LOT to learn. And if you want to be able to carry off #2 (being unabashedly fabulous), you’d better have the goods.

What’s your business model. (in other words – how will be make money?) Who’s the competition? Are you offering something people really need or want?  How big is the market? What will your portion be? Ask, and then find answers.

I had never in my life made a spreadsheet, or done market analysis.  But I have now. I believe in my idea.  But if I want other people to believe in it, too, I need to have the data and research to prove it’s a great as I say.

Yes, it’s the unglamorous part of it all – but it’s the nitty gritty real life business stuff that is the difference between an idea and a successful business.

4. Act Professional – Let’s say you have a personal blog – you write about your family, your ups and downs…your life.  You’re still a professional.  You still have to believe that your blog is your business (unless it’s really a personal blog, and you don’t want to make a business out of it.  that’s fine too!)  If you tell a potential sponsor that you can’t make a certain event because you have to pick up your kids, that’s not professional.  Tell them you have an appointment.  Trust me, they won’t ask you what it’s for.

Want to work with a brand or sponsor?  Just telling them what a big fan you are isn’t enough. Figure out what your blog or business can offer them.  They don’t want to work with you because you’re nice or funny (or at least not JUST because of that).  They are in business to make money.  Show them how your business will help them do that.

Invited to an event?  Don’t be sloppy.  Show up, introduce yourself, have business cards.  And as Rebecca points out so nicely in this post – think before you drink.

5. Get Ready to Work – Here’s the thing: nothing comes easy.  If you want your business or blog to grow, you have to make it happen.  You have to be on top of it, keep up on what’s happening in your field or in the blogosphere.  Make connections, help others.  Any time you find yourself thinking, why did so and so get that opportunity and I didn’t, chances are, the answer is, “because they worked harder than you did.”

Harsh, maybe, but true.

I’m loving growing KidzVuz and The Blogging Angles, too, but it’s work. On this blog, I’ve chosen to keep business out of it.  I use this space to write about whatever I want…and I no longer worry about my stats or what brands want to work with me. I realized, I didn’t want to do the work that was necessary to have a hugely successful blog.  I wanted to expend that energy elsewhere.

Decide: what would constitute success for your blog or business?  Making money?  Being nationally recognized?  You’ll have to work for that. Hard. And it still might not happen.  That’s just life.

But if success means having an outlet for your writing, joining a community of like-minded women, having fun, then the pressure is off.

Both definitions of success are valid. But if you choose the second one, and work accordingly, don’t expect to end up on the cover of Vanity Fair. Ain’t gonna happen.

The point of this all is to do what makes sense to you – what you think will make you happy.  Don’t let anyone make you feel like your blog has to be “monetized” (I hate that “word.”) Don’t let anyone tell you your small business needs to be big.  It only needs to be what you want it to be.

6. Look The Part

If you’re a style blogger, you need to be – well, stylish. But if you’re a mom blogger, that doesn’t mean you can show up at a meeting in spit-up-stained sweat pants.  But neither should you be in a corporate suit.  Look professional – not like you’re in a costume.

For me, as the owner of a tech start up, that means I need  – not to wear a hoodie, straight-leg jeans, and converse – because for me, that would be a costume. But that I should wear clothing that you wouldn’t find on a full-time-stay-at-home-mom in a suburban shopping mall.

Does Mark Zuckerberg get to wear a bathrobe to a meeting where he’s asking for money?  Sure.  But he’s Mark Zuckerberg, and you’re not. (And I’m not, either!)

7. Believe in Yourself When I wrote above about not being afraid to present yourself as fabulous, I hope you also got that I want you to THINK you’re great.  That doesn’t mean you belittle others.  It just means that you should genuinely believe you can do it – whatever it is.

Will doubt set in?  Of course it will.  That’s human nature.  But don’t think that “because you’re a mom” or “because you’re a blogger” or “because you’ve been out of the work force for a while” you and your idea aren’t valid and viable.

You can do it.

Hey, if I can make it into the Wall Street Journal, anything is possible.

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Thank you to BING Social Search for sponsoring my post about social media. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

How many social media junkies does it take to change a light bulb?

None. Their backlit keyboards are all the light they need.

Come on, admit it.  You can identify.  There are times when all of us social media junkies forgo “the real world” for the virtual one, and find our way by the light of whatever screen we can get a hold of.  But who’s to say that’s a bad thing?

For nearly 20 years, I worked as a writer/producer in what I not-so-affectionately call “the armpit of television” – creative services.  I wrote and produced :30 second spots for Lifetime “She thought she had everything…until…”  helped launch HBO Family: “TV that won’t make you blush,”  watched countless hours of baseball games from the 1970’s for ESPN Classic “Are you Old School?”  I even worked at “A Current Affair;” Katchung!  I always thought that eventually, I’d come out of the armpit and into the light.  But I never did.  Writing promos never lead to anything other than more promos and more and more.   And while I had my TV friends, and was part of the relatively small NYC TV community, I never felt connected.

When my kids started Kindergarten I stopped working (backwards, you say? Long story, I answer.) And that put me into a different kind of pit. One which I was struggling to claw out of, to find some vestige of my former self…my any self.  Full time motherhood made me feel rudderless, like I was sinking into a pit of nobody-ness. Even the old TV armpit was looking good.

Social Media changed all that.  Four years into blogging, I have a huge, supportive community of women who love to write, women who get that being a mom doesn’t mean that’s the only thing you are.  Women who I may never have met, but who are my friends.  I have a voice, an identity – I’m Hip to Housewife, and I’m out of the pits. (more…)

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