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Winning Ideas for Pinterest Lessons from #britmumslive

Pinning Ideas – (Pinterest) Lessons from #britmumslive 2015

As a blogger, I am very aware of the importance that Pinterest can play in connecting people and driving traffic to your blog. I have seen the connections that other bloggers have made, and regularly use Pinterest for finding inspiration and ideas. More often than not, the links connected to the pins lead you straight to a blog rather than a website run by a large company. It’s easy to see how helpful that can be for a blogger, right?

But just because you can see the importance of using Pinterest, doesn’t mean you know how to use it effectively, does it? I use Pinterest almost daily, yet I rarely pin my own blog posts. And I rarely use the few collaborative boards I am actually a member of. So imagine my relief when I discovered BritMums Live had arranged a sesson with some of the UK’s top pinners from within the parent blogger niche.

Jen from Love Chic Living, Jennifer from Jennifer’s Little World, and Helen from Kiddy Charts all happily shared their thoughts and experiences with a room jam-packed with interested bloggers. The session was incredibly interactive, with lots of questions being fired out from the audience throughout, and so I hope I managed to capture all the key points in my notes.

Winning Ideas for Pinterest Lessons from #britmumslive

Pinterest basics

  • Pinterest now uses smart feed, which means that when you log in you’ll see pins of “related content” that are based on things you have previously pinned
  • Pins can either be pinned from their source or repinned from within Pinterest itself
  • It’s important to check the pin links directly to the post you want and not the homepage
  • Always check and edit the description so that it includes key words (e.g. ingredients used in a recipe)
  • Do not use hashtags – these are not used on Pinterest and are seen as spam

Making the most of your account

  • Set up a business account – this is important if you plan to make money via your blog. It also gives you access to analytics within Pinterest. It is easy to switch from a personal account to a business one (NB: I did it yesterday and it really was very simple!)
  • Once you’ve changed to a business account, you’ll be able to verify your account.
  • Apply for rich pins – these are pins which have a bold title and provide space for a lot more information than standard pins. Using these will give your pins more weight in searches and they also stand out more in a feed. Pinterest are also adding “call to action” buttons to rich pins.
  • When people first see your profile, they will only see the first 8 boards, so make these count. You can change the order regularly, so consider making these seasonal.
  • Remember that we are naturally drawn to the top left of the screen, so make your first board the one you want to be seen first. This is a good place to create a blog board to pin your own blog posts to.
  • You can pin to your blog board first, and then repin your own content within Pinterest to other more specific boards or collaborative boards. Just make sure that you don’t do this too much in quick succession, otherwise you will be seen as spamming.
  • Make use of secret boards for pinning ideas and projects you are planning for a future date. You can then publish them when you are ready to go live.
  • Use sensible keywords for board names and include them in your profile as well.
  • Make sure your boards are all in the right category, to make sure they are easy to search for.
  • Pin regularly, but keep it natural by making sure that the pins are relevant to you. Mix things up and pin other people’s content, this is how Pinterest works!

Understanding Pinterest and how it equates to blog traffic

  • Pinterest works like a search engine and discovery tool rather than a social media platform. You don’t need a lot of followers to be successful, and the number of followers does not always equate to traffic.
  • Pins are evergreen – don’t delete pins, they will continue to grow organically over time. Seasonal posts, in particular, will be more popular at certain times of year.
  • Talking of seasonal posts, remember to pin them in a timely manner. For instance, Christmas-themed posts will start to gain interest in October when peple start searching for inspiration. If you pin something in December, it may not gather much interest this year, but could be much more successful the following year.

What makes a good pin?

  • Always use portrait images with a ratio of 2:3, and never post a landscape image.
  • Make sure the image is engaging, beautiful, and high quality.
  • Give it a searchable title
  • Make sure that the description includes keywords, but that it is also written naturally. The longer the description, the better.
  • Add teaser text over the image if you think that it adds to it, but remember this won’t always work and some images will be better without it.

Collaborative Boards

  • Collaborative boards are good for extra exposure and offer more pinning opportunities
  • PinGroupie is a great way to find collaborative boards and get involved
  • Make sure you always follow the group rules

Jen’s collaborative board, Love Home Bloggers, is a great example of how these work. 

Pinterest Rules

  • Do not run “Pin It to Win It” competitions, Pinterest hate these.
  • You cannot be paid for pinning to one of your boards, but you can pin sponsored content.
  • You can, however, be paid for pinning to a collaborate board run by a brand.
  • You can run creative competitions (i.e. entrants have to create a board based on a theme) so long as the sponsor does not require entrants to pin content of their own products.
  • You can be paid for offering Pinterest consultancy.

Top Tips

  • Link to Pinterest in a blog post whenever you can and embed relevant boards.
  • Make pins searchable
  • Link to Pinterest boards from your other social media channels
  • Have a Pinterest board for your blog and remember to use categories

Resources

  • Stock photo sites, such as Pixabay and the Creative Commons area on Flickr can help you find relevant images for your pins. The image I used in this post came from Canva
  • If you use WordPress, there are various plugins you can use to make everything easier. Try SumoMe for starters.
  • There are many resources you can use to help organise your content and sharing. These include Buffer, Ahalogy, Curalate, Expion, Newscred, Percolate, Shoutlet, Spreadfast, Sprinklr and Tailwind. Some focus specifically on Pinterest, some are more general social media schedulers. Some are free, some charge a small fee. Find one which works for you.

I do hope that these notes are helpful – they have certainly given me a lot to think about and a long list of things that I need to change.

This post is part of a series entitled Lessons from #britmumslive 2015. You can find the other posts in this series below:

Turning Pitches into Profit
Social Media Optimisation
Breaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion

Breaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion Lessons from #britmumslive 2015

Breaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion – Lessons from #britmumslive 2015

As part of my BritMums Live journey this year, I have been writing up the notes that I took throughout the conference, a series I have called Lessons from #britmumslive. I feel like I took so much away from the various sessions I attended, that I wanted to share my notes with others so that they could benefit from them too. I spoke to several bloggers over the weekend about how there is sometimes a culture of “non-sharing” within blogging and social media circles, as if keeping our best tips to ourselves will somehow ensure we get “the edge” and remain one step ahead of the rest. But the whole beauty of events like BritMums Live is that we break down those barriers and share, share, share…

One of my favourite sessions throughout the entire weekend was the one held by Kate Hardcastle called Breaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion. Kate personifies the very nature of sharing success with others, as shown by just how much she gives back through her work. However she also doesn’t mince her words, and was more than happy to lay it on the line and make sure we knew exactly what it takes to make our dreams a reality.

Breaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion Lessons from #britmumslive 2015

 

Starting Out

  • Only get involved with something if you can make a difference
  • If you’re setting up a business, pitch it to the person most unlikely to accept your idea. If they show interest, then you know it has a chance. Don’t accept responses from friends and family, as they will always support your ideas.
  • Face your fear factor at the start, plan your journey and discover what you are most scared of. Don’t put it off, as this could become the mountain you cannot climb further down the line. Face it now, and you know you can face anything.
  • Know your destination – running a business may be like a journey, but you need to know the end result so that you know what you are aiming for (e.g. in 5 years time I’d like to be…)

Finding balance in business

  • Most businesses that are struggling are focusing too much on one area rather than having a balanced approach (e.g. too much focus on budget and not enough on consumer relations). Kate described this as being like one of those toy mazes you get in Christmas crackers, or on the top of bottles of bubbles, where you need to get the ball bearing into the centre. To do so, you need to hold the maze flat, otherwise you have no chance of getting it into the middle.
  • There is a target image on Insight with Passion which you may find useful when looking at finding balance in business

Key skills to help you succeed

  • Passion – you need this to make sure you keep going even through the hardest days
  • Persuasion – it isn’t about how good you are at promoting yourself, but rather how good you are at understanding what someone wants/needs and how you can provide this
  • Persistence – this will help you stick it out and have patience along the way
  • Politeness – the more your brand is out there, the more people will talk about you. The impression you give is really important, so always be polite.

Beyond the basics

  • Business can, and should, be attainable for everyone. However it is often clouded in language we are unfamiliar with.
  • Add the word “respect” to all your literature. It is key word that is universally understood and gives a great feeling of trust. Independent businesses are doing so well because of this.
  • Listening provides you with all the answersAs Kate mentions, you have two ears and only one mouth, so you should remember this and use them in that ratio.
  • If you don’t like the word “sell”, change the language. Selling yourself (or your product) simply means you are “serving” a solution to a problem.
  • Think outside in, not inside out. Do your research and know that business is selfish – you need to tell people about themselves and how you will serve them, not about who you are and what you have done.
  • Have heart – consumers want real people to deal with. This is especially crucial in today’s climate.

Know your limitations

  • You’ll always have to make sacrifices, so you need to know what is most important to you.
  • Say no when you need to, so that when you say yes you mean it (and it means something to you)
  • Be very honest with your friends and family – it is so easy to feel bound to them and guilty when you can’t meet up all the time. Make the time you can spend with them count.
  • Make sure that whatever you do, you are there 100% – this makes all the difference!
  • Accept help when you need it and know your own faults and limitations
  • Use technology to help you organise yourself.

There is always help available

  • Access for All is a free business helping hand provided by Insight with Passion. There is a waiting list for this, but it is worth trying if you have a burning business idea.
  • Customer at the Heart awards celebrate independent businesses throughout the UK who put their customers first. Often award nominations can be challenging as you have to write about yourself, but with these awards the customers can nominate you themselves.
  • Charity Dreamgirls support smaller, lesser known charities and help them spread their message further.

I’m sure there is plenty more help available, however these are the points that Kate brought up in her session. I do hope that these notes help, they sure have inspired me. I had a lovely chat with Kate following the session and she reminded me to be realistic, knowing when I can change something and when I can’t, and looking for new ways of working when necessary.

This post is part of my series Lessons from #britmumslive. You can find my other session notes below:

Turning Pitches into Profit
Social Media Optimisation
Pinning Ideas

Social Media Optimisation Tips for Bloggers from #britmumslive 2015

“Social Media Optimisation” – Lessons from #britmumslive 2015

As I mentioned in my first Lessons from #britmumslive post, I went to BritMums Live this year hoping to gain as much insight and inspiration for taking my blog to the next level as possible. This included learning how to use social media in a much more efficient way, and so I was very excited when the session “Social Media Optimisation – Doing It All, Yes You Must” appeared on the agenda.

Social Media Optimisation Tips for Bloggers from #britmumslive 2015

The session was led by the amazing Maggy Woodley from Red Ted Art and Ali Clifford from Kids Chaos. Both are seasoned bloggers, with huge followings across various social media platforms, and it was really interesting to hear about their favourite places, how this has changed throughout the years, and how it differed from other bloggers in the audience.

Here’s what they had to say…

Why do you need to do it all?

  • Social media is owned by third parties, who are always changing their algorithms. This can massively affect your traffic, so you cannot afford to rely on one platform alone.
  • If you want to work with brands, you need to be present on all the major platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, as these are the big traffic drivers
  • However, each brand will have individual platforms which they prefer, so it is important to be visible across them all otherwise you could easily miss out on opportunities that focus on one or the other.
  • It looks odd if you have a massive following on one platform and hardly any followers on another. It can make people wonder how authentic you are and whether you have “bought” all those likes.

What does social media “optimisation” mean?

  • Prioritising one or two accounts whilst still being visible across other platforms
  • Having a consistent name and profile across all platforms
  • Grabbing your name on all social media platforms (even if you do not intend to use some of them much, you can still passively grow an audience and it also stops people from using your name for their own accounts).
  • Connecting all of your accounts for easy posting, but be wary of simply posting everything across all platforms when it may not be relevant to your audience in some places.

Defining Your Social Media Style

  • Work our what your focus is and go with it – even if people don’t like it, remember that you need to be happy with it
  • Watermark your images if you can so that they are still recognisable as yours even if they are shared elsewhere
  • Act like a brand and try to have a consistent image across all platforms
  • However, remember that your style may vary slightly across the different platforms – for example you may prefer to use a profile photo on instagram and your logo on Facebook.

Understanding the different platforms

  • Join and use blogging groups to keep up with changes in social media
  • Pinterest is used more like a search engine than social media platform, with pinners saving links they will come back to at a later time. Be aware that things often get mis-pinned, so it is important to check details when you repin an item.
  • Twitter is all about chatting with others. Remember you will need to tweet links to your posts multiple times as they will get lost very quickly on Twitter. However it is important to change the wording rather than simply tweeting the same thing over and over.
  • Facebook is much slower, and so you will annoy people if you simply post the same thing multiple times. Try resharing updates from bloggers with a large following.
  • Instagram is about connecting with people on a more personal level, and may not lead to visits to your blog. Make sure you interact with people and have conversations on there, rather than simply posting images.

Points to Remember

  • People like it when you post other people’s content as well as your own.
  • Scheduling via Hootsuite, Buffer etc can help you keep on top of your social media streams, however it is important to check for interaction rather than simply scheduling posts.
  • Social Media can take up a lot of time – Maggy shared how she spends more time on social media than she does on her blog!!
  • It’s not the number of followers you have that brands look for, but rather the engagement you have with your readers.
  • Work out, in a table, which platforms you focus on, which you passively use, and which you simply need to park your name on, and then use this as a guide.

I hope that these notes do the session justice and help those of you who couldn’t make this session.

Remember, I am writing up all the notes I took at BritMums Live this year, and you can find them all below:

Turning Pitches into Profit
Breaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion
Pinning Ideas

Turning Pitches into Profit Tips for Bloggers from #britmumslive 2015

“Turning Pitches Into Profits” – Lessons from #britmumslive 2015

This year, I attended BritMums Live with the intention of learning as much as I could about taking the next step on my blogging journey. I have been blogging since 2006, but apart from a couple of years freelance writing, I have never really focused on using the skills I have gained professionally. All this changed following my redundancy at the beginning of this year, so I was excited to learn that one of my favourite bloggers – Emily Leary from A Mummy Too – was leading a session called Turning Pitches into Profit.

Turning Pitches into Profit Tips for Bloggers from #britmumslive 2015

Emily’s session was really insightful (as well as incredibly enjoyable, she really has a great presenting style!) and I thought it would be helpful to type up the notes I made for anyone who couldn’t make the session at BritMums Live last weekend.

As per Emily’s suggestion at the start of her session, try to keep in mind a brand that you’d like to work with whilst you read these notes. Consider whether they fit in with what you write about, and therefore what your audience will want to read!

The Basics of Pitching

  • Pitching is not blagging – it is about proposing a mutually beneficial working relationship.
  • A good pitch outline will include: who you are; your ideas; what you can bring to the brand; and your rates.
  • Who are you? – Your blog strapline (if you have one) may well give you an idea for this. Keep it simple, 1-2 sentences to describe your blog. Remember this may change depending on who you’re pitching to.
  • Who is it for? – Who is your imagined reader? PRs want to know about your demographics (use your stats, such as google analytics, for this). If there is a key statistic in there, use it, but don’t just rely on stats alone. You will stand out above others by knowing who your readers are. (At this point I was reminded of By Regina’s Ideal Reader Profile that I used when first developing a blog plan at the beginning of this year – you may find this useful too).
  • What type of content does best? – Look at your most popular posts – what kind of post are they and why do you think these are so popular? Brands and PRs will often split their target audience into several subgroups, e.g. those who love to read and those who love “how-to” posts, so knowing which kind of content does best on your blog may help you here.

At this point in the session, Emily suggested we choose three pieces of our content which shows our best work. I realised the posts I am most proud of are not necessarily ones which are most relevant to brands, so it certainly made me think about this in a whole new light!

Finding Your Best Content

  • You could start a Pinterest board that is dedicated to your blog and allows you to showcase what you can do. Alternatively you could create a simple list of links showing your best posts. This will then become something you can send to PRs and brands to show what you can do far more efficiently that sharing your entire blog (where you may have a lot of information that is irrelevant to that particular brand).
  • If you’re written something specific (in my case, this would be posts on Endometriosis and HG) they may no longer be relevant to you and what you’re writing about now. But they will always continue to be relevant to others who are facing those things in their lives right now, and so they can still be some of your best content.

Know Your “Hero Stats”

  • If you have received details from other brands, look at what language they use and what they are looking for. This can help you determine the best language and focus to use when pitching. You can also use social media and blogging groups to learn more about the brands you hope to pitch to.
  • What is your reach? – Don’t just include your blog stats, include your social media following, number of subscribers, and any other stat which might create the right impact.
  • Choose your “hero stats” and give the brands/PRs what they want to hear (think about how infographics and press releases only give you the key information you need to know).
  • Keep all your stats in a folder on your computer for easy access – this cuts down on time without having to go to each place every time you need them (and update this regularly).

Working Out Your Fees

  • There is no “magic number” of what to charge – someone with a smaller reach than you may still be worth more to a brand within their niche.
  • It can be helpful to talk to other bloggers now and again to find out what the “going rate” is. (Blogging groups can be good for this, and if anyone is mean to you, leave the group… there are lots of supportive groups out there, you don’t need to stay in one where people aren’t friendly!)
  • Fees will be determined by a number of factors, including: research and relevance; quality (this will vary); work involved (factor in travel, materials etc); and licensing (will it be used elsewhere).
  • Top Tier bloggers (i.e. those who are top of the various blogging charts) earn, on average, £250-£500 per piece of content, with £250 being a very simple piece and £500 for very specific work.
  • If you are relatively new to blogging, you may not get this kind of money, but remember that you are worth the time you put in and if you are working for less than the minimum wage, you need to question whether it is really worth it.

Know The Brand

  • Research the brand you want to pitch to thoroughly – use publications such as PR Week and Marketing Week and find out all about their latest work as well as previous campaigns. This will tell you why the brand has hired a PR company, what their advertising does, and what their key message is.
  • A brand’s advertising department will have their own targets that they have to meet, so you need to be aware of this. Make it easy for them to go to their bosses and explain why you would be a good choice!

Communication is Crucial

  • Cold pitching is like cold calling – get in touch with the brand and start a conversation. Explain why you want to work with them and this will hopefully lead to a “warm pitch”.
  • If you receive a press release, try pitching you idea in response (if it is relevant). For instance, you could explain that you don’t normally publish press releases, but at this time you have an idea and would like to work with the brand.
  • Remember that you won’t win every pitch, but take every opportunity. There aren’t many PRs who will be annoyed by a conversation, as it is their job to engage. Even if you don’t win this time, you could still have made a good impression meaning they may contact you next time an opportunity arises.  Slowly, but surely, the number of contacts you create will increase.

Be Professional

  • Figure out your Terms and Conditions and make them accessible (e.g. they could be on a blog page that isn’t easily searchable but you can still link to when needed).
  • Know the law and regulations
  • Always disclose any sponsored work and be clear about this

Final Thoughts

  • Remember that in all creative industries, some people will steal your ideas. It happens, unfortunately, so try to trust the brand before contacting them.
  • Be super positive when talking to PRs
  • Always be polite
  • And always be enthusiastic

I really hope that I have done Emily’s amazing session justice in these notes and that they make as much sense to everyone else as they do to me.

I’ve written my notes from other sessions on the blog as well, as part of a new series entitled “Lessons from #britmumslive”. You can find the other posts below:

Social Media Optimisation
Breaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion
Pinning Ideas

#britmumslive 2015 selfies

What I learned about myself at #britmumslive 2015

This year was my fourth time attending BritMums Live, and I did for a brief moment wonder whether there was anything else for me to learn or if I had already picked up most of the tips available in the previous years. But I shouldn’t have worried, because Jen and Susanna came up trumps (yet again) with an agenda jam-packed full of sessions I wanted to attend and I came away brimming with ideas and enthusiasm for taking my blog to the next level.

It only took until my fourth year at #britmumslive to meet the BritMums Founders Jen and Susanna!

Jen and Susanna did such a fab job, yet again, by organising the best ever #britmumslive!

I have made copious notes from each of the sessions I attended, which include Turning Pitches into ProfitSocial Media OptimisationYour Child’s Digital FootprintBreaking Boundaries with Insight and Passion, and Pinning Ideas. I had initially thought I could summarise all of these points into one blog post, but looking back over it all I am very aware that I cannot. So I am going to write a separate post for each and link to it here. I hope that by doing so, those of you who missed these sessions will also be able to benefit from the knowledge and experience of those who led them!

However, in the meantime, I thought I would focus on what I learned about myself during the weekend, and how that is changing the direction I am heading…

1. I’m a different person now, and that’s a good thing!

It’s a bit of an understatement to say that my life now is so very different to what it was a year ago. I wrote recently about all the changes in the past 6 months, but as one of my blogging friends Emma quite rightly mentioned, the past year has been crazy for me, not just the past 6 months.

A year ago, I was so busy with charity work and the forthcoming publication of the book that I don’t think I even knew who I was any more. The past 6 months has seen a change in this, as I have slowly begun to find who I am and who I want to be, and whilst I may not know exactly who I am, the journey of discovery and change itself is a beautiful thing.

2. I’m a real social butterfly

Last year I spent the vast majority of the conference with a small group of people. Whilst that was lovely, I came away feeling like I had missed something. During my first two BritMums Lives (can your pluralise the name like that?) I had met so many different people, that I had come to see the weekend as a chance to connect with as many bloggers as possible. So it felt strange not to do so last year.

This year I went all out. I don’t think I stopped meeting people, and whilst there is still a list of bloggers I wish I had bumped into or had longer to chat with, I feel like I didn’t miss a single opportunity to catch up or connect with someone new and that makes me happy. In fact poor Emma and Katrina must have wondered what was happening when, mid-sentence, I would suddenly shoot off to grab a hug (and a selfie) from someone I had spotted whizzing by. It’s a good job the three of us had dinner together Friday night, otherwise I don’t think we’d have had chance to catch up at all!

#britmumslive 2015 selfies

Just a few of the amazing bloggers I met up with this year – Emma from Adventures of Adam and Katrina from Mummy Whiskers (my hotel buddies this year), Steph from I’m Counting UFOs (go check out her book if you haven’t already), Tim from Slouching Towards Thatcham, Vicky from Single Mother Ahoy, MIchelle from Bod For Tea, and Caroline from My Family Ties.

What you have to understand about all this is that, up until my mid-twenties, I was terribly shy and in my teen years that shyness was cripplingly strong. I fought long and hard to overcome it and promised myself that I would never, ever allow fear to hold me back again. Last year shook me a fair bit, as I wondered if I had lost the enthusiasm for social events that I had once held. So I am overjoyed to have had such a wonderful (if exhausting) time this year and cannot wait for the next one.

3. I enjoy public speaking (yes, really I do!)

Leading on quite significantly from the last point, I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed being a part of the Bloggers’ Keynote. I knew, going in, what a huge honour it was and leading up to the event I had a fair few wobbles of “why on earth did I think this was a good idea?” But once I actually sat down at the table waiting to go up on stage, I began to simply feel excited to be a part of something so special.

Sitting next to Rachel from The Ordinary Lovely during the Bloggers' Keynote

I got to sit next to Rachel from The Ordinary Lovely during the Bloggers’ Keynote – what a weekend for Rachel, as she also won the Fresh Voice Category in The BiBs!

I got up on stage and, aside from feeling rather more emotional than I had expected to (that lump in my throat came out of nowhere, I swear!), I actually had a really good time. Looking out over the room full of bloggers was incredibly powerful, and made me realise just how privileged we are to belong to such an amazing community. I felt calmer than I’d ever imagined I would, and it has inspired me to take up opportunities of this kind whenever they present themselves. I’m a communicator, and an encourager, so this feels like the perfect way to combine two things I love which come pretty naturally to me.

4. My writing is my greatest creative skill

I love so many different creative mediums, but the truth is I am not a photographer, or an artist, I’m a writer. It can be so easy to fall into the trap of feeling like you have to do it all, that your blog needs to be visually stunning in order to make it in the world of blogging. But here’s the thing – my blog is not one of the “big” ones, I don’t attract thousands of hits per month, and I’ll never be in the big leagues in that respect. But my poem was still chosen to be part of the Bloggers’ Keynote, and that means something. It means that my writing strikes a chord with others, and that is the way I can connect best with the world.

I have come away from the conference more enthused than ever about my writing, something which was unfortunately quashed quite a bit by my work on the HG book (yes, I published a book, but as an incredibly specific factual piece of work it wasn’t really in my natural style!) I also felt very unsure of writing anything on my blog whilst the book was in the process of being written, as I didn’t want my writing here to be in conflict with the importance of the work I was doing for charity or the book itself. It feels incredibly freeing to realise that the blog is, once again, an entirely empty page on which I can write whatever feels right for me at any given moment.

5. It’s okay to let things go, in fact it can be the best thing you could ever do

This is, perhaps, the biggest thing I learned throughout the entire weekend. My whole BritMums Live journey has focused quite significantly on the writing of the HG book. My very first year I connected with other HG survivors as I shared my plans for the book. My second year I met with a literary agent to discuss publication prospects. Last year I went with a group of fellow HG survivors and my business cards even included information on the upcoming publication of the book. This year, things were different…

The book has been published and I am looking into letting it go completely. And I no longer work for the charity I put so much time and effort into. I won’t lie, I was nervous about meeting up with people I had worked so closely with for such a long time, people who knew me just through the HG world, especially as things hadn’t ended all that well. I wondered whether it would cloud over the weekend and cast a shadow over all the changes I had been making in my life.

But the truth was, I needed have worried. I’m Amanda, not “the HG lady”, and within blogging circles in particular I’m “the one from The Family Patch”. It doesn’t matter that I am no longer defined by my work, because I don’t need to be. It is actually incredibly powerful to realise this, and I am so glad I went so that I could discover this. I’m also very grateful for my chat with Kate Hardcastle at the end of her session, for helping me see through what had happened and acknowledging that letting go didn’t automatically equate to no longer caring.

 

So, needless to say, I came away from BritMums Live with so much insight into who I am now and where I am heading, both personally and via the blog. And that’s going to take quite some time to digest.

Tell me… what did you take from the weekend?

 

 

Why I'm to be part of a Blogging Community #britmumslive

Why I’m Proud to be Part of a Blogging Community (#britmumslive)

This past weekend, I trotted off down to London for the fourth year running, to attend the UK’s biggest social media and blogging conference. BritMums Live has become as much a part of my year as my birthday and Christmas, and is something I look forward to greatly. Stepping into The Brewery feels like coming home, and seeing old friends again is like having a family reunion… we are, as a community, one great big family that I am so proud and honoured to be a part of.

Why I'm to be part of a Blogging Community #britmumslive

But, as with all families, it isn’t always perfect. As Tim from Slouching Towards Thatcham so wisely wrote today, the men in our community are incredibly under-represented at these events. Dad bloggers may naturally be outnumbered by mum bloggers at the moment, but the disparity between mum and dad bloggers is even more pronounced when it comes to gatherings such as these. Are we doing enough to make dad bloggers feel as comfortable attending these events as the mums are?

And then, of course, we mustn’t forget that many bloggers are introverts, feeling much more comfortable expressing their hearts on the internet than they do in a room full of their peers. Let’s face it, hundreds of people meeting in one place can be pretty overwhelming for anyone, but especially so for those feeling unsure of themselves or star-struck by some of their favourite bloggers.

But here’s where we come to the thing I love most about this blogging community I’m so proud of – we are all working to make things better, for ourselves and for others. Over the years I have seen bloggers reach out to those they barely know to offer a hug and support when it all gets a bit too much. I’ve watched as those who have had a difficult time at the conference receive comment after comment from others saying “if only we had known…” and “next year, we’ll make it better”. And I’ve been stunned by the absolute generosity and grace of the biggest bloggers in our community, reaching out a hand of encouragement to others, sharing their own fears and concerns, and showing that they are just like the rest of us.

We all have our moments when we feel like small fish in a very large pond. It is so easy to see this year’s key bloggers, the ones who are up for awards or speaking at the conference, and convince ourselves that we will never be as good as they are. But you know what? Ours is a community of sharing, a family of support, and when you take that chance and step out there, you find that you do belong, you are worthy, and you’re just as important as anyone else. Your voice is valid, your voice is strong, your voice is heard.

A couple of years ago I came close to giving up blogging altogether. I couldn’t see where I fit in and I didn’t know what I was doing any more. And then I went to BritMums Live. I was surprised when somebody recognised me, told me how much they loved my writing, for I thought nobody was listening. And I was honoured when a blogger I admired so much asked me not to give up, because that meant she had read my post and cared enough to reach out and encourage me to continue. I left that year with a sense of belonging which I’d never felt before, and it is that feeling which now defines the reason behind my blog. I am part of a community, and what an amazing community it is too.

This year I stood on stage to read out a poem as part of the Bloggers’ Keynote, something I could never have imagined doing until very recently. This little fish in that very large pond finally found her voice. But as proud as I was of this opportunity, nothing could surpass how humbled I was by the entire thing. As I looked out upon the room full of bloggers, I knew each and every one had a story to tell that was just as important as mine, just as worthy of being on that stage. And I realised that, far from being little fish in a big pond, we are a formidable force when we all come together.

It is my greatest hope that every single person who attended BritMums Live this year, as well as all those who were unable to come, recognises just how strong and powerful the words and images they share are. The tagline on the back of my business cards this year was “together we can achieve great things” and this is exactly what I took away from the weekend. Every single time we post something to our blog or social media, we add to a growing collective of voices that are slowly changing the world, making it a better place for ourselves and our families. The post we write or the image we share is as equal and valid whether it touches 1 person or 10,000. We each touch the lives of others, and that is what makes this community so great.

So thank you, all of you, for everything you do. Never underestimate your worth, never forget your strength, and never feel like you don’t belong.

#britmumslive welcome

#BritMumsLive – My Top Tips for a Great Weekend

I can hardly believe that BritMums Live is just a few short days away. It feels like an absolute age since we last met at The Brewery, and I am so excited to get back there and meet up with friends old and new. This will be my fourth year and I know exactly what I want to get out of the weekend. However I remember the feeling of uncertainty in my first year, having no idea what to expect, and I have seen so many bloggers write of similar feelings in the #britmumslive meme lately. So I thought I would bring all my thoughts together and create a “Top Tips” style post to help ease those nerves and enjoy the best weekend you can.

My Top Tips for #britmumslive blogging conference

1. Set Some Goals

Whilst we’re all going to BritMums Live because we’re all bloggers, everyone is going to have a slightly different set of reasons for going. Some want to go to meet other bloggers, some to network with brands, and some will be going specifically for the sessions. In fact, I imagine most of us go for a combination of these reasons (and more). And with such a varied programme, it is easy to get whatever you want from the weekend. It’s also incredibly easy not to do so too, if you get swept away by the enormity of it all.

Last year I felt like I missed out on the opportunity to meet more people. I had a fantastic time with some amazing friends, but I just didn’t balance out the in-depth chats with the opportunity to network and meet as many people as possible. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy spending the weekend with a few good friends, because I really did, it’s just that I had met so many people in previous years that it felt a bit odd not swapping business cards with more people and finding more new blogs to read. So this year one of my goals is to get out there and just say “hi” to more people.

Your goals may be completely different to mine – you may want to spend your time with a few good friends, or network with as many brands as you can, or even attend very specific sessions because of where you feel your blog is heading. Whatever your goals are, just keep them in mind throughout the conference to try and keep yourself on track and ensure you make the most of a weekend that is packed full and passes far too quickly!

2. Make a “Must-Meet” List

Whether one of your goals is to meet certain bloggers (or brands) or not, I think we all have someone we desperately want to meet. However actually finding them amongst the crowds can be more challenging than you’d realise. It can be so easy to go through the weekend thinking you’ll bump into one of your favourite bloggers, only to come away having barely spotted a glimpse of them. I have done exactly this with a couple of bloggers, people I have failed to meet even after 3 years!

So, if there is someone you really want to meet, make a list and then make an effort to find them at some point during the conference. You may find twitter helpful for this – if you can’t find them, send out a tweet and tag them in it. Ask them where they are and what sessions they are planning to attend. Make sure you find them, otherwise you’ll come home kicking yourself, with another year to wait before your next chance to meet them.

3. Pack Wisely

Do not underestimate the sheer amount of free stuff you will amass throughout the weekend. If you visit any of the brands, you’ll likely come away with samples (and looking through the Sponsors list this year, it looks like this will include some books again too). Talking of books, you may find yourself buying some if your favourite author happens to be signing copies at the conference. And then, of course, there is the big bag of goodies you will be given as you leave The Brewery at the end of it all. I cannot stress enough how much space this will take up – last year I actually took an empty suitcase so that I wasn’t trying to juggle multiple bags on the train home.

Leaving plenty of space for all this free stuff also means you need to pack wisely for your journey down. You will not need half the things you think you will (like your laptop), and probably find you’ve forgotten something you wish you’d taken (like plasters). I wrote about my Essentials List last year, which is pretty much everything I plan on taking this year too.

4. Plan Ahead

Similar to my first two points, you’ll want to look at the Agenda and plan which sessions you really do not want to miss and which ones you’re happy to skip. I always find this part the hardest, as there is usually a clash between two or three sessions at least once during the two days. This is when planning ahead can really come in handy. Know what you want to get from the conference and use it to help you decide which sessions are an absolute must.

For me, this includes opting for sessions which will help me with work rather than sessions I would like to do just for fun. Whilst I would have enjoyed some of the sessions because of the speakers, I am opting for those which will help me build and develop key skills which will help me professionally over the next 12 months. I have not done this since my very first year at BritMums Live and it feels a bit odd, but I know that if I don’t do it I will come home feeling like I wasted a fantastic opportunity to learn as much as I could.

I’m also planning on skipping a session or two so that I can wander around The Hub and meet the brands or take part in activities that I usually miss because I am so busy attending every single session possible! I have been meaning to do this for at least the past 2 years, but I just never seem to do it. But that also means that I end up coming home and seeing photos of all the things other bloggers have done with the brands that I didn’t even know were there, and I want to try and change that this year. The Hub gets very busy during the breaks, so it is easy to miss things or have a very hasty chat with a brand, rather than a more meaningful one.

5. Be Flexible

This is a big one. All my other points focus on planning ahead and making sure you get everything you want out of the conference. But you can be too specific and miss out on some fantastic opportunities by simply going with the flow. If you’ve met someone new who is going to a session you hadn’t planned on attending but are happy to change your plans, then do it. If you planned on going back to your hotel room straight after the BiBs but are then invited out to dinner with a group of bloggers and don’t really need that early night, then go out and have fun (even if it means a hangover the next morning). Whatever happens, just go with it and enjoy yourself.

I do hope this helps some of you, and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible at the weekend!

 

I'm Going to BritMums Live 2015

I’m going to BritMums Live 2015

It’s that time of year again… June is almost upon us and I am beginning to get excited about travelling to London to meet with as many bloggers as is humanly possible in two days! No, seriously, BritMums Live is all about meeting up with old friends and new for me. So it’s about time I wrote my annual “I’m going to BritMums Live” post and started working my way through the linky and catching up with people on social media!

I'm Going to BritMums Live 2015

The I’m Going to BritMums Live 2015 Meme

Name – Amanda

Blog – The Family Patch (this one!)

Twitter ID@thefamilypatch

Height – 5’4″ (I think… I may be an inch or two off!)

Hair – brown (with a reddish tint if it has been sunny). It should be in a bob, but with the recent relocation and starting two new jobs I am overdue a trim.

Eyes – dark brown

Is this your first blogging conference? – no, this is my fourth time at BritMums Live. Rocking up to The Brewery feels like coming home these days. I’ve lost the nerves I had in my first couple of years and now sink down into the seats with a sigh of relief, knowing that the entire weekend is going to be filled with plenty of chatter, lots of useful information, and a huge amount of inspiration.

Are you attending both days? – you betcha! I was a little concerned when I was first made redundant that I would have to sell my ticket or attend on one day only to reduce costs, but thankfully it has all worked out okay. One of the first things I did when I started my new job was ensure that I had these two days off!

What are you most looking forward to at BritMums Live 2015? – I always hate this question – how do you choose just one thing you’re most looking forward to? As I’ve mentioned above, I love the opportunity to meet up with people, so that always comes high on my list. There are some old friends I am hoping to bump into, but also bloggers I have only started to interact with online during the past few months and I do hope to say “hi” to them this year.

Then, of course, there are the sessions. I really struggled last year to work out the best ones to attend. I was up to my neck in book edits and charity work and I just had no time for blogging. This year though I have a renewed passion for blogging, more so than I have since my first conference in 2012 in fact, so I’m super excited about the sessions this year.

And finally, I found out on Friday that one of my blog posts has been chosen for the Bloggers’ Keynote on the Saturday, so I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to that. The Bloggers’ Keynote is always such an emotional and inspiring moment in the weekend, when you are reminded just how special the blogging community is. I always leave on a high after listening to others read their posts, and so I feel incredibly honoured to be a part of it this year.

What are you wearing? – I have no idea. None. Last year I ended up wearing dresses, which was fun as it was a hot summery weekend. But the year before I wore jeans and a tee and that was really relaxed and comfortable. So I’m not sure which way I’ll go this year. Maybe another photo shoot is in order?

What do you hope to gain from BritMums Live 2015? – New friendships and connections. Last year I spent the vast majority of the weekend with a small group of friends, and it was really fun to share it all with them. But I found that when I came home I felt a sense of “loss” in some way at the fact I had not met with more people. In my first year I had gone with one friend and we only met up a few times throughout the weekend and the rest of the time was spent just meeting new people. Then in my second year I went completely on my own and, once my initial nerves were overcome, I made loads of new connections. I’m hoping that this year I can strike a balance between the two, making time for a good long catch up with old friends but still wandering off on my own at times so that I reach out and say “hi” to people I’ve not met before.

I’m also hoping to learn lots from the sessions. Since my redundancy I have been working on a new way of supporting my family and striking a better work/life balance. This means that I am hoping to be inspired by those who are embracing all that life has to offer, whilst also learning more about promoting myself and my work. I haven’t done any freelance work in years, so I’m hoping to find out how others are doing it.

Do you have any tips to pass on to others who may not have been before? – oh yes, lots…

  • remember we all get nervous, whether it’s our first time or our fourth, so don’t feel like you’re the only one!
  • if you’re nervous about meeting people, take a deep breath and just go for it – you’ll feel so proud of yourself for doing it and that’s a much better feeling than going home disappointed that you missed out
  • if you really don’t feel confident approaching people, visit the BritMums Butterflies. They are a lovely bunch of people who will give you a warm welcome and help you meet up with others
  • Twitter will be your best friend! Use the #britmumslive hashtag to find out where people are, join in opportunities with brands, and chat with others about the talks and sessions you have attended
  • have a vague plan for the sessions you want to attend, but be aware that this is likely to change throughout the weekend! Sometimes a session is busier than you expected it to be, or you find you’re having a great chat with a new friend who is planning to attend a different session which suddenly sounds much more interesting than your original plan. Just go with the flow – have your “must-do” list and then be flexible the rest of the time, it is much more fun that way
  • pack lightly – you will come home with a huge amount of goodies, so you don’t want to be weighed down from the start! If you’re not sure what to pack, check out my BritMums Live Essentials post from last year

I can’t wait to see you there!!

Are you going to BritMums Live this year? If so, have you joined in the linky? You can do so here…