- Annual Conference
I’m honored to be invited to join the Arthur W. Page Society annual conference in September. As my part of the discussion, I’d like to share the two essential rules to successful communications in social media:
* Ask, don’t tell.
* No spectators.
Truth be told, I learned these rules by happy accident. Today women who blog are ubiquitous and BlogHer is the #1 guide to women who blog, a company that reaches more than nine million people a month via our publishing network of more than 2,200 blogs, our conferences and, of course, the BlogHer.com community hub where Michelle Obama and Carly Fiorina blog alongside women blogging everything from tech to pottytraining.
But in 2005, my co-founders Elisa Camahort, Jory Des Jardins and I were three bloggers with credit cards who had a crazy idea: To throw a conference to answer a question we kept hearing: “Where are the women bloggers?”
A funny thing happened as we embarked on this labor of love: We did something that, looking back, was actually pretty revolutionary for three women trained in “push media” — traditional journalism, magazine writing and marketing, respectively. We knew we wanted to hold a conference but decided not to announce the conference. Instead, we blogged it — we tested the idea by asking other women who blogged if they wanted to participate, to join us and to help develop the event. Four years later, nobody asks where the women bloggers are any more.
How did this happen? This happened because we were of the community. We knew instinctively how independent, opinionated bloggers (like ourselves!) thought and worked, and how to authentically initiate the conversation. This happened because we were not analyzing our customer — we were the customer. Rather than rather than focusing on the organizers or the celebrity speakers or the sponsors, we designed BlogHer’s first conference to give ourselves and other customers the reins — right down to helping us make programming decisions for our conferences and for our Web site, a practice that continues today (see Ray Jordan’s piece).
When I attend your annual conference in September, I’d like to share how BlogHer’s essential first baby steps with our community led us to pioneer a movement, identify a market and drive revenues. Ultimately the experience has taught me and my co-founders that the sole path to success for BlogHer was and is to lead by listening. Our customers are indeed our top source of new ideas and innovation. Our challenge — as we’ve grown from three chicks with credit cards to a 23-person venture-funded start-up — has been to stay true to our roots.
Our hard and fast rule? No spectators. Ever. We have learned that social media is a do-ocracy. Any company that wants to win customers and influence their behaviors cannot afford to spectate. Today, BlogHer provides a front-row seat to what I can only call revolutionary change. Specifically: How participatory media are activating and changing the most powerful consumers in the world — American women. What women say online is evolving both because of the new social technologies at our disposal and because of the validation and confirmation women are receiving from other women using social media. With social media, we are no longer restricted to stealing minutes and telephoning our three best friends between work, the commute, a social life and/or a family to tell them our opinions. With social media, we act — we tell the world what we think of everything with a few keystrokes, on our blogs and social sites.
And, lo and behold, the world acts back and a powerful market is born — 64 percent of bloggers we survey say they have purchased a product on the recommendation of another blogger. I’m often asked by friends from the newsrooms I used to inhabit, “Isn’t this a fad?” Our 2008 benchmark study tells us no. Each week, 36 million women participate in the blogosphere – and report turning away from “traditional Web sites” as well as television, magazines, newspapers and radio in double digits in order to pursue their new favorite habit. Today women are using blogs and social sites in a way that spells behavioral revolution. Which can be good and bad if you’re trying to get the support of these women. If you strike the right tone, women will reward you, your issue, your candidate, your product. If however, you miscommunicate with women in this medium, you can damage your brand — whether you’re running for president or trying to sell coffee.
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