Saturday, April 5, 2008

BlogHer Business Conference 2008 - Closing Keynote: You Can't Manufacture Buzz...or can you?

4:30-5:30 PM

Closing Keynote: You Can't Manufacture Buzz...Or Can You?

Synopsis: Admit it: You work with people who think social media is like magic, don't you? If you build it, they will come; you will leap to #1 in search rankings, and everyone who checks out your blog will want to write about it in theirs. The truth is that that elusive brass ring, "buzz," is usually not magic or an accident, but the result of thoughtful strategy and effective execution. Hear about a variety of ways that you, too, can become an "overnight sensation." 

BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort Page moderates this discussion with some women who have a pretty clear idea on exactly how much work goes into creating the effortless, viral spread of a message:

Melissa Anelli is the webmistress behind prominent Harry Potter fan site, The Leaky Cauldron. She has overseen the site's development as the premier source for Potter info, community and fanfic, and as a validated media outlet that gets the same access and treatment from the publisher, author and studio as more traditional outlets (if not better!) Lots of fans have started and maintained sites, but what has allowed this one to become the sensation it is? Content, community, charitable tie-ins...and an absolute passion doesn't hurt.

You may know Kathryn Finney as The Budget Fashionista. She has leveraged her "love of fashion and lack of cash" into a book and into features and mentions in over 300 major print publications (New York Times, InStyle, Redbook, Wall Street Journal), and over 50 television segments including multiple appearances on NBC's TODAY Show, Good Morning America, and CNN. Now, that's some buzz!

Kerry Miller leads a double-life. By day she is a BusinessWeek reporter, covering small businesses and start-ups...many of them web-based. But she is also the proprietress of A side project that she has grown to a million page views a month by concentrating on content, community...and by getting some well-timed bumps in traffic from influential sources. Kerry believes we all need that devil's advocate who will ask: If you build that, will anyone really want to come?

Live Blog Post Begins:

Elisa – some think blogs are magic. But it needs attention. Hat’s underneath that success?

Melissa – Leaky Cauldron is focused on meeting the insatiable appetite for Harry Potter. The site started in 2000. A couple of friend who realized how popular HP would be. She was trying to be a reporter. But she wanted fans to do their own reporting. In her spare time, she would nag everyone in the HP franchise to talk to them. Media companies eventually saw that this collection of fans was powerful. 

Then started becoming a general purpose site as well. Can’t ever fill the customers’ wants. 

Kathryn – loved fashion, lacked cash. Mom was earliest audience and the only one who logged on. Started using Grey Matter platform. Then diverse audiences started finding her. Mature fashionistas started logging on. Everyone was sort of broke and couldn’t spend so much on clothes and accessories. Remembering your roots is important. Core message is the same – fabulous for less. How to shop a Target, for example. Started in 2003.

Elise – blogs have exploded since 2000. Is the blogging world different? Can you stand out? 

Kerry – started blog in 2000. Media day job. New to blog space. She found a niche very recently that helped her stand out. is a photo blog of a collection of notes from people. Funny, read between the lines kind of notes. Grandmother sent her a note with cookies “Enjoy, but don’t eat too many!” Had been a blog reader for a while. Had a Diary Land page back in 1998. Started her note on a lark. Was on a bad date. Autopilot conversation. Roommates had gotten so bad that they only communicated through post-its. Started it as a joke and mentioned to her date that she should put these notes on-line. And the date said she should. So she did. 

Elise – attribute some of the success of these blogs through luck. 

Kathryn – well, it was luck and SEO. First big break was in January of 2004. AP reporter contacted her after finding her on Google. And then the article was in 150K newspapers. Husband is in tech field. Google wasn’t as huge anymore. Put in key words like “sample sale” increased her traffic ratings on Google. 

Elise – blogs are good for SEO, but keywords and hyper-linking are the keys to making blogs successful. 

Kathryn – content is key. Don’t change it so much that it effects your ability to relate to the audience. 

Melissa – Community helped create the lucky moment. Didn’t know what SEO was until a year ago. Summer before the first HP film was going to be released. Didn’t even have comments on the blog yet. A community member leaked the trailer to the first movie. Their blog was the first to post it. It catapulted the blog. Now there are tons of HP blogs. 5 – 10 minutes can make a difference in who gets the best hits. 

One morning before one of the books was released, they were the first by a few minutes to get a news story and that helped them get quoted in many of the morning papers. Being obsessive about email helps. 

Kathryn – early last year they heard last year that Sarah Jessica Parker was doing a line for Steve and Barry. They got some photos of the clothes. Held the info until they knew that the article was coming out in the newspaper the next day. So they scooped them. But it was just another celebrity with a line. Readers weren’t so psyched. 

Then a few days later, Steve and Barry’s asked for the photos. It became a big issue for them. So the put the question to the readers about whether to take down the photos. Turns out the photos were promised to Oprah and O Magazine. They did take the pics down. When SJP went on Oprah, the blog came up as the number one Google hit, all because of SEO. 

Kerry – also had a lucky moment. A lo of user generated content – she curates it. Less than a 100 page views on May 20th, to 150K then next day once the site was featured on Boing Boing. She knew she wanted to get on there. She had a list that she wanted to get on there. The content is really what’s key. It’s not the technology. 

My site is something that people go to when they’re bored and they want a break, a quick laugh without too much investment.

Melissa – doesn’t post too often anymore. She does other administrative work now. The HP culture is everywhere. We keep the average HP fan informed. 

Kathryn – my site is to let people know where the sales are. Balance the need to want fashion regardless of age, shape, color and not pay a ton for it. We started before the budget trend was big – same year as Isaac Mizrahi went to Target. She also like the forum part and she loves the readers. She’s learned more from them than they learn from her.


Kerry – does one post every week day. Have a backlog of 2000 notes to post. But wants to post slowly. One new thing per day. Don’t want to go crazy and burn out. Have people want more; don’t overwhelm them. 

Jory – there is a pressure on curating, editing, selecting. 

Kathryn – my blog became bigger than me.  Teaching people how to live great lives for less. Truthful, honest opinions. For them, it is all about the readers. 

Melissa – when she allowed the staff to build and let go a bit, it runs like clock work. No one person can do everything. 

Kerry – blog has changed and her writing has adapted to what works and what doesn’t. Hidden jokes. A little intro for each. People come back for the comments. First, had a bar with the most frequent posters. Now, she highlights the best comment every day. 

Question – a good blogger is someone who tends to be hard-headed. What lessons have you learned. 

Kerry – don’t get discouraged by the tyranny of the minority.

Melissa – there is a poll on the blog. Polls are changed fairly often. The comments on the poll are like a chat room. And we just left it alone. And then we changed it so you had to refresh the whole page, not just the comment section and people went nuts. Stay calm. Don’t defend yourself. Don’t engage in the anger. Step back and just let it go. 

Kathryn – now some guys want to get into this space. We had to learn how to communicate to different groups. Fashion bloggers know each other, we’re friends.   

Jory – As you get bigger, there’s a bigger financial interest. What are the pressures that have come along with that? Have people wanted to take advantage of your audiences?

Kathryn – I always put my readers first. They get an opinion. Readers want you to be successful, especially if you are true to who you are. Make money, sure, but be consistent with who you are and what you write about. TJ Maxx sponsored my book tour. Great! If Saks had sponsored it, that wouldn’t make sense. I am about budget fashion. The people who read my blog made me who I am. 

Melissa – No one who works for the site is rich. Everyone has day jobs. We only added ads recently.

Elise – how did you ever grow these sites that allows you to make money to keep supporting them? Content, community, and technology working together. Can you rank the importance?

Kerry – can’t separate them out. You need all three. Get the word out as cheaply as possible, adapt, and be fast to react.

Melissa – Content and community are even. Technology is after those two. 

Kathryn – Content and community are the top two. Blogging platform can come from anywhere.

Kerry – started blog anonymously. Didn’t put name up here because of work at first. Assumed she was a man at first. Because it’s a humor site, people assume it’s a man. Putting her name on the blog has been a positive thing. 

Melissa – put out donation drive when server got so crazy. In one day we got $12,000 from our readers. And then we put up ads. 

Kerry – I didn’t start my blog to make money. Some friends are blogging because they want to show that they have web experience or because they want a book deal. Saying that you know social media can have a value. That changes the ROI.

Kathryn – got book deal in 2004. Did blog and book at the same time. Gained 30 pounds and didn’t sleep. It affected my health. Assess how much your voice is needed on the blog. Writing a book is not an easy process. Probably need to cut down on writing the blog while you’re writing a book.

Melissa – when she was writing a book proposal, she also wrote the blog and had a day job. She quit her job. The day before she left her book sold. 6 -7 months lead up to book, I wrote in the blog, and then as it got closer I stopped writing in the blog.

Elise – passion and dedication and commitment is critical, too.     


Dez said...

I wish I had known about the BlogHer Business Conference. Oh well, next year. Anyway, wonder if you posted anything related to the NY Times article on Bloggers blogging themselves to death. Or if you haven't do you have an opinion. I think its like being an obese chef, an occupational hazard, but one pretty much knows going in that this could happen, without control.

Christa said...

Hi Dez! Thanks so much or reading my blog and for leaving a comment. I HIGHLY recommend any of the Blogher Conferences. It was an amazing and inspiring experience. and thanks for asking about the NYT article on bloggers blogging themselves to death. I am in the middle of working on a post about it rght now. Should be up later on this evening.