BlogStock 2015 – What I Learned + Why You Should Go!

BlogStock 2015

BlogStock is the world’s first blogging festival – a weekend of camping, learning, networking, eating, drinking and partying. A chance for new and veteran bloggers, YouTubers, vloggers, foodies, travel addicts, tech-heads, and social media junkies to get together with other like minded souls.

I’ve been looking forward to going to BlogStock since I bought tickets for it back in June, when the sun was shining, and I was on a high after another blogging conference – which is always the way I feel after going to any blogger event.

4th September arrived, and it was cold, grey and a bit drizzly. We made the executive decision not to camp for the weekend, but drive back and forth each day. Living only 30 minutes away was handy on this occasion, I do not do well in the cold! We collected our passes at the reception tent, and walked out onto the field where everything was set out in one huge circle, with marquees, gazebos and a gorgeous tipi too.

We were one of the first to arrive (my insane need to be early for things!) and had a little wander around, talking to some of the brands whilst things were still quiet. Eventually, more people trickled in – having set up their tents, others arriving in camper vans, and some having the luxury of staying in yurts courtesy of Hertz UK.

BlogStock 2015

BlogStock 2015

BlogStock 2015

BlogStock 2015

I then remembered that there was a free buffet lunch from the Taste of Siam for those who managed to arrive before 3pm, so we grabbed some food and sat down at one of the benches on the field. I opened my Instagram to share a few photos of the day so far, and a friend had tagged me with the what I’m doing now hashtag… my husband was clearly having too much fun with a prawn cracker >_<

BlogStock 2015

BlogStock 2015 Line Up

I find with blog conferences, that it’s always a tough decision as to which session to attend. Especially if they clash with another one you’d love to go to. I had a rough idea in my head, but things changed at the last minute, especially on the Saturday. In fact, there was so many fantastic sounding sessions, I wish it could have been spread out over 2 full days instead! Even if I end up already knowing some of the information or advice given during a talk, I will always walk away with something new. As a blogger, I never stop learning, and in an ever changing digital world, it pays to keep up to date with everything.

The Free Tools To Make Your Online Life Better with Megan Hart, was fab, as I found out about two resources I’d not heard of, so will be investigating those further, as well as a little reminder to myself of the other ones I should make use of more often than I do.

BlogStock 2015

BlogStock 2015

I’m always interested in listening to other bloggers about how they manage things on their blog; it makes me realise just how different we all are, as well as giving us alternative ways of doing something. After Monica Stott’s talk about How To Be A Six-Figure Blogger (in page views, rather than money though!) I let her know that I found her session really helpful, and that I had recently discovered her blog (The Travel Hack) through the blog post she gave an example of for longevity in the search engines. Being a six-figure blogger is up there on my list of things to achieve – I have hit it a few times in the past year, but it’s the keeping it up there that is the hard part! Some of her tips included:

  • Write a blog post answering your reader’s questions.
  • Check titles – will people search for them?
  • Add suggested further reading at the end of blog posts.
  • Ask fellow bloggers to guest post – it doubles your reach.
  • Make life easy for your readers – can they find what they are looking for on your blog?

I do wish I had been able to go to the reclaiming your time sessions, as I really need to learn to do that better; and the other two sessions: SEO (always handy) and what does your blog say about you (I would love to know!) would have been interesting too.

Throughout, I continued to chat to the brands that were at BlogStock including Expedia, Travel Alberta, Tourism Ireland, APH, The Florida Keys + Key West, Capital Region USA and Affilinet. I wanted to make the most of the opportunity, as I figured that Saturday would be a lot busier than the Friday. I also liked knowing that I had that side of the weekend done, leaving me free on Saturday to attend sessions.

Aside from chatting about how the brands in attendance work with bloggers, talking about my blog and handing over business cards, there were also some great freebies! I know when my husband goes to his conferences for work, he comes home armed with lots of goodies, so now it was my turn, since my blog is now my main source of income. There were, among other things, gorgeous wine glass charms, miniature bottles of whiskey, slices of key lime pie, cups of coffee and a rather strange drink called a Caesar, which is like a Bloody Mary, but made with clamato juice… tomato juice with clam, uhm, juice in it. There were also several competitions to enter over the weekend, which added another layer of fun to an already great weekend!

As late afternoon turned to early evening, I caught up with a blogger that I have met before – Katy from What Katy Said, who had just turned up with her family, and was camping overnight in one of the Hertz Yurts. We had a good old catch up while my husband enjoyed a beer from Clouded Minds, before saying our goodbyes. We decided to call it a day, I was starting to feel really cold, and stupidly didn’t bring something to keep me warm as the night drew in. I know we missed out on the evening entertainment… which was definitely a shame, as it all added to the atmosphere of a festival. Perhaps next year the weather will be a little bit warmer and drier and we can camp for the weekend.

BlogStock 2015

We woke up to pouring rain on day 2 of BlogStock 2015, and I was so glad that we hadn’t camped! I did say, my enthusiastic new love for camping after Camp Bestival this year, might be very different when it is cold and wet, and I wasn’t wrong! The drive around the M25 was grim, with dark skies and ever falling raindrops, but once we turned into Aldenham Country Park in Hertfordshire, it had slowed down, and remained dry for the rest of the day.

The rain had caused a bit of a muddy field, but it gave me the opportunity to put the Jileon wellies I had been sent to review to the test – look out for that soon on my blog! We grabbed a free coffee from the team at Affilinet (who supplied them all day – nice!), bought a Danish pastry from Snaps & Rye and settled into the Blog To Boss tent for my first chosen session of the day – Carving Your Place In The Blogosphere: Finding Your Niche with Alexandra Jimenez from TravelFashionGirl.com

I’m a blogger who writes about several different things, I don’t really have a niche, although, over time I’ve tried to focus my blog on core topics, with the main ones being food & drink, travel, and Disney, as well as my seasonal stuff like Crafty October and Create Christmas. But after listening to Alexandra talk, it made me realise how valuable a niche can be. During the session, the penny dropped, and on the back of that, I’ve bought a new domain name and am in the process of setting up a brand new blog, which I’ll reveal to you soon. But don’t worry, The Purple Pumpkin Blog is not going anywhere – I love my space on the web, and I know you do too!

Here are some important things I learned from the Finding Your Niche session:

  • A niche helps you stand out in the crowd and captures your audience.
  • It helps you become an expert in your chosen niche.
  • Who is your target market? It is important to know who you are writing for.
  • Combine niches; for example: a gluten-free food blog or a family blog focusing on twins.
  • Do not worry that a niche is limiting to what you can write, it isn’t.
  • Use Google to see how unique your niche is – is it over-saturated? Can you drill down even further?
  • The Google Adsense Keyword Planner Tool is your friend.
  • Don’t think like a blogger; think like a CEO.

I stayed in the Blog To Boss tent for the next session with Ximena de la Serna from DeseoBeauty.com: The One Secret That Will Turn Your Blog Into A Business. And that secret? LISTS. You need to have a mailing list. Now, this is a tip I have heard before at another conference last year, and on the back of that, I did start to build my list. But I know I let it slide a bit and didn’t put my all into it. However, after listening to Ximena, who is Colombian (her website and videos are all in Spanish, and man, do I wish I could understand Spanish now!) and so full of energy and great advice, I will be looking into ways to make a list work for my blog. The reason for a mailing list is simple – you own it. You don’t own social media… if one of the major players was to disappear from the web, taking all of your followers with it, what would you do? You would need to tell your readers where to find you – and without that list, you will find yourself very stuck.

Now, Ximena sells a product, so her list creating process was all about a sales perspective, but I took away valuable information and it started to spin ideas in my head too:

  • It’s a chance to deliver great exclusive value.
  • Know your audience – tailor your emails to them.
  • Mistakes include:
    • not emailing or only once in a blue moon – subscribers lose interest;
    • bad subject lines;
    • thinking everyone reads the whole email – they don’t.

By the second session in the Blog To Boss tent, I was feeling so inspired by these two ladies, that I pretty much set up home in the tent for the rest of the day – even though I hadn’t planned to!

BlogStock 2015

Next up was Easy DIY Professional Photography with Maria Fernandez from Chio Photography. I do love a photography workshop at events – it’s the thing I’m probably most passionate about when it comes to my life in general, and for my blog. It’s the reason why pretty much all of my posts are photo heavy, because even if you don’t read all the words, then I hope to tell the story through my images. There are four steps to good photos:

  1. Lighting
  2. Background
  3. Composition
  4. Bokeh (the blurring of the background)

And some of this session was about a Fuji camera, and how it is an easy to use camera that is great for bloggers – especially those not so confident. It wasn’t sales pitch-y, which I appreciated (it’ll take a lot to pull me away from my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 camera!), but it was also nice to hear that you don’t need to have an expensive DSLR camera to take photos for your blog. And since I don’t have one of those, it’s always nice to hear! I’m sure one day I’ll branch into that territory, but for now, I’m happy with the camera I have – after all, the best camera is the one that is in your hands!

We then got the opportunity to try out the Fuji camera if we wanted to, as well as play about with some of the props that Maria had brought with her. Oh, and nearly forgot about a website she suggested for inspiration, and for images for your blog – Death To The Stock Photo, which has both free and paid for subscriptions.

The final session which I sat in, in the Blog To Boss tent, which, if you can’t tell by now, I think rocked, was by Ximena again, entitled Be A YouTuber Now: Be The Boss Of YouTube (And Not The Other Way Around). I’m not a vlogger, or a YouTuber – I have dabbled in it (here’s my YouTube channel), but I have resting bitch face, so find that doesn’t translate well onto video!! I’m better with photos and words! However, that’s not to say that I couldn’t learn from this session, with the view to maybe giving it a go in the future. I’m certainly thinking of ways to incorporate more video into my blog, even if it’s not me in front of the camera. Here are some tips from the session:

  • Optimise your channel description with keywords – people need to find you!
  • Create playlists to increase the time people spend on your channel (and don’t I know that one works, I’ve been lost for hours on YouTube!)
  • Optimise your videos – titles, description, keywords – as above!
  • Organise your playlists according to season – 1 month before.
  • Have a fixed schedule, and remind your viewers of it in every video.
  • Use annotations.
  • Ask your viewers what they would like to see next.

BlogStock 2015

Day 2 was a lot busier, and there was a nice atmosphere at the festival. I loved that whilst there were lots in attendance (I believe around 300 people) that it didn’t feel overwhelming and crowded. I loved the intimacy of the whole event. It was great to talk to bloggers in different sectors (previous conferences I’ve been to, have been mainly in the parenting sector) and it was amazing how different bloggers are, within their own niche. Lots of business cards were swapped, and I’ve enjoyed making new blogging contacts, as well as finding some fabulous new blogs to read.