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#Blogfest – 10 things I learned

Blogfest is one of the top events for bloggers in the UK. Organised by Mumsnet, most of the 500 or so delegates are mum bloggers. The event combines tech-focused workshops with inspirational keynotes and debate: a potent mix which left me with lots to think about.

It’s the first event for bloggers I’ve attended. Here is what I learned.

Writing

1) To write well, write often. In the ‘power of writing panel’, journalist Lynn Barber, probably the UK’s leading newspaper interviewer, advised writing every day and keeping a diary.  Just by doing it a lot your writing will improve. “Freedom is thinking no-one is reading you!” added novelist Nick Hornby.

2) “Writing in the first person can be a game changer.” Lynn Barber and Nick Hornby said that years ago student journalists were taught to always write in the third person. Now they are being taught to write in the first person. Hornby said he’s glad he somehow had the confidence to ignore teachers who marked him down for writing in the first person. Barber said it was only when she started to write in the first person that her writing really took off.

Tech tips

3) Canva This is the simple bloggers’ design platform we’ve been waiting for. Lots of templates sized for the main social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, drag and drop, with lots of impactful images, backgrounds, titles and text that you can use – or you can upload your own. It makes the creation of quality blogging and social media adverts and images very simple.

4) Skimlinks. We already use skimlinks as a single channel for our affiliate links on Prowess. Those are the shopping links you can click through to when we mention products or brands, like John Lewis. I discovered how we can use skimlinks much more effectively. Apparently it picks up more references when you use the Javascript code rather than the WordPress plugin and you can also apply manual affiliate links using the editor.

5) Youtube. Vlogging (video blogging) is growing massively and you don’t need to make a huge investment in technology to do it well. Top vloggers like Zoella use smartphones and natural light. You can then edit your videos with free apps like the Youtube editor or iMovie (which is free on the iphone, but you have to pay for the computer version). Expect to see more vlogs on Prowess, starting with our columnist Paulina Sygulska, whose regular vlog starts soon.

Monetising your blog

6) Act like a brand to attract brands, said Tara Cain of Sticky Fingers. That means having a consistent look across your blog and social media channels, being clear about what is different and unique about your blog, making it easy to contact you (that should be a no-brainer, but a surprising number of blogs are really difficult to navigate).

7) Be authentic. Always be yourself (everyone else is taken!)

8) PR yourself. You can contact companies directly, it’s easy to find out who does their PR. Be clear about what you’re offering; come up with interesting creative ideas; show-off who you’ve worked with and what you’ve achieved.

Changing the World

9) What the **** is normal. Among some amazing speakers, Comedian Francesca Martinez managed to steal the show with her 5 minute ‘think bomb’. See this video for a clip:

This brought the house down: “Consumer culture makes us hate ourselves. There is no normal, successful or beautiful. They are all just social constructs to make you hate yourself.” And it tied back to film and documentary maker Beeban Kidron, from an earlier panel, who talked about the corrosive impact the always-on, in your pocket, internet is having on many teenagers. How many are completely absorbed in consumer culture and porn and the effect it can have on their ability to relate and communicate. Kidron said, “our children are guinea pigs in Google’s lab,” her documentary, In Real Life, is a must watch.

10) Create don’t just consume the internet. Bloggers and micro-bloggers are increasingly shaping the news agenda and culture. But not enough of those voices are female. Suzanne Moore said: “women often feel inhibited in writing because we’re socialised to be liked.” The answer? Back to point one on this list: write and write often. Write as if no-one is reading. And as Moore says: “If you don’t feel you’re good enough, just fake it!”

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