A MN Blogger Conference Recap: Coffee, Directions and 20 Other Lessons

MN Blogger Conference PanelThis past weekend I was among the 130+ extremely lucky people to be a part of the MN Blogger Conference. I initially didn't get a ticket because they sold out almost immediately. Then I missed another shot when I didn't win Top Rank's contest for a free pass. Finally, conference co-founder Arik Hanson took pity on me and let me volunteer my labor in exchange for a seat at the event. And after all that effort to get in, you bet I'm going to blog about my experience at the first-ever MN Blogger Conference.

Josh Braaten, MN Blog Conference VolunteerIf you were there Saturday, you probably saw me either directing foot traffic towards the CoCo entrance before the event or in the kitchen brewing coffee for the caffeine-craving blogging crowd.

If you think about it, I couldn't have asked for a better assignment from the impeccably well-organized Arik and his conference coordinating partner in crime, Missy Berggren.

Between the complete havoc that was the road construction on 4th St. in downtown Saint Paul and the fact that most bloggers love a good cup of fair-trade organic coffee in the morning (courtesy of Don Ball), I ended up thanking Arik and Missy  for the one-way street to a bunch of new friends and a chance to be a part of the MN Blogger Conference!

The Big List of Lessons Learned from the MN Blogger Conference

My head is still spinning from Saturday's event. I'm not sure there was a definitive theme, but there were countless perspectives, tactics and points of view that no doubt left everyone with a lot to think about. Let's come up with a list of all the lessons we learned. I'll start with this list of 20!

(I was only in 1/4 of the sessions so I'm going to need your help with this list. Make sure to leave any blogging tidbits of knowledge that you gained down in the comments.)

  1. Blogging is about "unbridled narcissism," according to James Lileks. This joke got a huge laugh from the crowd in the opening keynote panel featuring popular Minnesota bloggers. What's that old saying about there being some truth in the best humor?
  2. Clockwork President Nancy Lyons suggested that bloggers must think carefully about how much personal information they want to share because "the Internet is forever." Just exactly how much information is that? See #10.
  3. Nancy also highlighted your blog's ability to help you establish credibility, regardless of how saturated your market may be.
  4. It's practically a given that people will blog on Wordpress, which I think is a crying shame. Wordpress is a great for some, but there are many excellent blogging platforms out there. For example, I'm a user of and evangelist for Squarespace. I was particularly encouraged by Julio Ojeda-Zapata's breakout session, which featured a live Skype session with Leo Laporte (tech pundit/legend and advocate of Squarespace). If you're sick of Wordpress or still haven't picked your platform, make sure you consider Squarespace (You can hit me up with questions if you have them.).Julio Ojeda Zapata talking about SquarespaceJulio Ojeda-Zapata talking about Squarespace!
  5. Julio also pointed out the importance of being consistent with your personal brand. Use the same avatar/image and username across platforms/channels.
  6. There are incredible deals on hand bags on the internet. James Lileks, you crack me up.
  7. Bloggers are writers. There is no way around it. And writing isn't an ability, but rather a journey towards finding your voice and creating something that makes you proud. This point is thanks to my new friend and prolific blogger, Patrick Rhone. (I ordered On Writing by Stephen King this morning. Thanks for the tip and inspiration!).
  8. And on that note, anyone can write. Teresa Boardman said it and she has a serious learning disability. Matt Logelin said it and he is a single dad, widower and self-admittedly types like a third grader. Anyone can write. Especially you.
  9. Tony Saucier gave us this great quote to think about: "The next big thing in social media is journalism."
  10. Affiliate marketing can be a great way to make extra money as a blogger, but it's important to consider moral and legal responsibilities when doing so. Each blogger is probably a little different in how they choose to participate and disclaim their involvement. For example, I chose not to embed an affiliate link to the book reference above because I haven't read it yet and can't recommend it. That's my stance on linking to products on Big Picture Web.
  11. Jen Emmert added that she always asks for a giveaway for her readership if she's offered a product to review. I thought that was a great way to give back to your audience while still making a little extra on the side.
    Attendees of the MN Blog ConferenceA packed room at CoCo as the panel discusses compensation for blogging.
  12. Heather King of The Extraordinary Ordinary suggested that you should share as much as you would tell your sister on your blog. 
  13. Heather also suggested to listen to your heart's gut to know what to share and to how find your voice as a blogger.
  14. The best blogging is a balance between niche and personality.
  15. Bloggers are craving information on Google Analytics. Aaron Landry's session on the free web analytics platform attracted a ton of the conference attendees, all of whom were taking notes furiously as Landry spoke. (As it just so happens, friends, I also write about Google Analytics. Hit me with your questions and I'd be glad to help you out.)
  16. 20% of conference attendees are building on rented land. According to the list of conference attendees put together by Ian Schwartz, 15 of the 72 unique blogs on the list are on a sub-domain instead of their own domain (e.g., <name>.blogspot.com instead of <name>.com). I can't think of a good reason not to be on  your own domain. Just saying.
  17. Diane Kulseth will probably never need a resume or Careerbuilder.com. Diane's still in college and yet has a social media internship, blogs and attends industry events like the MN Blogger Conference. I wish I would have had the sense to do all these things ten years ago. If you're not engaged with your professional community, you're missing out... big time
  18. Conferences are a great place to meet your online friends. After months of trading tweets and blog comments with the likes of David Erickson, Rick Mahn, Adam SingerJoel Carlson, etc., etc., etc., I finally got a chance to meet these fine folks. Social media is great, but nothing beats a handshake, a good laugh and a great,synchronous conversation.
  19. The human struggle is universal and you are never alone on the Internet. Thanks to Heather King and Matt Logelin for that point.
  20. Volunteering is an underrated. Being a volunteer for the MN Blogger Conference felt like having a back-stage pass for the simple price of moving some chairs around and helping folks out throughout the day. Consider me signed up to volunteer at the next one too. Dibs on brewing the coffee. Coffee Station at CoCo in Saint PaulThe coffee setup at CoCo on 4th St. in Saint Paul.

I could probably keep rattling off takeaways, but I'd like to hear your thoughts too. What was your favorite moment of the conference? What are you most happy to have learned/experienced? Also, how can Big Picture Web help you with future blog posts about Squarespace, Google Analytics or SEO? Leave a comment below and keep the excitement alive from the MN Blogger Conference.