Yvonne DiVita joined our radio show recently. Yvonne and her partners in BlogPaws, Caroline Golan of Romeo The Cat and Tom Collins, her partner with Scratchings and Sniffings and Windsor Media realized their common passions of pets, and their rescue and care, and social media and its power to connect were passions commonly shared by, well a huge community of people around the world.
Being the leaders they are, they led. They created the BlogPaws community, and it quickly grew into a vibrant online community of social media experts and resources who shared their social media talents along with passions for pet rescue and care.
They created the first BlogPaws event held last year. You can read more about it at DogTipper. Now, they are thrilled to be hosting their second event, BlogPaws 2010 West in September this year in Denver.
As Yvonne wrote:
The first event was so fun, so inspiring and so educational that we wanted to do it again!
We talked about startups and leadership, pulling together those who share your common passions, growing a community, innovation....taking risks.
Oh. And we talked about pets and their rescue and care and how you can help there in your local community.
Yvonne. How are you? Thank you for being on our show. Bring us up to speed with what's happening now with BlogPaws.
Tom Collins and Caroline Golan, we started BlogPaws a year ago at BlogHer, the largest women’s blogging event; 2400 attendees this year. This was the first blogging event for Caroline and Tom and said we need to do that for pets and pet lovers and pet bloggers.
It’s grown. It’s become widely accepted. The sponsors were thrilled.
We met back when I was doing LipSticking, about marketing to women.
What people don’t know is that behind Lipsticking I was a Veterinarian Technician. So, I’m bringing my passions, marketing to women and love of pets, together with BlogPaws. I’m living the best of both worlds.
You are living the new business model: following your passion, pulling in the resources you need as you need them, with an unique offering that no one can match. You offer something so unique and true to you with your passions that resources just gravitate to you. The resources are conference attendees, sponsors...speakers.
We have been blessed. When we talk about the new business model and where does social media fit in... where do blogs and twitter and facebook and all those things fit in...all the major media sites are blogging and CNN is twittering and suddenly the day’s gone and you didn’t do what you needed to do...the new business model is applying the old rules in a different way.
It’s taken my awhile, a lot of time and study. I read a lot. The 3 components of being successful with social media are:
1. Manage Your Time. You figure out how much time you have to spend on these things.
2. Have a Focus. Why are you there? Are you there just to chat? What is my purpose?
3. Meet People in Person. Regardless, regardless of how popular you are on Twitter, Facebook or your blog is... if you’re not getting out of your door you are not going to make it.
BlogPaws embodies that to the extent we show the pet bloggers about meeting face to face. And they are over the moon about it. Looking at someone over coffee solidifies why you want to do business with that someone.
Bring us up to speed with what’s planned for the attendees at BlogPaws West.
We have some surprises in store. We think people are going to be blown away.
Pet bloggers and pet lovers are all very much passionate about giving back to the shelters and rescues caring for abandoned animals. So, we’ll be issuing another challenge. So, our be the change panel will put out another challenge. At our conference in Columbus we raised $12,000.
After that first conference the Be The Change group held a twitter pawty, a pawty not a party, and raised $1700.
We’ll have an awards luncheon and give out the Petty awards for best blogger, shelter. PetFinder will have adoptable dogs on hand. Along with educational sessions we have some fun things to do and the networking is always well-received.
What are their 3 takeaways from this event? What should they expect to takeaway from this event?
Educational sessions blew people away last time.
How to effect the change from your backyard to the globe. We’ll have sessions on that.
Connection. 3rd, very valuable thing, we want people to take away is that connection. Some of that network out there are bloggers but aren’t pet bloggers. We want to show how to reach out and connect to pet lovers.
And you had a Dog Days of Summer food drive recently. A very successful one as well.
I have to give all the credit to our Be the Change group who created the Facebook page and created a flyer. The whole thing with that first challenge was to visit a shelter in your area and bring some pet food. We’d like people to understand that shelters love donations of money. But rhere are a lot of other things pet shelters need: towels and toys and someone to paint the back room.
So people downloaded the flyer and took a picture of themselves and their pets at their shelter. We’ve raised thousands of pounds of food for the shelters.
Hart Pet Foods said they would donate a pallet load of dog food to 65 shelters. They not only got 65 they agreed to do another 100.
This is the 2nd event. Your first was this spring, correct? What were some of your successes from that first event?
When we decided to do this, there were some naysayers. They said you don’t have a board, yet, or a plan or community.
We thought we’d have this little conference of 50-60 bloggers and we’d grow it. We did it the opposite way. We just jumped in. And we had 250 attendees.
We were smart enough to hire a conference planner.
Throughout the planning of the conference that personal support of the bloggers and what they wanted out of the conference was so important. They told us what they wanted. They also said wonderful thing about how much they learned. That’s why we’re having educational sessions. The networking was raved about. But in the end they want to learn more, we didn’t get enough learning and that’s why the event is scheduled for two days.
The key thing about planning the conference is to give up some control. Event planners know how to organize a conference. We need to be out networking, serving the attendees. It’s never about us. It’s about the attendees, that includes the pets.
That brings up a good point. You’re allowing even encouraging attendees to bring their pets.
Absolutely! I’ve been attending BlogHer for a number of years. I took note of a major corporate sponsor who created a mommie blogger event and encouraged the mom’s attending to not bring their children.
And even worse it was for nursing moms....
When did you know you needed a 2nd event? What was the metric or message that told you that?
It wasn’t after, it was during, the first event.
When it was all over and we sat down and went over the feedback forms and talked about what happened and how much fun it was...we asked when should we do it again and we said ...why don’t we do it in the fall?
So, we jumped on it. We’re glad we did. We’re not exclusive. We want to serve pet bloggers everywhere. We want to make sure we listen to everybody and hold events where the pet bloggers are.
You’ve got such a great foundation around why people want to connect. That’s caring, pet rescue, blogging and helping people support those with those passions.
Bloggers saw the opportunity for connection. The best way to do that is by listening, by asking questions and by engaging. That’s what we’re trying to do.
We’re scrambling because it’s so powerful. I need to clone myself. But the pet bloggers are stepping up and saying “we’ll help”.
That brings us to social media from being the change in your backyard to being the change globally. What changes have you made from the first event?
Social media is huge with this event. It’s all about the social.
I was explaining to Caroline that BlogHer is about focusing on the collective. The petbloggers wanted the same thing. They were communicating in smaller ways through social media. But they wanted more. Like everyone wants more.
Everyone thinks that social media is this great big party online and it is. But you have to look at social media as a tool, a means to an end.
Let’s look for the best speakers that we can. Let’s serve the best bloggers and answer their emails. Sometimes they don’t want to hear the answer. That it’s a lot of hard work.
Social media is huge. It’s still on the forefront.
At the last conference that first step was towards engaging the bloggers. Here are ways to monetize your blog.
We brought in speakers to explain SEO and throughout the conference we felt good about it but we need to do more. We wanted to make sure we engaged with shelters. Some are online. Some are not. but they want to be part of this. So we’re making a whole shelter track.
So it comes down to the business aspect of building a brand online. How to get sponsors, how to be a better blogger. If you’re serious and you’re writing about serious then use proper grammar and spelling.
It’s basic business sense that you’re bringing to people who have been told they can start a blog and get rich and they did and they didn’t and they don’t understand why.
Let’s get to the heart of the matter. I ask this of nearly all our guests here. My friend Erika Andersen coined the phrase reasonable aspiration or hoped-for future. It’s a vital part of her book Being Strategic. What was the reasonable aspiration or hoped for future for BlogPaws?
I think the reasonable aspiration was that we would get 50-60 bloggers who would attend to teach us what we needed to know to teach them to be better bloggers.
We had 250. We had to move it to a larger hotel, The Westin. And people raved about the Westin.
The whole hoped-for future would be that we would have the expertise and knowledge to bring in speakers and bloggers who would find value in meeting each other.
It worked. We’re having 2 days. We’re having longer sessions.
A hoped-for future is to create something of value for the pet blogging community.
And we want to keep growing it but keep an eye on the personal aspect of it. Some attendees have asked if they can start a local chapter.
And help the sponsors understand how to engage with the pet blogging community.
What are three tips you can share for others in startups or those considering a startup?
I talk a lot about this at LipSticking. My pet peeve with startups is planning. I believe in planning. But in the end you have to get up out the door and do it. Action, action, action. Actions speak louder than words. If you don’t get out and do it, it won’t happen.
We learned as we went. We built the site on a blogging platform, Word Press. Caroline comes from a background in PR. I come from a background in writing. And Tom is a recovering Attorney who brings a strong background in coding.
I’d say action, action, action. Do it.
And you have to have a focus. Our focus is how to be successful in the particular niche we’re in.
Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. You’re going to make mistakes. You have to be active, do it get it done. And some of it is not going to work. The reality is you can’t be afraid to take the risks.
Action, focus, don’t be afraid.
Let’s circle back to social media and blogging and its role in a startup. We hear and read lots of stuff about our time with social media, should businesses use it, should employees be able to network, it’s a time-sink for executives who are too busy running their business. How valuable is social media for a startup? Why?
I tell ya when people ask us that question they pull in that ROI thing. And we look at them and ask do you have a cell phone? Do you have a ROI about that cellphone?
Maye what you need to do is partner with someone who’s already online. You can get that moving today without hiring a social media or blogging consultant.
Social media is as important as your cellphone or business email. It’s certainly as imporant as your offline presence.
You shouldn’t just jump in because people say you should. Take advantage of people who are already out there doing it. Make friends with people who are already doing it.
You have to have a focus, a strategy and where does it fit in today, tomorrow.
You have to have at least enough of a focus to recognize there is value there.
Let’s talk about the future of BlogPaws and let's assume we'll talk next summer. What will we talk about?
We’ll be talking about pet bloggers and more of they ways they are giving back. We’ll be talking about be the change, that is so huge. We’ll be talking more about social media and how it fits in there.
Let’s talk about the fabulous animal rescue project that’s on the BlogPaws site.
We have an executive assistant tasked to find these stories. This one’s talking about big cat rescue. The focus of BlogPaws is companion animals. But we’re very much supportive of all animal rescue projects.
If we as citizens of the world do not support the care of animals around us then we are putting nails in our own coffin.
You’re a leader. And Jim Rohn said Leaders are readers. What are you reading, if you have the time, this year?
And one more time, why should our listeners attend the BlogPaws event, September 9-11 in Denver?
Because they will learn a lot about blogging and social media and how to get better about it, they’ll meet a lot of other pet bloggers and I can promise them a good time.
Where can we find you on web?
- BlogPaws Website
- BlogPaws Facebook