Dear Diary,


Recently, I attended my first blogging conference–Blogalicious. It was a lot like journalism conferences I registered for as a reporter.  But there was one big difference. I didn’t feel a sense of competition in the air. Instead, I was embraced with camaraderie. Perhaps it was because most people didn’t blog about being a mom, or more specifically a single mom. Or maybe it was because relationships had been built before in-person introductions were made. Many of us followed each other’s lives, joined each other’s journey and gave our two cents along the way online. Whatever the reason, we were united–blogging to make a difference, blogging to make a name or perhaps blogging to vent.


Here are the five lessons I learned in Atlanta.


Imperfection is OK

I produce videos for a large school district and formerly worked as a television reporter. I’m used to shooting stories with a professional videographer, an editor and sometimes an audio technician. Creating polished productions for my website would totally blow a brand’s budget. So, I decided not to vlog at all. I cringed at shooting footage with my phone or handheld mini-cam, which didn’t have a light or a microphone. Then, I entered the BlogHerlicious video contest and won! My award-winning submission aired during the closing ceremonies, and the crowd clapped, laughed and patted me on the back when I exited the stage. They thought my daughter was adorable, my father was hilarious and my entry was authentic. People even tweeted part of my speech!





When I expressed my doubts to Jeannette Kaplun, who formerly worked at Univision and now runs Hispana Global, she told me, “I felt the same way, but realized people are watching my videos on their cell phones. Once I did a huge production with a major company, and it received far less views than something I shot on my own.” I received confirmation from my aunt’s friend, who after viewing the video said, “I love it. It was well put together. I really liked it, because it was obviously done as ‘everyday people’ and not rehearsed. It was comical and loving. Very, very nice!” So, I’m accepting that perfection isn’t popular at times. My voice isn’t lost through shaky shots or bad audio. Are you holding back from doing something, because you don’t think it will be perfect?



Everyone Blogs for Different Reasons

I went to Blogalicious with my two blogging besties—GG from All the Many Layers and Kim from Pish Posh Perfect. I’ve known GG since the 7th grade when we passed notes in English class, and we’ve been writing each other ever since! She later introduced me to Kim our freshman year in college. They turned me on to this blogging world that I never knew existed. They have written for years, but aren’t interested in landing sponsored posts or rubbing elbows with agencies. At least not now. We selected different tracks at the conference, attended different sessions and met different people. There was something for each of us!


Blogging Besties


I learned that people blog for different reasons. Some want to express themselves. Others aim for book deals or freelance gigs. And many connect with brands and make a buck. I do all three! Although we have unique goals, we show the same support and encourage each other along our journey. Blogalicious attendees were diverse.



Most Opportunities Occur Outside of Seminars

Hi, my name is Heather, and I am an extrovert. I talk to everyone—the couple in front of me in the airport Starbuck’s line; the man driving the super shuttle; the woman checking me into my hotel room. I’m not talking hi and bye rather complete conversations. Being that I have the gift to gab, it wasn’t hard to enter deep dialogues with other bloggers and brands—even agencies I wouldn’t work with due to the topics/products promoted. Often people misinterpret the word network and want to get close to only those who can help them climb the ladder to a brand ambassadorship, sponsored posts and book deals. At times, networking isn’t about what you can get rather what you can give. How can you help this person? How can you connect them to someone who can help make their dreams come true? Eventually, what you give comes back tenfold. That’s what happened to Ronnie & Lamar Tyler—the all-star bloggers behind Black & Married With Children. They constantly give advice and guidance to their team. They even gave registration scholarships to five of their writers—including me.




Once we arrived in Atlanta, they gave us a priceless opportunity. They hosted a dinner with well-known bloggers and brand representatives. We got one-on-one time with publications we hoped to write for, companies we hoped to work for and bloggers we hoped to become. In essence, they vouched for us and opened doors that may have taken many months or years to unlock.


If you don’t have a close relationship with veterans like Ronnie and Lamar, don’t overlook the newbies on the block. You should network with writers who just opened social media accounts as well. My father always says, treat the custodian with the same respect you show the CEO. Everyone’s equal on the Internet. Some may have a little bit more fame and followers than others, but we all type one keystroke at a time! I enjoyed talking to everyone, even the natural hair writers who didn’t judge me for relaxing my locks! I met several bloggers that I immediately adopted, like vlogger mama Jessica McFadden, teacher mama Amy Mascot and weather anchor mama Stacy-Anne. Immediately after the conference, I met the Executive Director of a Foundation that is totally unrelated to what I write about. His wife was pregnant. We chatted, and he later recommended me to the editorial board of a children’s website hosted by a large newspaper.



You Don’t Have to Dominate Everything

As a mom, I’m too tired to keep up with the Jones’. I just learned how to tweet, and I am not interested in Instsagram. And that’s OK. Right now, I am focusing on Facebook, pledging to pin more often and exploring Google Hangouts. I can’t be everywhere at all times. At Blogalicious, I learned that I’m not alone! Instead of half-doing everything, I want to give full attention to fewer things and build relationships not numbers. I believe in quality over quantity. And for me, that attracts opportunities. Blogalicious Founder Stacey Ferguson has yet to reach 1,000 fans on Facebook, but EVERYONE in the blogging business knows her name. She has been featured in Jet, The Washington Post and Southern Living—just to name a few. And she took time to meet me, hug me and thank me for participating in the event.


Everyone is Busy, but We Balance

Sometimes I make raising another human being the hardest job on the planet. I’m a single mom. I work full-time. Then, my mother reminds me that my grandmother reared 15 children. Yes, she was married, but only to one man! I’m reminded that I can overwhelm myself at times. I just have to breath and enjoy the journey. My “When I grow up, I want to be just like her”  blogger friend–using the word friend loosely, since it may just be all in my mind…lol–Denene Milner told me that she has written books, managed a blog and juggled multiple projects while raising children. Somehow you find a way to pursue your passion and live your dream while at the same time taking care of yourself.


Hey DFTM Fam–Have you attended a social media/blogging conference? If so, what lessons did you learn?


About The Author

Vlog Mom/DFTM Creator

Not long ago, Heather Hopson hosted a television show in the Cayman Islands. Today, she's back home writing a different kind of story as a new mom. In her 15 years working as a professional journalist, this by far is her best assignment! Growing up, she dreamed of becoming Oprah Winfrey. She was the features editor for her school’s newspaper and a teen talk show host for her city’s most popular radio station. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Michigan State University. After graduation, she worked as a television producer and reporter at CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates throughout the U.S. Instead of heading to Chicago to join Ms. Winfrey on her set, she bought a plane ticket to the Cayman Islands instead. She arrived five days before a category five hurricane! She lived in paradise for seven years, hosted an award-winning television show and traveled the globe with a government delegation. She also served on the board of directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters and spearheaded a Send a Kid to Camp campaign. Then, she relocated to Washington, D.C. to obtain a teaching certification and instruct 8th grade reading at a high needs middle school. She later returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to raise her daughter Caitlynn, now 4-years-old. During her 10-month-stint as a stay-at-home mom, Caitlynn inspired her to create this blog, and Diary of a First Time Mom was born on Mother’s Day 2012. Two years later, she expanded the family to include 20+ writers. Currently, Heather serves as the communications director at Allies for Children. In addition, she is the owner of Motor Mouth Multimedia, which ranked #49 in Startup Nation’s Home-Based 100 Competition sponsored by Discover Card and Sam’s Club. Recently, The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments selected Heather to receive an Emerging Black Artist award to develop Diary of a First Time Mom.

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