Mom Central Blogger University

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Do you use Facebook for your blog? I’m an avid Facebook user. Some might even say that I’m a bit of a junkie. I have just over 400 friends on my personal account, but my blog's Facebook page has just 61 “likes.” I get it. I don’t love liking pages just because someone suggested that I do it. I don’t want to clutter up my timeline with stuff I don’t really care about so I don’t like every page I’m sent. Sure, I can hide the posts from showing up in my timeline, but then, what value does that provide for the blogger? And I add everyone I love to my Facebook feed anyway.
Lady Gaga hit the nail on the head: no one wants to talk anymore. Instead, we are so caught up in our multiple ways of communication that involve, let’s face it – VERY LITTLE actual interaction, that we have become lazy communicators. I do it. Chances are you do it too. I text. I instant message. I Blackberry Messenger. I Skype, Facebook, and Tweet. When I’m forced to, I email, but even that’s a bit annoying. But rarely, if ever, do I call. Unless we’re family or really good friends, chances are you won’t hear the sound of my voice unless we get-together, which I’m happy to plan via one of the methods described above.
writing woman
The conversation continues to swirl in the blogosphere – are bloggers considered journalists? Writers? Columnists? Essayists? Critics? What are we? I mean, we have a public platform and we write on it. And sometimes we’re treated like something we’re not, but we’re also really smart people. So, why the constant debate? When you write on a blogging platform, it’s my estimation that you are a blogger. And since we are in fact writing, that could make us writers as well. Sounds fair, right? I went to j-school and even graduated with a degree in journalism, but this doesn’t make me a journalist because my medium at the moment is a blog. If that should ever shift to traditional media such as television, magazines, or newspapers, I will probably use the training I received in school, adhere to the guidelines typically used by journalists, and consider myself as such. But until I actually follow the rules outlined in the AP Stylebook, I’m not a journalist.
I have Foursquare downloaded to my BlackBerry. I also have a mobile version of Facebook, which offers a “Places” feature, allowing users to check-in wherever they are. It’s really rare that I ever use either of them. I’m tech-savvy. I love apps that are useful and can admit to being slightly obsessed with my mobile device. But I just can’t seem to get into the whole idea of yelling my location from the virtual rooftop. I can’t be alone in this. I know - we’re all bloggers and are prone to talking about everything from what we ate for dinner to how many times a week we’re doing it. (OK, maybe not all of us but you get the drift). But where I’m at every moment of the day? Notsomuch.
I’ve been blogging in a public forum for four years. On my personal blog, I have over 600 posts. In all that time, I’ve been asked to edit or remove a blog post a total of two times. That equals two extra times in my life that I’ve been irritated by my blog. Unnecessarily. The first incident came in the form of a post I’d written about an old acquaintance who had made an enormous life decision that was very much out of the ordinary. I was inspired to write about it, and I did so without naming names, or outing the subject in any way. I did send a link to the person, who proceeded to comment on the post, using her name. Later, the person decided that being so “out” was generating criticism and since her story had become somewhat viral, she became uncomfortable. At first, she simply requested that I remove her name from the comment she’d left, but as we know, Google doesn’t forget. It wasn’t long before I was asked to remove the post. I did it after some thought, but only because the benefit to taking it down for her far outweighed the benefit I reaped by keeping it up.
mom on phone
We all know someone who is constantly connected. Checking emails during the kids’ holiday extravaganza. Tweeting her way through a pediatrician’s appointment. Updating Facebook statuses during soccer. I definitely know someone who is constantly connected – me. Yup, I’m as guilty as the next blogger. I’m not simply tech-savvy, I’m tech-ADDICTED. But since they say that 12-step programs really do work, I’m actually going to take a peek and see which of these steps make sense for me to implement in order to reduce my online hours. Because I’m certain that I wouldn’t start shaking if I took a 24-hour break from Facebook. Are you guilty too? I mean, as bloggers, part of the job requires us to stay connected and keep on top of trends. How else would we find fodder for content if we weren’t standing by when the latest Mama drama broke out? We need to be present when that crazy pitch comes through so we can be part of the inevitable convo with our virtual BFFs. Except we don’t.
I’m glad to see that people are reading Blogger U and the conversation it generates is inspiring and energizing for me. However, I realize I may have gotten lost in the heat of the moment while writing this post, and that the words I chose were too strong. My intention was not to call out any particular brand, but to bring attention to a lesser-known tactic for increasing a brand’s SEO. I’m sure that many bloggers have worked successfully with this brand, and that’s great, but it was my experience that prompted the post. However in order for it to truly teach, I should have presented it differently. The intention of Blogger University is to be thought provoking and informative, but not inflammatory. And going forward, it shall be just that.  
Last month, retail behemoth J.C. Penney got nailed by Google for using black hat SEO tactics and was subsequently penalized for the under-handed methods in search. In other words, they were seriously busted. But J.C. Penney is hardly alone in their foray into attempting to cheat the web. The latest comes in the form of CSN Stores, an online conglomerate of 250 different shopping sites with individual names, and they are up to the same type of practice, only they are involving bloggers. Last May, a member of the promotions team at CSN Stores contacted me to determine my interest in working with them to generate awareness for their stores. At the time, they were offering a $50 gift card to use on any of their hundreds of webstores in exchange for a blog review. I was swamped, and couldn’t find time to work the opportunity into my calendar.
About 18 or so months ago, I had an incident at a large retail store. In short, my credit info was stolen by a cashier and used to make the employee’s family members happy on Christmas morning. After receiving a bill for over $2,000 in my mailbox in January, I spent A LOT of time on the phone with the credit card company trying to get to the bottom of it, as well as to dispute the charges. It was a lot of time spent on something I had no part in creating. And I was mad. Mad enough to take to my blog. Several times.
We all know the type – a blogger who sits perched behind her desk all day blogging, tweeting, Facebook’ing like crazy. Telling all and leaving nothing out. Chances are, if you met her, she would be a laugh a minute, the life of the party, and your new BFF. Or, maybe not. Bloggers, securely fastened behind their computer screens, are very courageous people. But get them in public, and you may find that they’re not as outgoing as they seem. Or maybe they are. But until you meet, how will you know? The scene is familiar - at every blogger event, someone feels let down by the characters in the room. It’s happened to me. And I’m sure it’s happened to you. But the truth is, with all the finger-pointing and “this group is so cliquey” and “who does she think she is” going on, are we really doing our part to control our experience? Or are we making our good time someone else’s problem?
In last week’s post, titled Bloggers, somebody loves us!, I mentioned Kari Henley’s piece in the HuffPo, her impression of bloggers, and just how wonderful she thinks we are. In it, she mentioned how “bloggers are more than willing to share what they know and hook you up.” In other words, what she saw was a community who helps and supports one another. Having been immersed in the mom blogging community for over four years, my own personal sentiments on this topic tend to be slightly more cynical. But I thought to myself that maybe Henley was seeing it with fresh eyes. Maybe I was missing something. Maybe I needed to refresh my perspective. Maybe bloggers are more generous than I thought. It was all hearts and rainbows and unicorns.  At least for a minute or two.
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