Two weeks ago Cathy and I headed to Chicago to the W Lakeshore to host our 5th and biggest Blog Societies Conference to date. If you’re not familiar with The Blog Societies, Cathy and I launched Southern Blog Society almost 6 years ago to help create a blog community to network and also help provide resources. Our site features members daily as well as resources from photographers, web designers and accountants. This annual conference is a fun 3 day event that we host every year with up to 75 digital influencers from our network, experts in the industry and brands.
For the last 4 years we’ve kept things in the Southeast where we’re comfortable. The first two right here in Atlanta. Fun fact the first one was just a 15 person brunch, and you can see the 2nd one here. Eventually we branched out to Charleston for year three and four. A city that I now cherish as we’ve had so many great memories there. But with us expanding Nationally two years ago, we decided to head out west a bit and explore a new city. After a site visit to Chicago we fell in love with the W Hotel’s 360 views of the city and lake. We were sold.
Fast forward 9 months later after all the planning, sleepless nights leading up to the event, and we were off on our flights to kick off the 5th Annual Blog Socieites Conference with 75 of our members, brands and amazing speakers and workshop leaders. You can also see all the fun from Instagram with #TBScon!
WELCOME PARTY HOSTED BY VERA BRADLEY AT SUGAR FACTORY
We kicked things off Thursday night with Vera Bradley at Sugar Factory with sweet drinks and treats and getting say hi to everyone we haven’t seen in forever (and new faces too!). Cathy and I then fueled up on Shake Shack before heading straight to bed.
WORKSHOPS • LUNCH HOSTED BY MARC FISHER • INTERACTIVE NETWORKING SUITE
The next morning we hosted 4 educational workshops. One of our main goals this year was to provide as much content and learning we could. We had several great workshops that covered everything from SEO, Pinterest, Lightroom and Accounting. We brought back Lindsay of Lindsay Humes who spoke last year. I couldn’t write notes fast enough in her SEO for Lifestyle Bloggers class. From the new Google Fred Update to the importance of a great About page. To say my list of things to do is long is an understatement. Since I’m a recent Tailwind fanatic, we brought in Melissa from Tailwind to discuss how to grow your Pinterest and schedule your pins for a more efficient day. I’m still learning Lightroom and found Stephanie of Stephanie Drenka‘s class super helpful. It was awesome to see her work flow and apply it to my own. Last, I got to sit in on Amy Northard’s workshop. She’s our CPA for TBS and my blog, and just love working with her. It was great to brush up on some of the must do’s for your business that I tend to forget about.
After workshops, we all headed to The Boarding House for a delicious lunch hosted by our Platinum Sponsor, Marc Fisher. The space was absolutely gorgeous with large windows and exposed brick. I loved the hundreds of wine bottles hung from the ceiling too. The food was also just as good as the ambiance. Marc Fisher showcased their new fall collection during lunch and it is SO good. I can’t wait for it to all hit the stores. Let’s just say patent leather and mules are going to be a big thing for fall.
After lunch we all got back to the hotel to enjoy the interactive networking suite. This is something we tried for the first time our 2nd year and was such a big hit we’ve been growing it ever since. All of our amazing sponsors had fun booths set up to learn about their products, new launches and network. From a fun donut wall from Lauren James, to an interactive photo booth with Charming Charlie, the brands always outdo themselves every year. We also had all our workshop leaders there as well to answer any additional questions.
It’s a great time to get more time with the brands to chat with the people you may be emailing back and forth with throughout the year. Getting to put a face to the name is always a plus! Everyone left with lots of great swag and business cards.
BREAKFAST HOSTED BY CHARMING CHARLIE • OUR SPEAKERS
After a good nights rest, Cathy and I woke up extra early on Saturday for our 3rd and final day. Our conference portion was all about more learning! The morning began with a breakfast hosted by Charming Charlie. Once our bellies were full we headed up to the top floor of the W hotel. The view from the top of the W was incredible. The room had 360 views of the lake and the city. It was breathtaking.
This year we changed things up and invited some of our favorite influencers to speak and lend their tips to our network. We find that we learn so much from our impromptu conversations with blog friends than anywhere else sometimes. To kick things off, we had Danielle of Shop Dandy and Grace of A Southern Drawl, two fashion bloggers who have seamlessly integrated great travel content into their blogs, discuss travel pitching and more. Next we heard from keynote speaker, Rachel Martino. We ran into her in Chicago last year while on our site visit. She was in town for an event and asked us to grab a drink before we all headed home. Within minutes of hearing her story about working at a big beauty company and growing her blog and YouTube, we knew we had to ask her to come speak.
Rachel talked all about her rise in blogging and also major tips and key take aways. I think it’s safe to say everyone in that room now wants to start doing video after hearing her success with YouTube. I’m already brainstorming ideas! Our last speaker was a member of ours, Brittany of Lawyer Lookbook. After grabbing dinner with her at last years conference, we brainstormed some ideas and knew we had to have her come and speak about FTC guidelines and contracts. You guys, the entire room was cheering when she spoke, it was amazing. She ruled. Lastly we did a brand panel where we got to pick some brains on what brands look for, what makes a great campaign and so on. It’s always nice to get to have an open conversation with brands to get a little insight on the industry.
Once our speakers and panel wrapped up, we all headed to the Wet Deck for a picnic lunch with Charming Charlie while overlooking the Navy Pier. It was the perfect way to end the 3 days with fellow digital influencers and brands.
I still can’t believe it’s over and that we’ve already begun brainstorming 2018’s event. Leaving these events always makes me feel super excited about what Cathy and I started years ago. It also helps to hit a refresh button that we all need sometimes. We seem to always come back more pumped to change things up and try new things. From TBS to our own personal blogs as well, time to get to work!
THANK YOU TO OUR SPONSORS
PLATINUM SPONSORS • VERA BRADLEY • MARC FISHER • CHARMING CHARLIE
GOLD SPONSORS • ADVANCED CLINICAL • COSMEDIX • LILLY PULITZER • LAUREN JAMES • PHYSICIANS FORMULA • LILLA P
SILVER SPONSORS • MARY KAY • ON GOSSAMER • MINTED • CHEREE BERRY PAPER
SPEAKERS & WORKSHOP LEADERS • RACH MARTINO • A SOUTHERN DRAWL • SHOP DANDY • LAWYER LOOKBOOK • LINDSAY HUMES • TAILWIND • STEPHANIE DRENKA • AMY NORTHARD, CPA
The Blog Societies Conference 2017 from Julie Kennedy on Vimeo.
All photos by Jules Kennedy Photography