BarkWorld 2013 Recap

Well, I just had a amazing past couple days in Atlanta attending BarkWorld 2013. I met a with a lot bloggers, social media influencers, pet brands, and many other pet lovers all of stripes.  A lot of these people I have communicated with via email, Twitter, or other social media platforms but never met in person.  Since it would take me too long to list everyone I was happy to meet I will just say it was great meeting everyone at BarkWorld.  🙂

BarkWorld 2013 was a lot of fun but like a lot of conferences quite tiring.  Meeting with new people, talking, trading ideas, working with new brands, takes a lot of energy out of you.  In addition the financial cost of going to a conference can really drain a wallet.  Luckily I was able to win a ticket thanks to Garth and Rebbecca Riley and I didn’t need to get a hotel room since I stayed with a relative.  My only cost for the show was buying airline tickets via SouthWest.  I guess I really lucked out attending BarkWorld this year.

Since most people are probably wondering what this pet conference is like and is all about, here are my thoughts about it;

What I liked about BarkWorld

Everyone is an animal person, well mostly dog person, at BarkWorld.  Additionally everyone is friendly and pretty chill (unlike other conferences I have attended.) Everyone is open to helping each other with different things and trading ideas about how to improve one’s online presence.

Obviously the great thing about attending any pet conference is meeting with other animal lovers that share your passion for pets.  I met all sorts of new dog lovers who thought Cody and Sierra are “singing” was hilarious. We also met people that already knew about our awesome band.

Most of the food was healthy and pretty tasty for buffet meals which I appreciated.  The first day they had an assortment of Fajitas with rice and some vegetarian dishes.  The second day the lunch consisted of sandwich wraps which included chicken, turkey, and a vegetarian option.  I personally hate going to large events and not being able to eat the food.  I have a hard time with fast food and it seems most people at BarkWorld also prefer healthy food too.

The Westin Buckhead, where the conference is held, was quite nice to for a place that allows dogs and other pets.  (Well I thought the hotel that BlogPaws was pretty nice too.)  StarWood hotels are very pet friendly to my understanding.

Something to keep in mind is the show mainly caters to dogs and those with dogs. Makes sense as it is the blog and social media conference is called called BarkWorld.

What I didn’t like about BarkWorld

A lot of information felt a little basic to me.  I’ve kind of learned that is the way most conferences are for me personally.  My knowledge and skills are just above what most people are looking to learn at a conference.  I usually need help or have a question about a really specific issue.

I was hoping for a little more information on what other brands and sites are doing in the SEO space nowadays. However, like the tagline suggests “Social Media Unleashed” describes what is on everyone’s minds. Clearly most people don’t think much about SEO or want to in these crowadsd nowadays.

I would have preferred more information regarding SEO (search engine optimization) at BarkWorld but the focus was on social media mostly.  To be far the tagline of the conference is “Social Media Unleashed.”

Also I thought it wasn’t clear how the space was setup entirely.  Seems odd since they hold the conference in the same place every year.

Final Thoughts

All in all I had a great time at BarkWorld 2013 and was happy hanging with all these pet people.  I don’t think I would come back though as I would rather attend BlogPaws.

I didn’t know this before I came but apparently “Women in the Pet Industry” had a show in Seattle the same time of BarkWorld. The organizers of that didn’t think it was going to conflict but honestly it did. A lot of women pet bloggers (well that is the majority of the attendees.)

Hopefully next year will be better.

 

Checkout the Singing Dogs new Business Cards

I thought I would show everyone the Singing Dogs’ newest Business Cards.  Even if I can’t hand one out to you I thought it would be nice to see the design online.

business cards

Since Cody and Sierra are such big stars it seemed appropriate that they have their own business cards.  I also got them made for going to BlogPaws 2013.  Having business cards is a must for conferences and I have found them to be really useful for handing out in general when people ask about our dogs.  (Yes, I usually start talking about their many TV appearances and their musical talents to anyone that will listen.  Who wouldn’t?)

I honestly couldn’t be happier with the design and how the business cards came out.  Like a lot of people nowadays I used a microgig service to get the design made.  For $10 bucks it was totally worth it as I couldn’t have designed anything that would have looked as good as this card.  However, there are a ton of great design elements that I asked for.

Instead of ordering business cards online I decided to use a locally based printing company, Indigo Ink, this time.  In the past when I’ve ordered business cards online they always come out weird or something is usually wrong with the cards.  I have had issues where the colors were off, the cut was bad, and paper quality was pretty iffy.

Matt Richardson, the owner of Indigo Ink, was easy to work with and answered all my questions about getting the business cards printed.   I am not totally familiar with all the printing jargon but he was pretty helpful and understanding in explaining the terminology.  When I went to pick these cards up they were printed how I wanted with vibrant colors, a durable finish, and a nice paper quality and weight.  In addition the price was not that much different than ordering online and Indigo Ink got them done in 1-day.  I was impressed especially since my order was small by comparison to other printing jobs they get.

I’d recommend Indigo Ink for any small or large printing jobs if you are in the Baltimore-Washington Metro area.   I will definitely be using them in the future for any of my printing needs. It is nice not having to deal with mistakes that big online printing companies make and supporting a local business too.

Keep in mind a lot of people at BlogPaws were professional pet bloggers who had graphic designed do their business card design and quality of the cards was top notch.  I would say our business cards were on par or even better quality than some cards people were handing out.  Having the good quality cards along with a nice design makes a big difference to the person who didn’t put in the effort and time.

Bottom line I am definitely pleased with how these business cards came out.  Have an opinion about them?  Leave a comment below and let us know.

Sweet BlogPaws Swag: Bissell Spotbot!

At BlogPaws 2013 we got a ton of free goodies and swag.  However, probably the best thing we got is the Bissell SpotBot.  We won the Bissell SpotBot in the BlogPaws Raffle which is really impressive since I never win raffles, small lotteries, odds and numbers games, etc.  When my name was called I couldn’t really believe we had won.

To tell you the truth Chloe Divita, who was choosing business cards from a gigantic fishbowl, picked about 5 or 6 other names before my name was called for the Bissell SpotBot.  Since none of those people were around to claim the prize it was there loss and Chloe kept drawing different names.  Luckily I was there when my name was called and we happily claimed the Bissell SpotBot to take home.

At first we thought the Bissell SpotBot was a vacuum but it is not.  It actually is for cleaning up Ummmm how should I say ‘doggie messes’ that happen on carpets.  Cody and Sierra fortunately don’t have many indoor accidents.  I guess there is a good enough market for the SpotBot if Bissell decided to put it into production and market the thing.

bissell spobot

One cool thing about the Bissell SpotBot is the dog they featured on it.  Her name is Rainbow Diamond and she is a dachshund that was rescued from a puppy mill.  April from Dachshund Delights came up to us after we had won and told us, “I know that dog.”  I was a bit confused for a second as I thought she meant she had seen Cody or Sierra on TV.  She then explained that Rainbow Diamond was found in bathtub with a broken back and she had puppies she was nursing when she was found.  Apparently she was bred like that which is just terrible to think about.  April told us that a wonderful foster family that knew how to deal with special need dogs nursed her back to health and now Bissell features her on products.

Rainbow Diamond’s story was heartening to hear and I wouldn’t have read the description on the Bissell SpotBot box since the font was way too small.  It’s great Bissell features dogs like Rainbow Diamond on their products.  I just hope her current owner doesn’t need to use the SpotBot too much on their carpets.

Thanks to April for telling us the story about Rainbow Diamond and taking the picture of all of us after we won the Bissell SpotBot.

BlogPaws 2013 Pro Sessions

The BlogPaws 2013 pet conference had a wide range of talks and sessions. There were 3 separate categories of talks that were given: Beginner, Intermediate, and Pro in which you could attend. These accommodated the different skill levels and needs of different BlogPaws attendees and you were allowed to jump around to different session as you saw fit.  In addition there were was a “Be the Change for Pets” set of talks, Special Topics, and Law sessions available as well.

For the most part we decided that the Pro sessions were the best ones to go to.  These seemed to be the most useful for what I wanted to get out of BlogPaws and the theater room, where the talks were being held, was much more comfortable compared to where the rooms the other sessions were being held in.  You had a table and could set down your laptop or notebook to take notes and write down anything you found useful.  The seats were also a lot more comfortable and were spaced apart which was great since we had Cody and Sierra.

Anyway, here is what I thought of the different Pro BlogPaws sessions I attended.

Intro to Google Analytics

On the first day I decided to go attend “Intro to Google Analytics.”  Even though I familiar with Google Analytics, the capabilities  and customization options I thought I could learn something since the session was being taught be Blerina Sanocki, a Senior Account Manager from Google.  Who better to learn something Google Analytics from than Google?

I got into the session a little late and it was packed.  I had to stand in the back with Cody since the all the seats in the room were taken.  It was quite a popular session as they were others standing in the room as well.    As the session continued for about 15 minutes I was a little bit bored since Blerina Sanocki was just going over the basics of what Google Analytics offers and how you can use it.

I was getting a little bored until she mentioned Kaushik.net, run by Avinash Kaushik, which is a site all about utilizing data and web analytics.  Since I have never heard of the blog I decided to check it out.  Some of the articles and posts are quite useful and have started to make me think a little differently about how to analyze web data to my advantage.

So I got something out of “Intro to Google Analytics” but not quite as must as I would have hoped for.  If you were a beginner I assume the session was useful.

Anatomy of a Video

Kenn Bell lead this session on how to format and construct videos so they have a story arc, convey a message, and generally come out more professional.  He used examples from his own Dog Files episodes and showed a short documentary he did of 9/11 dogs (meaning dogs that went into the debris and rubble to search for people) which was quite moving.

He talked a little about equipment and how easy it is nowadays with inexpensive camcorders that can shoot in Full 1080 high definition (HD) available on the market now.  (Sony showcased some of their newest camera models at BlogPaws by the way.)

Bell showed people how to conduct on camera interviews with Tom Collins, one of the co-founders of BlogPaws, which I found interesting and useful.  He mentioned that the interview wasn’t supposed to be a 60 Minutes hard hitting journalist type of expose but should be casual interview.  The objective was to get info from Tom and not put him on the spot.  Kenn said it was fine to ask the interviewee to elaborate, ask for more details, and shape the direction of  the conversation.  This was useful for me to see and observe as I it’s good to know how to interview people properly in different situations.

My only complaint was that I wish Kenn Bell talked more about the technical aspects of making videos.  Such as what would be good free video editing software and resources for learning to use them.

I thought it was a useful session and would definitely like to see more video content creation sessions at next year’s BlogPaws.  Video is big nowadays and I think a lot of bloggers are interested in learning how to make videos.

Note: I got to this session late because of “Intro to Google Analytics” but was filled in by Mom and Sierra who were in attendance.  

So You Want to Write a Book Proposal

This session was Fantastic!  Darlene Arden was a lot of fun and offered insightful tips and advice for those who want to get a book published.  She didn’t pull any punches, was straightforward, and was quite honest about how the publishing industry works (or doesn’t).  Darlene gave us great advice and said quite frankly, “You want a lawyer that will eat their own kids!” since publishing house can screw you over.

It was good to hear from an established author the realities of the industry since it ain’t easy.  Her slides were not that well done and were a bit hard to see though.  I am sure that could be fixed easily if she had some help for next year.  Also I would have liked the session to be longer to her talk about getting an agent, which is an important factor.

BlogPaws should definitely have Darlene Arden back again next year and I will attend any of her sessions again, happily.

SEO: Getting Ahead in Search

Matt Beswick hosted this session to a packed crowd.  Clearly showing that SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is something a lot of people want to learn about.  Despite the fact that a lot of focus nowadays is on social media marketing and tactics.

Matt gave a nice concise talk and his slides were well prepared.  I learned about two sweet SEO tools from this talk actually.  The first is a site called UberSuggest.org which shows you what keywords Google will automatically suggest when typing in certain keywords.  Technically the Google Keyword Tool will show you suggestions for other similar keywords but the nice thing about Ubersuggest is that you can select different verticals such as Video, News, Images, etc.  (It will not show monthly searches but you can import lists.)  The second one is the Schema Markup Plugin that can be used for adding additional information, such as reviews and ratings, to your content in Google searches.  Just like apps, there is a WordPress plugin for everything.  (I don’t remember if he actually mentioned the plugin but he posted the URL where I found the plugin.)

Matt demonstrated how he used oDesk to help gather information contact info for sites for sites that he might be interested in getting a link from. Never really occurred to me to do this and since a lot of people on oDesk are from low-wage countries you don’t need to spend a lot to do it.  It also give you valuable data quickly and easily while you can spend your time doing other things.

One topic in the session was the growing importance of Google Authorship and Author Rank.  I 100% agreed with this and felt validated that I got on the Google+ bandwagon early.  Since a lot of people at BlogPaws were professional bloggers I was a bit surprised that most were not aware of Google Authorship or assume Google+ is going away.  If you have a blog or doing writing online you NEED to start using authorship and therefore Google+.

There were also other topics covered during the talk such as the power of relationships, building cool content, and fixing orphaned (dead) links.

Since I am pretty familiar with SEO techniques and terms the talk made sense to me.  If you didn’t have basic SEO knowledge and skills I am pretty sure you were lost but I obviously don’t know what other people were thinking.  I still got a lot out of the talk and the information was presently in an easy to understand, concise, and clear way.

Matt Beswick did make the presentation available online on Slideshare for people to review by the way.

I’m Building a Blog: Do I Need to Form a Company?

Wondering if you should form a business entity around you blogging empire?  Then this was the session you should have attended at BlogPaws.  Lyvonne Brittingham conducted this session and I found it useful since I have thought about forming a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC).

Lyvonne covered forming an LLC and covered a lot of concerns and questions I have had about it.  In addition she covered the advantages and disadvantages and what you should be aware of.  She also covered sole proprietorships, general partnerships, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships, and different types of corporations.  As well as the different pros and cons with these as well.

I thought Lyvonne prepared the talk well and the presentation slides were clear to understand.  In addition she gave handouts with all the slides in the talk.  Next to each slide on the paper was lines which enabled you to talk notes easily.  I thought this was very smart and it is something I will probably utilize if I ever give a talk at a blog conference.

Forming a business probably isn’t something that a lot of bloggers want to think about since it isn’t cool and flashy, like the social media talks.  I will admit anything to do with law can be a little dry but I found it informative and hope BlogPaws will have a similar session next year.  Bloggers need to be ware of legal implication of what they do and how to protect their assets (if you have any!) if they want to take their blog to the next level.

The Professional Product Review

Rebecca Pollard, a Pet360 marketing specialist and blogger, moderated this panel discussion with:

  • Rose Hamilton – Chief Markeing Officer of Pet360
  • Carol Bryant – PR and Marketing Director for BlogPaws and Blogger
  • Jeff Davis – Senior Manager of Public Relations & Social Media for PetSmart

The panel discussion was on creating products reviews that resonated with customers and provides value to brands.  Other things that were discussed was how to conduct yourself and communicate with brands that you receive products from and how to standout from other bloggers.

It was great to hear how Carol, a seasoned pet blogger, handles getting products to review.  She mentioned it takes her less time to make video reviews.   Carol also mentioned to be careful not to “brand brash” as that can turn off potential companies and brands that want to work with you.

On the flipside it was nice hearing from Jeff Davis about what PetSmart does and does not like to see when searching for bloggers and communicating with them.  For instance they don’t mind getting phone calls and feedback.  Also that the little things matter such as “PetSmart” and not “Petsmart!”

The panel discussion format is something that BlogPaws should utilize more since you get different takes and opinions, which is really useful to hear.  Everyone who attended this season learned a lot (unless you were sleeping).

WordPress 201

Ryan Hughes led this session which was supposed to be for people who are experienced with WordPress but want to take it to a next level.  I thought some of the topics he covered are not what I would say are “WordPress 201” but I still learned a few things in the talk.  Ryan recommended Gravity Forms, a WordPress plugin, that creates custom post types which I didn’t know about.

Since WordPress is the most popular content management system (CMS) it is a good idea for BlogPaws to continue to do more sessions on WordPress.

The Key to Social Media Marketing

I assumed this talk was going to be on ways to truly expand and enhance social media marketing skills.  While hearing Kimanzi Constable’s story was motivational, that’s really all I got out of the session.  A motivational speech and more specifically one to get everyone to buy his books.

This would have been fine if I had paid to go to a motivational conference but that wasn’t the case.  Kimanzi really didn’t go over many social media marketing tactics which were applicable and judging from the questions afterwards from rescue groups felt the same way.  I am not really sure his advice was good either as he recommended giving away products for free.  Since rescue groups have limited resources that’s is shitty advice.

I overheard some other people complaining that they liked the talk, but didn’t feel he had enough substantive info about social media marketing as well.  Checking out Kimanzi Constable’s website I realized that he runs what I call “Selling the Dream” businesses.  While he might have made ok money selling ebooks and books Kimanzi really makes good money traveling and speaking at conferences about social media and blogging.  (He even said he travels a lot of conferences.)  He “Sells the Dream” instead of actually having accomplished what he is advising about and doesn’t know anything about getting a massive social media following or truly improving engagement.

While I don’t have a problem with people making money talking at conferences, I don’t like “Selling the Dream” type of people.  The like to promise a lot but deliver little real value to what you are trying to accomplish with your blog or web business.  They just tell you good things you want to hear.  There wasn’t a lot of information about how to improve my blog’s social media presence or increase followers.  It was mostly what I already know.  Also it annoyed me that for a large duration of the presentation he kept up the cover to one of his books.  I guess that is sly but well placed advertising.

Considering my traffic on my personal blog is equal to (or most likely better) than Kimanzi’s I seriously wonder why he was invited to give a talk at BlogPaws.  Since the talk didn’t accomplish the intended goals and was essentially a sales pitch I would have to rate it a serious failure.

Get More Blog Readers with Email Marekting

Think Email is Dead? Think again!  Email returns better results than search and social media.  (Yeah, I learned that during the talk.)  If you are serious about building a successful business around your blog than you need to spend some time thinking about an email list and newsletter.

Crystal Gouldey hosted this talk and I learned a lot since she is a marketing manager with Awever, an email newsletter provider.  Good tidbits of information I learned during the talk included;

  • 65% of people open emails based upon the subject line.
  • Clear emails had 500% more responses.
  • Personal tones in emails have a 130% increase in response.

Crystal also had a lot of information in the session about how to build an email list, the best practices, and what you should do to make people actually sign-up for the list.  The best way is to offer someone something for free, like an eBook, or content they can’t get anywhere else besides signing up for that list.

While SEO and social media are important getting a successful email newsletter going is a great way to connect you with your most loyal fan base and help grow you blog too.

The Future of Blogging

Dino Dogan is an amazing speaker.  Something about his presence makes you want to part of whatever he is doing.  I guess that makes sense since Dino starter Triberr, a platform where bloggers can connect and help share content.

Dino started off his talk saying, “Blogging will save the world.” which was definitely preaching to his audience well.  Probably the three takeaways I got from the talk was that attention is good, people need to interact with content, and trust is worth a lot online.

The debate and discussion sparked during the Q&A was telling that everyone else was engaged in the room and listened to what Dino Dogan was saying.  I guess that’s the mark of a good blog conference speaker.

Conclusion

I want to make it clear that even though I didn’t enjoy all of the talks and sessions I still got a lot out of attending BlogPaws 2013. The BlogPaws and Pet360 staff did a great job organizing the 3 day event but I do wish the “Pro” sessions were a little more advanced.  I am planning on trying to make it out to Las Vegas for BlogPaws 2014.  Maybe I can make some money while in Las Vegas to cover the cost of attending! 🙂

 

BlogPaws 2013 an Amazing Experience

blogpaws 2013

The Singing Dogs spent the last couple of days at BlogPaws 2013 in Tysons Corner, Virginia.  The crazy filled 3 days of BlogPaws was a lot of fun (but tiring) for all of us.  We met new pet people, made great connections with other bloggers and writers, and got to learn a lot.

If you were to ask me what I learned most at BlogPaws it would be just how big the pet blogging industry is.  I mean… Wow!  There were over 500+ people that came to BlogPaws 2013 and the organizers oversold.  It was quite a spectacle seeing all the people and pets that came out to this blog and social media conference.  Some people traveled quite far to attend and god only knows that traveling with pets can be a real pain even with so many products out on the market.  (A lot of those products were on display at BlogPaws.)  The majority came without pets though as lets be honest that made attending the conference sessions a lot easier.

What surprised me at the conferences was that even some of the pro sessions seemed like they were geared toward people just getting started with blogging and running their own websites. I taught and told people about some cool sites and resouces they didn’t know about which felt great.  I realized the main value from these conferences is not learning but growing your connections and network.  I got a lot more out of BlogPaws 2013 from meeting new people rather than learning new skills.   That’s fine with me though as taking away knowledge and giving it away is what it is all about.

I will be blogging more about BlogPaws over the next few days sharing experiences, tips, and my general thoughts about the whole event.  Kudos to the entire BlogPaws and Pet360 Media team that helped make the conference a success for everyone that attended.

Next year’s BlogPaws will be in Las Vegas and I will definitely try to go.  Flights out there are inexpensive since Casinos subsidize the flights to get people out there to gamble your money away.  Hopefully next year I will be meeting new people and seeing others I connected with this past BlogPaws.  Without losing all my money of course.

 

We’re heading to BlogPaws 2013!

blogpaws 2013

Just to let all of our friends, fans, and followers know, Cody, Sierra, and I are heading to BlogPaws 2013.  (If you don’t know what BlogPaws it is a pet blogging and social media conference.)  We are very excited to be attending this year since this is the first time we are going to go to BlogPaws or have gotten a chance to go to any sort of pet conferences or events.

Since BlogPaws 2013 taking place in Tysons Corner, VA (just outside Washington DC) and we live in Baltimore attending means we will not have to travel far.  We are going to be driving back and forth to the  hotel where the conference is taking place which will be a bit of a pain but people drive into DC all the time for work.  I figure I can do it a couple days if people do it 5 days a week.

We hope to get a lot out of BlogPaws networking with other dog lovers, pet brands, bloggers, writers, social media gurus, SEO gurus, and generally anyone who loves pets as much as we do.  We also hope to meet some of the Singing Dogs fans at BlogPaws 2013 as I know there are a lot of our followers out there that want to meet us and are attending this year.  We are just as excited to meet you in person too by the way!

I will be in attendance all 3 days but we are still unsure about bringing Cody and Sierra for all of BlogPaws 2013.  We think it would better to bring them 1 day and then to get more out of the conference leave them home so we can takes notes from speakers and talk with people more.  Sierra can be a bit whiny in the car since she is a “Dog Diva’ and Cody is usually good but will probably get bored if we are just sitting around doing “boring” people stuff most of the day.  (He’d rather be playing Chuckit!)  If you have any thoughts or advice about bringing pets to BlogPaws I would appreciate it if you left a comment and let us know your experiences.

Anyway, we have new slick business cards to give out, gave the dogs a bath and are preparing ourselves for BlogPaws 2013.  I hope to see you there and please let us know if you are going and if we should keep an eye out for you at BlogPaws.