Sunday, August 14, 2011

Four Things I Learned from Blog Indiana 2011

The weekend's almost over, and I'm still coming down from the high I've been on since Thursday. Blog Indiana was amazing. (Of course, you already know this because you read my blog religiously, right?) In the last two days, I've offered you an overview and highlights of what I've done and what I've learned. With this post, though, I just want to give my final thoughts and look toward the future of Logophilius.

So here are four things I learned from Blog Indiana 2011 (aka BIN2011):

1. Social Media Geek Girls Are Hot

Maybe I relied too much on stereotypes, or maybe I have some ingrained, deep-seated sexism, but for some reason, I didn't expect a lot of women to attend BIN2011. (Really, I don't know why I thought that.) So I was delightfully surprised to see that the gender mix at BIN2011 was fairly evenly split. And my first impression on that Thursday morning (keep in mind that I'm a lonely bachelor) was that there were some downright beautiful women there.

(BIN2011 ladies: If you think I'm writing about you, I am. If you think I couldn't possibly be writing about you, I am.)

As the day moved along, and I actually got to meet and know some of these women (and the men, too), they only became more beautiful. They weren't just nice to look at, they were friendly. They were open. They were helpful. They were interesting, and funny, and knowledgeable, and confident (Ladies take note: this last really is the single most attractive trait a woman can have).

These are, to put it simply, beautiful people.

So if you have any ideas about the social media world being populated solely by opportunistic narcissists, or basement-dwelling script kiddies, or socially awkward ├╝bernerds, just put those ideas out of your mind. Although those people are out there, they are not what social media is about and they do not represent what social media can do.

And to the organizers of Blog Indiana 2012: If you're looking for ways to raise some money, consider a "Women of Social Media" calendar. I'll take three.

2. My Social Media Niche Isn't as Large or Saturated as I Thought

Sometimes I get so focused on my own little world that I forget that not everyone lives in it. When I saw that Friday's keynote speech — the only presentation that everyone would hear that day — was called "Writing Secrets the Pros Use," I was sure that Erik Deckers would expound on keywords and longtail strategy and other SEO topics and not about how to actually write better. All day long, I see great writing and usage tips from editors and linguists like @EditorMark, @BGZimmer, @GrammarGirl, and @JohnEMcintyre, plus great examples of how not to write from people like @EditEditEdit, @word_czar, @GrammarSnipe, and @RantyEditor, many of whom also have awesome language and writing blogs.

With all this great information already out there, surely Erik would be preaching to the choir if he were just giving writing tips, right?

But, of course, not everybody follows the same people on Twitter that I do. (And not everyone's on Twitter.) Not everyone reads the same blogs that I do, or has the same interests in writing and language.

Throughout the course of BIN2011, I met people doing all sorts of different things with social media. I met librarians, theatre nuts, indie music enthusiasts, marketers (rather a lot of those), financial consultants, lawyers, and even people involved in adoption placement. What I didn't find was another language blogger.* And I was surprised.

Why was I surprised? Going in, I already knew something that Erik pointed out at the beginning of his presentation: A room full of bloggers is a room full of writers, and in my mind, all writers are word people. But, being so focused on my own little world, what I didn't realize was that a lot of people in that room full of writers didn't believe that they really were writers. They thought they were "just bloggers."

What does this mean for me? It means that I might not be the small potatoes I thought I was. It means those language bloggers that I look up to haven't been able to do it all, and haven't reached everybody. It means that my niche — writing, editing, language — isn't as saturated as I thought it was, that there are still people out there who want to learn how to manipulate the English language more skillfully but still haven't found what they're looking for.

It means my real audience is a lot, lot larger than I thought it was.

It means I need to get more serious about this blog, because it could be so much more.

* Two quick notes:
1) Although I didn't find a blogger who focuses on language and writing, I did find Crystal Hammon, who writes wonderfully about books at Leading Reads. Her reviews might actually be more well-written than the books she's reviewing.
2) I didn't get a chance to meet everyone at BIN2011. If you're a language blogger and you attended, please get in touch with me. I still want to meet you!

3. If I Really Want to Grow Logophilius, I Need to Stick My Neck Out

As Results Not Typical Girl put it, no one's gonna pimp my blog for me. If I want to attract a larger audience — and I do — I need to start acting like it, overcome my fears and introversion, and just do it.

I printed business cards to take with me to the conference. These business cards were all about me as a freelancer and a blogger and had nothing to do with my day job. But I almost didn't have cards printed because it felt too self-centered and egotistical and just plain weird.

But boy am I glad I overcame my introversion and printed them up. People wanted them. And it saved me the time of having to spell out Logophilius and explain that my Twitter handle is "Andyman but with a four instead of a capital A." And I came away with a nice little stack of business cards myself. (It's amazing the different and creative things that people are doing with business cards these days.)

But the very fact that I had such an aversion to this type of simple self-promotion shows that I have a long way to go. That type of fear has been holding me back, with this blog and with most everything.

I covered this to some degree in Thursday night's post. Needless to say, expect to see me trying new things and new directions here soon. (I feel a contest coming on!) And I welcome your comments, too, about what you think works and what doesn't, or how I could do it better.

4. List Posts Are Very Popular

I had heard it said before that list posts, like this one, are always a good draw, and Peter Dunn said it again Friday afternoon. It has already proven true here: My second-most-popular post is "Eleven Words That Don't Mean What You Think They Mean." (It is regularly beaten out by my entry for the word callipygian, but that's only because of the images.)

We'll see how this one does.