Branding and Social Media : Be True to Yourself

Beastie Boys quote found in the studio of Design Love Fest.  \\  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comThere is one big struggle that I have recognized over my blogging career.  Being true to myself.  You can get so caught up in the business side of things that you forget to let your personal style come through.  Or you are afraid that the readers that you have built up so far won’t like the real you.  So I found it SO fitting, when I first walked in to the shared space of Design Love Fest‘s studio in Los Angeles last weekend, and saw this quote on the wall.  Boom.  Right there in my face.  “Be true to yourself and you will never fall,” Beastie Boys.  I was there for Bri’s Social Media Class but I instantly knew it was going to be about more than that for me.  This is the first time I have seen Bri in person and she was charming and delightful.  She’s super funny and made learning about something as dry as social media enjoyable.  I can totally see why she has found big success with her other classes and workshops.  But Bri is the epitome of being true to who you are at all times, across all platforms.  And it is she who has really lead me down this path of self discovery.  Remember this post here where Bri came to me in a dream?  It’s like, how many times must she tell me to be myself?  I’m finding that is truly the way to discover what your brand is.  And branding and social media go hand in hand.

The @designlovefest studio is bright and gorgeous.  Duh.  \\  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comThis class came at a great time for me.  Last month I pretty much dropped most social media in favor of spending more time on my content.  And also because it can feel like a full-time job to make sure you are posting to every platform and see no real benefit.  Bri showed how often and where she posts to social media and it is totally manageable.  I don’t think I have to choose one or the other.  And while there was a lot of basic info, which was great since there was a wide variety of creative types in all stages of social media in the class, I also gained some new knowledge as well.  I also loved that even though the focus was on social media, it was also a lot about personal branding.  The crossover was very welcome and I came away with a new clarity.  I have a to-do list that I made for myself of things I want to clean up or edit.  I have an achievable social media plan, that demonstrates my brand.  And I have a renewed desire to put my whole self in to everything I do.

Donut Snob donuts and polka dots from the @designlovefest Social Media class.  \\  www.cupcakesandcutlery.comI feel like my content in the last few weeks is getting closer to my style.  My numbers have dropped a little.  It can’t be all about the numbers and I won’t let it become about the numbers again.  The day before this class I had met with a gal who is going to be helping me with a new logo and look.  I’m excited for what is ahead.  And I look forward to taking more classes from Bri.  She’s legit.  My branding and social media feels more real to me right now than ever before.

Seriously, if she rolls out a new series of Social Media classes you NEED to take it.  OH HEY, SHE DID!   This is not sponsored in any way.  Although she did share these radtastic Donut Snob donuts with us.  These are my opinions and just so you know, I can’t be bought with donuts.





My Creative Work Space



The dining table as desk is not always ideal.  And often becomes the stage for toy reviews by my kids. Today I thought I would share with you my very creative work space…my dining room.  There is no other room in the house to have a desk (well, we have one in our bedroom but it holds the DVR box and the printer so there is no room to actually work on it…).  My dining room is in a very central spot in the house so it helps me to watch the kids and work at the same time.  And the two totally go hand in hand.  My oldest, and very recently my youngest, like to give reviews on Lego sets that they make up.  After watching countless reviews online, they are now experts in delivering reviews.  They are so funny.  And they are loooooooooong.  In my head, my workspace looks like this.

5 Blogging Rules I am Breaking

Some rules are made to be broken.  Especially when they stress you out and make you compare yourself to others. I recently came to a conclusion about my blogging career.  It stresses me out too much.  I feel like there are a ton of us out there in this same exact stage.  We have decided to take our “hobby” and turn it in to a business.  But for a lot of us, it isn’t easy.  What once was my creative outlet is now a chore.  And while some of the “rules” are self-imposed (especially since I am my own boss – and trust me, I can be a total bitch), the to-do list to achieve success is never-ending.  After a few months of really spinning my wheels I decided to look long and hard at what the heck I’m doing here.  Things needed to change.  Here are the rules I am currently breaking.  In the name of happiness, I encourage you to do the same.

Sometimes your notebook stays empty a long time when you are deciding on what you want to do with your blog.Your Brand Identity is Everything.

I struggle with the branding for my blog and how to best get across who I am and what I am all about to the readers.  The branding leaders within the blogging realm will tell you that everything needs to be cohesive and well-defined and blanket all media channels.  Each and every thing you post, utter, share should perfectly reflect your brand.  People blog for different reasons.  And all of them are right.  For me, I blog because I enjoy sharing the things I like and what I am experiencing.  I just can’t commit to the idea that when I am on Pinterest I am only supposed to pin the things that perfectly reflect my brand aesthetics.  Guess what?  Not every super delicious sounding recipe comes with a great image.  Of course I want my boards to look nice but I like what I like and I’m not afraid to show it.  Especially for Pinterest, I am breaking this rule.  What “brand” has two thumbs and a home to manage?  This gal.  So if I want to pin a toilet bowl cleaning tip, I’m going to.  If that makes someone not want to learn more about me than so be it.  But guess who’s toilet is going to be cleaner…(Oh! and I found this great article that breaks down the difference between your brand and your identity.)

summer vacation.  girl's trip.  leopard and tans.Pick a Blog Category

It has been said that readers have a hard time following lifestyle bloggers because they really don’t know what to expect in the way of posting topics from day-to-day.  I totally understand that.  But this gal is in to a lot of different things.  All of which I want to share with you.  I get that all of you don’t enjoy Abe Lincoln as much as I do but this is my place to share my love of him.  Some days I want to share what my kids are doing.  Some days I want to talk about cocktails.  And I think that is ok.  I don’t think I have to pick just one avenue.  I realize that may hinder me in some respects (I’m guessing a lot of food companies would love to work with food bloggers).  And maybe a wine company doesn’t want me to post about their wine and then my kids the next day (truth: they go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong).  But I am ok with that.

Fabric floral tassels with gold fringeAnalyze your Analytics

I look at my blog traffic numbers once a day.  And then I don’t do anything with them.  If I stressed about hitting certain numbers I think it would take me so far away from what I want to do that I would eventually hate blogging and want to fight it in an alley.  So I take my numbers with a grain of salt.  While my traffic has gotten me more in the way of  affirmation from other bloggers and more notice from brands, it is not everything to me.  I need to create content that I enjoy.  If I followed what my analytics said were my readers favorite posts, I would be doing crafts all day.  My kids do not allow for many craft DIY style posts.  They are too time consuming and require a lot of pieces and work.  I would much prefer to make a cocktail.  Or something I can eat right when it is done being photographed.  Of course I want to keep my readers happy but I need to be happy too.  The times when I have really focused on my traffic I have been able to grow it.  Then I get burnt out and take a break and they go back down.  What really is the point?

Sometimes we get so caught up in blogging that the world literally passes us by.Blogging is all About the Money

Sometimes you make money from blogging.  Sometimes you pay an awful lot of money to keep your blog going.  When I decided to make a push towards turning it in to more of a job, money was a big bench mark for my success.  Given the number of usable hours I have in a day (I’m useless before the hours of 5 am and after 8 pm plus whatever time my family needs my attention) I found that I couldn’t do it all.  Either I created good content, or pitched new business or updated a social media platform.  I have to choose.  And right now I have to be ok with that.  Those two little boys above are not going to wait for my blogging world to get sorted out.  I literally started to feel like the world was just passing me by.  It can’t just be about the money.  It has to be fulfilling too (in whatever way you deem it so).  At my blogging level, we are encouraged to never work for free, never take a free product without further compensation and ask for triple what you have been getting.  I think it needs to be up to each person to decide what is right for them.  I was on a high horse about this for about a month and then realized I was being stupid.  Once I figured that out the heart palpitations stopped and I felt some creativity coming back.  A few day drinks to help celebrate a friend’s birthday helped too.

a mess of brightly colored macarons.Put your Best Photos Forward

I have loved photography since I was in high school.  I think it is an amazing way to tell a story and is an artistic medium that I feel pretty comfortable with.   But sometimes I think we get so stuck on the fact that something isn’t a “good enough” photo that we don’t want to share it.  The other night I was making a yummy shrimp recipe.  I had already started cooking it when I decided it would be something I thought my readers might enjoy.  With a styled photo shoot out of the question, I took some simple photos of it on my plate – my normal dinner plate not one from my prop closet.  But they aren’t the prettiest.  Do I share them knowing that some folks wouldn’t find them pinnable?  The amount of time it would take me to set up that recipe just isn’t worth it.  Especially since the recipe is a quick meal!  I’m going to share it.  Maybe next week.  It would be dumb for me not to share it because it isn’t styled as pretty as some of my other posts.  That is not a choice that all bloggers will make but for me I think it is right.  I don’t see it as putting out a lower quality post.  I see it as being practical and real.  It would be awesome if all my posts could look perfect.  It just isn’t always possible.

Thanks for letting me share this with you.  I have been really stressing about it for a while and feel like talking about it has let some of the tension go.  Are you willing to break “the rules” to be happier?

Carded at Alt Summit

Alt Summit photosAre you sick of my talking about Alt Summit yet?  Well, hang in there for a few more posts and then I promise on to new things.  If you were following along with the conference at all you know that the business cards were a BIG deal.  You wanted to meet people just to see what their cards looked like.

business cards from Alt SummitI brought TONS of cards home with me and it took me until yesterday to feel ready to go through them.  It was super fun to remember where you met the person or why you clicked with them.  There are a bunch of sites that I can’t wait to dive in to based only off the business card.  And lots of follow-up that needs to happen.  I’m slowly getting to that.

hank and hunt card fillerWe all know that Jenny from Hank and Hunt is rad.i.cle but how freaking adorable is this!  She paired a simple white letterpress card with her contact info with gold animal candle holders.  Surely I would lose a finger if I tried to do something like this.  And she made a ton of them.  I am really starting to wonder if this girl sleeps.

cool cards from Alt SummitSome were simple, some had awesome graphic design.  Some came with swag (that pen right there is my FAVE! Thanks Love Creative!) Some were done by hand and some were gorgeously printed.

cassette tapeHow adorable are these cards?!  I was so happy to finally meet these ladies.  Andrea lives about 20 minutes from me but took going to Salt Lake City to finally get together.  And Laura is in LA which seems like world’s away sometimes.  Both of these ladies and cards are totally my style and I hope I get to know them better!

you are my fave cardYou are my Fave brought it with her slide out card.  Not sure if you can read that tiny writing but it says “Hi.  I’m Melanie.  I quote Liz Lemon at…”  She’s hilarious.

oleander and palmAnd then there was this card that made me the happiest.  I love aromatherapy and at times throughout the conference I would get the most amazing waft of lavender smell.  But I could never tell where it was coming from.  Then during one session, I look over and Lauren had this “card” sachet in front of her.  I snatched it away and didn’t give it back.  Turns out her blog is awesome too, check it out!

the faux martha cardI had seen these marshmallow cards on instagram a few days before leaving for Alt and I loved the idea.  But I don’t know The Faux Martha or what she looks like.  I had been keeping my eyes out for another gal I wanted to say hello to and approached Melissa and asked if she was so and so.  She wasn’t.  Awkward.  But when I asked what her blog was and she said The Faux Martha I became visibly excited.  She handed over this pillowy cloud of a marshmallow and it made my day.  I may have traumatized her but I think this is such a cute idea for a card!  Nice meeting you Melissa!

my card for altAnd here are the cards I decided to take with me to Alt.  I had two ideas I was working with (well and Lauren too since she does most of my graphic design) but at the end, this is what I chose.  Although after being at Alt, the other idea would have been better.  But you live and you learn right!  And I’m still super happy with how these came out.  I ended up doing these myself and was pretty dang impressed with myself since my illustrator skills are remedial at best.

my business card for alt summitI wanted it to be a visual elevator pitch of my blog.  And I wanted it to have a photo of me so that people would remember who the heck I was when they got home.  But I’m also kind of a nerd and I don’t love things that aren’t standard business card size so I included that too.

my alt summit business cardAnd in case the card became separated from the outer card my contact info was on there too.  So really you can keep one for yourself and give one to a friend.  My pal Ryan printed these for me and was so great to work with as usual.  And a big thank you to my mom who put these together for me the night before I left so I didn’t have to stay up all night doing it.  You are the best!

There were so many other great cards to share but I think I will cap it off right here.  And I think I was the first person to get one of Lauren’s cards and somehow it is nowhere to be found!  It was a little party kit and it was super cute!  I don’t want to wait another year until Alt!

Alt Summit is Ridiculously Awesome

roommates at Alt summitIf you saw my post from yesterday you know that Alt Summit did BIG things for me.  The outcome was totally different from I thought it would be during my conference planning but I love the way it turned out.  But the other part of Alt that is SO necessary is the social aspect and the pure awesomeness that is everywhere.  Alt Summit is ridiculously awesome.  I think Alt was such a great experience for me because the majority of the people there are all design oriented in some way.  We are like-minded, creative and driven.  That isn’t to say a “mom blogger” wouldn’t get anything out of it, but it really is geared more toward creative bloggers.  Not much traditional business or the back-end of blogging is discussed but mostly how to collaborate or get guest post spots for diys, etc.  The content was perfect for me at the stage that I am at.  Next year, I might get something totally different out of it.  Yes, I’m already planning on going next year.

The people who I met really made this trip extra special for me.  Some of them I knew online, some I had never heard of before.  Forming relationships in real life is so important for your support system as these are the gals that you can confide in, ask advice from and just laugh about blogging stuff with.  I shared a room with 4 other girls.  Yes, 5 women in one room.  I had a fair amount of anxiety about it before hand.  I’m super high maintenance so the idea that I would have to get up at 4 am everyday just to get a shower made me sweat.  But it turned out to be awesome.  I finally got to meet my online BFF Jenny (top photo).  I think angels sang.  She is just as lovely in person as she is online.  Lauren (bottom left photo) was who I get along really well with who was also an Alt first timer.  I got to meet Cyd (bottom right photo standing right next to me) who I instantly bonded with and wish I could make move to California if for no other reason than to listen to rap with.  And I met Jenn (bottom right photo standing next to Cyd and she is wearing a cape!  LOVE her) who is insanely talented with such a fresh outlook and is passionate about life.  There were so many great conversations in that room.  I learned a ton from them and I feel honored to be able to call them friends.

Wednesday night brand dinners at AltCyd and Jenny were speakers on panels at Alt.  My roommates were pretty much rock stars.  Not sure how I ended up with that group but so glad I did.  Jenny was also responsible for decorating 2(!) of the Wednesday night brand dinners (the Windows party on the left and Bing party on the right).  We ran around town helping her set them up.  I loved seeing her creativity in person and it was also really cool to check out a few restaurants around Salt Lake City since we didn’t have much time to actually see the city during our trip.

dinner with whimseybox at altThen Lauren and I headed off to dinner hosted by WhimseyBox.  It was a really fun experience hanging with the WhimseyBox gals and hearing the story of the company.  We met some great new friends like Laura and Maggie.  These dinners are a great way to ease in to not only talking to brands, but also meeting new people in a much less overwhelming way than the actual conference.

weather in slcIt was a great night until we learned that because the entire town was crazy busy with conferences the taxis were next to impossible to come by.  The restaurant suggested we walk across the street to the mall valet where we might have better luck.  So we did.  And just about froze to death.  I’m not sure I have ever been that cold.  We didn’t think we were ever going to get home.  We huddled up in the Cheesecake Factory and remembered that the hotel had a car service.  They came and got us and we were finally able to thaw out.  Have you heard?  I’m from California.  I don’t really own socks and the cold pretty much just laughed at my jacket.  Side note, how cute is Lauren’s phone case?

hank and hunt speaking at altDay one of the panels was amazing.  Jenny spoke about shooting great DIYs along with Chelsea Costa (who is just darling!!)  There are tons of Alt recaps floating around with actual tips taken from the panels so look around for those if you are looking for  content from the speakers.  I just want to share the overall experience (again with the iphone photos you must be thinking.  But I seriously can’t take pictures indoors.  I need a class on that!).  The panels were made up of a great mix of bloggers or brand reps and covered all sides of a topic.  They opened the floor up for Q&A and I never once got bored (and I have a very short attention span).

you are my fave speaking at altMelanie also spoke.  This panel talked about blog collaborations and how to get those contributor spots.  SO good!  The panels were pretty much back to back and I am so bummed that I didn’t make time to get to all the brand lounges.  I totally spaced and figured they would all be there the next day too but they weren’t!  I’m making a note of that for next year.

lunch at alt summitThis is what lunch time looks like at a table of bloggers.  I promise they were not rude and we actually did have a great time.

clue party sponsored by joss and main and la cremaAnd then it was time to party.  Night one is one big hosted party.  This year Joss and Main teamed with La Crema and Dash and Albert to put on a Clue themed party.  Everyone dressed up in a color theme that represented the names of the characters.  The furniture from Joss and Main and the rugs from Dash and Albert totally transformed the ballroom.  It was amazing.  I got to hang out with another fabulous lady, Lexy.  If there was a prom queen crowned for the conference I’m pretty sure she would be it.  I wish we would have gotten more time to spend together.  We got to hang out with Kelly and Alexandra too.  Excited to be spending time at the Crafting with Bloggers event with Kelly next weekend.  She’s local so I think I’ll be seeing more of her.  And I wanted to bring Alexandra home with me so we could hang out all the time.  I love her!  As usual, Lauren and I hung out and sampled the wines.  The team from La Crema was super fun and I’m glad I got to meet them during the party, they even used a photo of mine on their Facebook page (do you “like” them?)

Lauren and monkey I had such an awesome time with Lauren at the conference.  We have grown close over the last year or so and she and I travel really well together.  She also does my hair.  Which is cool.  And she is always willing to take silly pictures with me.  I heart you Lauren.

land of nod lounge at alt summitDay 2 I made sure to visit all the lounges.  I had seen some Pin boards by Land of Nod prior to the conference for a Marie Antoinette style tea party and was excited by what I saw.  They BROUGHT it!  The room was decked out in a gorgeous and fun way! Why yes that is a boat shaped like a swan.  Which now I have to have.  Consider it on every one of my wish lists for the rest of my life.

mini parties at alt summitNight 2 brought a bunch of mini parties.  This is such a fun idea and I kind of want to do this for my next kid’s party.  Each room is so different and it is another chance to hang out with all your new friends and the brands who are hosting.

emily henderson and orlando soria at alt summitThe Girls with Glasses and Method put on the most amazing dance party.  We spent a LOT of time in here.  Go Mighty teamed up with Red Envelope to put on an awesome party where you could make someone you admire a valentine.  And then I hung out with HGTV celebs Orlando (Or-lawn-do) Soria and Emily Henderson.  For real, they were SO gracious and willing to take pictures with everyone.  It must have been super overwhelming for them.  Emily is to bloggers as moths are to flame (boom SAT worthy right there).  I probably wouldn’t have asked them for a picture because they had just walked in and I didn’t want to spook them but one of my friends was dying to meet Emily and we knew this was her chance.  I was instructed to not let them go anywhere (in a non-threatening way) so that someone could go grab my friend.  So we took a picture.  Orlando is super cool and has his own blog.  And you can read his Alt recap right here.

smilebooth photos from alt 1And there was a Smilebooth.  SO fun.  I have a ridiculous amount of photos so I’ve only picked a few to share.  They make me smile.  Jenny, Alexandra, me and Lauren.

smilebooth photos from alt summit 2Lauren, me, one of my favorite people of ALL time Melanie and Corey (who incidentally I didn’t actually meet although we photoboothed together – so Corey, nice to kind of meet you!)

smilebooth photos from alt summit 3Danae, Jenn, Me, Cyd and Lauren.  Danae is a new friend who recently moved to LA.  She came to our Kismet PR class and I’m so glad she was at Alt.  I would have loved more time with her but I loved seeing her around!

smilebooth image for alt summit 4But if I had gotten nothing else out of Alt, finally meeting my boo, Jenny in person would have been enough.  She is a constant source of advice, support, laughs, and immense inspiration for me.  Alt was a total blast and I can’t wait for next year!

Oh yeah!  Here is one big thing I took away from my travels to Alt.  It is cheaper to take two bags rather than one extra large, heavy bag.  At least on Delta anyway.   I had to pay $115.  EACH WAY!  Yikes.

For sure go back and look at my instagram at more fun pictures from the conference.  And you can search instagram and twitter for #altsummit to see what everyone else is posting.  If you are looking for hard facts and tips from the sessions, go to the Alt blog for round up links.