Last Saturday Eniola and I headed to Russell Square for our first ever blogging social event. Held at The Montague on the Gardens, a rather swanky four star townhouse hotel, TOWIB was an opportunity for
"bloggers from all backgrounds, experience and knowledge to get together for a natter, share their views and feel part of something bigger than just them and their laptop."
Set up and run by Hayley aka London Beauty Queen the third ever The Only Way Is Blogging shindig has caused quite a stir in le Twittersphere. The comments made by a select few were filled with such disdain that you’d have been led to believe that TOWIB was a monstrous affair. That we were tortured and forced to endure such atrocities as fellating a dog to gain entry. In actual fact it was worse. Much worse. We chose to pay £5 for a ticket, were treated to informative talks from industry leaders in PR and blog optimisation before being provided with *sob* both tea and cake. THE HORROR! Here's my version of events...
As a newbie to the blogging scene I was a tad antsy about what to expect and running fashionably late to the event really didn't do much for my nerves. Frustratingly Eni and I arrived just in time to catch the room applauding the end of the PR panel session. Grrrrrrr. But luckily for us Jayne of Jayne's Kitschen was in attendance keeping us updated on all the key points via her efficient and down right impressive Twitter commentary. Jayne has been kind enough to summarise the panel's tips, do's and don'ts in a few helpful blog posts which you can find here.
Being late also meant that we missed the initial blogger bonding sesh. Having never been the wallflower this didn't phase me in the slightest and armed with my new business cards I negotiated the room and gots to chatting with some ruddy awesome bloggettes. Dani of So Many Lovely Things was the first to wave a very blingy hello and we bonded over her perfectly manicured holographic nails. I was also lucky enough to bump into two of my fave new blog finds, the very smiley and very lovely Melissa of Marmalade and Kat of Jemima & Ted. Before you could say 'blog post' it was time to take our seats for the Ebuzzing presentation all about how to optimise your blog.
Now the Ebuzzing talk has been a massive bone of contention in the TOWIBgate saga. Many felt as if Ebuzzing were too focused on the monetary rewards that can be reaped from sponsored posts and so was irrelevant to them. To some extent I can agree with that. I have always felt that sponsored posts have the potential to seriously damage a bloggers integrity. I read a blog because I value and trust the opinions within, a paid-for post is often perceived as a paid-for positive. HOWEVER Ebuzzing did raise some valid points. I mean, if I had the opportunity to be paid £80-£100 or be taken on a holiday to Marbs in exchange for a review on a product/event that I would have written about anyway would I say "no ta"? Probably not. Ebuzzing then went on to discuss little tricks and tweaks that can drastically improve your blog's SEO. As an online marketer I know how VITAL this is in driving quality traffic to your blog. I just hope that the girls who were very rudely chatting amongst themselves spent as much time taking notes as they did Tweeting negatives. *raises eyebrow*
Dribbling over the rugged hunk of a speaker really took it out of us ladies and as a result as soon as the cakes came out so did the elbows. What can only be described as a stampede then ensued. When it comes food I take no prisoners and as such I managed to procure three sweet treats for myself and the Fashwah Robot to share. BAWSE behaviour I'm sure you'll agree. This also allowed some more time for networking and I was lucky enough to get chin-wagging to the gorgeous and extremely stylish Chloe of chloeHford and Kathy of Kathykins. Twas a pleasure talking with you girls.
Annabelle's Wigs were next up with an hour of hair-raising fun (sorry). Those who stuck around post scones were invited to play with these lifelike pieces and Anna of Skin & Blister wasted no time in volunteering to get her weave did. Check out those luscious locks. Neither did Dani who opted for an ice blue bob. FIT right? This practical session really engaged us bloggers and was another great opportunity to get to know each other a little better. DSLR's snapped away and I found a kindred blogging spirit in the shape of Anika aka Leopard Print. I'm sure we'll be seeing a LOT of each other on the festival circuit this summer.
The TOWIB grand finale came in the form of a Q&A with established bloggers Mina aka King's Road Rocks, Louise aka Get Lippie and of course the founder of the event, the London Beauty Queen herself, Hayley. Personally I found this the most enjoyable part of the day as it felt like more of a laid back girlie chat than it did a formal discussion. The ladies answered all of our burning blog related questions, giving valuable and often hilarious insight into their own experiences. We chewed over everything from Twitter accounts to guest posts and dealing with nasty comments. One poor bird in particular was told that she, and I quote, was 'uglier than a tramps testicle'. You couldn't make it up could you. After the Q&A I had a brief chat with Mina, Louise and Hayley all of whom were all absolute beauts. Despite being in a hurry to get off to prior engagements they were generous with both their time and knowledge and I am lucky enough to have been in contact with a couple of them since.
So that, in a nutshell, was my TOWIB experience. Was it perfect? No. Did it deserve the backlash? Definitely not. Yes we could have done with a bit more space to mingle. Indeed a break for lunch or some sandwiches wouldn't have gone amiss. And granted microphones would have been nice, if only to hear over the chatter coming from a gaggle of girls who would have been far better suited to a presentation on manners. The purpose of this event was to bring the blogging community together, an opportunity for us to learn from the pros and from each other. Both myself and Eni left feeling motivated and inspired by all the wonderful, passionate young women (and man) we had met and I think it's such a shame that a few people's lack of tact has cast a shadow over it. Constructive criticism goes a long way, complete and utter nastiness however does not. Everybody is more than entitled to their opinion and so I will just say this, the only thing shit about TOWIB was a minority of classless and unappreciative attendees.
Thank you Hayley for all of the time, effort and energy you put into organising TOWIB. Twas the dogs danglies. I for one am very much looking forward to the next.