4 Things I Learned at Y'all Connect

Monday, June 16, 2014

I think I need to go to conference rehab.

Today starts the fourth week of my summer break and I've already been to four conferences.

I need help.

On Friday, I had the chance to attend Y'all Connect, a blogging and social media conference held in Birmingham and directed by local communications consultant Wade Kwon.

I had a wonderful time hanging out with some of the ladies of See Jane Write who attended the conference and Wade was kind enough to allow me to make an announcement to the crowd about See Jane Write's upcoming Bloganista Mini-Con, a partial-day conference for fashion, fitness, and lifestyle bloggers. (Get more info and tickets here.)

a few lovely ladies of See Jane Write

And, of course, I came home with pages and pages of notes. Here are a few things I learned at the conference.

1. Free can really pay big.

In his morning keynote Syed Balkhi discussed how entrepreneurs can wisely use free as part of their business model. Balkhi is the founder of WPBeginner, the largest free WordPress resource site. "Going the extra mile to offer free help allows you to win big," Balkhi said. Case in point, one day several years ago Balkhi noticed that a guy named Michael Hyatt was having some website trouble. Balkhi was a teenager at the time but he knew a solution to Hyatt's problem. What did not know was who Hyatt was. But he helped him anyway. Then he found out that Hyatt was (at the time) chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. Because he was grateful for Balkhi's help, Hyatt hired Balkhi to help him some other problems and paid Balkhi quite handsomely for his work. Helping someone for free today can pay off big tomorrow.

2. Bloggers, just like business owners, must know who they are and the people they serve.

Whether you like it or not, you are a brand. In her presentation "How to Be Really, Really Attractvie on Social Media," Birmingham entrepreneur Jen Barnett asserted that knowing your brand -- knowing who you are and what you're trying to accomplish -- is the first step to developing good content. If you're having trouble defining your brand, brainstorm some adjectives that describe who and what you want to be. Identify your values and your key stakeholders. And speaking of stakeholders, to be attractive on social media you must know your audience. Through research and trial and error determine what they like and don't like and figure out which social media channels they use most.

3. I'm on to something with the Pomodoro technique.

I've blogged before about how I often tackle daunting to-do lists using the Pomodoro technique. Developed by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is simple, yet brilliant. You break down your work in 25-minute intervals, taking five-minute breaks after each one. After four work periods you take a longer break of about 20 minutes. Working in very focused time blocks was Balkhi's top tip in his afternoon talk "Time Management for Bloggers." Balkhi also recommended getting up earlier instead of staying up late to get more done. He suggested setting deadlines and recommended that we bloggers reward ourselves when we meet a deadline but also penalize ourselves when we don't. So if I don't update my blog three times this week I won't allow myself to watch my favorite TV shows this weekend (which is great motivation because True Blood returns this Sunday). 

4. If social media is like a cocktail party, visual content is your little black dress.

Whitney Breaux and Kim Garst both gave great tips on how to better use social media.  Breaux is an accomplished communications, marketing, and sales strategist who founded the Baton Rouge Social Media Association and helped with the start of the Alabama Social Media Association. Garst is the co-founder and CEO of Boom! Social, a corporate branding and social media consulting firm. Forbes named her as one of the Top 50 Social Media Influencers in 2012. In other words, these women know their stuff!

Garst reminded conference attendees that social media is like a cocktail party. Just as you wouldn't make a sales pitch as soon as you started talking to someone at a party, you shouldn't do that on social media either. Add value to your followers. Share useful and interesting information. Ask questions. Remember that social media is a two-way conversation, both Breaux and Garst said. Don't treat social media like a billboard.

In her talk, Garst spoke a lot about the value of visual content. Articles with photos get 94 percent more views, she said. She believes every brand should develop a visual content plan. Garst has even written an e-book to help you do that. You can download 17 Quick and Easy Ways to Create Visual Content here. Listening her talk I realized that if social media is like a cocktail party, visual content is your little black dress. It makes you look good and gets people's attention. And once you have it you can show that you're beauty and brains.


  1. This is a great writeup from so many sessions. Thanks, Javacia!

    1. Thanks for hosting such a great conference!

  2. Thanks Javacia-appreciate your sharing.

  3. Great review - and I appreciate the time management tips. I'm doing something similar (although not quiet as specific) by tackling my projects "a little bit at a time."

    And I don't think you need help, as long as you are learning, growing and implementing ;)

    1. Thanks for supporting my habit, Kathryn. LOL

  4. So much of what you included in this review is immediately useful for me in work on multiple projects. The Pomodoro Technique is especially interesting. I think there's a through line between that technique and the "Time Timer," a visual timer used in a variety of classroom settings. I recently discovered the latter, but may try out Pomodoro for comparison.

    Also, you could start Conference-goers Anonymous. David Carr once suggested that the "future of journalism" was probably participating in panel discussions about the future of journalism.

    1. David Carr once suggested that the "future of journalism" was probably participating in panel discussions about the future of journalism. -- Ha!

      I'm glad you found this post useful. I would start Conference-goers Anonymous but if would just turn into another conference...

  5. I wish I had known about the conference hosted by APC! I am new to the world of blogging and sure could use the helpful tips. Thanks for posting!

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