February 15, 2012

The IFB Conference: Blogging Tips and Tricks for Increased Traffic

I was the most awkwardly dressed person at the Fort Lauderdale International Airport: large black wool coat, sparkly wool scarf, little white mittens, black cut-off leggings, and purple sneakers.  On a warm and rainy Tuesday night I sat in the Delta terminal, bundled from head to toe, and carefully ate a ham and cheese sandwich my mother made me before boarding Flight 898 to LGA. I took full advantage of the carry-on rule, and made sure that my purse, duffle-bag, and coat were all filled to the brim; at a fashion conference, I wasn't taking any chances and after managing to pack and re-pack at least 15 times, I figured I couldn't go wrong with the basics.  

I was surprised to notice upon boarding that the flight was nearly empty, and so I took advantage of the space and spread out (I should have known then it was a natural mistake to be so greedy, because what goes around comes around. Read on...). Slightly nervous for take-off, I sat near the window and looked outside; I watched the rain falling, and then felt the airplane leave the ground. I kept watching the scene until the plane  burst through the storm clouds, revealing a full moon's light dancing on the swampy water and marshes of the Everglades. I turned from the window until the plane was flying over the concrete jungle, where the moon was absent from the landscape, and the twinkle and glow of soft yellow-orange lights welcomed me with open arms to New York.

Stepping out of the plane, I realized it was just as cold as I expected, and I was happy to have my wool coat and mittens. I quickly navigated out of LGA and into a warm waiting taxi and was off to the city. No matter the times I've been in a taxi from the airport, I always seem to end up going a completely different route to the city. This time, the taxi driver took me down to the 30's and up to the 70's from 1st street. I arrived at my friend Ashley's apartment and immediately went to bed. As I was falling into sleep, I remember the sounds of New York from the open window: shouting, taxi horns, banging of trash compactors, and the footsteps of the person upstairs pacing against a hardwood floor. 

I woke at 6 a.m. the next morning, frantic about which of my three outfit choices to wear while Ashley (like so many hearty New Yorkers do) went running in Central Park. I was half-dressed when she came back, needing her New York approval on a white cowl-neck sweater: "could I or couldn't I wear this to the conference?" (White after Labor Day is a no-no in New York) After convincing me it was a winter-white, which is by all means acceptable, I donned that, along with my new boots from Target that were on super-sale and, of course, my monocle. With a pair of sunglasses, I was certainly honing my inner New Yorker. I walked around the corner to the local bagel place per Ashely's instructions, and picked my favorite two combinations: salt bagel with vegetable cream cheese. I wrapped it up and took it to go as I attempted to navigate my way to the subway and down to Milk Studios, where the conference was being held. 

In the span of one hour, I managed to get lost and turned around a few times, get groped on the subway, drop half of my bagel on the ground, and arrive oh-so-fashionably late for the conference. I had butterflies in my stomach, and felt a little first-day-of-school-jitters as I entered the building. I quickly signed in, got my swag bag filled with goodies, and took a look around: the room, a gallery-esque warehouse-style space, was packed with sponsors and vendors lining the walls, while filled chairs faced a stage with a podium and power-point presentation on a large screen. Standing in sporadic places around the room were towering models, with photographers capturing their every pose. I scanned the room for a place to sit to no avail; people without chairs were already standing in the back. I wondered how this was possible, since the event required tickets to be purchased, and every one should be accounted for, and just as I was settling nicely against a barrier support (and thanking God for my non-high heeled boots), a staff member of the studios was rolling out a small stack of chairs. I, and every other standing person, hungrily swarmed the employee and left her standing dazed. I quickly sat, employed my pen and note pad, and scribbled furiously as the first panel began a discussion on "What are Bloggers Worth?"

The discussion notes are as follows: Wordpress allows for self-hosted advertising, and provides the ability to customize how ads are placed on the page. Know how to balance advertising and editorial content: brands will want to send you items to review or share with your followers, and you have the option to charge them for it. Know what price range you would like and go from there; do not just accept every brand, because the content of your blog will be affected and it is imperative to stay loyal to your followers/audience. If you feel it's important, know to publish a disclaimer to readers to explain the post is sponsored. Organize a media kit to send to other bloggers, companies, or brands you would like to work with: include a link to your blog and a small detailed explanation about who you are, your demographic, your opportunities, and even statistics for your site. Know how to crosslink your blog from other websites effectively; the audience you would like to target should be your first stop (where they shop, where they are researching, where they are traveling). Make the content of your blog specific and niche, and make sure to make it as professional as possible, you will never know who comes across it one day. Make sure to create your own platform for people to come, observe, read, and discuss the content of your blog; if it is inviting, cohesive, and professional looking, it will invite more traffic. Engage people to comment for community communication: ask a question to readers at the end of your posts. Study those who have succeeded in your blog category, and make sure to cross-platform engage (Twitter, Blogs, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook). Twitter is your biggest opportunity right now, it has the  capability for a stranger to contact celebrities, directly. Target brands and suggest your writing for them. Provide offers or giveaways to your readers. 

After this plethora of information, the discussion ceased and the room took a break. I sat nervously in my chair as I watched bloggers rush to the stage to market themselves or ask further questions to the panelists. I went simply to observe and take-in information; with my own blog in no means ready to be looked at, sponsored, or branded, I wasn't about to start passing out my business cards. I took stock in the room and the people in it; they were dressed to kill. Orange palazzo pants were a smash hit (orange in general was a smash) ; sea green pleated skirts with wispy white blouses; bedazzled Vans; over-sized Michael Kors watches, shag-fur vests with satin bows; crinoline floor-length tutus: a dapper looking man with a 1950's greased hairdo; and extreme color blocking. I looked around nervously for my friend Danielle who was supposedly going to the conference; she is the blogger for Stingy Style. We both interned together at BCBG Max Azria, but we never met. I approached cautiously for my first meeting with her, or who I thought looked like her, and so after confirming that she was Danielle, I felt a hundred times better in this room of fashion writers, who all were obsessed with taking pictures of each other for each other's blog. The discussion was being called together again, and so we both took our seats, and I prepared myself for the "Media Goes Mobile" panel.

Here is what was discussed in my notes: TWITTER TWITTER TWITTER. Converse with other Tweeters on Twitter about photos/links that are posted by brands, designers, or other followers. Join the conversation; have something poignant to say. Promote content through Pinterest, Instagram, LookBook. Actively Tweet information, not blog content. Post different content on different platforms to gain interest. Ask questions on Twitter and interact personally with people rather than constantly using Twitter as a platform to promote your blog; condense information about the blog into a Tweet and provide a link once a day. Don't say something just to say it; make it meaningful. Try and keep platforms for your blog/company to three, because otherwise you end up overwhelming yourself and spreading yourself too thin. Focus on making a few blog posts really well. It is possible to use your blog to become a personality you would never undertake in real life.  Think about using your blog as a sort of online resume. Post consistent articles with a visual and unique feel. And finally, the most important of important information that came from this discussion: Find your purpose for being online. Once you realize what your voice, worth, and audience are, the rest is easy. 

After this discussion, we broke for lunch, provided by the delicious Dean & Deluca. I reconvened with Danielle and we talked a bit more about success and failure in the blogging world. I was also fortunate enough to meet some other bloggers nearby, Cathy Yee, who blogs at Petite Therapy, as well as Ashley Falcon, founder and former writer for the Marie Claire column Big Girl in a Skinny World.  It was awesome to get a chance to talk with them, and gain a better understanding of how different bloggers have been blogging and writing freelance for their jobs. 

With lunch ending, I found my seat and took in the information left from the conference, which, regrettably, hosted similar advice to the first two panels. More interesting information included: keep an editorial and social media calendar, and make sure to follow it to a "T". Content should be list-based for producing higher traffic. Figure out what people are Googling and use the most relevant terms for your blog and build your post ideas around that. Tailor Google Stats to brand your reader. 

Grabbing my coat, I waved goodbye to Ashley and left the IFB Conference a little early, 1. because I had dinner plans with Ashley and 2. because the conference was done providing information for me. I was walking down the stairs of Milk Studios, behind a group of people who were also leaving early and when one of them said, "Oh. It's snowing." I didn't see outside yet, and I couldn't wrap my brain around what she was saying: It's. Snowing? With my glasses still on from the conference, I felt the chill of the air before I saw it, and as she held the door open, I saw what at first my Floridian eyes wanted me to believe: rain. But I quickly caught up with the girl and questioned her: "this is snow?" "Yes," she replied, and as she spoke, I looked closer and saw the small tiny ice particles floating to the ground, not falling like rain, and watched them stick to my coat. Snow. SNOW! My heart skipped a beat as I nearly ran down the streets of New York, explaining to the confused gawkers that I have not seen it snow. EVER. I immediately questioned the girl who had explained it was snowing: "do I need an umbrella? will it stick to the ground? do I need a hat?" I know I looked like a raving lunatic, but for the first time in twenty-five years, I was watching it snow. I danced to the subway and back to Ashley's, explaining my excitement and delight. She just rolled her eyes and laughed. We walked to a sushi place for dinner and I discussed the conference, and finished with a drink (or two, or three, or four...) at a charming bar labeled The Stumble Inn. I managed to get a few winks of sleep before I woke  promptly for my flight the next morning, which, according to the balance of Yin and Yang, the universe must right itself from my prior delight on the first flight: the plane was packed, with seats assigned, taking off an hour late, having turbulence for most of the flight, and landing rather shakely back in Fort Lauderdale. I nearly tackled people to get out of the last seat in the back corner of the plane and resolved to never, ever fly Delta again.

Overall, here are some thoughts I had when at the conference: have we become a society of over-sharers? Have we lost touch with the personal aspect of our lives? These bloggers confessed to never having time for anyone else. They were remorseful when they took a bite out of their dessert before capturing it on film and posting it to Twitter or their blog. Have we become a society so far-gone from living? And to be so supercilious as to be constantly posting about life that it has become a basis for comparison amongst fellow "Friends" that it can be deemed self-inflated? What kind of life is it to live where it become complicated to eat something, to enjoy something while undertaking social media means that claims to "simplify" the process of sharing? And spreading yourself between different platforms to discuss the same or various things? Honestly, that in itself is a full-time job, one that may not be worthy or interesting enough to me to work. Living in a world where documentation, utilizing Pinterest, Tumblr, and Twitter, has become enough of an exploitation on our lives to become currency to others. Self-promotion and discussion has lead to a world and society where there is little time left to live. Live: what has this word become? It is a different definition to everyone, but what happened to good old-fashioned running around outside, exploring, experiencing, challenging ourselves to create memories mentally and alongside others, rather than obsess about whether the photos posted were well received on Facebook.  And here's the ultimate question of questions: If everyone truly is so preoccupied with updating themselves and their status, how do people have enough time to read about you? A question you can ponder or discuss; either way, I have come to the conclusion that, for now, my time as a blogger needs some reconsideration. And with that, darlings, I bid adieu.

--The Fashion Monocle

February 1, 2012

Antiquated Advice?

Hello darlings, I have been very busy lately getting ready ready for the IFB Conference next week, but besides that, I have been super busy discovering articles on the web on fashion that were of interest to me. One in particular on CNN.com reported in this article  about the rules you should and should not follow, according to some of the top designers in the field right now, including Jenna Lyons of J.Crew, Dana Buchman of her own label, and Deborah Lloyd of Kate Spade. These women have experience and know-how in the field of fashion, and are doubly respected for it. However, when this statement was posed to the panel:

"When you have a choice between wearing pants or a skirt, carefully weigh your options...and choose the skirt."

it seems to me that we the people may be on the receiving end of some old-fashioned advice. The responses included:
  • Lloyd Boston, author of "Before You Put That On": Truer than ever. Why not go for the skirt? In this age of metrosexual men, sometimes the only thing that separates you from the guys is the power to put on a skirt.
  • Stacy London, cohost of "What Not to Wear" and a New York City-based style expert: Amen to that, Mom. It's much easier to find a skirt that's flattering. With pants, you have to consider the rise, the width of the hips, the legs, and how they fall on the tush.
  • Malia Mills, designer of Malia Mills Swimwear: Carefully weigh your options... and then choose what will make you stride into a room like you own it.
Now, when it comes to Malia Mills, I do agree; if you feel more comfortable in a skirt than pants, or pants than skirt, you should by all means wear the one that will not distract you from your interview, job performance, or daily conversations. The call is yours to make, but as modern women, we have options! Women came a long way to be able to get to the point where pants were socially acceptable in a man's world, and as women, I feel that we should take charge of that right when the situation comes along, in protest of the statement made by Lloyd Boston. Wearing pants for women has become not only a milestone for us, but due to the job market and economy crash, the term "wearing the pants in the family" has become more women-friendly in the last couple of years, what with women becoming the breadwinners in the home. And if skirts are the only way for men to tell women apart, then we have other issues as women and society! Honestly, boys, you guys don't have to be the only ones wearing the pants; have you ever heard of the Utilikilt? Some men prefer this way of dressing, as it provides the freedom and flexibility pants do not offer.  

So ladies, please don't feel like you need to follow all advice given on the internet, as some people seem to want to increase sexism in the workplace by feeling the need to distinguish men from women. Plus, depending on your build, skirts may be your worst enemy! And when it comes to down-time, obviously Lloyd Boston hasn't heard of a great pair of jeans and a white t-shirt to get you gals from day to night. Did we learn nothing from Marilyn Monroe, The Gap, or Calvin Klein

So Fashionable Followers, what do you think? Is this a fair statement to make, or have I taken the debate too far? Let me know in the comments below!


January 22, 2012

Crafty Aprons, Bangles, and House Decor Ideas!

So the Monocle has been out and about lately working on all things design related; most recently, a trip to West Elm, Crate and Barrel, and Z Gallerie. Some fashionistas may find their lifestyles in the West Elm Catalog, with simple but classic pieces, mixed together to create a modern nouveau look. Some glamour girls may find their true selves in the glitzy and mirrored stylings of Z Gallerie, a store that hosts a variety of garishly good get-ups with handsome statement pieces.  Either location is a girl's best friend depending on the style, but never-fail options are always Anthropologie or a specialty furniture store with a theme (mine would be Art Deco). Here are a few snapshots I captured with my phone camera that I loved from each store.
 The turquoise and geometric patterns are a must-have in the Tiffany blue.
 Love the textures of the napkins and the plum color!
 Love this carpet; it's so oceanic!
 Place settings are fab with some bead work and lotus candle holders!
 Geometric chairs+leather padding=gorgeous!
Love the lilac with black & white.
The cool sapphire looks amazing with grey and white.

Other fashionable finds I have come across lately have been the awesomeness of the fun and crafty African-style bangles. They are super fun and easy to make, and I came across them from a fellow blogger first, The White List. I love the fun prints and bright colors!
The awesome other crafty creation I have found were the fun stylings of these aprons from Etsy seller Shawna. Check out her cute Rainbow Brite Apron! 
I made an apron months ago, and was inspired by my love of making cupcakes. Here is a photo, but after seeing the awesome styles Shawna is putting out, it makes me want to go back to the drawing board!

Some other fun finds I've found had to do with a crested jacket from Ralph Lauren; add a Captain's Hat, specs, and a Cary Grant accent and you have Tony Curtis as Shell Oil from Some Like It Hot.
I was also fortunate enough to have a themed party I attended thanks to my friend Tiffany's birthday, and she and I both channeled Breakfast at Tiffany's Audrey Hepburn.
The last picture I have is a Kate Spade New York outfit in classic chic black and white. I love how black, white, and some red lipstick can make an entire outfit, with the right handbag of course!
Do you have any awesome apron, furniture, or classic must-have (like a crested jacket?) ideas? Leave it in the comments below! And check out Nerd News Now blog for a follow up to my last post about Fashionable Work Out Clothes and Workout Routine as the Nerd himself tries the patented punch-jump routine! 
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