*All pictures are property of BlogPaws, Silver Paws Studio, Carl Kerridge Photography and other respective photographers. Permission was granted to share by conference attendees and may not be shared elsewhere, printed or reproduced without explicit permission from the photographers.
I had the fantastic fortune to head to Myrtle Beach last week for the BlogPaws 2017 conference. I was surrounded by 500 of the most amazing pet influencers from the US and several other parts of the world.
BlogPaws is a social learning community for pet influencers. What is a pet influencer? Well in short, a pet influencer is an individual who has created an influential impact within the pet space. This could be a person who puts pictures of pets on Instagram to a person who blogs about a specific breed of dog. They are providing information via written words, videos, audio or pictures that fosters a following of interested individuals with whom that person now has an influence. Pet influencers are pet-loving people, with connections to media outlets, consumer groups, or industry associations like BlogPaws. They’re just really amazing people that have carved out particular niches within the pet industry. BlogPaws helps bring them together to collaborate, educate and connect to sponsors. While obviously monetizing the information or influence they are providing is always nice – its not always just about the money. I learned this last week as I watched the sponsors – many who remained anonymous – give away THOUSANDS of dollars to non-profits and veterinary hospitals that assist rescues. It was heart warming and mind blowing.
You Didn’t Spend Money on Food
In every way I felt that BlogPaws was living up to their mission; “BlogPaws Vision & Mission is to empower pet parenting bloggers & social media advocates to amplify their voices, expand their influence, and generate economic opportunity, while supporting fellow members’ efforts to give back to the pets we love so much.” Every single aspect of this statement was represented at this conference.
Thanks to tremendous sponsorship and my activity in the influencer network, my ticket was $179. I was fed EVERY SINGLE MEAL except one lunch and the food was above average for conference food. Its hard to make 500 meals that cover everyone’s particulars, offer variety and taste good. Kudos to the Sheraton Myrtle Beach Convention Center and the sponsors that more than covered the cost. That’s just the food, I haven’t even mentioned the vast educational sessions available to us. My major complaint; too many great sessions I wanted to attend that were scheduled at the same time.
The Educational Offerings Were Outstanding
Did you see my schedule? I was signed up for three things at once sometimes, I couldn’t decide! When I did decide I wasn’t sorry, each session was fantastic. A couple that stood out to me were learning about content in all of its creations. I got to hear from experts like Robin Mudge of Playful Kitty, an expert cat blogger and awesome person that wrote a fantastic review about our pet first aid and CPR course. The panel also consisted of Jen Reeder, President of the Dog Writers Association of America, Freelance Journalist and Wendy Toth, Director of Content, Pet360 Media. BlogPaws is owned by Pet360 Media, Inc.— a division of PetSmart.
I learned from Internet lawyers like Jamie Lieberman of #Hastag Legal and dog blog experts such as Kelsie McKensie from It’s Dog or Nothing – she knew so much about Pinterest. Susan C. Willett from Life With Dogs and Cats taught me what listicles are – I already knew about them but had no idea they had a name. Ryan Carter from Parachute Media blew my mind with this amazing piece of marketing – go to Instagram and search for #yourwildplace, turn your phone sideways and get ready to be wowed.
Man, I could go on but you get it – I learned and I loved it.
Paying attention did prove challenging. While I love learning and knew I was getting exceptional information from experts, I did have some distractions with the animals allowed in the rooms. This one kitten for example caused me to miss a good portion of my content session.
There was also Bug, the stand up paddle board cat that brought along her veterinarian dad, Dr. Ken Lambrecht. He runs a cat gym among other things and takes the exercise and wellbeing of our animal companions seriously in a fun way.
Putting faces to sites was extraordinarily fun. We met our friend NG, from Dear Mishu. We had done a blog post exchange before but it was so exciting to meet him – Mishu couldn’t make it, too many kitties for her. We crated jokes, laughed and met other wonderful pet people.
One of my favorites and most inspirational people encounters was Julia from the Cat Hustler. She provides creative marketing for cat shelters. So many cat lovers are doing the right thing by providing care for these kitties but its hard to realize they need to be marketed in order to help them find homes. Julia does just that, she comes in and trains foster homes how to write copy for the cats, take great pictures and get the word about these wonderful feline friends out in a great light. She was one of many doing great things for the homeless pets in our world. She’s pictured below in the Red Roof Inn’s sip and paint on the left in the green top.
I also met the DIY Dog Mom, Alicia Boemi. She’s accomplished some amazing things in the pet space and I had a great conversation about her 3 rescue dogs and the health challenges of one of them. We both feed raw food and appreciate a holistic veterinary approach, I’ve been pouring through her site. She has excellent DIY projects like making safe ant repellent to faux fur dog beds. She can even help you or your company with social media marketing. Her site is beautiful as is the jewelry she makes and sells. What doesn’t Alicia do?
From happy Meowr to Sip & Paint, the entertainment didn’t fall short either. These events were all provided by various sponsors AND included drinks. Who doesn’t want to kick back and relax after three jam-packed days of learning and connecting?
There was an exhibitor hall where influencers had the chance to connect with the very sponsors that many were there to meet. I was there sharing with people about our pet first aid and CPR course but many were also there to influence the market about the wonderful sponsors who provided us the education, access to amazing keynote speakers, food and fun festivities – oh and swag, sooooooo much swag 🙂
On a personal note, I was THRILLED with the quality of sponsors that were there and the quality of pet food represented. The swag bags given were ginormous. I cannot emphasize that enough. I was told to pack another bag but I thought I would have room, nope, I had no where near enough room. Well, thankfully the swag bags had zippers thanks to PetSmart and I was able to check that bad boy. My dogs and cat were beyond excited. We’re stocked for treats for some time and I was very pleased with the healthy food choices. Another aspect of the conference that has topped any previous conference I have been to.
There was also a cat lounge, cats and people could go hangout and check out the most amazing products for cats. A VW bus shaped carrying case, an arts and crafts station to make cat ears and of course a cat astrologer! I was fortunate to sit next to Ellen the cat astrologer one morning for breakfast – talk about learning.
Yep that’s right, there were cats dressed better than I was, dogs too. I brought the best of my wardrobe but it just paled in comparison. Not much to write here, just enjoy the pictures.
Can Cats and Dogs Get Along?
Yes, safely at a conference that is thanks in part to our friends at FetchFind. While generally the dogs, cats and yes even rats weren’t too phased with the conference on-goings, a few pups needed some coaching. The k9 police officer and recipient of a donated bullet proof vest came by to give thanks. What she wasn’t used to was a conference room sprinkled with kitties. It was an excited event but all canines remained cool thanks to the pro’s like Jamie Migdal and her lovely staff member Lynda Lobo.
Kathleen Gage, owner of Power Up for Profits, a marketing strategist firm and also a mom to plenty of rescued pets, empowered us to overcome any obstacle and achieve more than we dreamed possible. This is her Delaney Factor – named after a rescue dog with a compelling story. She was uplifting, energetic and oddly enough described a rescue Boxer named Ares she had. Her story came not one hour after I received a txt from my husband that one of our longest dog walking clients, a Boxer named – yep Ares – was getting put down that day. Very odd correlation, not sure how the two fit together but lets just say Kathleen left quite the impression on me that day from many levels.
The other keynote speaker was a man I was so so so excited to see. Jay Baer, is the most retweeted person in the world among digital marketers. He has a way of speaking that makes sense to a novice just learning how to market themselves on the Internet but will hold your attention forever with his stories about his crowded college dorm room. I learned fantastic facts like 39% of people are visiting LESS websites per month than they were in in 2010, despite there being more websites. “We have to atomize our awesome and be where our audience is.” He is filled with different ways at viewing, engaging and converting our followers. I’ve now started diving into his social media podcasts and absorbing all I can to help share the word about Pro Pet Hero.
Everyone Won Even Though Not Everyone Was a Winner
There were so many categories for the winners of the Nose-to-nose awards. How wonderful to be recognized for the best rescue blog, best micro influencer, best design, best dog humor blog, best cat blog etc. The best part was each winner was given $500 to a 501(c)(3) of their choice. Those were the small potatoes of donations. Tens of THOUSANDS of dollars were given to rescues and veterinary hospitals that help rescues. Tears flowed and hearts warmed.
I won, rescues won, I hope Jay Baer felt like he won seeing so many pets dressed up. If you’re in the pet space, check out BlogPaws and if you are pet influencer, I hope I have inspired you to go next year and beyond. I know I’m just coming off from being there and while I have only been to probably 10 conferences in my entire life, this one takes the cake – it was truly pawsome.
Thank you to the tireless BlogPaws team for your organization, your support and the opportunities you brought us. It’s greatly appreciated by this burgeoning blogger who just wants the pet world to learn how to be their pets hero.