Not 'giving it up' for just anyone.....

Well, I did it everyone. I HAD too!

ALL the cool kids are doing it, so it was just a matter of time.

Yes, that's right...

I popped my blogging conference cherry this week!

I had the privilege of being one of 200 women from across Canada invited to this year's ShesConnected Conference. So I packed my laptop, iPhone and suitcase, hopped a {very} early morning flight and headed to Toronto. This two-day conference is all about connecting digital women and brands. BIG brands, brands that want and yes, even need our collective voices to compete in this digital, social media age of consumerism.

Why do they need us gals you ask? Well, as I learned from Elisa Camahort Page, co-founder of Blogher and one totally cool chickita, 78% of the online population use social media, and blogs are now a close second to internet searches when it comes to being influential about purchasing decisions.

Not only that, but 60% of the female population make buying decisions based on blogs. That is power people! And brands are starting to recognize this power and they want to harness it!

But....

With great power also comes great responsibility.

And this may be the biggest lesson that I learned this past week. Everyone wants to make more money. Brands are out to make money and increase their bottom line. Bloggers want to get paid for their time and efforts and are looking for more than a box of cereal as payment for a post. Or as Ann-Marie from Momstown.ca so succinctly put it to one of the panels, "I like chicken, but I can't pay my phone bills with chicken."

But the bigger question that emerged {even more} for me at the conference was, what do I WANT?  As a blogger, a writer, and a business woman. How do I marry the concept of writing with integrity and authenticity with the reality that is blogging as a business model? How do I maintain my responsibilities to you, my readers and use any power that I do have for good and not fall into the very transparent, "I am writing a review post and it is so blatant it is bad" scenario?

My biggest fear in the whole "monetizing' of the blog, is that I will lose my voice. My true voice, the voice and words and stories that I share with all of you. As you may know, I have pretty high standards and a firm belief system. I believe in and advocate for doing things a certain way and I want to make sure that any and all advertisers or sponsors that I deal with are in line with what it means to be a Natural Urban Mama.

I did connect well with at least one of the sponsors and brands at the conference and it was Ford Canada and their head of Social Media Marketing Ammar Khan. If you take a look at Ford over the past few years, they really are doing things right. They weathered the recession far better than the other domestic car-makers and this year Ford Canada was named the No. 1 auto maker in Canada. They also hire people like Sheryl Connelly. Sheryl is the Manager of Global Trends and Futuring for Ford Motor Company and she is one smart lady. She gave the opening keynote speech for the conference and taught us all about the way key trends are changing the face of consumerism globally. Things like an aging population, ethical consumption, careful consumption and safety & security are key drivers that impact how and why people make purchases these days. And companies like Ford are paying attention. And they are paying attention to the blogging and social media communities too and using this medium in their marketing strategies. I will not give away too much just yet, but let's just say that I am looking forward to working with Ford Canada in the near future! (And a little background for you, the very first car I owned was a Ford Taurus and that baby saved my life-for reals!)

I met some amazing women at the conference. I got some ridiculously awesome words of advice from a few of them. I got to go to a party at a shoe store (and I have the sweet new boots to prove it!) and because I am who I am and I do what I do, I even managed to get myself a brand new baby carrier {the much coveted Girasol Amitola woven wrap} and the chance to break it in with some babywearing with the sweetest little baby girl (and give her mama a little break)!! Oh, and did I mention the swag? Yes, there was a lot of that too!

So all in all, it was a good 'first time'. I have no regrets. There are definitely things that I would like to do better next time, more people I would like to hang out with and get to know and most certainly there is so much more to learn and bring home and share with all of you.

Good thing I have Blissdom Canada coming up in T-minus 10 Days!!

Cheers all,

Natasha~