On Saturday I attended my first TOWIB event. Initially, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd listened in to some of the buzz from previous events and was intrigued that there was a blogging community forming. So, I bought a ticket.
Upon arriving, I was pleasantly surprised by the sight of the filled room. Not knowing a single soul, I first introduced myself to London Beauty Queen who had created and organised this event single handedly. I have only admiration for this beauty blogger because I know how difficult these things can be.
Last year, I had been responsible for setting up monthly tweet ups for the #scriptchat screenwriting community, which I had started with four other writers who were based in the US: Jeanne Bowerman, Jamie Livingston, Zac Sanford and Kim Garland. A year later, the meet ups are still happening but now a team of three writers are working behind the scenes to make them happen in London: Teenie Russell, Taro Russell and Alison Parker.
Like TOWIB, #scriptchat's events are non-commercial and were created for the benefit of the community. So given that we were all supposed to be in it together, it was quite a surprise to witness, from a distance, a backlash following Saturday's event.
From a personal viewpoint, the day went smoothly. Granted, the first group of girls I introduced myself to didn't really want to engage in conversation. It truly felt like the first day of school and whilst I may not have remembered their names, I still remember their uninterested faces. Thank goodness for the other bloggers who were both friendly and fun to meet.
The day started with a PR panel who were available to answer bloggers' questions. Areas such as what PRs looked for in a blog as well as the nature of their business were discussed. The roles of bloggers' agencies were also explored: a topic I'd like to research further before writing about it.
Next up, a couple of representatives from ebuzzing discussed the opportunities for monetising one's blog: something I am not yet interested in but nonetheless found fascinating from a business level. For example, banner advertising blindness was discussed in the light of the growing value of carefully targeted blog posts: brands are keen to get their message across.
And after a wigs demonstration from Annabelle's Wigs, I joined a Q&A panel which included London Beauty Queen and Get Lippie. By this time, the room was now half empty or half full - and there was a somewhat relaxed atmosphere.
The event ended with a drink in the hotel bar and was followed up by the loveliest tweets from bloggers I had met that day. It was great to hear that they found the bloggers Q&A helpful and informative.
So where exactly is the problem? Well, since Saturday there has been a small backlash: for a fiver, we were located in a hotel conference room and were watered with tea and coffee and fed scones and cupcakes. And of course, we were placed in the same room as industry professionals who we had direct access to. Not bad going really, for a fiver. But I guess some of the attendees wanted more. Perhaps free perfume or handbag? And of course, complimentary lunch. There were also issues from Saturday which individuals didn't agree with. But instead of opening the field up for discussion, social media suddenly became unsociable.
None of these issues had actually bothered me until I spotted a tweet from someone who had started to receive backlash emails and is now considering not attending another event. Given my experience with #scriptchat whereby the members of the community are beyond supportive to each other and genuine friendships have been formed, I was left wondering about the blogging community. What was it really about?
I am also starting to glimpse why perhaps PRs struggle with the notion of getting to know bloggers if some of them are so clearly difficult to please. But of course, these folks are only the (albeit vocal) minority.
Whilst I enjoyed connecting with bloggers I had met on Saturday, I struggled yesterday with the identity of being a blogger. I blog because it's compulsive. At heart, I am a writer and there is nothing more satisfying and immediate than publishing a blog post. I don't care about petty politics, especially if detracts me from blogging.
Today, I feel differently. Instead of feeling disillusioned. I feel focused. I am looking forward to developing relationships with likeminded bloggers, especially those I met on Saturday. And as for the haters, they're not worth thinking about.
I just hope that London Beauty Queen listens to all the positive feedback from Saturday and continues her great work.
Follow Mina Zaher on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kingsroadrocks