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Every year around this time, a segment of the blogging population loses its collective mind over invitations to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, a conference of sorts in Disney World (once in Disneyland) that includes really nice accommodations, park tickets, lots of food and family events, tons of special treatment and insider access, and as much magic and pixie dust as you can possibly pack into one weekend. You do have to pay for the trip, but for what you are getting it is a steep discount.
I went to the first three, and will be going again this year. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity, for my great relationship with Disney (I’ve gone on five or six press trips with them over the years), and just my general lot in life.
So yes, I’m posting this right now because that just happened – the invitations went out and minds were lost and stupid things were said online. Honestly, it was a little fun to watch (and yes, I’ve also had fun watching it unfold the years I wasn’t invited). At the same time I feel terrible for the people making these decisions, who get bombarded with questions and pleadings. For me it’s a spectator sport. For them, it’s their job and it’s a tough one.
But this post isn’t about the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration. Or it is, but it’s also about every great trip, event, product review opportunity, free ticket opportunity, and celeb meet-and-greet that happens in the blogging space, this weird profession/hobby (depending on what you’re doing with it) where we’re not journalists but sometimes get thrown in with press and sometimes not and sometimes get respect and sometimes don’t, and when we don’t it’s usually our own fault.
I started blogging at, apparently, the exact time that brands really started trying to connect with bloggers en masse. I didn’t know that at the time. But I learned later that the whole brand/blogger thing was new when I started. Before that, bloggers were mostly memoirists and chroniclers, I guess. And while some with good traffic did make money from ad sales, most just did it as a hobby.
But then brands got involved, and a few things happened. First, people like me were able to make money from blogging even if we didn’t have the astronomical numbers needed to get significant money from ads. Second, people started blogging just to get “stuff.”
Questions are always flying around on Facebook. How do I get invited to that? How do I get that thing? What should I write about in order to be invited? Who should I be following on twitter in order to be included next time?
And some of that is OK. I’ve definitely contacted friends and said “Hey, I saw you’re going to this thing, would you mind sharing your contact? I would love to go.” I think I did it two days ago.
But what isn’t OK is tailoring your online life in order to get invited to certain things. There are, the stories say, people who specifically start Disney blogs in order to try to be invited to Disney things. And then they get pissed when they don’t get invited. There are people who start tech blogs not because they love writing about tech, but because they think they’ll get more free tech stuff that way. It all makes me sad.
If you do what you love, if you write about things that interest you, if you converse online with people you find interesting, if you have a fulfilling life offline, you won’t care if you don’t get invited to certain things. You won’t care if you don’t get sent that thing that everybody else got sent, or you don’t get to meet the celebrity that everybody else is posting pictures with.
There are a zillion bloggers out there. Most people will not be invited to most things. If you are trying to game the system, if you are trying to position yourself so that you might get picked for certain things, you are almost surely going to be disappointed.
I’ve seen so many posts in the past couple of days whining “Why not me??” Or “Pick me, I promise I won’t do those horrible things the other people are doing!! I love you!!!!!” Or even worse, “I know I wasn’t invited because I did X.” That one is the most infuriating, because nobody who isn’t making the decisions really knows how those decisions are made. Trying to guess – publicly, where the decision-makers see it!!! – is pointless, and will hurt you with other companies who might have been looking at you for something else.
Why do I get invited to things? I wish I knew the secret ingredient, because I would write a book. But I don’t know for sure. I can take a few guesses though.
First and foremost, I’m as much myself online as I can possibly be without getting sued. Seriously. I’m not twisting myself in knots to conform to what I think marketers and PR people want.
I’m also friends with some great people. Sometimes it really is who you know, that part can’t be denied. Not because people just want to invite their friends, but because they know you and know that you’ll do a good job and not screw over the company. In many cases I became friends with these people after they hired me for something and I did a good job.
I try to do quality work. Always. Sometimes I don’t post for a week because I don’t want to half-ass something.
I write about what interests me. I don’t write about what I think will get me more opportunities (although happily it often works out that way).
And last, but absolutely not least, I try to have fun. And I hope that shows. I think it does!!
I can’t say it enough: If you love what you’re doing, you’ll be fulfilled and happy and these invites won’t be as big a deal. If you’re just in this for the stuff, maybe blogging isn’t for you. First and foremost as a blogger, any kind of blogger, you should have something to say. And that thing shouldn’t be “I want…”