How Chris Brogan Saved My {Blogging} Life

Confession: I had a blogging identity crisis. Right in the middle of Walt Disney World.

Readers of ZannaLand may have noticed the not-so-subtle shift from Disney posts to more me/personal/generic posts. This happened both because I combined the posts here and I really wanted to venture out into the world of Mom Blogs and hopefully get more involved with other bloggers, product reviews and blogging opportunities. I thought – “I can be a REAL blogging mom!” There was only one problem…I had no idea what to blog about.

I’m just not a gifted blogger like some of my friends. I can’t keep things short and sweet and interesting and share-worthy about me. Even as I wrote out my first “all about me” post I looked at it and thought, “Really?! Who is going to want to read this?” {ok, my mom wanted to} And lets be honest, being a successful blogger is often times about the numbers and no one is out there googling “What kind of childhood did Suzannah DiMarzio have?” The result was it was stressing me out. Big time.

I was emailing my blogging friends, desperately asking for help and advice…all the while writing up my life story while I waited for the “oh, here’s how you do it” replies. I’d hit send on my email and be embarrassed for myself, asking such stupid questions when I pretty much knew the answers. I just didn’t know how to come up with the content to keep people interested. I lay awake at night worrying about what the %#&! I was going to write about the next day. Blogging started to feel like a job. I knew something was wrong and it shouldn’t feel like that. I’m sure many people treat blogging like a job, and probably have the income to prove it, but that is not what I set out to do. I wanted to connect with others and share my experiences in hopes of helping others in some way – and make friends along the way. The crazy part was, I’d already done that. It was those connections that cheered me on when I was applying to the Walt Disney World Moms Panel. It was those connections that helped get my blog noticed and out there to begin with. In my eagerness to get to the next big thing, I forgot the big thing I already had.

Before I left for the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, I actually wanted to give up blogging. The stress was getting to me and I was doing it wrong. I figured I’d give myself till after the conference to decide, and hopefully learn something there that would help set me straight.

And I did. It just wasn’t the answer I thought I was looking for.

I will do recaps of the entire conference experience and the people I met, but this post had to come first. One of the speakers I was most looking forward to hearing was Chris Brogan. I had watched his keynote speech at IZEAFest and of course instantly liked him because he was from Boston. However, I worried that his speech really wouldn’t have anything to do with me. I wasn’t a business, I wasn’t even a successful mom blogger – how could his advice on social media business relationships help ME?

My biggest fear as a blogger was selling out. I didn’t want to become one of those blogs with 200 blinking ads on either side, only talking about the great product I just tried and leaving all my personality and stories on the other side of the screen. When I got up the courage to just introduce myself to Chris at breakfast on Thursday (yes, I said courage, for a shy fat girl with social anxiety, it was a big deal) he asked me, “What do you hope to get out of the speech tomorrow?” We were interrupted by a cast member that needed to whisk Chris away for an interview, but it gave me time to come up with an answer. I later tweeted him that I wanted to know how a new-ish blogger could successfully use social media without “selling out”. I figured he had over 100 other people telling him what they wanted to get out of his presentation as well, and just thought I’d sit back and enjoy his speech.

In absence of a white board, Cinderella Castle works for Chris Brogan

Chris is a smart, witty, engaging speaker. His subtle jokes are the same ones that run through my mind half the day and go over most people’s heads. He opens with the Zulu greeting “Sawubona” which means “I see you.” And he does. There was no person too ‘small’ that Chris didn’t see and connect with. He made sure of it. I will never forget his magic triangle describing Community, Content, and Spnsors, invisibly drawn on the Cinderella Castle backdrop behind him on the stage.

Then he spoke the simple words – “Never alienate your community.” I felt as if that phrase was branded onto my brain. Or rather, as if those words had finally opened my eyes. I had alienated my community, or was at the very least on the path to do so. I had created such a wonderful community of Disney fans and then said, “oh, well, now that you’re here lets talk about my laundry.” Clearly, I had made the wrong choice.

I mulled over that phrase again and again for the remainder of my time at the conference. I tweeted my friend that I was having a blogging identity crisis. I met amazing, wonderful mom bloggers that CAN tell people about their laundry or any other number of topics and get people to listen – and care. I simply am not one of those people. Maybe, in time {and with more time personally}, I could be but right now, it’s just not where I am in the blogging world. Kind of like a rock guitarist that gets a job with an orchestra. You know how to play the music, you know the notes, yet you are never really playing the right song.

Once I had that revelation and made the decision that followed, I was again excited about blogging. I was filled with ideas and new goals to reach. The stress was gone. Even though Chris Brogan stopped short of reenacting James Brown’s scene from The Blues Brothers, shouting “Do you see the light!?” and I stopped short of doing back flips in Grand Republic Ballroom A, I did see the light.

Even if sticking with my niche prevents me from working with certain companies or being open to some opportunities available to a more broad-content blog, that’s okay. If I have my community and my content, the rest will come. And if I make a really cool Xbox Controller Cake and want to share it with you, I will. If my kids do something funny or I have a craft to share, I will. But I will do my best to never alienate you again. {And I’ll just save my childhood stories for my book 😉 } I am a mom blogger. I’m a mom that blogs about Disney. And that’s okay.

So thank you, Chris. Sawubona. And I’m so grateful that I did.


*This post is now part of the Disney Blog Carnival, where you can find a great group of Disney articles!*

  • Girlfriend. You give me chills. What a great post. I haven't even heard Chris Brogan speak and I love him b/c of this post!

    You are awesome. I can't wait to see what YOU and your blog do!

    (ps–honored by your link)

  • sarabroers

    Love this post! You gave a great re-cap of your experience. I appreciate the information, as I'm sure many others do, as well! Keep blogging~ you've got a passion for it, run with it!

  • Zanna, what a fabulous post! I really enjoyed Chris Brogan too…he was my favorite! 🙂 It's so funny to hear you say that you are new to blogging because you are my hero…I'm the newbie!! I really enjoy your blog & am so glad to read that you are keeping it within your niche because I have really come to enjoy your niche…LOTS! 🙂

  • Oh, Amanda, you would LOVE Chris irl. I hope you get to meet at some point
    because I feel like you guys could talk for hours. And I'd just sit there
    and listen. 😉

  • AmyP1007

    Great post. And I just found your blog through #Disneysmmom and I think it's great. Keep blogging about Disney, it's shortly become one of my favorite topics. I can't wait to see what you do with it. And I wish I had been there to hear Chris and Guy and Kathy talk about blogging…hopefully next time.

  • This is a great post. Chris impacted me similarly when I met him in October. With one phrase, he empowered me to be myself and really open up my blogging style. I'm really happy for your being able to meet Chris and be inspired by him as well. Happy Blogging to you!

    I'll have to start reading this blog as well – my wife and I are Annual Passholders out here in L.A.!

  • Yay! I LOVED Chris Brogan's talk so much as well. Meeting and chatting with him was one of my main highlights of the conference.

    I'm so happy that he helped you realize the valuable community that you have.

    I actually recorded his entire presentation and I'll publish it soon.

  • Wonderful! I'll be sure to update the post with the link to the speech when you do.

    I actually finally saw you at the conference when you were talking to Chris and was about to say hi when the TwitterSisterz came back on stage 😉 Next time I'll say hello for sure though, thanks for such a great 3 days!

  • Thank you so much! It's great when we can meet public figures that are not only inspiring but actually human as well and *make* time to connect with people the way Chris does.

    Thanks for checking the blog out too – I actually have some guest authors coming up soon to discuss DisneyLAND since I've never been there. 😉

  • Thank you! I'm so grateful I was given the reminder of what my passions were. 🙂

  • Well, compared to many I'm still new. ALMOST at my 1 year blogiversary tho! 😉

    Thank you!

  • Nice! Looking forward to it.

  • Thank you so much – yes, I definitely hope you can make it, I'm sure next time will be even better (hopefully Chris will come back again too!).

  • Love it! Thanks from a new blogger … my question exactly – how to do this without being a commercial? Just heard about the Disney SMMoms conference last week and would have LOVED being there – have been following the work of Guy Kawasaki and Chris Brogan for quite some time and they are both genius at what they do. Glad you got so much out of the event and speakers! Hope to attend next year.

  • I think you just have to find the balance that works for you. Some people
    love product reviews, giveaways, sponsors and ads. Unless you are blogging
    solely for yourself, you want to have some return, but to me personally, the
    ads and reviews can't overshadow the content (unless you are a review/deals
    blog, then that IS your content!). I also like to keep only ads I feel my
    readers would be interested in. I've gotten offers for things that just
    don't make sense on my blog so I've turned them down. I think you need to
    build the community first, and the rest will come on its own – in time. At
    least that's what I'm hoping. 😉

    Thanks for reading!

  • What a wonderful post! I think too many of us get caught up in the chase for “status and stuff” and don't stay true to ourselves. The irony is that it's people who are blogging their passions who are going to be the most successful over time. Those who are trying to be something they aren't will get burnt out. I'm not sure I knew you were from the Boston area – I am, too! Keep up the great work…

  • I hear you! I'm having the opposite problem. Mine is a blog about being a mom and a stationery business owner…but I want to blog about Disney occasionally. Your post made a very good point about not abandoning why people are reading your blog in the first place. Good thoughts…definitely something to think about.

  • I didn't stop by and thank you? Sorry about that. Thought I had, but I must have not sent it. Thank you. You're lovely, and you did a great job of making me feel like I should be there.

    Sorry I ran away so fast. They whisked me into some kind of video interview, but I had no idea it was going to be RIGHT THEN. I'm glad we chatted for just a few. Next time, we'll talk more, okay?

  • I cannot wait, thank YOU so much for everything. Obviously it affected me quite positively. 🙂

  • Said in my best poltergeist voice “She's Baaaack!” YES!!! FYI. I too got Brogan's entire speech on tape if you wanna see it again =)

  • Hey chickie! I'm just getting around to catching up on my subscribed blogs. Great post. We had been chatting at the conference about how you had sort of dropped Disney and how we all missed that factor from you!

    Glad to see you have gotten back on board the ship sister!

    I think you CAN combine all of your loves into one blog–I blog mostly the deals for all of you guys, but I sprinkle in personal stories and Disney stuff too.

    I know some people have separate blogs for the different areas of their life, but I think you can do just fine with one blog–building a community and a relationship with your readers.

    Obviously, your readers are going to be MOSTLY Disney readers, but as they continue to read your writings and follow you, that relationship will grow and they will WANT to read about your family adventures and your XBOX CAKE!

    You're good sister–you've found your niche! Now continue to craft and hone it!

    So great to finally meet you last week!!!!

  • Good post. I just started following your blog not to long ago and noticed all the Disney stuff. I think its cool that you made that your specialty. To me you stand out vs all the other blogs that have the same reviews and giveaways. As a disney fan I now know where to go but what do I know Im new too and am still struggling to figure out this whole bloggy world. I love your raw honesty.

  • Thank you! I think that's either the best thing or my biggest downfall – my honesty. I don't know any other way to write than just sharing what's going on in my head. It's always nice when people can identify with it. Thanks again!

  • Thanks so much for your comment Debbie, it was great meeting you too!

  • Shawn8

    This is a very inspiring article! And I could so relate to dealing with these issues while having social anxiety! You are an inspiration!

    I also wanted to mention a great article on Overcoming Social Anxiety through Service to Otherss,

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