Sunday, April 23, 2017

Is the rewardStyle conference worth it?

Is the rewardStyle conference worth it? I know that's what everyone is thinking even though only a handful of people have actually come out and asked me that question direct. I've been sharing my candid comments and observations about the conference all weekend on Snapchat, but I definitely wanted to recap everything on the blog as well since I know the majority of my readers don't follow me on that platform. Plus, it's helpful for me to document this info while it's fresh in my mind and I'm able to refer back to it later. This is basically my online diary after all! In this post I wanted to not only provide an answer to the title of this post but also share highlights of things I learned or wish I knew before attending myself. Let's get started!

---Outfit details: Top: American Eagle | Bag: Gucci (option here, here) | Bottoms: American Eagle | Sandals: Sam Edelman "Gigi" ---

What is rewardStyle?

First, for all of you non-bloggers that are reading this but are curious about what goes on behind the scenes of a blogger's life, let me explain what rewardStyle is in case you don't already know. rewardStyle provides a platform for bloggers to be able to monetize their content, i.e. make money. Think about it as eBates but for bloggers. rewardStyle works directly with brands and shops to set up commission rates and those rates are tied to the affiliate links used on our websites. If a reader clicks through one of these affiliate links and makes a purchase, then the blogger makes a small commission. 

We provide services, so to speak, around shopping and styling, and in turn, the commission we make through affiliate links helps offset (or at least justify!) the time we invest creating content and of course, buying our own products so we can continue to create relevant content. I know this subject in and of itself can be quite controversial, but it's the reality of blogging. When I started this blog back in 2013, I had NO IDEA this was a thing. I simply wanted a space that was my own to catalog my outfits. I knew some bloggers made money, but I assumed it was due to agreements they set up individually with brands and shops.

Ok, so what this #rStheCon all about?

Now that you know the gist of rewardStyle, I guess it's probably helpful for me to explain what the heck this conference is even about. It's held once a year in rewardStyle's hometown of Dallas, TX. Attendance is by invite only and invites are based on performance. The conference is similar to any other conference I've attended - general sessions with the entire group, smaller group classroom sessions, tons of networking, and obviously several social events. It is not free, at least, it wasn't for me - it could be for the mega, mega bloggers! I had to pay my own registration fee, hotel, airfare, food, etc. It's definitely a big investment, but I knew I had to go as soon as I got the invite. It's an honor to just be invited and I figured I would regret it if I didn't jump on this opportunity. Even the husband agreed - as soon as I told him I got invited, he did not hesitate to say, "You have to go." 

Why? Why did I feel it was important to go? A few reasons. Who knows if I will ever get invited again? In theory my performance should grow year after year, but you never know! I had sooo much anxiety going and fearing I would be walking aimlessly around by myself, but growth doesn't come by staying in the safe zone. I knew that just forcing myself into an uncomfortable situation would benefit me as a person and as a blogger. And frankly, I wanted to see first hand what all the fuss was about. Was it really worth it?

Yes, the rewardStyle Conference is worth it.

I gave away the ending to this post before I even started getting into the guts! But yes, it was worth it. I learned a lot, I left feeling inspired and empowered, and I met a group of ridiculously nice, smart, beautiful, business savvy women in the process! I mentioned on Snapchat that, no, it was not all unicorns and rainbows like Instagram may portray. The pool party was beautiful but it was SO HOT and sweaty and crowded that we didn't end up staying long. Conversely, the Topshop lunch was cloudy and in the 50's - so cold that someone made a mad dash to the store to buy dozens of blankets to keep us warm while we ate our glamorous lunch on the patio! There were 4 bathroom stalls servicing 200 gals during the general session which made the line to potty a nightmare, and my room was on the 6th floor, which required two separate elevator rides to get there, so running up to my room to use the bathroom during the break wasn't feasible either. Ok, so those were some of the lows, let's move on what I learned.

1. Introduce yourself.

Fall 2015, Jenna and I were able to attend the rewardStyle party during New York Fashion week. I remember standing about 5 feet from Jennifer of Haute off the Rack and I didn't go up to her and say hello. Since then, I've learned to love her even more thanks to Snapchat and Instagram stories, and I've been kicking myself ever since by not just saying hi! For this conference, I told myself I was going to introduce myself to my favorites. What do I have to lose? And they are regular people, too, after all! I am proud of myself for being able to take this leap. Seems so trivial, but it was so rewarding.

More Pieces of Me selfies with fashion bloggers
Clockwise from top left: Jennifer (Haute off the Rack) | Audrey (Putting Me Together) | Veronika (Veronika's Blushing@veronabrit) | Kelssey (Styled Blonde, @kelsslayt) | Merritt (The Style Scribe, @merrittbeck on Snapchat) | Sheaffer (Sheaffer Told Me To) | Carly (C.Style, @cstyleblog)

Jennifer (Haute off the Rack): Thank goodness fate gave me a second chance (that sounds romantic, haha!) But yes, my path crossed with Jennifer again the first night of the conference. She was the first person I saw when we got to the pool party, and I just bit the bullet and stood awkwardly beside her until she finished her conversation with the two peeps next to her. In that awkward minute, I regretted standing there, but it was too late. If she thought I was weird, that seed was already planted, so I figured I would just ride out that wave!! I told her I had to say hello because she is my favorite. Her style, her photos, her personality - she's the triple threat! AND, she really was so super nice. We ended up passing each other a few times during the conference and we smiled and said hello every time. How cool is that?! This chica I have looked up to anonymously for a few years now knows me enough to say hello. Pardon me while I have a fan girl moment.

Audrey (Putting Me Together): I've known who Audrey was thanks to Gina, but I had never interacted with her directly until now. Again, I'm glad I did. She's so down to earth and hilarious and easy to talk to. When I introduced myself to her at the pool party, it was really to prove to Gina that I met her, but what I didn't expect was that I would hang out with her several times throughout the weekend and she would become one of the most favorite people I got to meet!

Veronika (Veronika's Blushing@veronabrit): I told the story over and over this weekend about how me joining a shopping and beauty forum where we shared our outfits of the day all the time became my gateway to blogging. I got to the point where I wanted my own space where I could have all my outfits cataloged in one place, and poof, that's when this blog was born. Veronika was a fellow member of that shopping and beauty forum and I finally got to meet her in real life! She happened to be sitting in front of me at the general session and it was a bit surreal to see her in person!

Kelssey (Styled Blonde@kelsslayt): I've been following Kelssey on Instagram for quite some time and we have a ton of mutual Instagram friends. Before one of my brand meetings, I saw her sitting outside the door waiting for her own meeting. I was almost positive it was her, but admittedly, I stalked her Instagram to confirm! It was so hard sometimes to match faces to people's blogs and Instagram handles! I didn't want to assume it was her and it not be her! She's always been one of my favorites of the top down selfie, so I had to say hello. And again, she turned out to be super easy to talk to. I found out there is no Nordstrom in the entire state of Oklahoma and she has to come to Dallas for the closest one. SHUT UP!! Anyway, we had fun chit chatting before our meetings.

Merritt (The Style Scribe, @merrittbeck on Snapchat): I discovered Merritt thanks to Rachelle telling me she was one of her favorites to follow on Snapchat, and now she's one of MY favorites to watch, too! She blogs, she travels, she works out, she's busy! But most importantly, she still seems so down to earth and "normal." Merritt is just as engaging in person as she is behind the camera.

Sheaffer (Sheaffer Told Me To) and Carly (C.Style@cstyleblog): Sheaffer should be no stranger to you since I link up with her plus a couple of others every Friday for Friday Favorites as well as the last Wednesday of the month for What's Up Wednesday. Sheaffer coined the term "blardigan" and is a marketing genius, in my opinion. She knows what her readers like and she has built a loyal reader base as a result who trust her and feed off her style suggestions! I've definitely always looked up to her, and I would have kicked myself if I didn't say hello to her in the elevator! She was with Carly at the time, who was equally as nice, and I'm glad I bumped into her! Plus, she's "Carly Lee" and I'm "Caryl Lee" so how could I not befriend her?!

2. Share your story.

One common theme for the weekend was the importance to share your story. Your story is what makes you so unique, so use it to build that relationship with your readers and with brands. As I met with a few brands, they seemed most excited when I told them that not only did I have a full time job, but I was also in the process of getting Pilates certified, and oh-by-the-way, I travel pretty frequently, too. Yes, your readers like you for your style, but there's a certain amount of trust that comes when you share pieces of your personal life with them, so let them watch your own personal reality show come to life on Snapchat and Instagram stories, too!

A few brands let me know that this idea of sharing your story and being the everyday woman were things they wanted to tap into for their own marketing campaigns. L'Occitane, for example, cringes whenever someone says their mom shops their products all the time. They want to be relevant to all woman, young and old, in every walk of life. Use your own story to help show how brands are relevant to your everyday life.

Reward Style Conference Shake Shack lunch with banana republic
Left to Right: Audrey (Putting Me Together) | Cyndi (Grace & Beauty) | Kilee (One little Momma/ Nickel and Suede) | Kileen (Cute & Little)

3. The blog is not obsolete.

Despite the convenience of Like to Know it, rewardStyle told us that 70% of sales come from the blog and NOT Instagram or other social media platforms. 70%! That's a huge number! It's easy to get caught up in maintaining a pretty Instagram feed, and I'm certainly not saying those efforts are in vain. But, definitely think of your social media accounts as supplementary to your blog and not your main focus. Social media is ever changing! Instagram stories was barely a thing this time last year! And what about that good old Instagram algorithm that seems to be suffocating everyone's engagement?? You can't control the algorithm any more than you can control the weather. But what you can control is what you own and what you own is your blog.

91% of brand campaigns require a blog post as criteria for a collaboration, so obviously brands are seeing the importance of our websites as well. If you're going to invest in something, invest in your blog first and foremost.

4. Improve your SEO.

Admittedly, the chatter about Search Engine Optimization makes my head spin and I wish someone would explain it to me like I was a 5-year old. I sat through a smaller breakout class focused on SEO, and luckily, there were a handful of tips that were easy for me to digest:

-----I've always heard that Google loves words, but one thing new I learned is that they also love headings and titles within your post. (Yep, exactly the reason I've started doing that in this post.) Apparently you get extra "points" in your SEO if you format your blog post similar to a magazine article. I didn't see hard data about this, so this could be a load of crap, but I figure it certainly can't hurt and does not take any more time to do!

-----I've always heard that you should use "alt text" for all of your photos. The new thing I learned is that each photo within your blog post should have slightly different alt text. Whoops! I am lazy. I only just recently started using alt text, but I usually just copy and paste the same text for all 5 photos in my post. Note to self to change that stat!!

-----I've always heard that you should research what keywords would yield the best search results for your blog post title and ensure that your content supports those keywords. The new thing I learned is that you should not only repeat your title in the first paragraph of your post, but make sure it is in the first sentence! Again, I wasn't shown hard data to support this, but what do you have to lose?

-----Not necessarily blog SEO related, but more so Instagram discovery related: rewardStyle works very closely with Instagram and they have been told that Instagram favors accounts who use all their features (i.e. multiple photos within one post, videos uploaded in addition to photos in your feed, and Instagram stories.) Allegedly you will be more likely to land on their "discover" page if you utilize everything the app has to offer. I am guilty about using Snapchat over Instagram stories, and while I definitely can't and won't quit Snapchat any time soon, I do need to make more of an effort to use Instagram Stories. I used it all weekend for the conference, and I definitely saw a boost in my new follows and engagement. Though, that also could be attributed to my use of the #rStheCon hashtag and/or my new blogger friends I made who have recently followed me.

Reward Style Conference Bumble Cocktail party
Left to right: Cyndi (Grace & Beauty) | Jo-Lynne (Jo-Lynne Shane) | Lindsey (The Mother Chic)

5. I need to change my name.

Last but not least, the one thing I've been pondering is whether or not I need to change my name. I explained in this post here that my first and middle names are Caryl Lee, but I slurred them together for the purposes of this blog to simply be Carylee. Everyone was quite confused when I introduced myself as Caryl. Or when I said my blog name was "More Pieces of Me" but my Instagram handle was @carylee07. Every time I said "carylee07" I felt like I was giving someone an AOL email address. I was candidly talking to Audrey and Kilee about it. Kilee did a quick search and saw that 'morepiecesofme' wasn't taken so.... I went ahead and changed my Instagram handle to @morepiecesofme. If you're already following me, you will still be following me, so no action on your part, just a heads up that I made the switch! Surprise!

People are fascinated by behind-the-scenes stuff.

This isn't really directly related to the conference, but one last thing I learned this weekend is that everyone (whether they are real life friends, co-workers, fellow bloggers, or readers/social media followers) was fascinated by this conference and wanted to hear "real talk" about what went down. I can certainly see why it would turn people off to sift through the hashtag on Instagram because many times real life certainly is not portrayed. I have never received so many comments and messages about my snaps or Instagram stories before. And not even just comments but people legit begging me to not stop snapping about it. I guess this falls back into the whole story telling idea in the beginning of the post. If you share a story in an authentic way, your readers will be interested to hear what you have to say! I will definitely keep this in mind as I continue to share my life snippets with you guys!


Wowee, that was a long friggin' post, and I didn't even talk about how I packed for the trip!!! I will have to summarize that into Wednesday's post so you all don't pass out from all the word vomit! Regardless, I hope this post was helpful (or interesting at least for you non-bloggers) and I am happy to answer as many questions as I can about the conference!

If you're linking up today, Jenna is on the beach vacationing at the moment, but should be back next week! You can still enter your link through my blog below! Thanks!


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  1. I've never been to the conference, or been lucky enough to be invited so this was really interesting! Thanks for sharing! :) Unless they suddenly decide to have it in Australia one year I doubt I'll be able to go, ha!

    Thank you for the link up!

    Hope you are having a great start to the week and had a nice weekend :)

    Away From The Blue Blog

  2. I have been to a couple of blogger events. There is nothing better than meeting your blogger pals in the flesh. It's a bit surreal when it happens!
    Some interesting tips here for seo, so thanks for those.
    Thank you for hosting & have a great week x

  3. Thank you so much for this post! All the info you shared about SEO was so important to hear. I am going to start implementing these ideas on my blog asap! I hope to get to this conference one day. Thanks for sharing my friend!


  4. Great recap, so proud of you for getting out of your comfort zone and doing this. It seems like a great weekend.


  5. Thanks so much for sharing your experience and the SEO tips too! I would LOVE to be invited to #rsthecon one of these years. When it happens, be nice when I fangirl you! ;P

    Dawn Lucy

  6. This is an AWESOME post. You covered the event perfectly, and I am so so so glad you came. xoxo

  7. Thank you so much for sharing this! I read the whole thing! I was invited last year and couldn't go and sadly wasn't invited this year (embarrassing to admit). I think more of the early people accepted this year as I was a late invite last year. I am so happy you were invited and that you got to go! Thanks for sharing your experience. You rock girl!

    Amy Ann
    Straight A Style

  8. I have to say you really gave the best behind-the-scenes coverage I have ever seen on social media! I was hooked to your snaps like a reality TV show! LOL! I'm also amazed you were able to get such a comprehensive post up about it so quickly! Very interesting to read!
    Gina || On the Daily Express

  9. This event sounds amazing and something you can learn a lot from! I also copy and paste alt text for all my pics too, thanks for the tip ;)


  10. Thank you for such a thorough post and review. I actually asked that question - hot to get invited to the Reward Style conference - in my last post and you answered it with so much thought and detail. Thank you. I knew it would be costly but I think it is worth it in order for your blog to grow. I learnt so many things just from you alone. I didn't know about the alt text. Gotta change that and I probably have to change my Instagram name too or at least link my blog to it. But I have many people on Insta that know me IRL and have no clue I blog - I am shy about it. Anyhow, such a great post.

    I don't have Snapchat yet so I always see your Instagram stories when you do them, including during the rScon so please keep them coming. So cool that you met several of your favorites. Audrey and Kileen are always lovely. =)

  11. Thanks for sharing your pointers! So glad you got to go!

    xx Leah / www.eatpraywaerlove.com

  12. Such an honor that you were invited to #rsthecon, you are a rockstar!! I so hope to one day be invited. I mean, I just learned so much from your post recap alone! I can only imagine all that is to be learned at the conference. Thank you for sharing your experience and little tidbits with us!

    Pumps and Push-Ups

  13. Seeing all the bloggers I follow at the conference made me wonder about this exact thing! I'm so glad you posted about it so honestly...the highs and lows, and real tips you learned to pass on to us little bloggers out here! haha I'm glad you had a great time!

  14. Loved this post! Your tips were so helpful. I would have loved have been there in person!


  15. This is actually a super interesting post! I had no idea... And always looking for tips and insight for how to become a better blogger!

    Thanks for hosting the link up, as always:)


  16. Such a great recap and rundown of how everything works! I loved following all the fabulous bloggers at the conference and seeing all the super cute outfits! You looked adorable. Yay for a successful trip!

    Brittany ;)

  17. Thank you for sharing this post! It seems like there was a lot to learn at the conference and need all the tips I can get!
    xo Adri

  18. SUCH a helpful post! Thank you for all this info, I will definitely put it into effect! I think the magazine article format is actually really appealing, so I'm going to make sure I start doing that.

    And you looked beautiful in every single picture! I really enjoyed following you on snap and I felt like you gave the real scoop. I need to start doing IG stories...booo! I don't really like them, but if it helps engagement I need to just get with it!

  19. Hanging on every word!!! Thank you for sharing all you learned... SERIOUSLY! Being fairly new to the whole blogger thing, I just eat up posts like this!!!! It's easy to forget that all these blogger babes are just women who sat down at their computer one day deciding share about themselves. Yay for being brave and introducing yourself!!! Happy Monday XOXO

  20. Wow, thank you so much for all the great information. There are so many ways to improve our blogs, instagram, etc. that it's hard to keep up. Sounds like a great conference.


  21. It was so great meeting you at the conference Caryl! I'm so glad I went too and was actually planning on writing up a post asking the same question too since I had lots of people ask me! So cool to read your thoughts on it!

    cute & little

  22. Great info you shared! This really helped me with changes I need to make to my blog!

  23. I loved reading about your experience and I'm so glad you found it worth it!!! That would be a dream of mine to be invited one day but I'm still such a newbie!! You are an inspiration and it looks like you had so much fun!

    Trendy & Tidy

  24. As a new blogger I'm always interested to read these types of articles. SEO tips were extra helpful (I've read several before but these were a few new ones). Thanks for sharing with us! Looks like fun!

    Mary Colleen

  25. Awwww, thanks Caryl! Great recap. I wasn't following a lot of stories during the conference, so now I'm curious as to what you said! Kilee and I spoke honestly about how we felt there as well. Did you happen to save your snaps? I wanna see them, haha!

  26. Thank you for this post! I JUST LEARNED SO MUCH! I'm super happy you went, and thanks for being so real and sharing your thoughts.

  27. It sounds like it was such a great time, and I love that you shared these tips! I hope to be invited in the future!

  28. Great post and so informative. I went back to Snapchat just to follow your weekend haha. I'm all abou the Instastories. I'm loving your IG handle change. I think it's important to be cohesive with your brand and being able to easily be identified is a good thing.

  29. I LOVED this post!!! You seriously put the entire weekend into one post!! It's amazing! I am so glad you introduced yourself and we got to chat for a moment! Fingers crossed I am back next year and see you again then!! xox