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A social media conference designed for experts, neophytes and everyone in between

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 15, 2009 -The St. Louis Bloggers Guild’s second-annual Interactive Festival takes place Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Shock City Studios, 2200 Gravois Ave. Social media types from across the region will gather for the free networking event that features both roundtable discussions and classes. One such panel is on online privacy, intellectual property rights, and new media ethics. Melody Meiners, public relations director for the Bloggers Guild, will moderate that panel and said she plans to bring into the discussion the Federal Trade Commission’s new directive to bloggers to disclose payments received from anyone whose products they review.

Another session, called “social media bootcamp for small businesses and nonprofits,” will focus on ethics, policies and examples of companies that use social media. For instance, how can a business or nonprofit make their in-house blog useful and authentic? Meiners said this was one of the most popular sessions at last year’s event, and she’s expecting a host of small business owners to attend the forum.

Meiners, who is founder and managing editor of the site Girls Guide to the Galaxy, said she also expects attendees to include a mix of seasoned bloggers and people new to blogging and other forms of new media. Festival organizers will split people into advanced and beginner groups. For the less experienced group are sessions on how to build a blog from scratch and market the site, and how to use audio and video. For more advanced bloggers and new media professionals, other sessions deal with the impact of new technology on social networking.

The St. Louis Bloggers Guild, an organization of bloggers who create content for websites, has 43 active members. In March, the group intends to stop charging its $40 annual membership dues and make the group free to attract more people. The dues help pay for this year’s conference, but Meiners said the hope is that individual donors and businesses will come forward to help support future events.

The group hopes to get about 120 people to Saturday's conference. As of midday Wednesday, more than 100 people had registered online. Registration is open to anyone and continues through the wee hours of Saturday morning.

Did I mention the event has free beer?