In 2008, I started a blog. Blogging changed my life, and my career, forever. Little did I know being a blogger would come with SO many perks.

The perks were simple at first: readers would email me to say thank you for writing articles that helped them. Then they’d share something they were going through or ask me for advice. Frankly, I was so happy to have any readers besides my Mom and my best friend, so I was honored to help. During my five years of blogging, this was hands-down the most rewarding part of the experience.

Then came the requests to be on panels and give presentations about social media. Over time, the organizations I spoke to became more prestigious and some even became paid gigs, keynotes and consulting projects.

These speaking gigs helped land my name in publications like Chicago Sun Times, Chicago RedEye, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and U.S. News & World Report. I was even a guest on an Oprah & Friends XM Radio Show once… all for being a very normal person who had a blog.

Then came the barrage of free stuff. I loved it. Free books, beauty products, clothes, laptops, gift certificates and even cars would be delivered to my apartment.  Eventually, my ability to integrate these products into my every day life and social media posts gave me a platform to work on campaigns with brands and agencies (for example, Secret Deodorant, InStyle, Microsoft, Mitsubishi, Excedrin, Premier Protein, Toyota Prius, Home Depot, Chevy Volt, Annie Sez, The Biggest Loser and Wrigley gum).

But I can’t go more than a few days without receiving a tweet, text or Facebook message from someone who saw me in a Hampton Hotels TV commercial – the blogger perk I’m known most for.

About a year ago, a creative agency out of California contacted me to be part of their #Hamptonality campaign targeting millennials. The agency had created a top 10 list of social media influencers in their twenties whose personalities, social media presence and style would represent having fun while traveling.

The agency arranged a trip to a surprise location (our destinations were revealed only a few days before departing – mine was Nashville) and the assignment was to tell an authentic story of the trip via social media. I was to be the narrator, Hampton Hotels was the main character and the city was the supporting actress.  The agency emphasized the importance of capturing moments of the trip with Vine and Instagram above other social networks. Then they purchased rights to our photos, videos and social media posts. They would later edit the best highlights from each person’s trip into a few TV commercials.

A year later, these commercials are going strong.  In fact, they usually play the #Hamptonality commercial during college sports gamesNext time I get a text during March Madness, I’ll just send them to this post.

Five years after running my blog as a hobby, I sold it to a new owner so I could give even more attention to my clients and to learning the latest in social media. I am grateful for all of the relationships, lessons and opportunities that blogging gave me.  Had I not started my blog, I never would have been exposed to the inside story on how global brands and agencies use social media. Nor would I have had the ultimate blogger perk: waking up every day knowing I get to earn a living doing something I feel absolutely called to do.

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