Every morning started with yoga by the ocean.

This year BlogHer 11 took place in San Diego, California as an opportunity for bloggers and brands alike to connect with one another. From across the country, bloggers descended upon the sun and sand to meet up with old friends or make new connections.

Laura Fuentes came all the way from New Orleans to find new ideas for MOMables, a service that helps busy parents make fast and fresh lunches. Jill Amery of the fabulous UrbanMommies (pictured below!) came all the way from Canada to find more brands to connect with.

As CEO of ConsumerBell, my goals in attending the conference were to see which brands were actively engaging with consumers and what types of things moms would like to be able to do online.

As we offer an system that makes it easy to connect with consumers, our features always have to be mom-friendly.

Conferences like these always leave me feeling empowered and refreshed. Seeing hundreds of women collaborating together is inspiring.

Lela Davidson,  author of Blacklisted from the PTA broke the conference audience down into 8 main categories but I think its much simplier than that – BlogHer is about women following their dream of small businesses and learning how to grow them. 

Holly Buchanan said hello (she featured us earlier this year in an article titled Marketing to Women Success Story – ConsumerBell), Holly Hamann of BlogFrog shared some love and Patti Hosking of BlogWorld Expo (right) treated us to a day on a catamaran with influential folks in media.

What was interesting was how each brand wanted to connect with consumers differently. Some wanted to mail samples or sizes, others wanted you to try their food on the spot, and some were just interested in surveys.

Of the top presences we saw at BlogHer this year:

 

I received so many free samples of products that I actually had to ship a rather large box back to our office.

But the most creative outlet we thought for connecting with consumers was Hillshire Farms. They interviewed me about why we cook our food.

For such a technology-driven conference, one thing that was shocking was the minimal appearance of iPads and internet companies.

While everyone seemed to have a Twitter account or blog, many of the mainstream social media tools like Foursquare and Tumblr  were still heavily under-used.

For BlogHer ’12, I’d like to see more iPads, more hustle and maybe companies should start handing out products that help give small businesses value – like memory cards, subscriptions to small business tools, and Founderscard discounts. Then perhaps the monetization and engagement discussions can elevate beyond that of a shampoo or face lotion sample.

That said, BlogHer has done a great join of connecting everyone just like Mom 2.0 Summit did – now we all just need to kick it up a notch!