Blogging and social media – reasons (not) to connect outside your blog

When I was starting up my blog I read all the advice I could get on blogging. This way I ran into long-time professional bloggers who stated that ‘your blog is your home base’.Connecting: WordPress and LinkedIn

Social media should be treated as ‘outposts’. The one thing I didn’t read was how that was supposed to work. You share your blog posts on different social media – and then what? People show up? Depending on the social platform you’re using that may happen at some point. Or not.

The assumption made by professional bloggers – and which you need to take into account when you read their advice – is that:

  1. You’re trying to make money blogging. That means the following things:
  2. You want to give your subscribers extra, high quality content that will get them another step closer to buying your product or service. In order to distinguish between ‘starting-level’ readers and potential customers,
  3. You need email subscriptions so you have a ‘mailbox presence’ with more-than-casual readers. For this reason,
  4. Social media connections, followers, and friends are less valuable than email subscriptions. You do need social media to facilitate your readers, but not spend too much time on the ‘outposts’.

What to do if you don’t intend to sell stuff through your blog? Connecting on social media could give you valuable extras on top of the the usual options for comments on your blog. Indulging in ‘small talk’ isn’t really an option on a blog that’s mainly about business topics. But your reader may not be ready to go onto the personal medium that is email. Or you may not be prepared for that kind of thing yourself. (Do you need more emails?) Social media might just fill the gap nicely.

From blogging to connecting on social media

Start by mentioning your (favorite) social media accounts on your blog. Adding them to your ‘About’ page allows you to state which account you use for what purpose.

You’ll get the best value from any interactive media if you’re already a user. Because you know how it works and you already have some friends, fans, followers, or connections who may share at least part of your (professional) interests.

LinkedIn for B2B connections

For business to business contacts LinkedIn is at present a good option. It moves at a more leisurely pace than Twitter, which means you don’t need to send the same message over and over just to get over the noise. It does mean you need to share a bit about yourself on your profile.

Some marketing professionals consider that you should connect with anyone who asks to be connected with you. People outside the realm of marketing tend to keep LinkedIn for people they know professionally. This is not a 100% absolute rule though! The keyword here, like anywhere else, is trust.

Connecting with other bloggers starts on their blog

Why would you want to connect on LinkedIn if you’ve never even commented on someone’s blog? If you want to approach people on a two-way social platform like LinkedIn make sure these are people who have:

  • consistently liked your posts (not single-topic likers).
  • liked your About page.
  • commented in a way that shows a mindset, or values, that are not unlike your own. After all there may be a reason why they like your ‘family’ posts but not the posts that feature, say, hunting scenes (are they vegetarian cat-lovers? Who knows).

Taking the jump onto LinkedIn: state your business

When you ask a fellow blogger to connect with you, state your business. Why? Because you can (from your desk top). If you visit someone’s profile and invite them to connect:

  • alter the standard message to make it clear why you’re interested.
  • Your blog name may not match the name on your profile, so mention your About page and make sure that page points back to your LinkedIn profile.

When can you connect on LinkedIn if a fellow blogger doesn’t know you?

First let me repeat my earlier question: why would you want to, if you’ve never commented on their blog? But let’s say you don’t like commenting.

I’d say you should at least share a group and, more importantly, a discussion on LinkedIn. How do you make that happen?

  1. What you can do is start by joining a group the other person is a member of. The only good reason to do this is if you’re genuinely interested in the topic of the group. Take part in conversations. If the other person is actively posting in the group you can comment on their discussions.
  2. There has to be a basis for a connection. That basis may be tiny if you’re a thousand miles apart and unlikely to impact each other dramatically. But it still needs to be there. A discussion may help bridge the gap.
  3. Your fellow blogger may check your LinkedIn profile, so it needs to look professional. This isn’t your Facebook profile and your summary doesn’t need to look like it. It also doesn’t need to look like a blog post. LinkedIn holds your professional curriculum – no more, no less.

If you have a personal blog Facebook would probably make a better addition – and if you’re already very active there with (future) business connections it would also be a sensible place to start.

What’s your favorite way to connect with other bloggers? Add your thoughts about blogging buds, social media, LinkedIn groups and connections in a comment!

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Blogging impressions: two tips for (automatic) sharing

One lesson I learned from all the blogs I read before starting my own blog is this: Mind how you share. In this post I’ll give you two tips plus reasons why you might consider trying them out.

1. Check every sharing button on your blogMind how you share

This may sound silly but have you checked what happens if you click any of the sharing buttons on your blog? Serious bloggers have all manner of cool stuff added to their blog, like floating sharing bars, that make it easier to share their content – if it all works! You should be able to just share. But it doesn’t always work out that way.

However I wrote on this topic quite a while ago. My second tip is about something quite a few people don’t do – but they should!

2. Check your shared messages on social networks

If you’re on Twitter you may have noticed crappy tweets that stop mid-sentence because they were automatically shared to Twitter from another social network, like Facebook.

On the other hand, if you’re on Twitter and you share to Facebook automatically, you may end up with tweetlike stuff on your Facebook page. It’s why I added, tried, and then quickly removed my automatic sharing connection from WordPress to Facebook earlier.

Why share if you make it obvious that you don’t know, or don’t care, what your messages look like?

Using the Publicize option to share your blog posts

In case you’re not using it: on WordPress you have the option to connect several of your social network accounts to your blog. You can view and edit these messages just above the “Publish” button. Every time you publish, your message is shared to every account you’ve hooked up. Unless you uncheck the check boxes first. You can edit the message before you publish your post, but you can only send one message that’s identical for all networks.

A perfect tweet may well be a crappy Facebook update!

If you need your message to go out to several social networks:

  • Skip those #!#! hashtags (for Facebook)
  • Keep it short (for Twitter)
  • Check the result every now and then, say every 5-10 posts (This goes for IFTTT recipes too).

The good part of automatic sharing

I’m mostly so relieved to have pressed the “Publish” button at 10 PM on Friday I then shut down my laptop and call it a weekend. Which means that unless I use this publicize option I end up not sharing the results of my thinking and writing on social media until much later.

Having my automatic messages in place means:

  1. I can concentrate on writing my posts and, after I finish them,
  2. I have more time to read other blogs and to comment on them.
  3. When on social media, I can focus on the social bit 🙂

If you feel it’s too much hassle to get onto social media AND figure all this stuff out AND actually be active out there so you decide to not bother at all, that’s completely fine by me. I understand and appreciate not bumping into your ‘zombie’ Twitter account 😉

That’s it for this year! See you here next year. If you’d like to add your thoughts about sharing please do so in a comment – I promise I’ll respond to your contribution!

Blogging impressions: audience matters

Understanding your audience can be a major issue if you own a blog. Do you ever wonder what your audience is telling you by ‘liking’ your blog? Do you have posts that are loved and posts that seem to be completely ignored?

Mark Schaefer recently wrote about the importance of comments on his {grow} blog. I completely get this. It can be hard to interpret (a lack of) likes. In this post I’ll explore how your particular audience affects your pattern of likes, the pros and cons of likes (not necessarily in that order), and next steps.

Audience categories and blog results

I’ve been building a little theory (okay, officially it’s a hypothesis – I know), and my latest two posts seem to confirm it – so far, so good I guess ;):

Blogging impressions: audience matters

Audience matters: Who’s here
– and why? [OCAL picture]

  • We get different kinds of people on our blogs, obviously.
  • Different people like different posts and topics, so multi-topic blogs get likes from people depending on whether they like the subject matter (and tone of voice) in a particular post.
  • Many people on WordPress.com are mainly interested in non-businessy topics. You can blog about business, but you’d better inject a healthy dose of humor and not get into detailed stuff that nobody wants to read unless it’s their job. Um, that could be me… although not between 10 PM and my first dose of coffee 😉

Here’s what you get if you try out different kinds of posts.

  1. Humor and personal touch 60% or over – business content 40% but preferably less: you get likes from quite a few WP users. They’re a friendly audience. And yes, I did make those numbers up 🙂
  2. Business content up, humor down: no likes or perhaps one from a fellow blogger who’s commiserating with you for having un unloved post. Or who actually likes it because they’re interested in businessy stuff too. Which makes them part of a minority within the WP community as far as I can tell.
  3. What may happen is that you don’t get likes on WordPress but your content does get shared thanks to your social media connections. In my case that’s Twitter.
  4. As bloggers, WordPress inhabitants like to read tips about blogging.
  5. Obviously, once you think about it, posts about content curation get snapped up and curated by people who are interested in content curation. I got ‘scooped’ a while ago with this post. Which also got some likes because it’s about blogging. Wish I could blog about that on a weekly basis but I do have other interests too 😉

A Lack Of Likes

If you have something like Facebook likes, the same problem you might otherwise have with WordPress likes occurs: you don’t know if they like you – or your blog. It’s nice to get noticed – I’m not questioning that – but if you’re looking for solid stats to check how your blog is actually doing in terms of ‘business’ it blurs a picture that’s hazy to begin with.

You could leave out Facebook likes and even turn off WordPress likes. But that basically means you have less ways left to get feedback. If you leave only comments, you depend on people to actually write something. To keep the level of spam down, you may well choose to have people add their email address. Let’s face it – you’re making it really difficult for people who are not on WordPress.com to leave any kind of response.

Your blog’s audience in business terms

Confusion on the matter of what a like means is something you get no matter where you blog. There will always be people who can’t comment or like unless they are on some shared platform. The people who tend to comment are often those who are used to publishing their stuff anyway, AND who are familiar enough with the subject to feel confident of not getting laughed off. That narrows down the number of comments you’ll get.

This means likes are potentially a valuable way to announce to new readers that you’re actually getting readers on your blog. What they are NOT, is proof that your readers are actually part of a selected audience that is sensitive to any kind of sales process you might be tempted to unleash on them.

Is the focus on personal stuff a reason to skip the WordPress.com experience?

That depends on your own take on these matters.

  • If you are completely sure you’ll be able to lift your blog from the ground in no time at all – if you’re an experienced blogger/writer, you don’t need to be in a blogging community;
  • Same thing if you’re the kind of person who can keep going for a long time without getting any kind of feedback at all;
  • Or if you have carefully built an audience – not necessarily a crowd of friends – on Facebook before starting your blog.

If, on the other hand, you’re just getting started and you don’t have a clue whether this experiment of yours is going to work out, I think .com is a great place to start. If you want your posts about business topics to get noticed, you’ll need to share those posts on social media. Which you need to do no matter where you blog – unless you don’t want readers?

If you’re feeling that you’re not really making any progress at all and you’re wondering what you got yourself into, you can blog about that too – and find that you’re not alone. As far as I’m concerned that is one big bonus in any audience – even though I prefer to think of them as ‘you’.

Note: I’ve just made a Facebook page and added a box to my blog. Good idea or bad? I’m not quite sure. I’ve been too active on Twitter and here on my blog to spend time on Facebook, so I don’t have a Facebook audience 😉

What do you think? After all, on this blog you’re the audience watching me perform. Let me know how you feel about ‘audience matters’!

Getting those sharing buttons sorted

If you love sharing other people’s content, making it easy for them to share your own content is an important step in setting up your blog. In fact it would have been #2 on my to-do list if I had bothered to make one – right after selecting a theme.

WordPress Content Sharing Buttons: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Buffer, Press This, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, and Tumblr

Sharing buttons on my WordPress.com blog.

The standard sharing buttons on a WordPress(.com) blog have two issues I noticed in particular:

  • They mentioned WordPress but no author;
  • There was no “Add to Buffer” button.

In this post you’ll find out what happened when I ran into these issues; how I fixed them; and a few examples in case you’re haven’t had a chance to look into this for your own blog. But first let’s explore why I’m calling them issues and talking of fixing them.

Why is it a problem if your name is not automatically added?

Quite a number of blogs have a “via @twittername” part in their messages. I’m so used to this I often add the Twitter name of the blog author to my tweets if they are missing. This means that I need to look them up and paste their names in, which can be more work than it is worth. Sometimes I skip the whole exercise for that reason. In fact, once or twice I gave up on sharing an article altogether. That should not happen to sound content. For that reason, make sure your name is part of the message. Anyone is free to do some editing, but the main thought here is that you make sharing as quick and easy as possible.

Another reason for including your name is that finding out how often and by whom your content is shared can be difficult if:

  • The sharer changes the title of your post – possibly optimizing it for Twitter, or for a particular audience;
  • They share your content through a scheduling tool in stead of retweeting or reblogging.

If your Twitter name is part of the message they may simply leave it in – so long as it fits. That gives you an extra option to check for tweets that link to your content.

Also, having your Twitter name shared makes it easier for readers to find you, just in case they’re not ready to follow or subscribe to your blog.

Why is the absence of a Buffer button a problem?

The Buffer app is very useful if you:

  • Check the latest developments online at a time when a large number of potentially interested people are asleep;
  • Want to share the latest without swamping followers with a dozen messages at once, and
  • Prefer a simple solution since getting the hang of a more complicated tool seems a bit premature when viewing your present number of followers.

All of the above apply to me so even before publishing my first post I tried to fix the Buffer issue. Since I didn’t like the fact that the sharing buttons were only at the bottom of the page I started by pasting some code into the top menu. That worked. Sort of. I didn’t manage to get the title of the post into the message. I looked the Buffer issue up and found an old Q&A on WordPress.com. The answer read something like: “The Buffer button isn’t in html. Sorry.”

(I published my first post.)

Then I e-mailed the guys at Buffer. First of all, they were OK with my using the link without the button since I couldn’t paste that into the menu. Second, they suggested a way to fix the title issue. It didn’t work but even so, thanks guys. Third, they said they would contact WordPress.com to see if they could fix the absence of the Buffer button. So I guess we’ll see what happens.

(At this point I started to think about writing a post about the subject.)

Then I decided to check the sharing buttons again. Meanwhile though, I had completely forgotten where to find them. After I found them (nowhere near Appearance – Widgets but in the Settings section) I noticed the link “Add new service”. Since I’d already spent some time on the link in my top menu, I pasted my code in and it worked fine. Then I tried different options until I got as close to the messages I got from other websites as I could.

Creating personalized sharing buttons

Adding a new service, as WordPress calls it, has its own issues:

  1. You can’t just edit the new button, no, you can create it or delete it. Not DIY friendly for non-techies or perfectionists!
  2. WordPress gives you a few bits of code you can paste into the sharing button but I ended up adding bits from my earlier code to complete my message. Besides, you do need to know how to glue all those bits together to make your link work.
  3. You need to get a link to really tiny icon images.
  4. Did I mention you probably started up your blog because you wanted to spend time writing?

Just in case you have considered personalizing the sharing buttons on your own blog, here is what your code might look like (in Bold are the bits you would change to your own site or Twitter name):

http://bufferapp.com/add?text=%post_title%%20yoursitename.com&url=%post_url%&via=yourtwittername

Note: %20 is for adding a space as in add%20your%20sitename%20here

Once you get one button to work the way you want it to, you may be tempted to use similar codes to personalize other buttons. I sure was! So I changed the Twitter button next and set it to include my tags as hashtags:

https://twitter.com/share?text=%post_title%%20yoursite.com&url=%post_url%&via=yourtwittername&hashtags=%post_tags%

Now I’m planning to wait and see which I like best – the one which I end up changing the least when sharing. I think I’ll like the one without hashtags best since I’ve added as many as four tags to this post! But maybe time will prove me wrong.

Let me know which you like best: adding or deleting hashtags? Use the comments section below.

P.S.: You can find the tiny icons for the sharing buttons at:

Buffer: http://static.bufferapp.com/images/logo_icon_small.png

Twitter: https://dev.twitter.com/sites/default/files/images_documentation/bird_blue_16.png

Hello World!

Bee on white flower

WordPress.com: beautiful platform or stinging issue?

I’ve just hopped onto the WordPress train. Since I don’t believe in jumping into the water to find out if it’s cold I’ve read nearly every post about starting up a blog written by professional bloggers (the ones I like anyway).

Every single one of them told me to go for a self-hosted WordPress blog (like they had, obviously). Next I was to get plug-ins for stats, for security and for flexibility, whatever flexibility meant for a blogger (I didn’t know – why else would I read about blogs?). All those well-meant tips gave me the impression I really shouldn’t go for a ten-minute-to-get-started blog because the experience would probably be incredibly painful.

Then I weighed pros, cons, hopes and fears. I wanted to get started but I wanted to get things right too. I hesitated. And then I went for a blog on WordPress.com.

Why?

Basically my train of thought went as follows.

  • If I go with the self-hosted version I’ll want to do it right. Because it means paying more. Not a fortune but more.
  • So I won’t stop there will I? I’ll go for a premium WordPress theme because I want one that is just right for my subject and since I’m already paying to go self-hosted I’ll dig until I find a theme I love.
  • Then I’ll get all 41 essential plug-ins plus 28 fun ones. Next up, the worries about all the future updates will probably kick in. I’ll end up deleting half a dozen plug-ins.
  • Given time I’ll read up on coding and try some changes to get things exactly the way I want them.
  • Since I’m not a night owl and coding will probably end up costing way more time than I ever planned to spend on it, I’ll find myself saying things to our two-year old I really shouldn’t say, ever (and anyway he’s not supposed to learn those words) for messing up my code by squeezing himself between me and the keyboard and then pressing any key he can reach, or dropping his favorite toy.
  • After all that I’ll have a great place to publish my blog. And I’ll create my first post. I can just picture myself staring at the screen.
  • Er.
  • By this time I’ll probably be able to write great stuff about coding, plug-ins and security (including the ‘kids & keyboards’ issue). But that wasn’t the reason I started out now was it?

You’ll have guessed it. I think I have enough ideas to write half a dozen posts. Or two dozen. Maybe more. The only way to find out is by writing. What I really want is to write and publish all those ideas that, if I don’t pin them onto my blog, will fly off into the sunset. And I want to find out if writing those ideas down means I’ll have more room in my head – room that will be filled with new ideas.

I just know that at this stage I could easily get side-tracked and it would take months before getting to the stage of actually writing my first post.

That is not going to happen. I won’t let it happen.

Note: my “Hello World” post was originally created on July 30th. But I had so many things to do: choosing a theme (which I thought I’d done but then I decided to change it after all), then getting a header photo, widgets, why isn’t there a Buffer widget? So I didn’t edit the post until some days later. And then I decided I might as well republish it altogether. My first experience with WordPress.com leads me to ask what on earth those bloggers meant when they called this the 10-minute version??

I’ll admit it probably wouldn’t be a 10-day version if I didn’t have a day job or if I had decided to stay up till 4 a.m. to get things done.