Sunday, June 24, 2012

Blog Basics #1 - How to start a blog?

Buffer

Since I have been approached by many people - friends, relatives, acquaintances, etc asking on how can they start a blog, thought it would be better to write a post & redirect them to it rather than narrating the same story to each of them. But instead of writing the entire script at one go, believe it would be easier to share it across multipe posts highlighting the basics.

Now that it's a series of post that I shall be doing, this is what you can expect in the coming week(s) (I have a day job too).

1. Content Strategy (It has been covered in earlier post here)
2. Platform
3. Promotion
4. Monetization

Before going further, you might consider to read one of my earlier post which covered the 'Basics of Blogging' written as part of the #AtoZChallenge. That was a short post though given the challenge was to write daily. This post instead is a detailed one to let the readers understand each step to achieve their goal which is 'Starting a blog'

One of the biggest decision once you have decided your niche areas for blogging and/or content strategy is about choosing a blog platform. Remember, there are several options here and it depends how much premium you're ready to pay. (there are free ones too, which is where I start)

1. Free Services or Hosted Blog

If you are of the 'testing the waters' kind, it makes sense to use one of the free services to start your blog. Listed are 3 popular options that can be utilized:

1a. Blogger
Blogger started as one of the earliest forms of free blogging site, where they eliminated the need to setup exclusive softwares on your site. Instead, they offered to host your content on their site with the catch that your blog would come up as .blogspot.com. They have since move to map custom domain, but there are still certain restriction on the designs, plugins.

1b. Wordpress.com
Often, we have seen people getting confused between Wordpress.com & Wordpress.org. The significant difference is, Worpress.com is a hosted-blog service, where it offers space to its registered members & your name appears as .wordpress.com. Again, like Blogger, there are few designs & plugins available for use. But the biggest difference is, you cannot have a monetization services like Adsense on this free service.

1c. Tumblr
Tumblr, I would say is rather a splash page where you can either redirect your social feeds or post your own content on their site. It could be more like your online diary, where certain posts are made for public consumption where there is no certain content strategy.

2. Self-Hosted Blog

2a. Wordpress.org
Wordpress.org gives a download option of the very popular Wordpress blogging software. The software can be installed in your local machine as well as on the hosting server and helps you easily setup blogging capabilities on your OWN site. It also gives you access to innumerable themes, plugins which can be configured per your requirements.

2b. Blogging softwares
If you're a power user, it makes sense to install a blogging software on your host server and have a strong team who can design it specifically for your purpose. Remember, those were the early days of blogging and many amongst us used it when Worpress.org was not around. I do not have any personal favorites here though because I haven't used any.

Your turn

Which of the above or others are you using & what has been your experience. Do share you stories & enlighten the post, readers. 


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

RebelMouse Reviewed - My First Thoughts

Buffer
We had talked much about RebelMouse in one of the twitter chat few weeks back & had decided to give it a try. Since the guys are still in beta, I had registered and waited for their invitation, which I got it today morning.


As a big lover of social media tools and since it was setup Paul Berry (ex CTO Huffington Post), I pounced upon the opportunity to review it and here are my quick first thoughts:






Pros:
1. Easy registration, just link with your Twitter id
2. Clear interface where you get a visual treat of the twitter, facebook feed
3. Nice dashboard, allowing to link multiple social platforms - Twitter, Facebook
4. Choice of themes
5. Allows to add self-curated content - links, posts, images
6. Image Album creation
7. This is what I liked the most. 'Freezing' content - The ability to highlight content.


Cons:
1. Looks like Twylah look-alike


Verdict
Nice to see someone combining the power of Tumblr, Twylah, Scoop.it into one platform. I look forward to using it more often.


Here's my RebelMouse Page if you would like to follow.






In case you haven't heard about them yet, do visit them here. You can also read about Paul Berry's plans for RebelMouse in this interview with Gigaom.


Hope you have got an invite too. Please try and share your views about RebelMouse here & let the team know about it. Also share the link to your RebelMouse Page and I'll follow you.

Check out my about.me profile!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

How to Create Content for your Blog

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andriuxuk via Flickr
As a blogger, one of the most common grouse I share with any of my fellow bloggers is to find fresh content for their blog. It's imperative for us to find & create content which is interesting and revs up the audience. We need to create content from the topic we love & would like to have the audience love them too. And believe me, it's not easy to be creative & generate content regularly.


In case you have just begun to write, do visit this post to understand the basics of blogging.


Then how do we do it?? I have list few tricks on the way I create content for my blog posts:


1. Google Reader


Google Reader, pull up feeds from the subscribed list & show the posts in a stream. I agree, there are various RSS reader tools, but I still love the simple interface of Google Reader. Since I read multiple blogs, it is difficult to keep a list of them & visit regularly. So, If I have liked a certain post, usually subscribe to their feed so that I stay updated with their content.


Reading to the various posts, and being updated helps me to think about the topics that would resonate with my audience.


2. Scoop.it


Scoop.it allows you to curate online content into a dynamic digital magazine. It also connects to various social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, etc allowing you to share the content you like. Similar to Google Reader, you need to subscribe to the user's posts to get them streamed on your page. 


Since, the users of Scoop.it also pull post for different places on the web, skimming Scoop.it has helped me to look for ideas from beyond the few chosen people that I follow on Google Reader. It just takes me about 30-45 odd minutes to go through the list & I have my ideas flowing.


3. Disqus


Disqus is a global comment system that improves discussion on websites and connects conversations across the web. I have installed 'Disqus' commenting system on my blog & while it has indeed brought some traffic, the best part is, it has encouraged people to comment & these comments are indeed helpful at times to produce post.


Let me tell you, comments, either on your post or other posts where you have shared yours, are a great place to have discussion, are at times greatest inspiration for your own content. Since, there would be people commenting on your post, you'll know what their challenges are & how certain content has got the audience interested. I remember one of the Klout post that I did a while back, to my surprise, it got comments within 5 minutes of being posted and the various discussions gave me inspiration to write more on certain challenges.


In addition to these three tools, I also use Twitter lists. The utilities of Twitter lists has already been covered at multiple places like this and so I'll refrain from covering here.


Also, I have started to use list.ly lately, though am yet to utilize its potential,  but I do see that it can be an excellent tool to make a 'list' and have it crowdsourced. It's a great idea from Nick Kellet & Shyam Subramanyan and I am looking forward to use it more often. You can find me on list.ly here.


Your Turn

How do you think that these post will be useful to you? I would like to hear your opinion, you know it counts. As I told, comments are a great source of inspiration and I love them coming from you. Also, you might even share your source of ideas/inspirations using the 'comments' below. They would be helpful to us - the bloggers. Remember, 'Sharing is Caring'.


Check out my about.me profile!

Sunday, June 03, 2012

5 Free Useful Twitter tools

Buffer

This is one article that I have been waiting to write for a long time. Since the time I started using Twitter, my list of following/followers have gone quite huge and initially I wondered how can someone manage such a large list. But then, I started using few tools which help me manage my content, recommend tweeps to follow, manage followers and engage. While there are good number of tools available out there and I also keep checking out newer ones like this one --> SeeSaw (am liking it so far), below are the few which I use quite religiously.

1. Hootsuite

Hootsuite in a nutshell is a Social Media management tool. It provides a dashboard which can help you to track Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin accounts, RSS feeds. As far as Twitter is concerned, you can add multiple tabs to view lists or even get updates on a particular hashtag.

Hootsuite

The reason I chose this app was its ability to provide me a browser based interface which made it easier for me to access from any device, any where & still have the same tabs. In addition to it, it gave me the flexibility to schedule my tweets and also get analytics over the tweets that I had shared. In its PRO version, you can also add 'team members' which allows multiple entities to manage the same account.

2. BufferApp

This is the second tool that I use the most. BufferApp has helped me to share my content anytime of the day & through any device. As it is evident, once you use Twitter more, that there are particular times during the day that your content has the potential to attract higher number of click. BufferApp allows you define such time. Once you had done that, you can simply load your content to its list & they will be delivered during the time you have specified.

Buffer has helped me to automatically post my content at certain times. In fact, I have integrated my buffer account with ifttt & Google Reader. You might want to look at this post by Peter Trapasso to understand how bufferapp can be leveraged along with ifttt & Google Reader.

3. Commun.it

The basic principle of 'social media' is about being 'social'. I had always found it hard to cultivate any relationship over the web which I realised was because of the absence of engagement. I hardly engaged with my audience initially and it was only a one-way street where I just sent out information. Once that error was realised, I tried looking up for tools that will help me engage with my followers and I chanced upon a beta-invite for Commun.it. And, since that day, it has been my de-facto tool to manage my relationships.

Commun.it

Commun.it has helped me gain insights to my new followers, top engagements & based on your information sharing, it also recommends followers. It's a great tool to help you manage multiple relationship. Go ahead and use it!!!

4. SocialBro

A late entry to the block has been SocialBro. It allows you to manage, generate deep analytics about you Twitter account. The tool is available as a Chrome add-in or it can be downloaded as a desktop app on all the leading OS. 

SocialBro

One of the best use of the tool so far has been its ability to integrate the 'Best Time to Tweet' feature with BufferApp. Now I can just run the report & the results gets integrated with BufferApp, allowing me to tweet at times where my message has a better potential to be read.

5. Tweetchat

Ha!!! Now if you are a Twitter Chat addict like me, you need not look beyond 'TweetChat'. You can just specify a hash tag in the search space & you'll start viewing all the tweets which contain that particular hash tag. Login with you Twitter credentials and you can start conversing with tweeple directly from the tool without adding the hash tage (they add it on behalf of you).

TweetChat

I stumbled upon this tool during one of the twitter chat where I was unable to follow the conversation as Hootsuite was too slow and Tweetdeck too fast. In a particulary fast Twitter Chat, TweetChat allowed me to 'pause' the conversation, so I could look back few tweets & respond.

For someone who lives by Social Media, it is very important to bring out the message from the noise. These tools have indeed helped me manage the Twitter universe, since Twitter itself has been proved to be inadquate to provide such option. Hope, you find them equally useful.

Your turn:

What do you have to say about those tools and also let us know what tools you use to manage you daily activities. Looking forward to your comments.