How to Choose a Blogging Platform, Simplified

Are you starting to blog? Well, this moment will determine all future blogging moments, so don’t make any decisions lightly.

And the most important decision is: Where to blog.

I’ve heard people ask about the differences between platforms and how to decide, and so on. This post is my answer.

Blogger

pastbehindlionking

Blogger is somewhere in the past.

I blogged there regularly years ago, but in time, it was obvious that it became outdated. Whether it was the design or the templates or the (lack of) widgets, it just sort of faded/keeled over.

Some people remained, of course, but the only thing I have to say to those people is: Move with the times. If you’re trying to talk to modern people, find out where they’ve gone. (If you have a blogger following already and they’re sticking, ignore my advice and keep writing.)

P.S. Something interesting I’ve noticed is that some industries have become stuck in the vacuum between how things were done and how things are done today. It behooves me to say that publishing is one of them, afraid of innovating.

WordPress

WordPress is the all-time favorite, and there’s always a reason why something is the popular choice. Even if you don’t want to be “cliche” and dislike “herd mentality”, you have to leave that kind of thinking behind if you want to build any sort of brand/business online.

Ideally, you’d own and customize your own WordPress site and opt for the self-hosted version, a.k.a. WordPress.org. I, however, am not very technically inept, which is why I’m on the hosted version, WordPress.com. One day I might regret this, but right now it works.

P.S. I have heard horror stories about WordPress taking down your blog. Are those urban legends or has it happened to someone you know?

Medium

First of all, Medium is not just a publishing platform, it’s more network-y, which means that you don’t start with zero followers, which is a relief. But even then being heard on Medium is hard because so many others are trying to do the same. (Here’s a great guide by Ali Mese that could help.)

Second, if you’re considering to “have a blog” on Medium, you need to set your priorities straight. For example: do you want to build a brand or just reach more people? Because brands do not grow on Medium. Brands grow on a blog which bears their name. And if you’re thinking that you’re going to create a collection on Medium and slap a domain on it, you can do that, but that’s not necessarily the best option for your brand.

doryhome2

Imagine going to a brand’s blog. You see that the blog and site are consistent – they look and feel the same, the navigation between the two is seamless, and you feel like you’re somewhere worth staying. It’s like the brand’s signature is plastered all over.

Now imagine you go to a blog and you realize it’s on Medium. It’s very obvious. Then you look through the stories, and they’re great, but it doesn’t really give you the feeling of being anywhere other than Medium. Even if the domain doesn’t have “medium.com” in it, it’s still Medium.

Another question to ask: Do you want any space for announcements? If you choose Medium, you won’t have that space because readers on Medium just ignore self-promotional content. Not to say you couldn’t spin it into a great article and add your update in the post-script, but is it really worth the effort and does it have the same effect? Barely.

Finally, consider if the audience on Medium will appreciate your content. Even though it’s quite varied, there are certain topics that perform better than others – like anything tech-related and life stories.

What I do is blog on WordPress and publish on Medium when I think the audience there would appreciate a particular article. Or I cross-post. (If you’re afraid of cross-posting, just link the cross-post to the original post and remember, the best SEO is quality writing.)

P.S. I apply the same principle with startups, so the above comment is not just true for personal brands, it also works for professional ones. 

Tumblr

Let’s be honest. Tumblr is for funny gif’s and teenagers.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have your personal blog there – just see Ryan Hoover’s blog. He grew up in popularity there, but that’s mostly because he networked. As a result, he drew the people he talked with to his blog, which is a win for his personality, not the platform.

If you have a winning personality, people will follow you wherever.

(tweet it)

Disclaimer: That’s where brands can’t really go because brands don’t have a personality like a person does. They have qualities and particular behaviors and logos, but they don’t have a face and they’re consisted of many people, and worst of all, there is a stigma about brands.

shesbeautiful

Did you read this article on The Next Web? It upset me a little because I always believe you can do great things with a brand – just look at buffer. Still, whatever you do, it will always remain a brand, and the stigma or bias or whatever’s in the way of breakthrough will always stick to it like gum on a shoe.

The best thing you can do to boost your brand is to infuse it with your personality, especially if you’re the sole founder.

New Platforms

There have been new platforms out there, the most notable being Ghost. I don’t really have an opinion about those because they are so new, but I’m guessing if you choose to go with that one, you’d have to really care about a “modern feel” and know that not everybody will be comfortable with the transition. Also, new things break and introduce awkward updates (like Medium sometimes does), and so you’d have to be really flexible.

In the end, I chose WordPress because it’s familiar and the new templates are modern-looking enough. 🙂

Conclusion.

I babbled a bit in this article, so here are the main takeaways:

  • match the platform to your personality (gotta be comfortable)
  • set your priorities straight before you choose – do you want to invest in brand awareness or reach?
  • always consider the audience (if you’re active on LinkedIn and professionals are your target audience, you can try Pulse, but only if you care about reach more than having your own hub)
  • see what other people do or just ask them.

P.S. And don’t be scared to start completely fresh instead of trying to migrate your previous content to a new platform. Sometimes starting fresh has major advantages like focusing on new topics and building yourself a new brand.

*

Hope this was helpful! Hit the like button if it was and please add your own insights in the comments.

Advertisements

So you don’t have time for full-fledged blogging? Try these hacks.

I’m calling everything a hack now. 😀

So I’m guessing a lot of people can relate to this – not having time to blog full-time or even just producing one of those long form blogs that’s super helpful to people, but still mostly time-consuming.

And that’s the #1 problem when it comes to content strategy – time. If you’re not a natural blogger who enjoys nothing more than putting words on … screen, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with fresh content on a regular basis. Especially when other things are vying for your full attention.

So two things inspired this post – my own struggle to come up with a “lighter content load” for people who have no time (or desire) for blogging and the Content Marketing Pyramid, which you can see below.

Pawan_Pyramid_CCO-1

As you can see, curated content and micro-blogging are least time and energy-consuming, and those are perfect for today’s hacks.

Hope this helps! Write on. 😀

Hack #1: Listicles

Listicles are basically the most shared content on the Internet. However annoying and tiresome they can get, they are also useful because any curation helps with the “content shock” syndrome. Now, I’m not suggesting you should do listicles instead of full-fledged blogs, but if you don’t have the time, listicles will do. So consider the following:

  1. Make a list of helpful lists your target audience will appreciate.
  2. If you’re struggling for ideas, just find another blog which does a lot of listicles (like the CreativeLive blog for creatives & freelancers) and borrow/rephrase some of their titles. Not the curation.
  3. On the list of titles constantly add ideas, tools, and links, so that when you have to choose what to write about, you’ll have all the resources ready, and you’ll just have to write it up. Simple, no?

That’s my current system anyway. If you prefer to just pick up a title and do the whole research as well as writing it up, that’s your choice. For me, it’s easier to do those separately, so instead of doing this huge block of time, I’m doing what I normally do and the write-up is quick and painless.

(If you’re not curating content in one form or another, you should start.)

Hack #2: Micro-blogging

Micro-blogging could mean:

  • tweeting
  • tumblr-ing
  • posting snippets on your blog
  • facebook-ing

And anything that comes in a mini-form. Like these guys:

minions12

I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone nailing micro-blogging since it is so specific and everyone does it differently, but I’ll give you a few examples you can see and try if you think they’d work for your readers:

  • 99u’s content strategy is divided into articles and “workbook”, the latter consisting of short excerpts and notes, like the latest on Bad First Ideas. This is incredibly clever and useful for those looking for a quick read.
  • Tweet-storms, which you can then turn into a blog post if your twitter followers liked them. I did this with the Content Marketing Checklist for Startups. And even if you don’t turn those storms into blogs, people will appreciate your advice/opinions on twitter anyway.
  • If you think your target audience would enjoy a curated or funny tumblr kind of thing, you can see Shit People Say to Women Directors (which is both timely and outrageous) and UX Reactions. It’s all about putting yourself in your reader’s shoes, figuring out what they enjoy reading, and also using what you already have and/or enjoy doing.
  • Gary Vaynerchuk does micro-blogging on Medium, but he’s an expert, so that could be why everyone recommends and shares his content. Nevertheless, you can try it, but not before you read the next hack.
  • Micro-fiction? Hey, it can be done.

Hack #3: Stories (and Medium)

Even though the creator of Medium – Ev Williams – says that Medium is not a publishing tool, that doesn’t mean you can’t use it for blogging. That means you can naturally migrate your thoughts to Medium if you’re a twitter junkie like me. Mostly because the integration between those is seamless, and because Medium is trying to be more network-y than publish-y.

(I should really be ashamed by that last sentence, but I’m not.)

But the “hack” doesn’t have anything to do with any one method or any one person’s “success story” (although this guide is pretty useful). The hack is all about what type of content is received well on Medium.

Fact is, stories and life lessons perform best on Medium. 

Every article on top of the Medium charts has been:

  • a listicle
  • a story of someone’s success
  • a story of someone’s failure or pivot
  • a life lesson resulting from someone’s failure or success
  • a philosophical piece about a timely issue (or maybe that was just me)
  • a deeply relatable story / opinion piece

Yeah… I see the word “story” everywhere. Someone said if Content is King, Story is the Queen, or maybe it was Content is not King, Story is.

Whoever said that, they’re right. People on Medium seem to respond very well to stories and life lessons – and my latest article confirms that – so if you want to avoid doing a long article where the research alone takes you a day or two, just whip up something from your life like I did.

Now, if you’re trying to blog as a brand, then the rules change. First of all, it won’t be a life story, but a brand perspective. Second, it will somehow concern your target audience. Finally, check out the featured tags.

tagsonmedium2

Technically, if you can choose one of those tags and tell a story about it, that’d be perfect. And don’t forget, stories are a universal human language. So it’s not just Medium that’s crazy about stories. My feeling is,

If you can write a relatable story, you can publish it anywhere.

I bet it can even work on tumblr in  mini-form. 😀

Takeaways,

  1. If you don’t have enough time/energy for blogging, try these hacks:
    1. Make a list of listicles and collect all links and resources before you have to write them up, so you have ready material to go.
    2. Feel free to borrow ideas and methods from other blogs, just not the content.
    3. Consider micro-blogging on a platform your target readers enjoy (whether that’s tumblr, twitter, or Medium). Also, consider different methods, like using quotes and funny gif’s.
    4. Give people a story – one from your life or from your brand’s life and add what you learned from it. The more timely and human it is (not to mention outrageous), the more it’s likely to go viral.
  2. And have a schedule because people like to rely on things. Just like I blog every Thursday, you should decide how often you’ll do your thing and stick to it. Consistency has to be the mother of success. – tweet it

What about you? Got any blogging hacks?

Why You Absolutely Need to Let Your Personality Shine Online

I was asked something recently that struck a chord: Do you find it hard to balance professional and personal content on twitter?

My answer was simple:

At first it was awkward, but in time it became second nature.

person-641989_1280

When it comes to social media — and your entire online presence — it is ultimately better to show people who you are before ever trying to sell or recommend anything.

Trust is earned with vulnerability.

It requires a special kind of courage to be vulnerable online (you must have watched this TED talk). At first you might be afraid of being called (or perceived as) stupid or silly, but in my experience, the more authentic you are, the more deeply you connect to your audience.

So let’s explore all the ways you can achieve this online.

Show Your Personality on Social

There are many formulas out there, and they all say different things, so let me give you my formula for social media (well, twitter) success:

Out of 5 tweets:

  • 2 are personal
  • 2 are helpful to others
  • 1 is a re-tweet that promotes you

Not what you expected? Let me break those down a bit:

  • The personal tweets can be anything from what you’re doing right now to a conversation you had to a piece of advice to beginners in your field, etc. In fact, lately I have started to indulge in a lot of “how cool is this” tweets, which indirectly shows my personality by demonstrating my tastes in: products, TV shows, books, etc. My latest:

snailstweet

Not surprisingly, people engage with those more than all the RT’s I put out there (especially direct RT’s, which I do regularly because I’m lazy).

  • The helpful tweets are pieces of content I’ve discovered that will benefit my followers. It’s like being a content curator, but on social. People really appreciate the time you took to bring their attention to something helpful for them. So don’t skip this step.
  • At first people didn’t really spread the word about my services or products, so I had to tweet about them, but these days I just re-tweet others’ tweets of my articles because it’s a sort of social endorsement and it’s less guilt-ridden for me to do. 😛

Now let’s do an exercise:

  1. Think of someone you admire on social.
  2. Search your mind to come up with personal details about this person.
  3. Check if the ones you know a lot about are socially influential.

The personal details don’t have to be where they live or whether or not they’re in a relationship. They’ll probably be: what kind of pet they have, what kind of conversational tone (in writing or speaking) they employ, is there something they particularly like or dislike, taste in TV shows, etc.

All of those glimpses into a person’s life do not really relate to their products or service, but they make the person human, and those are the people we buy from, time and again. If you did the exercise right, you probably found the pattern in question #3 — the more authentic these people are on social, the more influential they become. Like magic.

Show Your Personality on Your Blog

Let me tell you about the time I posted my panties on my blog. No, just kidding, I did post them on my blog, but I won’t talk about it.

Basically, whatever you do on social, do it on your blog as well. Simple.

I’ll give you a very bright example in my mind: Kristen Lamb’s blog. If you go through every single post she’s ever written, you’ll see: humor, silliness, photos of herself, etc. The more you read, the more you’ll start to understand her, and by extension, her message: “we are not alone”.

She’s — not accidentally — also a personal branding consultant because she has it down to a science, and if I had any extra money to give, I’d give it all to her, but for now I’m managing.

Here are some ideas you can borrow for your future blogs:

  •  Think about a struggle you’re going through at the moment and share how you’re dealing with it. Don’t try to sound smart or be an expert, just be honest about how it’s hard for you, and then share the progress you’ve made. Sometimes just sharing the struggle and results brings in people who have had the same struggle and who are grateful for your insights.
  • Don’t be afraid to include your most embarrassing screenshots or tweets or whatever in your articles as examples. Obviously you wouldn’t do it to anyone else, so be brave and take front center. For example, I once shared the first ever landing page of my previous project and it’s BAD. But then I explained why it was bad and how I improved it.
  • Don’t struggle to be all professional if it doesn’t come naturally. Just be yourself, write the way you talk, be human. You know, seeing as you’re talking to humans, I doubt they’ll mind it. I often get complimented on my conversational style.
  • Use visuals. Even if you’re not a designer, don’t be afraid to to make really simple graphics or just illustrate your point with photos from your facebook stream. Seriously, I found the picture below on facebook and shared it on a blog. I’m the idiot on the right. 😀

44988_10151576091319226_1460577004_n

The more you reveal yourself to people, the more your material will resonate with your audience. Want to know about my most shared Medium article? It was about my reaction to the film Her. There were no tips there, no research, and nothing else but a naked human perspective on something that’s on a lot of minds and that is fast approaching.

Perhaps my next “naked human reaction” piece should be about drones, seeing as – like The Next Web conference put it – Europeans are a little worried about drones. Just imagine the memes! Goldmine.

Show Your Personality on Somewhere

I’ve been doing some research for Somewhere, on the way people talk about it. In my view, the way people talk about a product can direct the efforts of the team. For example, you can take the wording and make it into a compelling tagline or a CTA on a landing page. You can even map the whole user journey by positioning clever hooks based on the value that people get from your product or service.

And even though you have a semi-clear idea of what your Unique Value Proposition is and what people like about your product, sometimes it’s hard to put it in words, and language matters, especially when you’re trying to convince people to buy into an idea, like Somewhere.

Long story short, people were saying things like:

  • Unlike any other networks I feel encouraged to share my work, achievements, and idiosyncrasies without fear of it being deemed self-promotional.
  • It’s a great way to show a little of your personality.
  • On Somewhere you don’t just display what you do, you display why you do it.
  • When I want to work with someone I want to see their passion.
  • …showcasing an individual’s talent.

This tells me that the main value people get from Somewhere is the ability to show their personality on the platform in the context of “work”. And since the definition of work is expanded to passion projects and hobbies, people really tend to open up on Somewhere and show their creativity.

Below is a typical profile of a digital creative.

creativeprofile

It’s filled with personality. Somewhere was just meant to be a visual platform for sharing your work, but that is integrally connected to what you’re like as a person. Things that give it away are: how messy your desk is, how you brainstorm, what kinds of tools you use, etc.

It’s a tiny window into your soul.

But it’s not just about showing your personality, it’s about showing your creativity as well. Watching other creatives be creative inspires us in turn to unleash our own creativity. The same happens when we see those on twitter, on Pinterest, Instagram… we’re inspired because we connect to what it feels like to be inspired. We all have creativity in us. And if you do, you must let it out and let it shine in everything you do online.

(Especially in this day and age where even employers in big companies have started looking for more creative candidates.)

If your thing is to knit, show me. If it’s taking pet portraits, share them. I don’t care whether you’re a consultant or a startup founder or an indie author; all I care about is what drives you. And when I know what drives you, I’ll be driven to connect with you. And once we’re connected, then and only then can I do business with you. Humanity must always come first.

*

What about you? How do you show your personality online? Do you know of anyone who does it particularly well? Tell me. 🙂

Best Free Stock Photo Sites for Blogging and Design

I really want to share my favorite free stock photo sites — for all you blogging and design nuts out there. Seeing as I’ve spent hours on these sites, maybe I can help you not waste so much time yourself, hehe.

Needless to say, they’re full of awesome photos, the non-cheesy kind.

I’ve only listed sites that don’t require any attribution. Also, I haven’t even explored the ones with bad design/UX. Can you blame me?!

#1 is Pixabay

Pixabay is by far the biggest resource for absolutely free photos.

And it’s searchable, so every time I write a blog, I go there for a quick featured image. Some images are rather plain, but trust me, if you dig around a little, you’ll find exactly what you need.

#2 is SplitShire

It’s only about 55 pages long, but you’ll find absolutely original pieces there. The photographer — who is Italian — has just nailed the art of photographic random objects and people, and making the photos sing.

(Unless it’s a sham and he’s collected other people’s photos.)

This is my favorite one, but there are many, many more.

SplitShire_MELA_4284

#3 is Snapwire Snaps

Uniquely gorgeous images here. I mean, I’n not a fan of scrolling down and waiting for images to load, but there are amazing photos here, also unique, and I think perfect for designers.

Once again, my favorite of the bunch:

SW_AmarpreetKaur

#4 is Smithsonian on Flickr

It’s full of old-timey photos, which I think are great for shaking it up a bit.

I mean, is this monkey awesome or what?

monkey

#5 is Everything Else 😀

The biggest archive of free photos is via Canva (74 in total). It just so happens that I got the link in an email *just* when I was tweeting about free photos. Well played, Canva.

Buffer goes close with 53+. And I like this short one on Hubspot (top 10).

In conclusion,

I guess it’s all about taste, so maybe you’ll find some sites with photos you like better, but remember, all those other sites have overlapping photos, so chances are, you can find them on Pixabay. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Happy photo hunting and feel free to share yours!