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

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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I blogged there regularly years ago, but in time, it was obvious that it became outdated.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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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?

The Content Marketing Checklist for Startups (A Tweetstorm)

thunderstorm-567678_1280I don’t do a lot of tweetstorms, but this one has been building up for a while. So I thought, “why not put it on my blog for everyone to see and consult when they’re tempted to do something stupid”? 😀

On a serious note, a lot of people – especially startup founders – ask me about content and this seemed helpful to my twitter followers, so let’s just go with it. Consider it a checklist for when you start thinking about content, which should be pretty early. If you find yourself thinking “I want to deliver some kind of value to my clients/subscribers/followers”, that’s probably the right time.

All content is not equal.

There are several mediums – video, audio, articles, etc. Then there are the formats – curation, interview, article, etc. The question you should be asking is: What kind of content does my target audience enjoy?

After answering that, try: What kind of content does my product warrant for? This might be obvious if you’re lucky.

Yesterday I talked with the founder of a content rating service, which brings up the trending content of the day and shows you where it’s trending as well. I immediately thought his product warranted for a newsletter of trending news and even a breakdown of “what kind of content trends on which network”. I was trying to come up with a logical extension of the service.

This is what content is – the natural extension of your product.

Finally, you should also ask yourself what kind of content you enjoy creating because trust me, “forcing it” doesn’t help anyone.

Use what you have.

When I suggested the newsletter of trending news, I was also thinking about what the founder already had.

Oftentimes we forget to take advantage of that. Your product is a machine, one that produces something that’s not produced anywhere else. In my startup‘s case, it’s meetings. While I can’t use the meetings because that would be a violation of the users’ rights, I can use the information they bring. Like the # of people attending an average meeting.

Every product brings some kind of information to the table. In Product Hunt‘s case it’s product trends, which they utilize in their newsletter.

And when you can’t use something, you can promote it. So in the case of Somewhere, you would be sharing the “sparks” people have posted on social media, but you wouldn’t be including them in an ebook (without asking first) because that would be in violation of the users’ rights.

So you need to determine what you have and use it. It largely depends on what kind of service your product provides. Like content, all products are not equal – some produce lots of information, others very little. If you have nothing, then you can make something up.

Tell stories.

This is a no-brainer. Look at your content – what’s it about? Are your newsletters overviews of features to come? Are your articles about how your product beats your competitors because of this and that?

I hope you answered no to the above. It’s easy to get caught up in your product – after all, you made it or at least you invested a lot of time and energy into it, so you want to talk it up… a lot. But people don’t really care about products. What people care about is people.

So instead of sending yet another boring email update or writing about the way your product solves the latest problem, just tell a story. How did you even think to create it? What did you have to give up? What did you learn?

Stories reel people in and engage them. Stories are king, not content.

Give them what they need.

I can go on and on about “want vs. need”, tools, and analyzing the world’s content to try and come up with exactly what your people need, but I won’t.

Instead, I’ll tell you a story. A founder came to me, desperate for fresh perspective. They showed me the emails they’ve been sending, I asked “what’s the value for me?” Then they showed me the articles they’ve been crafting, and I asked “what’s the value for me”? See the pattern?

There was definitely value for the founder because they were all wrapped up into the product and its mission, which is great! But what about the other side? Every relationship requires two sides. If you disregard one of them, you’re dooming the relationship to fail. I’m sure your users believe in your mission, but before they can even appreciate it, what are you giving them?

How are you making their day better? Once you figure out how to bring value to other people’s lives, then people will start coming to you and caring about what you have to say. What you have to offer.

You can’t ask for anything before you give something first. This goes without saying, and yet so many people conveniently forget it.

The breakdown.

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Sometimes I forget that you’re all busy and recently I was reminded of how I can help with that. My co-founder said, just add a summary of the article on the bottom, so people can see the takeaways at a glance.

This is excellent advice because it considers what you need. So in the spirit of practicing what I preach, below are the key takeaways:

  1. Figure out what kind of content your target audience will appreciate – what medium, what format, what topic, etc.
  2. Content is the natural extension of your product, so if you look at your product, you will know what kind of content will make sense.
  3. Use what you have! Don’t waste any information or content your product brings. Whether you can make an ebook out of it or just share it on your networks, never let anything go to waste.
  4. Don’t just write product descriptions and press releases. Tell stories. Your users are humans and as such, they want to connect and engage.
  5. Give your users what they need. Don’t think about what you need or what your product needs. Turn the table around and put your users first.

P.S. Did you like the breakdown at the end? Should I do it in the future? 🙂

How to Battle Content Overload – With the Help of Tools and People

Wow, I’ve never been closer to Content Shock.

Content-Shock-definition

Every day I read, skim, share, and recommend dozens if not hundreds of articles — from Medium, LinkedIn, blogs, and media outlets. Some I find on twitter, others through content discovery tools, but it’s becoming more and more difficult to stay sane throughout this constant barrage.

So I’ve listed ways to discover and curate fresh (or eternally fresh) content below, and I’ll leave it to you to mix and match however you want. The key is to create a healthy system that works and that keeps you sane throughout the process. Still working on mine.

(To see the previews better, click and they’ll open in a new tab.)

#1: BuzzSumo

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BuzzSumo is indispensable.

The tool shows you influencers in a specific field/on a specific topic and shows you the content that’s been most shared in the last 24 hours, week, month, or year. I use it to discover fresh content by searching keywords like managament, startups, and future of work, but if you don’t pay for the Pro option, it only shows the top 10 results.

You can also use BuzzSumo to see what got shared the most in your industry and identify patterns, so that you can create more awesome content.

#2: Buffer

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I considered Buffer’s auto-suggestions after reading my friend Kiki Schirr’s article about it. She’s right that they’re super-clever and targeted. However, if you’re not careful, you’ll end up echoing everyone else’s tweets, and your followers will think you’re another spammer. Nichole Elizabeth Demere advises to:

Counteract it with a lot of original tweets as well.

Besides, it’s worth considering to schedule some of these to come out while you sleep. In my case, those will be the tweets my American friends see in their evening. You can even schedule re-tweets!

P.S. And hey, if you really like buffer’s suggestions and don’t want to sound like an echo chamber, you can always edit the tweets after you add them. 😉

#3: Twitter Lists

Do NOT use some clever tool that automatically lists people who use specific hashtags or keywords. The only thing that does is annoy people.

twitterlists

Instead, take a few seconds to add people — slow and steady — to lists you’ve curated over time, and when you have about 100 people in them (and none of them is too spammy), you have a balanced feed of that particular topic. So when I’m in the mood for design content, I go to my ux twitter list.

And this is just one of the many uses of twitter lists.

P.S. I think Medium is trying to be some sort of expanded alternative to twitter because it’s getting “more connected”. I usually manage to find pretty good stuff in my home feed, so you can try that instead of twitter lists.

#4: Content Curations

foundcywhatread

True, there are a lot of tools and sites that curate the best content — whether by people or some kind of algorithm. Personally, I’ve only come about two useful sources so far: Quibb and foundcy. See foundcy ->

Even though I’m not allowed on Quibb (too VIP), I’ve gleaned a lot of useful links from the email newsletters. As for foundcy, it’s just a small segregator of who reads what.

When it comes to content curations, I like real-time, people curated stuff. The rest is just too impersonal and outdated, really.

I also recommend communities like Inbound, where people upload awesome articles and start discussions around them. There’s a of value in that.

#5: Collect the Best

I think it was Kiki Schirr again who advised me to collect the best articles. It makes sense, but with so many articles coming out daily I hadn’t considered it before. After all there will be new content, right? Wrong, new doesn’t mean better. Now that I’ve considered it, I started using raindrop.io to store the most useful all-time applicable content, for later sharing.

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In my experience, Trello is not the best for such curations. I don’t like Excel either. Guess I’ll have to ask Anuj Adhiya what he uses (because he knows everything everywhere). For now, randrop.io will suffice because it’s easy to use, kind of pretty and colorful, and most importantly, does the job.

What tools do you use to collect useful content? 

P.S. Some people use Pocket, but it gets so messy in there. I wouldn’t recommend it myself.

#6: Start a Group

If you don’t trust auto-suggestions like the ones buffer provides (after all they’re not really real-time), you can gather a group of really good curators on your favorite platform, and share what they found. Kind of lazy, but if you do it right, everyone will benefit from everyone else’s suggestions.

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It can be a group on LinkedIn or you can use LinkyDink (which is how Product Hunt started FYI), and you can even use Slack! Whichever you choose, you’ll have access to the best of the best, every single day.

Wouldn’t that be something!

#7: Search on Product Hunt

Product Hunt is my go-to when I want to find something, whether it is a tool or a clever hack. Just go to the home page and use the search option. Use keywords like “news” and “content” and “curation”.

And hey, you can even create a collection on PH that we can all use!

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That’s all I have for you. If you have any other suggestions, I’d be so happy to give them a try.

We must all strive to learn and improve, and share what works with others, so we keep the helpful circle going. 😀