As part of a new-to-me end-of-the-year series of posts, I’m telling you about my favorite things from 2017. When I asked folks on Twitter what “favorite things” they’d like to know about, Violet asked for my favorite tools, apps, etc. that I use for blogging. I doubt you’ll see anything truly ground-breaking here. In fact, you might find out that I’m a stodgy old man and refuse to use the new-fangled replacement services because I can’t figure them out. I tend to stick with what I know how to use and what works for my quirks. I’m not a professional, I just pretend to be one. If you want truly professional advice on what to use to help you blog, take Epiphora & JoEllen’s class, and if you want to take $10 off their class, use code LILLY. That’s not a plug; I’m serious.
This post is light on outgoing links because I think that most of you can easily locate these services, phone apps and WordPress plugins but if you’re really having trouble ask and I’ll link to it.
HootSuite is something I use just for manually scheduling social media posts to Facebook and Twitter, for new blog posts. Sure, it’s also an app to display your Twitter and Facebook feeds but I’m just not into it for that, I’m old school (despite the frustrations with Facebook and Twitter’s native sites). When I have a new post I like to write the social media bits myself, make a few different ones, and schedule them here and there. The free version only lets you do 30 posts, which is 10 if you’re sharing between Twitter, Facebook profile and Facebook page. But usually that’s plenty for me for a single post.
Buffer was something I used now and then to schedule social media posts for older, existing blog posts. Now and then I’d sit down and go through the shareable old blog posts, write up something catchy, and fill up the queue. Why don’t I just automate it, you ask? Because there are plenty of older posts I don’t think are worth being re-shared, whether it’s due to it being a fluff piece, bad writing, or out-dated. I like seeing when each social media post is going to hit, what’s left in the queue, etc. Buffer also gave pretty good feedback. But you’ll notice that I’ve talked about this app in past-tense – I just haven’t had the spoons to do this sort of “ICYMI” in a while. It does take some time to think up quippy bits about each post or simply decide to use ones that have gone well in the past (it saves them all). But it does do something good for my traffic so when I’m doing a little better, I’ll be buffering up some old posts. There’s a free version which gives you limited access, but the paid version is only $105 for a year and adds on many social media profiles (sadly, not Tumblr) and lets your queue reach 100. With Buffer I tend to allow it to auto-schedule the posts based on the “ideal times” for each platform.
Wakelet is something I’m still trying to figure out as a replacement for Storify which will go the way of the dinosaurs in a few months. Storify was super helpful to curate social media posts on a certain topic or hashtag, great for conferences and more. So far, Wakelet appears to be the closest thing to Storify so if you have figured out how to use it, educate the rest of us in comments, okay?
I have a Creative Cloud subscription to Photoshop CC, but I only have it installed on my desktop. If I’m working on blog stuff from my day job or literally anywhere else then I have to find new ways to create social media and blog images.
I do this with a combination of free websites like PicMonkey and Pixlr. Pixlr is similar enough to Photoshop but certain actions are clunky to perform, like easily pasting an oversized image and resizing it. If I absolutely must do it all with my phone, then Snapseed is a nice little editor app for Android that also lets me watermark.
If my Instagram images are a sex toy or something that I think will get shared then I watermark it. Many people don’t want to do this and don’t want to ruin an otherwise great photo but a couple of apps actually allow me to add ©dangerouslilly.com and my IG name in a fairly-unobtrusive way. Why do I go through this? Because people don’t know how to use IG and often don’t attribute or ask consent. Go figure. There are quite a few apps for Android that do this and while I wanted to like Salt just for its name, it doesn’t have enough features to make up for the fact that you get a limited number of uploads/shares of your finished image for free. Snapseed makes the text look pretty and I can rotate it to fit nicely in a corner, like this. Watermark lets you put in your signature or a simplified text watermark when something basic will suffice, but has intrusive ads.
Dropbox is something I have connected to my phone which, due to laziness, is how I take nearly all of my photos for blogging these days. It syncs up my videos and images from my phone to my home computer, laptop, and the Dropbox cloud. Any cloud-storage system will work here, it’s just key to utilize one. It lets me easily have access to files no matter where I am when I’m working on a post or sharing sale images during the holidays when I may be traveling. It also holds all my favorite EffinBird images for on-the-fly salty Twitter responses to jerks from any location.
Grammarly is a browser extension I use to help me catch grammar mistakes based on rules I don’t remember or know. It’s a little iffy in Firefox but works very well in Chrome. It helps me with comma placement, catching typos and more.
Rafflecopter has been my go-to contest/giveaway app after trying out a few others. I like the variety of entry methods, the ease of use, and just the whole thing in general. It’s a personal preference, really. Gleam is my choice if I decide to utilize the “viral sharing” aspect, which I often don’t simply because I really hate excessive tweets and social media shares about giveaways, and hate contributing to that. Gleam seems to be better than Rafflecopter at verifying for you that someone has done a social media thing you’ve asked them to do.
Bit.ly is one of many link-shortening services out there but it seems to be the most popular. I don’t use it all the time but I do when I think far enough in advance to want to track the popularity of a link or know which links are doing the best. It’s also very easy to create your own custom link ending at bit.ly, so that copy/pasting these links from something like Instagram is easy. If I want to include a link in an IG post and especially if it’s something I’m cross-posting from IG to other sites, like Tumblr or Facebook, I’ll paste the entire bit.ly link starting with http. This makes the text work as a link in Tumblr.
Essential WordPress Plugins
©Feed allows me to put threatening little messages, er I mean, it allows me to put a warning message in for scrapers. Sometimes, scrapers take the entire RSS entry and never edit it – leaving the links intact. The message I can add to ©Feed helps find scrapers, at the very least.
Public Post Preview lets you share a secret link with friends or colleagues or collaborators to see the same sort of preview that you can from WordPress when you click on “preview this post”. It shows how it looks on your blog, in other words, rather than just sharing a document.
Yoast SEO allows me to do everything from setting a social-media-only featured image to making sure my keyword count is half-decent.
The WP Front Notification Bar is as far as I’ll ever go with “pop-up” messages. It hovers up there at the top of your screen, visible as soon as you start scrolling. It takes up very little screen real estate on a laptop or desktop and is easy to dismiss – or not. Unlike a traditional pop-up, you can easily continue to read my post without any annoying intrusions. I hate pop-ups and know that you probably do, too.
Shareaholic is the social-media sharing bar I’ve liked the most over the years. There are many, but I just like this one. I find it essential to allow folks an easy way to share my posts via their preferred social media account with the click of a button rather than expecting them to copy, paste and ping me all on their own.
Fast Secure Contact Form lets me create a contact form but also lets me create an auto-response email. This can simply be something to let people know they’ve successfully sent you a message, but I prefer to let the auto-response act as a quick FAQ, something that answers a fair amount of questions all on its own.
FD Footnotes is something I use a lot because I really love footnotes. It lets me go off on slight tangents or babble a little more.
Wordfence is a security tool that helps block hackers trying to access your blog’s backend to infect it with a virus.
And finally, Search Regex is a tool that allows you to find-and-replace words or phrases easily across your blog. This is useful for changing affiliate codes or links easily en masse or one at a time.
Hope this helps! Bloggers, what are some of your favorites?