Web Resources

  • Five ways to blog daily

    It seems like a post pops up in my Google Reader every week raving about the benefits of posting on your blog every day.  And I completely agree with them. During the 30 Day Blog Challenge (which you can see here), I saw my traffic and subscribers rise substantially.

    But posting every day is hard. I write for eight or nine blogs, and I post on half of them daily. On top of that, I work three days a week as a social media and web co-ordinator, so finding the time to post daily on my own blog tends to slip down on the priority list.

    However, I’ve been working on a few ways to increase my posts on this site, at least to several times a week.

    Build an online scrapbook for ideas

    I often come across a post, image, infographic or video that I’d love to feature on the site…then forget all about it a day later. Now, I use Read It Later (a toolbar addon that allows you to save a page quickly to read later) and Springpad (to grab all sorts of urls and media for later use). This way, I save time and collect lots of potential post material.

    Both of these tools have iPhone apps too, and Springpad also has an iPad app.You can also view your Read It Later items on the personalised magazine app Zite for the iPad, and save items from Flipboard onto RIL.

    Calender for WP:RADIOWP, July 2008
    Image via Wikipedia

    Create a scheduled spreadsheet

    Popping all your posts into a spreadsheet is a bit like unloading your brain into something a little more organised. You can see what you need to publish that day, which gives you goals and targets to work towards. If you’re using WordPress, the WordPress Editorial Calender is brilliant for this. Otherwise, a simple Google Doc/Excel doc will do the job nicely.

    Set themed days

    If you find you’re lost for inspiration sometimes, it’s worth having themed days for your blog posts. For example, every Friday could be the day you do a mini-summary of your recent blog posts/activities, and Silent Sunday is also a popular theme (and quick too!)

    Posts don’t need to be long

    For ages, I’ve been fighting the mindset that a good post has to be a long post.  But some of my most popular posts are simple infographics, videos and images. Variety is key, so a mix of long and short blog posts makes your content look interesting and stops you going a bit mental about the idea of writing a 500-word post every day. You might also want to consider video blogging.

    Image representing iPhone as depicted in Crunc...
    Image via CrunchBase

    Write on the go

    Most of us have smart phones now, and with tablets becoming more and more popular, there are more opportunities to write on the go. Even if you don’t have the tech, you can still jot down any ideas or draft posts when you’re on the go. This is one of the few reasons why I like getting the train – it’s the perfect time to write a distraction-free post.

    Do you post every day? Any tips you’d like to share?

  • Five ways to make your blog pretty

    When I first built this blog, my gut instinct was to make it as pretty as possible. In the ‘real world’ I’m very girly, so I figured it was a good reflection of my personality. But as time went on, I felt the theme didn’t reflect the actual content. So I redesigned it, took out the cutesy, vintage-style bits, and added in clean lines, plain texts and simple (hopefully) navigation.

    That’s not to say I’ve managed to stop the magpie tendencies towards blog pretties though. But instead of confusing my own blog design, I’m going to share them with you!

    Shabby Blog Resources
    Shabby Blog Resources is run by a kind lady who happily shares her blog backgrounds, icons, post dividers, headers and more. If you’re into vintage-inspired blog goodies, then you’ll like this site. It’s particularly good for backgrounds if you’re using Blogger.


    Sexy Bookmarks
    Sexy Bookmarks is a plugin or widget for various blogging platforms, that adds a bar of social media sharing sites to the bottom of your blog posts. So far, so normal then, right? This one is seriously cute though. Each of the buttons pops up when you hover over it, and readers are actively encouraged to ‘Share the love!’

    Etsy/Folksy
    Etsy and Folksy are wonderful places to find pretty things to add to your blog or website. I’ve used Bonitta at It’s All About The Graphics on several occasions for banners and business cards, and I’d highly recommend her skills if you’re looking for a budget-friendly blog revamp.


    Social Media buttons
    To be honest, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to pretty social media buttons. There’s a great selection over on Ezuca at the moment, featuring everything from hearts (below) to cocktail glasses.



    The right adverts
    Your choice in adverts can make a big difference to the look of your blog. Affiliate advertisers know this, and make a constant effort to update their designs and create enticing ads that appeal to the eye. The better the design, the more people will click through, and the more money you’ll make, so it’s in your best interests to use aesthetically-pleasing ads.

    Have you got any great resources to add? Let me know in the comments, or over on Twitter


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  • The Alternion Review: The Best Way To Organise Your Online Life?

    The average online user is probably signed up to half a dozen different social media services. Personally, I’m signed up to an embarrassingly large number of social networks and service, and it’s hard to keep them organised.

    There are a number of solutions around for dealing with multiple accounts. Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are popular for dealing with both Facebook and Twitter, and Threadsy is great for viewing your emails and social media sites at once.

    At the moment, I’m using a mixture of Threadsy and Hootsuite. Threadsy lets me keep on top of several email accounts while I’m at work, and Hootsuite lets me schedule and read all my tweets and Facebook page posts.

    The problem is, Threadsy tends to slow down my browser, and Hootsuite lacks the email capabilities. So I was intrigued when a new service, Alternion, began to follow me on Twitter. Could this be the answer to my online life organisational issues?

    I really hope so.

    Alternion: A social media and email aggregator?

    Alternion lets you “combine and manage all your social accounts and emails, and stay in touch with your friends from other networks.” It’s a web-based tool with access to over 220+ different services. You can add your email accounts, social networking sites, photo, video and music sites and various other services.

    Alternion Social Media Services

    Essentially, it’s a one-stop-shop for your online life.

    While Threadsy offers your social media steam as a column on the right next to your emails, Alternion has tabs for your emails and social services. You can also use the Contacts tab to search for your friends, across all the social networks. Click on their name and you can check out their profile.

    Pros and Cons

    Here’s a quick overview of the service.

    Pros

    • Access to hundreds of services.
    • Email and social media integration
    • Personalised theme.
    • Social Address book

    Cons

    • Occasionally slow to update social media streams and emails.
    • No Facebook Pages support yet (though the help pages would suggest this is coming, along with mobile and iPad apps)
    • Some services are currently only one-way, meaning you can only view your activities, and not the ones of your friends.

    It’s in beta at the moment, but I love what they’ve done so far, so hopefully these are things that can be fixed afterwards. You can sign up to the beta list.

    How do you keep on top of all your online profiles?

  • FAQs: How to get followers on Twitter

    I’m a full blown twitterholic. I have a huge appreciation for the site, as I’ve picked up a large proportion of my work through it, and made some lovely friends who I now meet up with In Real Life. Plus it really does make watching X Factor 100 times funnier.

    Occasionally, I get asked how I’ve built up a following of around 2,000, and I’m not sure what to say. I haven’t tried any magical follower tools, or paid people to follow me. Personally, I think the secret to getting a decent Twitter following is to be friendly, chatty and helpful. Cheesy, but true.

    Businesses and individuals often claim that Twitter is ‘just a load of people tweeting about their breakfast’, when the reality is they’re just not taken the right steps in interacting with others.

    Do it right, like Giraffe Restaurants and o2 (also look at their brilliant comment on Big-Fashionista’s blog), and you’ll see a huge amount of success and reap the rewards. Do it badly, (*Cough* Habitat) and you could see a pretty nasty backlash.
    This isn’t one of those “5 easy ways to get 1,000 followers on Twitter” posts. You’ll need to put in the time and effort. And I don’t think a following should be your main aim. If you put the right content out there and help others, Twitter followers should appear as a lovely bonus.
    However, if you want to reach as many people as possible, you might want to try these tips.
    • Chat: If all you do is tweet about your business and share your own links, no one will want to follow you. Chat to others, comment on their links or share there content with your own followers. The best businesses on Twitter take the time to respond to others and fully emerge themselves in the Twittersphere.
    • #ff: A couple of years ago, using the #ff hashtag (which stands for Follow Friday) was a great way to recommend people to your current followers, and they’d often return the favour. It has less influence now, due to spammers reeling off hundreds of usernames using the hashtag, but it’s still worth sending out one or two #ff for people that have had a positive impact on you that week.
    • Hashtags: I mentioned #ff above, but using hashtags in general is a great way of getting your name out there in relation to particularly topics. That brilliant tweet you send about Britain’s Got Talent will get a much better audience, and more chance of retweets, if you add the hashtag #BGT so all those discussing the same topic will see it.
    • Help people. If someone asks a question, try and help them out with links, tips or advice. Twitter is essentially a technological form of karma – help others and they’ll help you in the future.
    • Competition: If you’re a business, a competition is a great way to quickly increase your followers. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it if you want a high quality group of followers (see my post over on BusinessonTwitter for more information on compers) but a well run competition can get you the attention you want.

    Do you have any tips for new Twitter users? Why not share this post on Twitter, to get you started? 

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    This post is the 20th in a series of 30 for the 30 Day Blogging Challenge. See other 30 Day Blogging Challenge posts here.

  • Self Employed? Five ways to prepare for your tax return/Self Assessment

    Preparing and completing your Self Assessment in your first year of self employment is a tricky thing to do, particularly if you’re naturally a little disorganised like me. The end of my first year in self employment came around surprisingly quickly, and I was left with a pile of receipts, a bank account that contained far too many trips to Nandos and New Look and a mad panic to get it all into some form of order. I’ve no doubt that this meant I missed quite a few receipts or tax-deductible activities thanks to my own lack of organisation.

    My second year has been a lot more organised, and it’s mainly because I learnt the following lessons…
    Five things to do when preparing for your tax return
    • Keep all your receipts, train tickets and email confirmations in a file/folder, and make a note on each item reminding you what it’s for. Basically, anything you purchase for business reasons. It’ll save you a lot of time when the end of the year comes and you’re desperately searching through your diary/email to find out what a receipt was for. Invest in a decent printer so you can print off any confirmations as soon as you get them. I’ve just purchased this Canon wifi printer to do this, and it’s a bargain at £34.95 (plus tax-deductible)!
    • Consider a business bank account. Or avoid putting trips to McDonalds or La Senza on your card. Neither looks particularly professional (as I discovered), and it makes it easier to work everything out if all your spending activities on one account are business-related. You could always get a credit card just for business purchases if you don’t want to open a new bank account.
    • Set up a great invoicing system, so you can hit the print button at the end of the year. I really like Freshbooks for easy invoicing, and you can enter your expenses there too.
    • If you can afford it, get an accountant. They’ll keep you in check throughout the year, give you guidance and you can hand over all your documents at the end of the year for them to file a tax return on your behalf.
    • Aim to put away 30% of your salary each month in savings. This should cover your tax bill, and any other small business expenses. Then if you’ve got anything left after paying your bill, you can spend it on a little self-congratulatory trip away (Or, in my case, shoes). Much better than freaking out about a chunky tax bill that you haven’t prepared for.

    You might also like to have a look at HMRC’s guide to self employed tax returns to find out how to sign up, fill in your form and what dates your form have to be in by. They’re a fairly friendly and helpful bunch, so you could always give them a call if you’ve got any further questions.

    Do you have any top tips for anyone doing their tax return/Self Assessment for the first time? Or have you made a tax mistake others can learn from? Share them in the comments!

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  • Image crediting: What images can I use in a blog post?

    Love this handy little infographic/poster detailing what you should do when you want to use an image for your blog post. It’s from Pia Jane Bijkerk, “an internationally acclaimed stylist, photographer and author specializing in interiors, still life and food”. Go check out her blog now, it’s full of loveliness.
    Alternatively, if the concept of image crediting still bamboozles you, try MorgueFile. It’s a site full of images free to use, and you don’t have to give a credit. Zemanta is also good for pulling up images you can use on your blog (and it automatically inserts a credit to your post too.)

    Do you have any great resources for finding images for your blog posts?

  • How to use Facebook Questions on your fan page

    Facebook QuestionsFacebook has recently relaunched their Questions feature, and this time it’s popping up on the Facebook fan pages. Essentially, this means you can ask your fans a question in poll format, alongside publishing a status, sharing a link or adding photos and videos.

    As an interactive tool, the Questions feature could benefit a lot of growing pages. Getting fans interacting with your page in the first few months is tough as hell, so anything that helps nudge them in the right direction is worth a try.

    Additionally, they can add their own suggestions and share it with their friends.

    Stuck for ideas on what to ask your fans? Here’s a few suggestions.

    • Ask them what their favourite product is.
    • Ask them how they prefer to get in contact.
    • Ask them if they’ve tried your product or service (could lead to some interesting results)
    • Kick off a debate about a news piece that relates to your business.
    • Ask what kind of promotions/deals they’d like to see.
    What do you think about the integration of Questions into Facebook pages?

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