I’ve already mentioned that I had the opportunity to be a speaker at the Blog Indiana 2010 Social Media 101 sessions. Myself along with Chris Theisen of Hare Chevy, Erik Deckers of Pro Blog Service and Patric Welch of Noobie all spoke on different topics to serve as introductions for people that were just getting started in social media.
- Keynote “Intro to Social Media” by Erik Deckers
- Breakout “Getting Started with Facebook” by Patric Welch
- Breakout “Twitter Tips & Tricks for Beginners” by Chris Theisen
I presented a breakout session titled “The Blogger’s Toolbox” which covered a list of the various applications that I’ve picked up over the years of my blogging experience. These were tools that have allowed me to write on a number of blogs consecutively, while maintaining a full-time job and being a husband and father of two great kids.
I divided the tools up into the different categories below:
The Fodder of Blog Ideas
Sometimes the challenge is just coming up with a new idea to write about for your blog topic.
- Digg mainly used to see what’s being discussed and is popular, although this site is losing popularity overall with other options that provide similar resource.
- Google News Alerts regardless of your blog topic, put in some keywords in Google Alerts and receive updates in your RSS reader or in your email inbox.
- Twitter Search Twitter continues to be a wealth of a resource for blog ideas. You can either respond to what others are saying online or just get inspired about your own new post idea.
- Blog RSS that’s right, we’re still reading blogs. Sometimes a great post can be an extension of a comment you left on someone else’s original post, or your own spin to a post or topic shared online. I personally use Bloglines as my RSS reader, but Google Reader is also an obvious option.
Organizing Your Ideas
Once you’ve got your inspiration, you’ve got to keep all of your ideas organized so you can get to them and manage them all. This is particularly crucial if you write on multiple topics and a variety of blogs.
- Evernote by far the main tool I use with regularity. Providing options as an offline desktop application, synchronization online to be accessible from any computer as well as an Android app means I’ve got all my ideas accessible from wherever I happen to be at the time.
- Microsoft OneNote similar in functionality to Evernote, but the Microsoft version. Organize ideas into notebooks. Integration with other Microsoft applications helps.
- TextPad sometimes not worrying about the organization and just getting your idea saved into a simple text file can be all you need. TextPad provides you with some more tools than just Notepad.
Adding Media to Your Blog
A picture is worth 1000 words and video is a bunch of moving pictures, so you get the idea. The challenge can be where to find multimedia content.
- Original content we spoke about copyright issues so the sometimes the best option is media you’ve created yourself
- flickr if you’re looking for an interesting photo (or video now) flickr is a great place to look. Be sure to use the “Advanced Search” options to find materials that’s available for use with Creative Commons.
- Picasa Web Albums provides a great place to store your own images and create embeddable slideshows
- Stock Xchng this website is a great site for stock photography. Lots of free options and premium photos are available for purchase as well.
- YouTube YouTube is the world’s #2 search engine. Finding an interesting video can add a lot to a post, taking advantage of easy embed codes make adding the video to your post super easy. Also a great place to place and host your own video content you create yourself. Hosting on YouTube saves you storage and bandwidth space.
- Vimeo similar to YouTube, but a little more control over how your videos are used.
Graphics and Photo Editing
No matter what image you get to post on your site you’ll probably want to edit it somehow. You’ll probably also need to create a custom graphic at some point for a headline or illustration. Here are the programs I’ve come to rely almost on a daily basis.
- IrfanView for quick resizing and cropping, this is a great tool. It runs quick. Other great features of batch operations and thumbnail creation is a bonus too. Very powerful if you want to dig in and master the application.
- Snagit working as a tech blogger and featuring a number of websites, grabbing a screen shot became crucial. Don’t just think Snagit is for screen shots though. It’s got so much more capabilities than that. If a picture is worth a 1000 words, Snagit makes them worth a novel of information.
- Picasa I recommend Picasa to all my family and friends to replace whatever image management application came with their cameras, printers or scanners. Picasa will let you do some standard photo manipulation and effects like removing red-eye, sepia toning and much-much more. Easy integration with Picasa Web Albums is another great plus.
- FastStone I’ve never used this tool, but it looks like a fairly powerful tool to include if you’re needing an advanced graphics program.
- GIMP the poor man’s Photoshop. I’ve never really used, but know a number of people that love it for advanced photo editing and graphic manipulation.
Putting It All Together
Once you’ve got your ideas, your content and you’re ready to write, you’ll need a tool to get that post written and published.
- Windows Live Writer my personal preference has never really failed me. Allows me to publish to a variety of blogging platforms. I can work offline as needed and publish when I reconnect. I can also setup multiple blogs and manage them all from one interface.
- Microsoft Word Blogging if you’ve already got it, Word allows you to connect and edit posts on a variety of platforms. I’m not real keen on some of the coding they do behind the scenes to your posts, but it’s better than relying on the online editors I think.
How Are You Doing Statistics
Once you’ve been writing you’re probably curious if anyone is reading. Here are a few tools I’m familiar with to get that kind of information.
- Google Analytics it’s free and powerful. Not much more you could ask for in stats. Very popular, so plenty of online support and help available.
- Woopra one of the things I always liked about Woopra is the desktop application to help me keep tabs on my stats as well as the real-time availability of those stats. I can see what visitors are doing RIGHT-NOW on my site, not what they did yesterday.
- Get Clicky similar to Google Analytics, perhaps a bit more simplified interface and options.
- Quantcast available as an option. Perhaps a more “professional” solutions option, but may not be what you’re looking for in your own blog.