The Value Of Commenting On A Blog.

I’ve questioned quite a bit recently why people don’t engage or leave comments on WordPress blog posts as much as they do on Facebook or Instagram.

As I suggested in this post some time back, maybe it’s because many people just don’t realise how encouraging or helpful leaving a comment can be.

WordyNerdBird

blogging

It’s easy to read a post and move on, andeven easier to like a blog post without reading it.

But stop and think for a moment. How much more valuable to the writer, and other readers, if you actually bothered to respond. Isn’t that what you’d hope for when writing your next blog post? Nobody wants to invest time in writing something that people are just going to skim over.

Not only that, but you will gain more from the post and from the interaction with others than you realise.

You might gain new ideas or perspectives, or you might just end up feeling a little better about life.

It doesn’t have to be a long or complicated post. Even just saying “thank you” or “I liked this!” does the trick.

However, commenting on a blog post is more useful than just propping up the ego of some blogger who…

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What I Love… and What Frustrates Me… About Pinterest

Pinterest is great for inspiration, curating themed collections and procrastinating by getting distracted with eye candy. 

It is a platform on which the users create collections of images called boards. These are usually themed, although how organised and themed they are is entirely up to each individual user.

I love being able to put together a collection of images on any theme I wish. The evidence of this is the fact that I have a bazillion Pinterest boards for everything from books worth reading, my book reviews and blog posts and social media for Indie authors to costume and set ideas for musical theatre productions and swoonworthy libraries. I’ve collected hundreds of great looking recipes that I might never make, and probably twenty that I have. I can be as nerdy about things as I like- in fact, that is positively encouraged! It really is all very enjoyable. 

Just a few of my bookish and Indie author boards.

Pinterest is a great way to highlight my own content and link it back to my blogs or website. When I write a blog post relevant to Indie authors in one way or another, I can add it to one of my boards on Pinterest where it is easily found and accessed by others. The link back to my blog post is an integral part of the pinned image, so that a click on that image takes a viewer straight to my blog. This link is easily achieved by sharing to Pinterest directly from each WordPress blogpost, or by adding the link manually to a custom image. 

It is a wonderful thing to be inspired by others, whether it’s by “how to do something” posts, images of places you’d like to travel to,  or ideas about how to take better photos of different things. This is something that Pinterest and Instagram have in common because they’re both highly visual in nature. 

I also like the fact that you can have secret boards. This means that you can save collections of things like Christmas or birthday gift ideas or whatever else you want to keep private, and nobody else can see them. 

One very practical, personal use for Pinterest is creating a Wish List. My best friend, my sister and I all have a Wish List board, where we place images of things we’d like to have as birthday or Christmas gifts. It makes shopping for one another so much easier, and enables us to buy the perfect gift every time. They don’t have to be expensive things – one of my friends used that board to find the pattern for a pair of knitted gloves I liked, and presented me with those very gloves in my favourite colour: black! If there is a particular book I want, or a particular bear I want to add to my collection, I can add it to that list and use it as a shopping list for myself, too! 

What frustrates me, though, is that Pinterest is really not all that social.

You used to be able to like someone’s post, but you can’t do that anymore. You can save it to your own collection. You can leave a comment, but not many people do. You can send someone a pin via direct message, assuming they’re on Pinterest too. But none of it feels much like an immediate connection like it does on Facebook or Instagram. I may have 735 followers, but I never actually know if they’re there. 

I suppose that’s because Pinterest is focused more on curating content than on creating connections between people. I understand the different emphasis, but I really don’t think being able to like someone’s image distracted from that. 

The Verdict: Pinterest is a helpful and enjoyable media platform, but not exactly social in nature. It is best used for collecting and sharing content, not connections. 

Having said that, if you’d like to follow me on Pinterest, you are more than welcome to do so. You won’t be able to ‘like’ my posts, but you may find one or three – or thirty – boards that inspire or help you somehow. 

What I Love… And What Frustrates Me… About Blogging On WordPress

There are many features of WordPress that I love. In terms of social media platforms, though, the advantages are clear.

It’s more meaningful than Facebook.
The content on WordPress – and I assume on other blogging platforms – is as varied and interesting as you’ll ever find. Books, history, poetry, literature, Indie authors, self publishing, photography, travel, food, music… you name it, there are multiple blogs right there waiting to be discovered and read.  There is no end to the talent in this place. 

There’s no clickbait, drivel or game requests.
Enough said.

You can engage exactly as one does on Facebook.
You can like a post, you can leave a comment. You can even like as many posts as you want to, and WordPress won’t stop you from doing so. How’s that for a positive, helpful algorithm?

Sharing posts is easy.
What’s on WordPress doesn’t have to stay on WordPress.
With one click, you can share posts on WordPress using the reblog function, or directly onto any of the other social media platforms.

Going ad-free with a custom domain is cheap and easy. 
It doesn’t cost much to have your own domain name that adds to your personal branding, and eliminate all advertising from your blog altogether. It works out even cheaper if you pay for two or three years instead of one, and as a business expense, you can claim it as a tax deduction. This can be done from the WordPress menu, so you don’t even have to Google how to do it. 

Sorry, though – wordynerdbird.com and mrbooksquirrel.blog are already taken. Have fun thinking up something cooler! 

There is no instant messenger, nor is there an inbox. 
There are benefits to not being quite so available all the time. 
I know. It’s a shocking thought, but I’m brave enough to say it. 

Many bloggers do have links to their other social media accounts on their blog, so you can still send a personal message or have a conversation there if you wish to. 

There’s no drama. 
Well… there might be on some political blogs, or perhaps some celebrity ones, I suppose. I don’t follow or read those, so I wouldn’t know.

Generally, though, you follow and read what you want to, and the rest sail blissfully past without even making a blip on your radar. 

Block style formatting. 
I found using the new “blocks” editor intimidating for about half a day, and have absolutely loved it ever since. It makes designing a great-looking post super easy. If you don’t like where an image or some other content is, you can move it around without fuss. Need a sub-heading? No problem. Formatting a list? Easy as. You can even save a particular block as a reusable one, so you can add it to subsequent posts with one click. This is great for themes and otherwise related posts. 

The Reader page on WordPress is brilliant
It lists all the posts from the blogs you follow, so that you can scroll through and see what’s on offer. It means that people who follow your blog will actually be able to see when you make a new post, and click through to read it with ease. 
If you want to find something new, you can search for a topic or click on the “Discover” tab.

There are, however, just a couple of things that frustrate me.

As I commented yesterday, I wish it were easier to get people to engage and respond. Perhaps they don’t perceive the value of that like they do on other social media platforms. Perhaps it’s a different type of audience. I just don’t know what the answer is there. 

The WordPress app. 
While the website uses “blocks” for content, the app is a dinosaur. Editing a post using the app is a nightmare because of the different formatting – you have to convert it from blocks to “classic” and it all just ends up looking wrong. 

It’s disappointing, because an outfit as big and professional as WordPress should be able to furnish their users with an app that is easy to use and which fully complements the website editor. 

Consequently, I do all my posting via the website, even on my iPad or phone. It’s far easier and the results are better. 

The Verdict:
WordPress wins, hands down. With just a little more audience interaction, it would be darn near perfect. 

What I Like … and What I Don’t… About Instagram

I really like Instagram. 

It’s easy. A nice picture, a few well-chosen hashtags, and you’re done.  Scrolling through your feed and liking posts is easy too. 

Of course, there are ways you can make things more sophisticated. Adding your post to your story is relatively straightforward. You can add posts to highlights that show up in nicely organised groups on your profile. You can save posts into collections. You can follow favourite hashtags as well as individuals. 

There’s no obligation to do any of those things, so you can really keep it as simple or make it as fancy as you like. 

I really enjoy looking at other people’s creativity in pictures, so I’m right at home on Insta. I’m happy to look at their books, their cats or dogs, their holiday snaps, whatever. I love baby pictures. I enjoy memes. Some people want to post about their books all the time. Some people hardly ever post about their books. Either way, I’m cool with that. I like the fact that we all have freedom to post as we please, and we’re all able to get on and play nicely in the Insta playground. 

I like the simplicity of responding to other people’s posts. Liking is easy. Commenting is easy. 
I do occasionally think it would be nice if there were a choice of reactions like there is on Facebook. Other days, though, I consider it in terms of “a heart is a heart is a heart” and am grateful that there isn’t more value given to one response over another. 

It has been really encouraging and motivating to connect with other people with similar interests through the use of particular hashtags and “follow loops”, which are basically posts where authors or other people with common interests respond and then follow one another. I’ve found so much inspiration, and received so much encouragement and feedback, from other authors and Indie creatives on Instagram. It’s a great way to become part of a very positive and proactive creative community. 

The challenge of developing my own creative identity on Instagram has been beneficial in terms of incorporating my own style and branding so that my Instagram profile is consistently “me”. I want people to be able to look at my profile and understand something of my personality and commitment to what I do. There’s a lot more to that than “buy my book” posts. It’s been a bit of a learning curve, but well worth it in terms of consistency and style, and as a means of establishing some credibility.  

And, of course, there are things that frustrate me.
These fall into two groups: less pleasant aspects of the app itself, and my own personal peeves. 

First up: the less “user friendly” elements.  

  • Using the wrong hashtags – or more correctly, hashtags that have been abused by others, can cause your posts using those tags to be shadow banned. That’s a nerdy way of saying fewer people will see them. Don’t panic, though – there are ways to find out which tags are  thus afflicted, and so avoid using them. 
  • Scammers that look like legitimate shopfronts frequent Instagram. They’re as capable of using a pretty picture as anyone else, it seems. It pays to check out any business or site before clicking through from an Insta ad – and that’s the voice of experience talking. I got caught out once, and learned my lesson very promptly. 
  • The challenge of gaining visibility for posts. It seems that no matter how many followers I have, there’s a natural cap on how many “likes” or views my posts seem to get.  Just like Facebook – which owns Instagram – there’s an algorithm running that appears to how many of my followers see my posts. The more likes a post gets, the more visible it is to more people.  Of course, they’re quite happy to encourage me to boost my posts and pay for them to show my posts to more people. Forgive my cynicism about that, won’t you?


Secondly, my “pet peeves”:

  • Bookshelves arranged into rainbows.  I just don’t understand. I get that it’s pretty, and I like rainbows as much as anyone… but it really gives the book nerd in me enormous anxiety. Wouldn’t that mean a series of books is separated on the shelves? And how does one find anything if different genres and categories are all mixed up on the basis of the colour of their covers?  This is clearly a hard no from me. 
  • People who appear to be commenting in response to something I post, but they’re really spamming me with their own content. Ugh. That’s just rude.
  • People who follow in the hope that you’ll follow them back, and then unfollow you. Especially those who don’t just do it once. There are a couple of accounts with a really distinctive  and instantly recognisable handle that keeps on following me, then unfollowing and following again a couple of weeks later. Frankly, I wonder why they bother, but it is amusing. Do they think people aren’t going to notice that? 

The verdict: Instagram is generally a very positive and enjoyable place for me. The things I don’t like are opportunities for me to practise being a grown up and just keep scrolling past them.
It’s an Insta-heart from me. 

The Danger Of Dirty Links

With all the attention given among the Indie community to the removal of book reviews by Amazon, I’m amazed at the number of authors who still post dirty links to their books on social media. This is a rookie-level mistake that can actually do more harm than good. 

A dirty link helps the algorithm at Amazon to determine if there are connections between author and reader that might suggest collusion or partiality.. Even if a review is from a verified purchase, a simple connection via a shared link can be enough to make them suspect that it’s not unbiased or from an unrelated party.

If the link used by multiple customers can be traced directly back to the author, that’s one of the reasons they will start flagging and eventually removing reviews. 

The simple solution is to ensure your links are clean before you post them.

A dirty link occurs when one copies and pastes a URL without removing all the extra information that gets tacked onto it by searching for a product, copying links from a website, linking from another product, or using a bookmark created from a searched item.For example, if I search for one of my books on Google and click on the Amazon link, I get this as the URL: 

This is more information than is needed to actually find my book. In the image below, I’ve denoted the “dirty” part of the link by making it red. 

The highlighted part of this link is the “dirty” part. If I were to give this link to someone else to use, it tells Amazon how they got the link. 
All you need to post is the part of the link that directly goes to your book page. In the link above, that’s the part that is still black. Once the link identifies which display page your book has, no further information is necessary. 

You can check the clean link you want to post by pasting it into a new browser window and seeing that it goes directly to your book product page. 
Even if you use a link shortening service like bit.ly or buff.ly, or a customised branded link, you must ensure that the links you provide are clean. Just because you and your audience don’t see the extra information on a shortened or customised link doesn’t mean it isn’t there. 

That way, stores will have no reason to suspect you or your readers’ integrity, and your verified purchase reviews will remain proudly on your book page. 

The Hashtag Challenge

Will you take up the Hashtag Challenge?

new-twitter-bird-squareI enjoy using Twitter to share great content. It’s pretty straightforward, without the ever-changing parade of increasingly ridiculous rules that seem to accompany Facebook.

There’s really only one thing you need to avoid with Twitter, and that’s posting the same tweet over and over. That will get you suspended.

In reality, that’s a pretty decent rule. Who of us wants to see the same post time and time again? We all appreciate a little variety, and it’s not that hard to change your tweets up.

It’s important to use trending hashtags that people are using for their searches. We need to use hashtags that people are familiar with, and learn to look for, because that is the key way to attract new people to our content.

Hashtag_example

Some of the best ones that I seem to use over and over include:

#BookReview
#BookRecommendations
#WhatToRead
#greatreads
#shortreads

I do wish, though, that certain hashtags were a lot more popular. I’d love to see some of these as popular as #WhatToRead and #BookReview

#LeaveAReview
#SupportAnAuthor
#ReadThis
#ReadABook
#WorthReading

So, I’ve decided I’m going to do something about it and try to make it happen. This is what I’m calling “The Hashtag Challenge”.

I don’t propose that we try to make all of those tags develop a life of their own at the same time. Starting one by one is probably a smarter way to go.

As of today, I’m going to start using #WorthReading in conjunction with high-trending tags like #Authors, #greatreads, #BookReview, #BookRecommendations and #WhatToRead

Maybe if a bunch of us start doing that, we just might achieve something great.
Are you with me?

 

Follow me on Twitter.

How To Avoid Blocked Hashtags On Instagram

Did you know that you aren’t allowed to use the hashtag #books on Instagram?
Until today, I certainly didn’t.

Instagram have been blocking some terms – mostly to do with sexism, sexual content, body shaming and bullying, or so I thought. It’s called a shadowban: posts using blocked tags are less visible than others, and repeated use can result in more definite blocking of posts or accounts.

Surely there’s nothing offensive about #books though? Yet it’s one of the hashtags that will cause your posts to drift into obscurity.

As an author, reader, book reviewer and all-round book nerd, that’s a trap I’ve fallen into more than once, but thankfully my love for tags like #bookstagram and #booklover has been saving my bookish hide more often than I ever realised.

I did find a rather extensive list of hashtags banned by Instagram, courtesy of the great people over at Instavast.com, but I don’t really want to go and consult another site and spend my valuable time reading through horrible words – and some of them are horrible – in order to find out if something relatively innocent is also blocked.

I’d rather be able to check quickly and easily inside the app itself. And that is quite do-able, even if you’re a novice.

Follow these handy and simple instructions to discover if a term you want to use is acceptable without consulting a long list somewhere that may even be out of date by now.

1. When you’re using the Instagram app, click on the search icon. It’s the one that looks like a magnifying glass.

2. Type in the hashtag you want to use. A list of possible tags will come up. So far, it looks like #books is okay.

3. Next, click on the Tags tab of the search window. #books is still there and still looks alright. However…

4. Tap on that tag in the list and scroll down, you will find only a few images, followed by a message that says the tag has been banned because reports have been made regarding inappropriate content.


If you go ahead and use the tag, nobody will see your tag because they can’t find posts using that tag, either. And your other tags might also end up being blocked. So might your account.

Nobody wants to end up there.

So, as authors and book lovers, we need to tag our posts differently so that other book lovers will find our posts.ScreenHunter_439 Mar. 13 19.13

When you click on a tag that is not blocked, you’ll see some further “related” tags that you could use in your posts. Notice, though, that this does not exist for #books.

I’ve slogged through a whole bunch of these “related tags” to find some great hashtags with good popularity that you can use safely – for now, anyway.

Try some of these great tags for your bookish posts:
#bookstagram
#booksofinstagram
#bookworm
#book
#booklover
#booklove
#instabooks
#booklife
#bookish
#instaread
#bookblogger
#bookaddict
#bookphoto
#booknerd
#booknerdigans
#bookstagrammer

If you’re posting images or reviews of books you’ve enjoyed, consider some of these:
#ilovereading
#epicreads
#amreading
#bibliophile
#lovetoread
#bookaddiction
#readingbooks
#readabook
#igreads

My final piece of good news is that if you have been using a blocked hashtag, you can rescue your posts and make them fully visible again.

1. For each post, click on the three dots to the right of your username.

2. Choose edit from the menu.

3. Scroll to your hashtags and change or remove the banned one.

4. Click on ‘done’ and your post will be back to full visibility.

 

Handy hint: if you “like” your own post once you’ve changed it, your post will re-enter the general Instagram feed.
It’s a good idea to do this one or two posts at a time, not all at once, so you don’t flood your followers’ feeds.

Branded Short Links.

Branded short links make your posts instantly recognisable as yours.

Short links like bit.ly/whatever and buff.ly/something are becoming more and more popular. I’ve been using bit.ly as a link shortening service for my social media posts for some time, and have loved the convenience and the ability to personalise links for myself.

Last week, though, I made a significant discovery: I could have my very own short link domain, and use my own branded short links across all my social media. This makes my posts and products more immediately recognisable. It gives me consistent and affordable branding. And it means the short link I want for a particular book or post is never going to have been taken by someone else!

I read a few blogs and website articles about it to make sure it was something that I understood before I signed up, but it’s really not that complicated. I explored a few different sites to see which ones offered the best service, and although they’re all quite similar to one another, I settled on Rebrandly because it’s very simply laid out and easy to use.

Getting hold of my own short domain name was easy. I clicked on the “domains” tab and then on the “New Domain” button. That took me to a page where I could browse domain names relevant to my branding – jvlpoet – so that I could choose whichever one I liked best. There’s a range of prices, and plenty for $2 for the first year. I chose jvlpoet.link for my branded short domain because it seemed the most straightforward, and it’s easy to remember.

2018-03-04 13.33.13

The slashtag is whatever comes after that link. I can use that short domain name and then the slashtag of my choice, which I set up at Rebrandly on the “links” tab. So, jvlpoet.link/nova is the branded short link for the universal link to my book, Nova, in all digital stores. It’s much more personal, and recognisable as mine, than www.books2read.com/jvlnova.

Now that I have set up my branded short links, Rebrandly keeps track of how many clicks each link has received, and when, so I can see how effectively each one is working.

They also offer a range of apps which enable me to synchronise my links on Rebrandly on my phone and tablet, and in conjunction with bit.ly, goo.gl, Clickmeter, Chrome, and all sorts of other services.

This gives me a tightly coordinated approach to branding and publicising my posts across social media, websites, blogs… everywhere. And thus far, all it’s cost me is $2. Even when my domain costs me $14 for the following year, it’s still a bargain for that level of visibility and recognition.

The links I’ve created with bit.ly still work, so I don’t have to rebrand the images or posts I’ve already made. They’re all still great, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with bit.ly’s service. I just like having my name there instead of theirs.

Author’s note: This post is not affiliated with Rebrandly or any of the other services I’ve mentioned. It’s simply my account of my choices and the steps I’ve made in achieving the desired outcome.