Tools for Your Blogging Toolbox

Blogging takes commitment, planning, and follow-through. Some bloggers write every day, some a few times a week, others once a week, and some use a team approach.  Regardless of how often you write, chances are good, the time will come when you’ll be looking for just the right tool to get the job done.

Book & Blog Recommendations

Writing Tools ★★★★
by Roy Peter Clark
Clark is described as a “writer who teaches and a teacher who writes,” which becomes immediately evident.  The book contains 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer which are categorized into four parts:

Nuts and Bolts: strategies for making meaning at the word, sentence, and paragraph levels
Special Effects: tools of economy, clarity, originality, and persuasion
Blueprints: ways of organizing and building stories and reports
Useful Habits: routines for living a life of productive writing

Each tool is not only instructive but also readable and engaging. Clark provides samples from more than two hundred well-known writers, and gives us a look into their use of language, syntax, rhetoric, and critical thinking.  He also culls advice from some of the best American writing teachers, and from conversations he’s had with professional writers and editors.

I read this book from front to back, and applied many of the tools this past week while I was working on a ten page essay.  It was as if I had a friendly editor looking over my shoulder.  You can obtain information about Clark’s tools online, and while it’s a good start, I think you’ll find it well worth the investment to buy the book, and keep it within arm’s reach on your desk, or wherever you write.

Writers Toolbox: 35 Best Tools for Writing Online ★★★★
by Paul Glazowski
Glazowski provides a great list of tools in eight different categories, for you to pick and choose from.

  1. word processing
  2. blogging
  3. microblogging
  4. jotting notes
  5. social networks
  6. jobs and employment resources
  7. book fairs/shows
  8. iphone apps

Blogging Toolbox: 120 +Resources for Bloggers ★★★★
by Mashable Team
The Mashable Team provides a list of great technical resources:

  1. blogs about blogging, and tips for your blogs
  2. blog search engines
  3. blog statistics & analysis
  4. spreading the word
  5. blog polls

Brand and Social Media Monitoring with Free Widgets ★★★★
by Dave Caruso
Caruso provides a list of free tools to help monitor and track blogs, forum comments, search engine placement, live hits to your site (including origin) and more.  These free tools for both Mac and PC’s  replicate features available through most high-price monitoring packages. Great resources to know about and use!

The Describer’s Dictionary ★★★★
by David Grambs
If you’ve ever found yourself trying to find a stronger more visual description then the first one which pops into your head, then this book is for you. The more you write, the more descriptive you need to be. Detailed description is what makes writing sing. Take a look at some of your favorite books, essays, and blog posts, and notice what draws you in, and makes you want to keep reading. Often it’s more then just the “facts”, it’s the way the writer has carefully chosen the words, made you see the plot, focus of the story.

WhiteHouse.gov: Communication, Transparency & Participation

A short time after Barack Obama was sworn in, a new website for the White House went live, WhiteHouse.gov.  Macon Phillips, the Director of New Media for the White House posted a description on the site’s blog: “Millions of Americans have powered President Obama’s journey to the White House, many taking advantage of the internet to play a role in shaping our country’s future. WhiteHouse.gov is just the beginning of the new administration’s efforts to expand and deepen this online engagement.”

The new media efforts will center around communication, transparency, and participation with: a briefing room, a blog (RSS feed), and sign-up for e-mail updates from the President and his administration, policy priority pages, and the publishing of all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, allowing the public to review and comment before the President signs it.

WhiteHouse.gov includes commenting via a form, inviting suggestions about what would be valuable uses of WhiteHouse.gov.  The site includes videos and slideshows, encouraging interaction and participation in ways never used by any President before.

The new site, WhiteHouse.gov, is wonderful. I’m thrilled to see the ways in which President Obama and his administration have embraced “new media”.  Kudos to Macon Phillips, Director for New Media, and team. This is just the push new/social/web 2.0 media needed!

How to get the most out of 140 Characters

Depending on where you sit– how you approach micro-blogging with Twitter, will differ. After all, when you only have 140 characters, you need to get the most bang for your buck. Some tweets hit the nail on the head, make a point, provide useful information and make a difference.

A good reference on Twitter can be found on The Wall Street Journal’s Blog Post, “Birds of a Feather Twitter Together.”

Below are some interesting recent examples of how Twitter has been used:

AT& T used Twitter to provide an update regarding service:
“Service to impacted Midwest customers should now be restored.”

American Red Cross used Twitter to communicate news about the plane crash in New York.
“NY Plane Crash: News reports indicate that family members can call 1-800-679-8215 for information on their loved ones.”

Starbucks tied Twitter messaging in with posts on their blog regarding volunteering in your community:
“Pledge to volunteer in your community for 5 hours we’ll give you a free cup of coffee.”

President Obama used Twitter to communicate ways to honor Dr. Martin Luther King.
“is asking you to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr by volunteering in your area. Visit http://USAservice.org or text SERVE to 56333 for info.”

Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh used twitter to communicate personal observations about the Inauguration.
“Amazing view at Inauguration, looking towards Washington monument seeing more people together in one place than ever seen before in my life.”

JetBlue used Twitter for weather advisory:
“Winter weather in the Northeast may cause delays or cancellations. Check your flight’s status at http://www.jetblue.com/flig”

Lee Odden used Twitter to communicate business statistics:
New Study by Nielsen: 82% consumers & small biz use search but only 44% small biz have web sites & 1/2 spend less than 10% of mktg $ online.”

Apple Inc. used Twitter to communicate company news:
“By the end of the quarter, all 10 million songs will be DRM-free.”

If you’re not sure how to use Twitter to communicate your message, you may want to follow some twitter pages for awhile to see how others are using it. If you’re looking for some suggestions of businesses to follow, Twibs can help.

Have a recommendation of a business, non-profit, or cause-related twitter to follow?  Let us know.

Social Media: Lessons for 2009 and Beyond

Yesterday’s Boston Globe magazine had an exceptional article, “The Geeks Behind Obama’s Web Strategy“ by David Talbot, chief correspondent at Technology Review magazine.  The piece discusses the web strategy and social-networking features of my.barackobama.com–referred to as, MyBO, and the builders of the “digital backbone”, Franklin-Hodge and team at Blue State Digital.

Obama’s web-strategy should serve as inspiration to businesses, non-profit organizations, and all individuals who want to communicate with the world about the causes they care so deeply about.  Not only did the campaign’s web strategy deliver ground-breaking results, it has provided technological lessons we all can learn from–and evidence to the social media naysayers who continue to debate and negate the role of social media. I think it’s fair to say, social media has moved from “new” media to the media for communicating in 2009 and beyond.

Below are some of the facts and results gleaned from Talbot’s piece:

  • Obama’s campaign platform promised using technology to create a new level of transparency, accountability, and participation
  • Obama took online campaigning to a new level with an e-campaign which included not only MyBO but the “powerful leveraging of everything from text-messaging to YouTube video propagation to supporter networks on platforms like Facebook”
  • Today more then 40 million Americans have Facebook accounts
  • Franklin-Hodge said that the Obama campaign embraced their approach, and recognized the ways in which technology could be a “transformative force”

Features of my.barackobama.com(MyBO) included:

  • Donate by clicking a button
  • Find area house parties by viewing maps displaying locations and details
  • Information to assist site visitors so they could organize their own event
  • Downloadable Obama messsage of the day
  • Assistance for visitors to establish fund-raising efforts, and watch “thermometer” rise
  • Receive an email signed by everyone from Michelle Obama to Al Gore
  • Click of a button allowing volunteers to make calls to voters

Results:

  • In the four days before Election Day, thousands of volunteers used MyBO to make more then 3 million calls
  • The Web was to Obama what television was to John F. Kennedy
  • Obama’s campaign garnered $500 million in online donations from more then 3 million people
  • Within MyBO, supporters’ self-directed fund-raising efforts raked in $30 million from 70,000 individuals
  • People spent 14 million hours watching campaign-related Obama videos on YouTube–50 million views in all
  • Obama’s radio addresses are now also YouTube video addresses
  • The Obama campaign collected the email addresses of 13 million supporters and equally important, knows a great deal about them, thanks to their web activities: what issues they care about, what organizing and donating they’ve done, who belongs to their social networks
  • In the final two months of the campaign, American voters provided 223 million pieces of data about themselves to callers and canvassers

Personally, I’m counting the days to Barack Obama’s inauguration as the 44th President of the United States.  I know there’s a lot of hard work in the days which lie ahead.  As a believer in social media, I’m very excited about the ways in which we can use the lessons learned from Obama’s campaign, and implement social networking strategies to help businesses, non-profits and causes– communicate more effectively, and get us back on our collective feet.

Finding Social Content: A Good Way to Begin 2009

Monday mornings can often be challenging, especially when it’s the beginning of a full week back at work after a long holiday hiatus, not to mention, the first month of a new year.  Lee Odden’s post, 6 Social Search Engines to Start 2009, was exactly the jump-start I needed this morning.

Odden references Delver, WhosTalking?, Samepoint, Socialmention, Serph, and OneRiot for searching multiple sources of social content on the web.  The tools drill down, across, and over –and cover a lot of social content terrain.

Searches on these six tools are filled with rich discoveries.  If you’ve been limiting your searches to the likes of Google, Yahoo, MSN, Live, AOL…there’s never a better time then the present to broaden your horizons.