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The internet is a big place. Even just writing that sentence gave me a chuckle. Like…no duh, E. The internet is a yuuuuuuuuge place, and we now live in a content and information-saturated digital world. There are infinite options and resources to choose between for everything from where to go to college and how to start a business online, to what to buy your best friend for Christmas and the food you’re going to cook this week (since you can order that on the internet nowadays, too). Same theory applies to Blogland – there are endless considerations on everything from what platform to be on to what to talk about. A Q I’ve gotten pretty often is “what do you invest in for your blog?” slash “how do you know what’s best to invest in/most worth it?” So I’m breaking down the best blogging tools that I invest in for Coming Up Roses, that I’d recommend fo’ you, too!
BoardBooster – BoardBooster is a *ridiculously* helpful tool to boost your Pinterest presence. Pinterest is not a social media platform – it’s a search engine. Pinterest help is an investment in your long term growth, since it’s directly tied to pageviews and bringing new eyes to yo’ website. #Important. My favorite feature of BoardBooster is the loop function, which lets you “loop” pins and re-pins to certain boards of your choice automatically. (Cost dependent on number of pins per month!)
Tailwind – In case ya couldn’t tell by my purchasing decisions, Pinterest is so totally worth the investment. 😉 I have the Plus Plan Account and use Tailwind’s calendar option most frequently, which lets you strategically schedule pins to be automatically pinned out in the future. This is *such* a timesaver. I like to sit down and just schedule out a whole bunch of content, and then I keep things fresh by scheduling pins from new blog posts as they’re published. ($120/year)
Planoly – Planoly might just be my favorite app of all time, so it’s definitely worth it in my book! Planoly is a mobile app for planning your Instagram feed out in advance, but they also have a comprehsnive website for use on desktop/outside the app. You can upload images, as well as placeholders, and drag n’ drop them grid-style to see what your feed will look like different ways. I get it, I get it…for the average joe, having a flawless Instagram aesthetic isn’t all that important. But for blogger babes and business owners, Instagram is THE social media platform to sweat over, just cos it’s such a powerhouse for user engagement and brand awareness alike. Instagramming is like micro-blogging in and of itself, so it’s HELLA crucial to get it right. But Instagram can get annoying and frustrating with its ever-changing algorithm, so honestly, Planoly takes the cake – all the fun of planning out gorgeous creative content without the stress of numbers. Planoly also has an analytics option; it shows you stats on number of likes and comments you’ve received, as well as net growth over any given timeframe, but what I like most is the feature that shows you your top 5 or top 10 posts of a week, month, or year. A FABULOUS function to help you see what your followers react to best! ($7/month)
Iconosquare – I have the PLUS Yearly subscription to Iconosquare so that I have more in-depth access to analytics for Instagram. Besides all of the analytical tools, Iconosquare also has a comment tracker to help you respond to comments on your content right from your computer, a widget that you can use to have your dynamic Instagram feed on your website, and an extension for Google Chrome that shows you data in real time. ($54/year)
Adobe InDesign – I have some Adobe programs, and I use InDesign to create the resources inside my free resource library, The Good Stuff.
Courses – Y’all know that I am ALL for investing in yo’self. And I am the queen of buying courses. I’ve bought so many courses over the years – some good, some not so good. But I 100% believe in investing in your blog. You CANNOT say that you already know everything there is to know about blogging and the internet. Cos…you don’t. The internet is growing infinitely every single day, and influencer marketing is the most effective, new form of marketing to date – it’s dynamic and evolutionary. I think we’re all students in life, and we never really stop learning (if you’re done learning, you’re dead). So I always recommend investing in courses to expand your horizons and learn new tactics and techniques to better your blog! I may be biased, but I’m a big fan of BossPitch: Pitching and (Politely) Persisting the Ultimate Brand Partnerships. Have you heard of it? 😉 I’ve gotten QUITE a few Q’s about when the next course launch is happening, and I’m so happy to say…SOON! If you scroll to the bottom of that original sales page (which is in the process of being updated to include alllllll of the *amazing* success stories from the first class of BossPitch students), you can drop your email in to get on the waitlist for Launch #2. I’d highly recommend that, that way you’re in the loop as soon as launch information is released, so that you don’t miss any free classes or teachings leading up to the course, either!
Style Collective membership – I’m a part of a whole buncha blogging groups and networks, cos I really believe community over competition is the way to go. Most are free and exist more in a find-your-tribe sorta vibe, but Style Collective is a more professional, paid network. Besides the community of women online, SC has live events around the country and a website FULL of resuorces, from blogging tutorials to expert interviews, and from helpful documents to blog-sharing forums. ($99/year)
ConvertKit – I started off with all of my lists on Mailchimp. But Mailchimp is very much not the best option, in my opinion, when you’re trying to grow a professional list. Once I had too many subscribers to The Good Stuff library of *free* resources and the BossPitch waitlist to have a free email account subscription, ConvertKit it was! I lovelovelove that CK allows for seamless automation, so you can set up email sequencse for whenever someone joins your list. You can tag subscribers according to how they got on your list in the first place, or what their interests might be, and you’ve got access to analytics to help you learn more about your audience and their habits. (Pricing dependent on number of subscribers on your list)
Mailerlite – I just switched my list for the #CURation over to Mailerlite, and I’m so happy with the results thus far. A friend of mine suggested I switch, because Mailerlite’s paid options are more cost effective than Mailchimp’s, and the platform is superbly user friendly. I was nervous about being able to exactly replicate my Mailchimp template, since I lovelovelove the layout of the #CURation and always want it to be a literal burst of color + inspiration in your Sunday night inbox. Luckily, I was able to drag n’ drop everything to be exactly how I wanted in, like, half an hour. BLESS. (Pricing dependent on number of subscribers on your list)
Website hosting – If you want to blog seriously, you absolutely positively totally HAVE to own your website. Your blog is the only thing you actually own (since, believe it or not, you don’t own your own Instagram profile or Facebook page). If a social media platform decides to close tomorrow and take all accounts with it…that’s it. You’re donezo. And you canNOT be monetized and working on solely one platform – that’s just stupid. I host through HostGator, and I couldn’t love them more. I have NEVER had a problem. Ever. I have friends on Bluehost among others who I see constantly complaining about website downtime or some glitch or another – and that’s no bueno. HostGator starts at $3.95/month – so affordable! – and what I love most is their support team. Whenever I’ve called in with a Q, they are so kind, so patient, and so determined to figure everything out for me AND leave me feeling actually answered. One time my website crashed because of a surge of traffic from a viral blog post, and after about 10 minutes, it was back up and running smoothly. I really can’t say enough good things about them! ($3.95/month)
Blog design/design support – Y’all. You NEED to have a beautiful blog design. They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but we TOTALLY judge websites by their designs. It’s human nature! If the average attention span is 8 seconds or less, you have 8 seconds or less to completely wow someone before they click off of your website, deeming it not for them. In case you were wondering…8 seconds is not enough time to read a blog post. Henceforth, DESIGN MATTERS. I noticed a *world* of difference when I actually paid the bigger bucks to completely redesign + strategize the look and layout of CUR. (And hopefully ya lovelovelove it – haha!). Besides focusing on user experience of your readers, remember that brands are run by people who are checking out your site the same as loyal followers! They need to be wowed right off the bat, too, in order to have them wanting to recommend your website as a space and hub to promote their products or services.
Custom domain – When you’re hosting your own website and not on a free blogging platform anymore, you’re going to need to purchase your domain name (ie, the “cominguprosestheblog” part of “cominguprosestheblog.com.”
Gmail for work – I pay to have Google for Work, because I have my own domain email address (firstname.lastname@example.org) AND amazing customer support. Yannno how hard it is otherwise to get in touch with the folks at Google?? I feel like everyone and their mother is trying to phone them. I consider Google for Work to be one of the best blogging tools, because some Q’s are just too big and too techy for your own good. I’m fine paying for it, because since most of my income comes as a result of working my inbox, I need to ensure everything with my email is completely up to snuff. Ain’t nobody got time to have emails lost in cyberspace!
Photography – Let me preface this bullet by saying I do not pay for photography. I know some bloggers absolutely swear by paid-for photography, but here’s the deal: I don’t think it’s about how much you pay for it. I think it’s about who’s using the camera, and what camera that is. While I don’t invest in a paid professional photographer regularly, I *have* invested in a kickass camera, lighting equipment, lenses, and more so that I have tools for success. Beyond that, I shoot with my mom. My mom is a nurse by trade, but she LOVES getting creative with CUR, and she has read so many tutorials at this point, she’s basically a pro. My view is this: You can spend hundreds (or thousands) of dollars on a professional photographer, but you’re not comfortable shooting with them…you’ll look stiff and rigid and the photos won’t be good. You can have a professional photographer go through and “edit” all of the pictures, but if they’re not on brand for your aesthetic, or if they end up looking overly done up, or if you just don’t like the end product…no bueno. I’m SO comfortable shooting with my mom. And I am NOOOO model. HA. I mean, have you seen my bloopers? 😉 So while I don’t personally invest in paying pro photographers regularly, I DO invest in my equipment, and I DO invest *time* in learning how to use it all the right way. That’s the kicker. You can’t just invest in a quality camera and expect to have perfect imagery. You have to really be dedicated, I’ve learned, to learning and knowing what sorts of imagery you lovelovelove and need to tell the stories you’re trying to tell. I also edit everything myself, so you have to be able + willing to sit down and exercise your eye for photography until you’re happy with the results.
And I *think* that’s it for now – the best blogging tools that I invest in myself, and that I’d recommend to any aspiring bloggers in the house. Since I’ve gone full time with CUR, all of the above have been all the more important, too. So these are the key tools I swear by everyday!
What are the best blogging tools you’ve invested in yourself?
If you’re a fellow blogger, what are the best blogging tools that you swear by everyday? Do you use any of the same tools as me? I’d lovelovelove to hear what works for y’all, since we know I’m *all* for investing in thyself. 😉
P.S. Have you entered to win $1,000 to Target here, or a spring break giveaway here yet? And here’s a NEW giveaway for y’all to enter! I’ve teamed up with some fabulous blogging friends of mine to give one of ya an $850 Nordstrom Gift Card, just in time for some spring shopping. #BlessUp. Get entry per completion in the Rafflecopter widget below. Open internationally, through 3/20. Winner will be announced here on the widget at its close. GOOD LUCK.