Thursday, February 28, 2013

Blog Tips: Social Media

 So you have your blog up and running. Your followers are slowly trickling in, slower than you might like but they are there. I am sure you are wondering, "How do I get my blog out for all to see??!" Well this is where Social Media comes in. Don't be scared, social media will be come your partner in crime in this blogging world! It's time to embrace it and use it to your advantage. I like to think of social media as free advertisement in away, you just have to know how to use it to receive it's full benefits.

 I will share some tips and tricks for a few of the major social media outlets that are out there and how you can use them to gain more traffic to your lovely blog.

Facebook
 We all know about Facebook, unless you live under a rock of course. If you haven't already, you should get yourself a Facebook Fan Page. Yes, you now have FANS! Creating a page for your blog is a great way to help share with others your posts and direct traffic back to your blog. But it is also a way for you to stay connected with your readers, where you can ask questions, share fun things/ideas and such.
When you get to this create a page section, you want to use the Brand or Product section. You will then select Website in the drop down window and then type in your blog name in the allowed area, agree with the Facebook terms and TADA! You have a fan page. From there Facebook guides you through how to get it all set up: how to post, invite friends to be fans, update information, add a picture and cover photo, etc.

 I suggest that you keep the same design scheme you have on your blog over on you Facebook page.  If your blog and Facebook page look completely different, it might be confusing and your readers might not think they even go together, which might mean less followers. Use the same photo you have on your blog as your profile picture, if they see your photo they will automatically connect the 2. Also, try and have your blog header as your cover photo. You can easily do this through PicMonkey:
 You can arrange the photos to your liking, until you think it reflects the look on your blog. Then plug it in on your fan page. PicMonkey's FB Cover is perfect, because the size is perfect so your image wont look wonky or distorted once you have uploaded it.
 Now you can start sharing your page to share all your posts. Just copy and past the post's URL link into your status area. I like to give my new posts a brief description with something to draw the reader in to want to read more, but don't give to much away, that's what the entire blog post is for. Once you start gaining more fans, you can start interacting with them more. Stuck on what to write for a new blog post, ask them a question and get feedback, this is a great way to get your brain going.
 When you are logged into you fan page account (not your personal) go and like other blog's fan pages, and comment on their pages with your blog account. It's a great way for not only the other bloggers to see you have a page, but also for those bloggers fans to see it too. Which then will direct traffic to your Facebook page, which will eventually mean back to your blog. Win/Win situation!

Twitter
 Twitter is probably one of the best known social media tools used by bloggers. It's another great way to stay connected and follow all your favorite blogs. When starting up a Twitter account or if you already have one, you want your Twitter handle to go with your blog (just like your Facebook page). The nice thing about if you already have an account, you can easily change it to match your blogs name. If they already know your blog name, when they go to interact with you via Twitter they will automatically think to type in your blog name. So if it's different, they may have a hard time finding you or even just remembering what it is. For example: My blog name is Antlers & Roses so my Twitter handle is @antlersandroses.
 Like I mentioned above with keeping the same design going on your Facebook page, you're going to want to do the same on Twitter too. Since starting my Twitter account a few years back, they have made some great changes which allows you to design your profile page.
 I used my header as my background and the same photo that I have on my blog. You can then plug in your blog address to link it all back to your blog, home base!
 Now when sharing your posts, I have found that using Bitly to shorten my URL posts is the best method. Not only does it shorten your link and help you track clicks, but it leaves you more room to add more info with in that 140 character window. If you don't use Bitly, definitely check it out.
 Of course interaction with others on Twitter is always a must. I pop on through out the day to see what's new and reply back to those who have caught my attention. I have made new "friends" on Twitter by just browsing and checking out what's "happening" in the world of Twitter, which then led me to find their blogs and in turn them following mine.
 Another great thing on Twitter is you can do fun shout outs to either your followers or to those who have ad spaces on your blog (if you are doing them). Most of them that I have noticed tend to fall on a Friday, Follow Friday. Use the hash tag #FF and tag all of those wonderful blogs who you want to show some love too! Now of course you can do this any day of the week, not just Friday. We all love getting special shout outs when it's unexpected too.

Pinterest
 Pinterest, the best thing since sliced bread! Or as my Husband likes to call it, a ridiculous waste of time (he's obviously never used it before!) Pinterest is the best way to keep all those projects that are floating around the web organized and in one easy accessible spot. I am sure you have tons of boards for various things; DIY, Food, Fashion, Hair & Make Up, Organizing... The list can go on and on really. Now it's time to use Pinterest to your advantage!
 If you don't already have a special board for you blog alone, then you need to! I have mine named after my blog itself which keeps it pretty easy to find when pinning and those that are following that board know that that board contains posts directly from my blog. When ever you have a new post that you feel is "Pin Worthy" go ahead and pin it to your blog board! I usually title with with "New Post" and a brief description for it too. Now what I also do, that I have seen that some others don't agree with, is I post it to other boards it applies to. Say it's a DIY post then I will also pin it to my DIY board. If it contains some good information as well, I will also pin it to my Good To Know board as well. Some say that this is Pinterest spam, and that no one wants to see the same pin pinned 5 different times. But most of the time those that are following you, aren't following all your boards. Say you only pin that DIY project only onto your Blog board and there are say 20 people who only follow your DIY board and don't follow your Blog board, then you are missing out sharing this post with those 20 people. It's all a matter of opinion on how much to pin or not. Use your own judgement.

Instagram
 Instagram is probably one of my MOST favorite of all Social Media! I am constantly on there posting pictures of the kids, what's new, the typical outfit post, and of course information on new blog posts! Yes, use Instagram to share your blog posts! Now of course you're going to want to get your Instagram account to mesh with all of your other media outlets. Same picture, add your blog URL, you know the drill. I find it's best to post what best reflects your blog. So I blog about family, creative projects, fashion outfits, home life. So I try make sure my photos reflect that.
 Now like I mentioned, you can also share your blog post through your Intsagram photos. Most of the posts I share from my blog have pictures in them. So I get on my blog through Safari and save the picture I want to share. Then load it on to Instagram with a brief description and then let those know who are viewing the picture that I have a link to my blog in my profile.
Example:
Also, if you haven't started using Hash Tags yet, you need to start. Hash tags are key words used for searching specific things. As you can see I used the hash tags #blog #blogger #blogpost #blogging #antlersandroses When some one is searching these hash tags on Instagram (and/or Twitter) this photo will be in the list of results. Which then leads them to see that I have a link for them to check out (my blog). If your profile is private however, hash tags will not benefit you because your account is private and photos cannot be viewed by those who are searching.
 Sometimes you might write up a post that doesn't contain a photo. So how do you share that you have a new blog post?? Take a photo that you feel reflects that post. You can get really creative with it too, something that is eye catching always draws in those who want to find out more about the photo.

 I think I covered the basics to getting started with Social Media. There really is no right or wrong way to go about it. It's really about what works for you. Don't be scared to follow others and interact by commenting or "liking". It's all about getting your foot in the door to get you and your blog out there and noticed! And now that you have all your media accounts set up, you can create Media buttons for your blog that will direct  followers to which ever social media you are using. We can share all that in a different post!

If there was a topic that pertains to Social Media that wasn't talked about but you would like to know more or you just have questions you would like answered, feel free to leave a comment below!


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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Blog Tips: Blog Button Etiquette


Last week I shared with you how to make a blog button. Today I would like to share a little more in depth on that blog button so you can get the most out of it and make it look good, not lame. 

The first thing you need to keep in mind when you make/design your button is that it is a form of advertisement for your blog. Much like the billboards you see when driving on the freeway or picture ads in the magazines when you flip through them, your button is an image that is selling your blog. You want to make a button or two that represents your blog and you, so of course you want it to be the best. And remember that your button will be hanging out on someone's sidebar so making something that looks good is beneficial. 

There are thousands upon thousands of blogs out there all with their own design in mind. That means that their sidebars are different than that of another blogs size-wise and their vision for the size ads they choose to display are different, too. When I visit a blog and have finished catching up on my weekly reads, I head on over to their sidebar to check out their sponsors. Many times when scrolling through the ads I have come across a button that is smooshed and out of proportion. And that, right there, makes me not want to visit that blog; because it is not appealing nor attractive to me. So when you go out seeking to sponsor a blog, please pay attention to their size options. You may have made a button that is 300x300, but the spot you're looking to sponsor is a 300x150 size. Do not upload or submit a button that is not the ad spots actual size! 

So lets say this is the button you have:

300x300 size
But the ad spot you are wanting to purchase is 300x150. This is what your button will look like if you do not adjust it's proportions before uploading:

300x150 size

Is that attractive? Is that button going to make you want to visit the blog? No. It may make you stop and stare for a moment, but I would just be shaking my head. You do not want a button like that representing your blog. For me, it doesn't say much about the person who submitted that button in the first place. Yes, blogging takes up a lot of time and who wants to mess around with making new buttons in the first place? But when you really think about it, blogging isn't just about sitting behind your screen typing away; it's about social networking and getting yourself out there too. And advertising your blog is the biggest way to do that. So why not take some time to alter your button before you upload and submit? {P.S. The way to do that with a button like above is to simply remake it using the tutorial I gave you to the exact proportions}.

Now, if you have a picture for a button that you would like to submit:

300x300 size
But the ad spot you are wanting to purchase is 300x150. This is what your button will look like if you do not adjust it's proportions before uploading:


300x150 size
Though that looks absolutely hilarious, that is only what it will look like; a joke. So unless you're advertising for MADtv, you want to avoid doing this. How you ask? There are two ways and they're both pretty simple.

Open your image in PicMonkey or Pixlr {or any other photo editing program}. Select crop and crop your image to half the image size in height. So the original button image is 300 {width} x 300 {height} you'll crop the height in half which will make it look like this {depending on where your cropped area is}:

300x150 size
Another way that you can crop your image to the size you want is to crop the original photo that would be proportionate of a 300x150 size {ie: 600x300 or 850x425}. Original photo:

650x650 size
And here is it cropped to proportion:

650x325 size
Now that you have cropped the original photo to proportion, resize it to 300x150 {be sure to check 'keep proportion'}:

300x150 size
And once your photo is cropped to its size, you can then decorate it with your blog name and maybe a cute label or two to really make it your own {how to do this is found in the tutorial from last week}. You will then have a button that you can feel proud to hang out on another bloggers sidebar!

Making these simple adjustments take just a few minutes, are free, and very simple to do and they will benefit you and your blog in the long run. 

Oh and one last thing; if you are a blogger and are reviewing your paid sponsors before approving their ads and you see a smooshed up button... please, please send them a quick email to have them submit a proportionate button before you can approve it. There is no harm in asking because they may look a little silly for submitting one, but you'll look pretty silly approving and displaying one as well. I know that I like my ads on my sidebar to look proportionate and pretty; I'm sure you do too! 

If you need help making a blog button, resizing a blog button, or any other type of advertising/sponsorship help at all, please leave us a comment below or send us an email at b.you.blog@gmail.com. 


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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Be In Control Of Your Photo Apps

So...who takes photos upon photos on their nifty cell phone?! {Raises hand} I do & I'm pretty positive many bloggers do as well. Owning a "smartphone" is in my opinion a necessity for a blogger and many of us including myself are left questioning which apps are best for image editing and just taking photographs. In this post I will introduce some of my favorites as well as other popular apps in the digital world today. 
Like Heidi (below post) exclaims, at some point any blogger will probably need to take a photo. Many of you may not have access to a DSLR or even a point n' shoot camera and strictly rely on a camera phone and hopefully this will help out. 


Apps in general are sometimes hit or miss and that can definitely be applied to the photography apps on the market. I've downloaded and uninstalled many, loved some and almost threw my phone out the door because of others. So how do you choose the right app(s)? Luckily many are free so you can easily download and test out each app. Hopefully this post will spare you the trail and error process like my photo friends & I have already gone through!
*Warning: Please do not think that the number system I'm using is a rating system!

-Be Your Own Editor-

1. VSCO CAM | IPHONE | $.99
An easy to use app made for the photographer that loves realistic, film images. The app is a simplistic design based off of their VSCO Film Packs for photographers, and most professional photographers I know use this app to process their images. It is for quick and easy editing & sharing.
10 filters, ability to adjust brightness and contrast plus add grain
1 con - not able to crop

2. AFTERGLOW | IPHONE | $.99
Ashley's favorite app! :) Afterglow offers many textures, filters, adjustment tools that many bloggers must have. It allows the user to be more creative and a great perk is that they run guest filters; which means more filters will be added often (many apps do not accept user designed ideas).
30+ filters, ability to use adjustment tools and add effects
No cons

3. SNAPSEED | IPHONE & DROID | FREE
Since I do not have an iPhone, this is my "start point" to every photograph I take. It supports high resolution files and even RAW images on an iPad. Snapsneed does just about everything from adjusting an image's brightness to adding and tweeking certain filters.
Selective adjusting, straighten and crop images, filters which you can adjust strength and/or effects
1 con - not many frame options

4. PIXLR EXPRESS | IPHONE & DROID | FREE
My favorite app for my Samsung Galaxy s3. Why? Because the wide variety of effects and you can adjust with many options similar to Pixlr's free online editor. For a free app it really is incredible because it offers hundreds of options!
About 600 different options that are easy to use, includes an autofix tool that actually works, I use this all the time, check out the Pixlr-O-Matic
1 con - be careful if you hit the "back" button on your phone, it will exit the image you are currently working on without any warning!

5. VIGNETTE | DROID | $2.60
This app has been on the Android Market for awhile and it has proven to be one of the top photo apps. When opened you go into their camera interface which offers many on the go adjustments before you even take your first photo. After the photo is taken you can compose it with different effects based on films, popular effects and/or basic options.
Save your favorite effects (create presets basically), own camera interface, nice frames/borders, simple to drastic effects, double exposures
1 con - cost (but there is a free demo)

____

That is all for now...There are many more apps out there so my advice is to (if free) test them all before purchasing any pro versions. The above 5 are what I have used or my friends use that come highly recommended.

Do you currently use any of these photo apps? Do you use a different one? Tell us your favorite cell phone photo app!
















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Monday, February 25, 2013

Getting to Know You: Topics

Heidi, myself and the contributors are all able to bring a little something different to the table in each of our posts to talk about a wide variety of topics. We write on behalf of experience and what is current. Lots of our content are our own opinions, some come from what has been proven over time, but all of it is meant to help out you as a blogger and even beyond that. Our vision for B.You is big and we, of course, want to be successful all the way around. But we can't do it without you! 

So we all would like to know: What topics would you like covered on B.You? Do you need help with blog content? Photos? Signatures? Blog hopping? Hosting giveaways? Anything! What can we write about that will help you blog for you? 

You can leave us a comment below or send us an email at b.you.blog {at} gmail {dot} com. 

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Shop Basics: Tips On Using Your Blog to Advertise Your Shop


You have a shop and wonder if you should have a blog to share your work and creations? Yes!
Advertising is key to every business; if you don’t advertise how would anyone know who you are? Blogging is great for getting your name and product out there and a way to show people who you are behind the machine, glue gun, camera or jewelry pliers {in my case!} I am going to share with you some tips on how to utilize a blog as free (yes, free!) advertisement for your shop.

Here’s my Top 10:
1. Make sure your shop and blog have the same name. It’ll be easier for people to remember and find you.
2. Build a relationship; you need to interact with your readers. Don't be afraid to be yourself.
3. Find your Community and join Blog link ups. If you don’t know where to start remember Google and Pinterest are your friends. Find those creative link ups to gain more views by people with similar interests. {We will be sharing a list of blog hops and link ups next week, so look for those!}
4. Get a button for your blog or shop. You can make one on PicMonkey like Ashley showed you here. If you don’t have time to make one, you can find a Seller on Etsy to design one for you inexpensively. You’ll be able to use it to advertise on other blogs and readers can grab it off your blog and put it on theirs.
5. If you want to swap buttons with other bloggers make sure you do your research. Don’t agree just because they asked you. You want to make sure their blog reflects the same values as yours and shares a similar audience.
6. It does take Money to make Money. Find a blog you have the same views with and see if they have an option of advertising on their blog. I do recommend this, but don’t go out and buy ad space on every blog you come across. It’s not Monopoly; you need to make sure you’re not spending more than you’re making in the long run.
7. If you decide to offer advertising for other blogs don’t sell yourself short. A popular hosting website to use is Passionfruit Ads. It’s easy to put the plugin on your blog with your prices of ad space you offer next to it.
8. Periodically have giveaways. It doesn’t have to be an expensive item from your shop. This will drive traffic into your blog and shop. For my giveaways I use Rafflecopter it’s a great tool to use and free.
9. Be consistent, you get back what you put in to it.
10. Get Google analytics; it's a free tool that shows what search keywords they searched for to get to your blog, what website they entered your blog from, how long they were on your blog, and so much more. It will help you put together your posts more efficiently in that more posts will get more hits when you research the information that brought them to your blog in the first place. People on your blog=people in your shop=sales!

Do you have a shop you'd like to share? A blog as well? Let us know below so we can come check you out!

 photo byoushannonsig_zpsabb90a6f.jpg












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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Be an Encouragement



We've all been there- you worked long and hard on a blog post, poured all your (figurative) blood sweat and (maybe literal?) tears into the meat of what you're sharing, and just as quickly as you publish you get a nasty comment back. Boom...your blogging self esteem falls through the floor.

I know this feeling so well, friends. In fact, it just happened to me last month. Not even joking, I literally spent 3 good whole days testing, retesting, photographing, editing, and composing a recipe blog post only to have some of the nastiest comments I've seen written within like 2 hours of it being up. I mean, really? The best part? It was "signed" as "Anonymous". Oh Anonymous, how you make me sad. Thank goodness for comment moderation! I hope you all have that option going on. If not, click that box! You definitely will want to start moderating your comments (ie approving them before they're published)- not only for the totally uncalled for posts, but also for spam- which sadly, happens in your comment feed.

Anyway, here's the meat of what I'm getting at- blogging is hard work. Like, very very hard work. Bloggers will sometimes pull all nighters, bloggers will work without breaks, bloggers ARE WORKING in general. Yeah you- if you're a blogger- what you're doing is indeed work! :) That being said- when interacting with each other, all of us bloggers need to make sure what we're putting out is encouragementBe an encouragement in the blogging community.

Blogging community? Oh yes. See, whether you knew it or not- bloggers are a part of this wonderful tight knit, creative community. Or at least we all should strive to be. Think about what it means to be in a community: There (should be) support, love, encouraging words, positive interactions, shared laughs and shared sadness. We are all allowing each other to be a part of our life and world. The more open we are means the more vulnerable we are, which isn't necessarily a bad thing. In a community we know each other, we listen to each other, we interact with each other...sometimes on a daily basis.

This is what blogging should be about. As bloggers, we should really strive to support our blogging sisters and brothers. Make our interactions with each other uplifting. Encourage them with kind comments on their blogs, if applicable- constructive criticism (done always in love), positive interactions via their social media sites, etc. Sort of follow that "do unto others as you would like to be done unto you" thing. Remember, we are all real human beings, with real human emotions. Feelings can get hurt.

And this is the absolute truth- its a community! Not a place for competition, not a place where streams of inappropriate and rude criticism flow, and not a place for harshness. Nor should it be a place for you to create such a thing!

Also, blogging should definitely not become a vice for you to leave feeling "less than" or not good enough. There's a temptation to browse others' "better" blogs where big time advertisers are on the front page, they have one kwazillion GFC followers, and 6 million comments per post. Their life looks perfect, kids are always best behaved, house looks straight from Country Living Magazine, etc. You know what I mean. Well that's them. That's their life. It's not yours perhaps and certainly isn't mine. It doesn't mean you are a less than blogger, it means you're not them. Don't become discouraged when viewing their blog space, rather see it as inspiration! Get inspired by things you see and like! Speaking to myself here as well. I am so guilty of browsing Pinterest and my "favorite" blogs only to leave going, "Shoot. My blog basically is the worst! I only get one or two posts up a week while they do every single day! My home page isn't a $5,000 paid graphic designer made page! WHAT'S WRONG WITH ME?!" The truth? Nothing! Nothing is wrong with me- I'm just not them. Neither are you. We are to make a home out of our blog- make it a place others feel at home! Make it somewhere you'd love to visit. Be friendly, be REAL, be honest, and as much as possible be open. And that's it. Nothing more and nothing less. Please leave all competition at the metaphorical door. Do what makes YOU happy and what YOU love to do. It's your blog, by the way.

Unfortunately competition and nastiness exists. Why? Because there are what I like to refer to as "Blogging Wolves in Sheep's Clothing". Although it would be lovely to only have encouragement and positive loving people around, thats not the real case. There are those few that for whatever reason, like to break down, discourage, be rude, jealous, whatever- and take it out on you. Sometimes a mean comment will happen. Sometimes your picture will be stolen. Sometimes you'll lay in bed wishing you never blogged in the first place. Remember- these things are just lies. Their sole purpose is to bring you down. Don't let them win. And seriously, now's the time to really get into that blogging community you've created and surround yourself with your blogging friends.

We're to lean on each other. We're to be joyous with one another's successes and cry with one another when life gives us some storms. We are to love one another. Blogs should be a place to feel at home and get inspired by other moms (or dads) or people who are in your same shoes with your same interests. It should be a place to meet someone new, click and become friends, and share in each other's lives.

Blogs should be intimately inspiring.

Most importantly have fun bloggin. It's what it's supposed to be- fun. Sure it's work- but work can be fun right? Don't lose sleep over your blog. Be inspired with your blog. Don't lose time with your husband and babies. Work when you can (maybe during nap time?) Spend as much time as your life permits, and nothing more. Don't compare yourselves to the other blogs out there and don't think yourself less than them. Remember, look at others' and be inspired. I guess that goes in life as well...but that's a whole other blog post for another day.

Showcase yourself and your friends! Showcase what a neat person you are or what super neat deal you just scored! Show your followers that you're just like them. Be personable. Be identifiable. Be real.





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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Blog Basics: Design 101



Now that you've joined the blogging world, I bet you're wondering how to get yours personalized. There are a ton of different designs and layouts out there that it can almost make your head spin. Even between all of the contributors blogs, we all have different designs, layouts, fonts, colours etc. This is the beauty to the blog world! Your blog is a way to express yourself through every detail that is put on there. 

It also means there's so much choice & variety that it's easy to get caught up in all the cool things you can do to personalize your blog. There are some basic blog design tips that can help make your blog appear more professional and aesthetically pleasing to your readers. These tips can be applied to any blog, whether you designed your own site or hired someone else to do it for you.

Basic Blog Design:

  • Use a clean font that is easy to read and use the same font throughout the post. It's tempting to get those funky fresh fonts but they can be tiresome when reading longer chunks of text. Use something simple for the bulk of your post like Verdana or Georgia. Use a cool font in place like the post title, widgets in your sidebar, page tabs, etc.
  • Use a simple background. A lot of blogs, including my own, use just simple white backgrounds. By using a clean background you are directing the focus of your blog to the posts and not distracting the reader. It also makes your text easier to read. If you choose to use a background image, DO choose one that is not too busy and doesn't distract from your content.
  • Choose a color scheme for your blog and stick to it. By weaving the same color palette throughout your blog it creates an overall consistent look and defines your blog's brand. Try to stick to 3-4 colors at most to ensure that your blog doesn't look disorganized or overwhelming. Use these colors throughout your blog in places like your header, social media buttons, links, dividers, buttons, etc.
  • Align your paragraphs either left-justified or full justified. Left-justified is the typical alignment we all use where your text is all aligned on the left margin. Full justified is when the paragraph is aligned to the left, but all spacing and wording is adjusted so the text falls flush with both margins. You can see examples of left justified here and full justified here. These formats are easier to read and don't take as much effort for your readers to search for the start of the next sentence. This seems insignificant, but it makes a reader want to read on more if it's less work on their eyes. Centered and right justified are tempting, but these can be harder to follow while reading.
  • Try to format your pictures to be the same widths throughout your post. Having all your photos the same width creates a cohesive look while producing a better flow to the post. Of course not all photos can be the same size, especially if you are using sourced images, but try to do this as often as possible.
  • Express who YOU are through your design! Ultimately your blog should be a reflection of you, your point of view and your creativity. 
By using some of these design tips, combined with your individual style & taste you can create a blog that is both visually appealing and true to you. Remember, these are all just tips - there are no hard & fast rules to blog design. If you really like to do something a certain way, there's no one stopping you! These are just tips after all ;)

If you have any questions or looking for some help, leave us a comment! We'd love to help a fellow blogger out =)



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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blog Tip: Basic Photo Tips for Bloggers

At some point in you blogging career, you will do some sort of post that will need photos taken by you. Whether it's to show off that yummy dish from the recipe you plan on sharing, product shot of some new items for your shop, to show off your amazing craft skills with you step by step tutorial, etc. What ever it may be, at some point you should plan on taking pictures. Bet you didn't think you would add photographer to your skill set when starting a blog.
Now I wont get super technical here, just give you some basic tips to help get you started with simple shots you might need to get you by. I am going to show you how I take a good majority of my blog photos and what steps I use to achieve a simple yet great looking photo. For about 90% of my photos, I use my DSLR camera and then edit in my photo editing program (Lightroom) on my computer, the other 10% are taken with my iPhone and edited with a photo app. So I thought I would share just a few tips using both.

Basic Photo Blog Props
 To keep this very basic there are really only 2 things you need other than the item being photographed.
  1. LOTS of BRIGHT NATURAL LIGHT! The perfect set up is next to some bright windows or sliding glass doors. This helps give your photo nice light with out harsh shadows and wonky lighting.
  2. You can either get a tri-fold white foam board or a plain white poster board. This will be your background/backdrop for your photos. I like the tri-fold because it has a large open space for multiple items and you can set it up several was depending on how you are shooting. The white helps bounce the light around the image and I just like the crisp, clean look it gives to the photos. Looks less busy when I have it all posted on the blog.
  • This isn't necessary, but I would suggest investing in a tripod as well. You can get really inexpensive one if you shop around. It will help to keep your shot still and less blurry.
 And that's it for materials needed when taking your photos. Pretty basic and wont break your wallet. As you get more comfortable with the picture taking aspect of blogging you can branch out and experiment with different backdrops. I have plans to make some using reclaimed wood - the possibilities are endless really.

Camera Adjustments
 If you know your way around your camera, then this next step is again pretty basic. If you have a nice DSLR camera and haven't got a clue how to use it... I suggest getting to know your camera a little bit better - pull out the manual, watch YouTube videos, take classes, or just use your camera and mess around with it to get a feel for how it can work in different settings. Like I said, these are just basic steps, nothing too technical. Now when shooting I always check how my camera is shooting in the area it's in and just do a quick shot to see how the lighting is. Most of the time to achieve the look I want with out getting too technical, all I do is adjust the shutter speed. This is basically adjusting how much light you are capturing in your photo. 

 The setting wont be perfect for every shoot you do, so always make sure you do some test shots before you get to far in. This is just an example of too dark or too bright. The bigger the bottom number (800) the darker the photo will be, the smaller the bottom number (2) the brighter the photo will be.  And every camera is different, so do be scared to refer back to your manual or look it up. Once you get it down, it will become one of those automatic steps you just do.

Now you're ready to shoot! Take lot of photos, use different angles, get close-ups, take some wide shots, play around with the set up you have. It's better to take more photos while you are there in the moment then wishing you did after you have packed everything and you're sitting there ready to write up your post.

No Natural Light...

This is an example of how not to take your photos. In a dark hallway, with no natural light. While there is light coming from the lights, they don't photograph well.


These 3 photos I showed how I tried to adjust the shutter speed to capture more light. While it did get better lighting as I adjusted, you can still see the lighting is a little wonky. You can try and fix it out of camera in an editing program, but there's no guarantee that it will be a nice crisp photo.

So here are the results from my basic shoot. One is straight out of the camera with no editing and the other has slight editing is a photo program. NOTE: If you don't have a photo program on your computer, there are tons of online editing tools that can give you the same effect of editing: PicMonkey  and Pixlr are 2 that I use often.
This is straight out of the camera. No editing what so ever. You can see by making those simple camera adjustments, I can basically get away with out editing if I wanted too.
This is the edited version. Not much difference really. I usually sharpen the image just a tad and it's usually good to go.
Using iPhone
So here are some simple tips to use when shooting with just your iPhone. Still set everything up like I mentioned in the beginning of this post with your photo props and backdrops, that will stay the same. Now grab your phone and get ready to shoot.
When shooting with your iPhone, there are 2 basic tips to know: How to lighten and darken your image.
  1. When ever your image looks like it is going to be too bright, touch the lightest area on your screen and  it will adjust the lighting so it is a bit darker. Some times if it's too bright you can't see any of the details you are wanting to shoot, so darkening the image will help focus in on those darker details.
  2. If when you are shooting and the image is far too dark for your liking, touch the darkest area on the screen and the image will readjust so the image is brighter. This is usually how I like to shoot my images if I am using my iPhone. It looks brighter and cleaner.
Here are the results I got when using my iPhone to shoot.
This is the image with out a touch of extra editing. While it looks okay, it's a tad dark for my liking.
Here is a look at the same photo that is edited. I use the VSCO app for majority of my editing. I adjust the highlights, shadows, and sharpen it up a bit.
There you have it. So simple and basic tips to take with you when you go to shoot for your next blog post. I hope that wasn't too confusing. If you have any questions about anything, feel free to leave a comment below.


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Monday, February 18, 2013

How To: Gain Followers


Now that you've started your blog and have written your first posts, you'll want to get your blog out there and gain followers. Here are a few tips that has worked for me in gaining more followers:

Social Networking

Starting a Facebook page for your blog is a great way to gain followers. The best way to do that is to share your page on your personal Facebook wall. Invite your friends to 'like' your page and share it as well. Tweet about your Facebook page. But don't just make the page and then forget about it. Utilize the space to update your readers on what post just went up or interact with your readers by asking questions {ie: 'whats your fave fall color?' or 'PicMonkey or Pixlr if you don't have Photoshop?'}. Keeping them engaged will more than likely lead them to follow your blog as well.
Twitter is also a great place to gain followers. There are billions of Twitter users out there and they're all potential readers. Start following fellow bloggers, reply to their general questions or comment on one of their Tweets. Don't stop at just engaging with your current readers; engage with your potential readers as well. The more your name pops up, the more curious they will get and will come visit your blog.
Instagram was the best way for me to gain followers. I would hashtag all of my handmade items or photos relating to my blog, which brought people to my photos, which brought them to my profile and in my profile is my blog URL... and the great thing about that is that the people who have clicked on your photo, may have liked it, and visited your blog is someone who may share the same interests as you. If they like you, and they follow you, they probably will tell someone else about you. I also started following a bunch of bloggers on Instagram and they followed back and ended up following my blog. 

Reach out

You've probably been following some blogs even before your started a blog yourself so why not reach out to them? See if they'll swap buttons with you or send them an email asking about blog hops and weekly link ups. Most bloggers will be very helpful in sharing info and can give you some good resources on where to put your name out there. You can also ask them for some Twitter & Facebook shout outs which is a great place to get your name out there. Don't be afraid to ask for help! I've gained some amazing bloggy friends just by doing that; and they're all contributors on the blog! If you couldn't tell, Heidi is my bbffl {best bloggy friend for life} and is my good friend in real life as well! All from asking for help! And in turn, she has brought me some great followers and new friends. 

Blog Hops/Link Ups

Know all those cool blog friends you've just made? Well, I'm sure at least one of them hosts or co-hosts a blog hop. A blog hop is a place to link up your blog URL for other bloggers to see you and visit you. There are several out there {a list is coming soon!} that happen weekly and are a great resource to gain a lot of followers very quickly. Aside from blog hops there are link ups, which is like a blog hop, but is more specific in that you link up a particular post URL rather than your blog's URL. If you have a cooking blog you might want to find link ups or linky parties where you link up that blueberry muffin recipe or tips in the kitchen post. Link ups are a lot of fun because you can gain a very specific following and know that most of your new followers are actually reading your posts! {Yes, it's true; there are some people who follow you for the sake of following you and don't actually keep up with your posts. Sad.} Plus you get to meet even more bloggers and can reach out even more! One way I found blog hops was through a blog I had visited. Some bloggers have a section on their blog that list their weekly link ups {whether its their own that they host or link ups they participate in weekly} and I just so happened upon this one blog that did and started linking up to three different blog hops. I gained a huge amount of followers that week.

Commenting

Leaving comments on other blogs is important for many reasons, especially when participating in blog hops and link ups. When you participate in blog hops it is suggested that you not just link up your blog, but visit the other blogs on the hop as well. That's what the whole thing is about! Visiting blogs and making new friends! So when you go visit that new blog, leave a comment or two. Read through some of their posts and leave a comment on one of them. Be sure to be genuine; comment on their content, possibly say something in relation to it pertaining to you, let them know where you found them from {which blog hop, link up, or just by clicking through ads on someone's blog}, sign your name, and then leave your blog URL. Please, please do not leave a very general, monotone comment like "Hi, following you please follow back" and then leave your blog URL. That is seriously the most annoying thing ever and will actually not get you more followers. I get comments like that all of the time and it really is such a waste of my time to even read them there is no way I am going to go visit their blog, let alone follow them. If they don't have anything interesting to say in a comment to me, then they don't have anything interesting to say on their blog in my opinion. So don't be that person! You will get more followers if you leave a personal comment on a post and leave your blog's URL. You can read all about Heidi's do's and don'ts on commenting here.

Button/Ads Swaps

Offering button/ad swaps is perfect free advertising. If you offer up swaps, you can swap your button {your ad} with other bloggers for your blog to be displayed. Ad a section on your blog either in your sidebar or under your header that takes them to a page with info on swapping buttons. Last week I showed your how to make a blog button with grab box so put that in your sidebar! When I started blogging seriously and didn't really know what I was doing, I visited lost of blogs, grabbed their buttons and put them in my sidebar. Come to find out, other bloggers were wanting my button as well. I had Wordpress at the time so I couldn't offer a grab box button in my sidebar {Blogger does} so I would send them the code and they would put my button in their sidebar. I noticed a lot more visits to my blog and a few more followers as well. Buttons/ads are advertisement and when swapping it is a no brainer 'investment' in that it is totally free. And free is always good when you're starting out. To this day I still will visit a blog, go to their sidebar, look at their sponsors {the buttons/ads}, and click through. I'll get to that blog, look at their sponsors, and click through. Most of those sponsors were ad swaps and I've found some great blogs to follow that way. You never know; your ad might get noticed and someone will come and visit and follow you too!

Most of all, though {in addition to these tips}, you should always be genuine and be you or people will see right through you and be disinterested in following. Many times have I stumbled across a blog that seemed fake, forced, or I've seen somewhere else, which results in me leaving immediately and not clicking 'follow' or adding them to my reader. Be yourself and people will find you interesting enough to add them to their daily reads.

If you have a blog you would like to share, please let us know in the comments below! We would love to come check you out!




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Friday, February 15, 2013

How To: Make A Blog Button {With Grab Box}


*UPDATE!!!! I HAVE HAD SEVERAL COMMENTS AND EMAILS ABOUT THERE BEING NO TEXT SHOWING UP IN THE BOX. I HAVE TESTED THIS CODE AND HAVE HAD NO ISSUES MYSELF, BUT IT SEEMS TO BE PRETTY COMMON. BLOGGER HAS CHANGED IT'S INTERFACE IN SOME PARTS SO THAT MAY HAVE SOMETHING TO DO WITH IT, HOWEVER; BECAUSE IT IS WORKING FOR ME, I CAN'T SEEM TO FIND A RESOLUTION. IF ANYONE KNOWS HOW TO REMEDY THIS SO THAT I CAN FIX THIS POST TO REFLECT THE MOST CURRENT CODE OR WAY TO INSTALL THE CODE, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! I AM SO SORRY FOR ANY INCONVENIENCE AND I WISH I COULD FIND A WAY TO RESOLVE THIS MYSELF! THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR PATIENCE!!! XOXOXOXO - ASHLEY*

One of the most important ways to get your blog out there is by having a button available for other bloggers to grab or for you to send to them to display on their blog. It's a great way to connect with other bloggers and sort of have a logo {or two or four} for what you do. 

It's really quite easy to create a button so I'm going to show you how with these easy steps and, dare I say, easy coding?! {There are a lot of steps, but its really easy. I promise!}

1. Choose an image for your button.







2. Go to picmonkey.com and click on 'edit a photo'. Select the image that you want.



3. Click on 'resize' and resize the image. We are making ours 250x250. Be sure to uncheck 'keep proportions'.


4. Decorate your button! Picmonkey has lots of fun tools you can use so have fun and make it your own! We used a blank canvas and created a B.You logo for ours.


5. Save the photo. Be sure to name it so you can recognize it and save it in a place you can find it. I saved ours as byouphoto1! to the desktop.







6. Head on over to flickr.com. It's free to sign up if you don't have an account. Upload your image.




7.  Click on your uploaded image and then click on the 'actions' tab. Scroll down to 'view all sizes' and click on that.


8. There will be options of different sizes when you reach that page, but keep on the 250x250 size. Right click your image and click on 'open in new tab' {or open in new window}. The URL here is your image URL.



9. Keep the image open in the tab or window and head on over Blogger. 






Now, you have two options for the button. You can either make a grab box for your sidebar so bloggers can grab your button to display on their blog or you can create a code to send them so they can display it on their blog. I am going to show you how to do both! Be sure to keep your image open in the new tab or window for both options

GRAB BOX OPTION FOR YOUR SIDEBAR

1. Click on 'template' then select 'add a gadget'. You are going to want the HTML/Java option. 






This is the code you are going to want to paste in the HTML/Java gadget:






<div align="center"> <a href="YOUR BLOG URL HERE" target="_blank"><img alt="YOUR BLOG TITLE" src="YOUR IMAGE LINK HERE"/></a> </div> <div align="center"> <form><textarea rows="6" cols="20"><center><a href="YOUR BLOG URL HERE" target="_blank"><img alt="YOUR BLOG TITLE" src="YOUR IMAGE LINK HERE"/></a></center></textarea></form> </div>



2. Where it says 'your blog url here' {in red} enter in your blogs web address being sure to stay within the quotation marks. Where it says 'your blog title here' {in redenter the name of your blog. Repeat that for the second part of the code.






3. Click on the tab or window that has your image link and copy the link. You're going to paste that link where it says 'your image link here' {in red}. Be sure to do it in the second part of the code too. There should be no red left and it should look like this {only with your info}:

<div align="center"> <a href="http://byourownblog.blogspot.com" target="_blank"><img alt="B.You" src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8043/8369116862_70e88221e1_m.jpg"/></a> </div> <div align="center"> <form><textarea rows="6" cols="20"><center><a href="http://byourownblog.blogspot.com" target="_blank"><img alt="B.You" src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8043/8369116862_70e88221e1_m.jpg"/></a></center></textarea></form> </div>


4. Click save and your button {with grab box} should be there!


You can also add the button with grab box directly in to your post by copying and pasting the code into the HTML section of your post. This option works well for bloggers who do weekly series, is hosting a swap, or is hosting a linky party. 


OTHER OPTION {that will keep your button dimensions customizable if you prefer a size other than 250x250!}






1. Open a text document or add a note to your dashboard for Mac users

2. Copy and paste this code:

<a href="YOUR BLOG URL HERE" target="_blank"><img src="YOUR IMAGE URL HERE" alt="BLOG TITLE" width="200" height="200" /></a>

3. Replace the information in red just as you did above. Make sure to stay within the quotations when replacing the info. The 'width' and 'height' in green should be changed to your button size. We are working with a 200x200 button size.

Your code should look like this {only with your info}:

<a href="http://byourownblog.blogspot.com" target='_blank"><img src="http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8043/8369116862_70e88221e1_m.jpg" alt="B.You' width="250" height="250" /></a>"/>

Save it and now it is ready to give to those bloggers that have been asking to swap buttons with you! 

Here are some tips in making your button:

Select an image that represents you and your blog. You can either choose a picture of yourself or you can choose a picture of something you blog about. Blog about sewing related items? Take a picture of your sewing station and use that. Blog about vintage stuff? Take a photo of vintage stuff! Just be sure it represents you and not someone or something else. 

Use your own image! Unless you have permission from the original source of a picture, only use your own image! Take a picture, draw a picture, or just use text. Just make sure its your own!

When selecting an image, keep in mind that you're going to resize it. Use a photo that will look good small and also will look good resized. You don't want a photo that will be smooshed when resized or pixelated if the photo is originally smaller than the resize. It should be crisp and clean after you resize it.

There are dozens of different button sizes that bloggers use. They want to make sure that they're sidebar is cohesive so they may require a button to be something other than 200x200. Here is a list of general button sizes:

-125x125
-150x150
-200x200
-250x250
-150x100
-200x100
-300x200
-300x250
-150x600

{Those are the sizes you will choose when you first resize your photo in Picmonkey, then again when you enter it into the SECOND code. It all depends on whose blog your button will be displayed on}

Have fun and be creative. Picmonkey has lots of fun little options to utilize, but be sure to keep it simple. It's a small image and you don't want to make it too busy and unreadable. This button is going to be displayed on other blogs as a form of advertisement - you don't want to have bad advertisement that no one can read! I suggest if you're using a picture to use a couple or one small elements and your blog name. Use font that is legible and white is almost always the best color to use. 

You might want to make a few different ones. Stay within your style of course, but remember that bloggers who want to display your button have certain tastes and styles for their blogs as well. You may blog about DIY/Crafts and have a cutesy button with sewing supplies and bright colors in the background, but a lifestyle blogger wants to swap and is looking for something with more of a vintagey feel to go with the flow of their blog. This gives you the opportunity to have something made and appealing to not just you, but your readers and bloggy friends too. Its also fun to change out your buttons with the seasons! 

Remember to always save your button codes in a document or you can save them in a draft on Blogger. Just don't publish it! Title it something like 'BLOG BUTTON - DO NOT PUBLISH'. You can adjust the title of the draft to something more specific as to what that button looks like if you plan on having more than one button in your drafts.

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If you have any questions at all about making the button or about this tutorial, please leave us a comment or you can send us an email. 
If you're still like, ehhhhh... what? Send me an email at b.you.blog {at} gmail {dot} com and we would be happy to make a button for you with either or both options! For FREE! 
If you made a button using this tutorial, let us know! We'd love to check it out. We get blog button envy sometimes with how awesome everyone's buttons are!

*The grab box code only works on Blogger. Wordpress won't show the grab box. 


B.You




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