In the first few months of my pregnancy, while I was absent from the blog, I was largely absent from other social media as well. I spent some time on Facebook, but I abandoned Twitter completely, and I dialed just about everything I did online down. This was, for the most part, due to my complete focus on myself and how bad I felt--that's all I would have posted about anyway, and who wants to hear that every day? Now that I'm back with gusto, though, I'm looking at the ways in which I use social media and the tools I use a bit more critically. In a couple of months, I am going to have a baby, and by all accounts, that's going to seriously curtail the amount of time I have to dedicate to my online presence. Yet, I don't want to go silent again--I like being plugged in to this world, and I don't want to lose that. So I'm trying to build an arsenal of tools to help me interact more productively, not miss anything big, and stay "plugged in" when I have less time to do so. I'm also working on doing a better job promoting this blog. I think this is a good blog, and it should have more readers, more followers, more comments. I know it is up to me to make that happen, though, and so far I have been abysmally bad at it.
So, here's what I've been using. I am hoping that this post will generate other suggestions!
First, the hardware: I am an Apple girl all the way. At home, I use a four or five year-old MacBook Pro, which I love. I also have an iPad 2, which I know I am not using to it's full capacity, being as mostly what I do with it is surf from bed, and an iPhone 4s, which is probably also underutilized, as it mainly serves to allow me to text, take occasional bad pictures, and talk on the phone on the occasion when I can't avoid it.
Now, the software. If you're Internet savvy, none of this is probably going to be new to you. I am about a hundred years behind when it comes to this stuff. Still, there are tools I've grown dependent on, so they're worth mentioning:
My relationship to Twitter has never been strong. I just don't like the interface, and, until I recently (finally, thank you to my friend Rachel!) discovered Tweet Deck, I hated not being able to easily manage viewing and posting on both Facebook and Twitter in the same place. Enter TweetDeck. It's an easy interface, it allows me to see both my Twitter and FB feeds, together, and it allows me to choose, with each post I make, whether I want it on just FB, just Twitter, or both. Since I use Facebook and Twitter really differently, and have different circles of friends on each one, this is really handy. My family, who are mostly Facebook users, are a lot more interested in my constant pregnancy updates than are my Twitter friends. I interact with companies/brands far more on Twitter. Twitter promotion seems to be better for the blog, but linking to blog posts on Facebook means I'm going to get comments from friends/family. All of those things can be easily taken into account. I also like that I can run TweetDeck easily as an app on both my phone and my iPad, and as a Chrome extension on a PC. What I don't like, however, is that I can't use it on my Macbook without using Chrome or Safari--it won't run on Firefox, my preferred browser, and my OS is too old for the Mac App. That's a bummer.
I love Pinterest. It appeals to my inner sense of "oooh, shiny!" Making Pinterest boards and looking at all of the cool things other people find is, for me, a very pleasant way to spend hours. Hours that I soon won't have to waste. So, I'm trying to figure out what role Pinterest should have in my new Internet life. I know a lot of people are using it for blog promotion, but I'm not sure it's right for this blog--I feel like I'm missing something key, at least as far as brand interaction and how much I love to introduce other people to products that I enjoy, but I'm not able to put a finger on it at this point. Still, I have to shout out to Pinterest because it amuses me so greatly. To find me there, click here.
I love Feedly. I was a Google Reader user for a long time, but I like Feedly's "magazine" interface even more. I read a lot of blogs (though part of what I am trying to do right now is cut my number of subscriptions down--always tough!) and I love to be able to categorize them, easily see who has new content that I haven't read yet, etc. I also like the ease of Feedly as a Chrome extension, which is how I use it on a PC, or a Firefox add-on, which is how I use it on my MacBook, or an iPad app.
If you've been around here long, you know how I love Polyvore! It's the tool I use to create the outfit sets for Dress You Up. I'm a much less advanced user than a lot of the folks on Polyvore, but I love what it allows me to do as far as mixing bunches of clothes and accessories from different places and showing them to you! I also love that it has a "Clip to Polyvore" button you can install on your browser (just like Pinterest's "Pin It" button), so that when I am shopping online and see something I like/want to use, I can quickly and easily add it it. It's so much easier than the ways I tried to "online shop" for people before. You can see all of my Polyvore sets, including all the past Dress You Up sets, here.
5. Google Analytics
Like so many bloggers, I am beholden to the alter of Google Analytics, which tells me how many visits my blog is getting. I really wish I didn't care, but I do. I'm afraid, however, that I am badly under-utilizing the tool. All I really know how to do with it is go in and see how many unique visitors I've gotten within a specific time frame, and maybe compare that to another specific time frame. MAYBE I can tell how long, on average, folks are hanging out here. I know I should be able to do more, including figuring out when I should be posting for the highest possible traffic, and what types of posts are garnering me the most eyeballs. But I do not have that kind of brain, and can't figure out how to do that without a tutorial. Anybody got a tutorial?
Dropbox is a new and very, very welcome addition to my online life. I have it installed on every device I touch regularly, and I use it just about every day. For those who were under the same rock I was, it allows you to put documents or photos or whatever in your "dropbox" on at one location and then access them from another location! Brilliant! I guess it's basically the same thing as Google Documents, which I also use, but it's a lot easier to use--you just drag and drop, rather than going through an upload process.
Though I use them both, I'm not super thrilled with either Flickr or Photobucket right now. They both do what I need them to do, as far as storing pictures (Flickr) and allowing me to share them easily (Photobucket). However, I don't like the editing capabilities of either one. I used to like Picnik on Flickr, but now that they have switched to Aviary, I'm less excited. And the editing capabilities on Photobucket are, to my mind, pretty bad. I do, however, love that I can easily take photos on my iPhone or iPad and share them as links or on Facebook or Twitter, using Photobucket, and I keep it around for that purpose. Flickr I have years of archives on, so I'm not likely to abandon it anytime soon, either. To fine me on Flickr, click here (my Photobucket is pretty much transitory holding space and not really worth visiting).
InvisibleHand is a Mozilla add-on that I am finding really useful for online shopping, especially as I look at baby stuff. When you are looking at a given product, it alerts you with a banner on the top of the browser if you can get the same thing at a lower price elsewhere. Apparently, the search includes about 580 retailers in the US, UK, and Germany. It's saved me bucks a few times and it's a no-brainer to install and use.
9. Google Calendar
While I have used Google Calendar in the "keep track of birthdays" sense for years, I have only recently started using it more seriously. And by "seriously," I mean that I have more than one calendar now, and that I have learned to share/invite. Two things for which I am finding it very useful are keeping Mark aware of baby-related appointments (midwife, baby care class, etc.) and tracking when all of my various subscription boxes are ordered, ship, and arrive. This message has been brought you by The Year 2004.
StumbleUpon is another one I have been using, though not well, for a long time. I love the idea, both as a means of promotion and as a way to find cool stuff, but I find the actual act of Stumbling really awkward, and it's something I almost never remember to do. Plus it seems more and more dead lately. Is that the case? Are the cool kids using something else now and nobody told me? If not, you can find my StumbleUpon page here.
Really, that's the core of my arsenal. I have a few other things on my iPad, but nothing I use often. I feel like I must be missing out on some awesome things, but whenever I try to find them I end up on some "100 Apps EVERYBODY MUST HAVE!" list and my eyes glaze over. Given the amazing advances in what is available on the Web over the past few years, I feel like I could be doing a lot better job in both streamlining my online time AND building blog traffic, but I'm a bit overwhelmed by the idea. So...I'm enlisting your help. Looking over what I use and how I use it, what am I missing? Is there something that could replace one or more of my current tools and be more effective/efficient? I know there are experts out there--help a tired pregnant lady out?