I want people to blog. Publishing and putting yourself out there can be a life-altering event.  It can lead to new connections, skills and career options.  It is very important. So I dislike saying anything that would discourage people from blogging.

But if you are a person who is using ad-supported blogging solutions, I am about to do that.

Let me tell you a story. you have an idea for a blog and are ready to take the plunge.  You head over to WordPress.com and sign up for their free option. It has everything you need as as a blogger.  

Suddenly you are connecting with people over your shared passion and are feeling secure in your niche. Before you know it, traffic is climbing and the right people are discussing your work.

Everything is great, but then one of those people sees your post on Twitter, clicks through, and right in the body of your well-thought-out post, they see…

It is an ad served up by WordPress.com that has zero perceived relevance. 

You are shocked and hope no one else saw it, but unless they run an ad blocker, they are seeing it. Again and again.  What seemed like a bargain, now makes your material look questionable.


On our free plan, we sometimes display advertisements on your blog to help pay the bills. This keeps free features free!

WordPress.com

People are wondering, are you running these ads?

You really only have one option at this point.  Pay them. And you should. For just a few bucks a month, you can have an ad free experience that will remove this embarrassing possibility from your reader’s experience.

I love things that are free, but as the old chestnut goes, “you get what you pay for.”  So before you get comfortable with a “free” blogging experience, make sure you understand exactly what your readers are getting. If you weigh the cost vs. the reward, I think you will agree, it is worth the investment.

You might notice, I don’t have comments on the Crazy Third Option. This does not prevent people from commenting on my posts. Why?  Because commenting has largely moved to social media.

Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are your comments sections.  By not having an account on these platforms, you are telling people, “I don’t care what you think about what I have to say.”

So to properly engage with your audience, you are going to need a social media account.  Not just to like when people share or comment on your writing, but to start a conversation.

Without comments, a blog isn’t really a blog. To me, blogging is not just about publishing content, but also the two-way communication and community building aspects behind it.

Pat Flynn

Using social media as your comments sections has a distinct advantage that site-based comments do not have.  They get exposed to a larger audience. 

One person commenting on your blog gets seen by the people visiting your blog. But one person commenting on your blog on Twitter, is sharing it with everyone who follows them.

While I can see you wanting to keep all comments related to your writing on your site.  After all, a lively discussion can make for a compelling enhancement to your own thoughts. Most of the time you are contending with bad players (spammers, trolls) while you hope for a lively debate to break out.

So instead of wasting your time trying to be a community manager, focus on your  blogging and offload the discussion to the social world.  You will reach a wider audience, and not only enhance your blogging experience, but also keep you on top of your social media game.

I had a lot of social media accounts.  Not just a wide array of accounts on different services, but also a lot of accounts on the same services.  For example, somehow over the years, I had accumulated 8 Twitter accounts.

How did this happen?

Well, how does anything online happen?  It started with with some idea.  Usually an idea for a blog or podcast that I didn’t follow through on. 

Over the last year I whittled down the number of Twitter accounts to two. Both are account I registered early, within days of each other, but that is where the similarity ends.  One has been my online identity as a nostalgia blogger that I use daily. While the other is just my name, which I never use.

I am a big fan of using social media as a way to connect with people who share my interests.  So what do I do when I develop an interest outside nostalgia?  I wrestled with the idea of having two accounts.  Which is mainly the reason I have held onto my name account.

This is something I would have done years ago, when I didn’t recognize that the strength of social media comes from using it to connect rather than as some sort of amplifier.  That ain’t me anymore though.

So I have decided I am just going to use my one account.  The one that I have actively used for over 11 years.  

Naturally this is going to be a bit awkward for people who follow me and expect me to just talk about Pac-Man and the Rubik’s Cube.  So I will lose people along the way.  Hopefully the ones who remain will enjoy getting to know other sides of me.  

If you decide to follow me based on my writing here or work at LexBlog.  Be prepared to see posts about bronze age comics as well as my opinions on blogging, social media, reducing noise online and fast food.

While I have a blog and podcast, I am not a brand.  I am a person with an array of interests.  My Twitter account needs to evolve to be a reflection of that.

I have stood almost anonymously behind my account name for so long that this will be a challenge for me.  But I am committed. It will be a gradual process, but in the end it will make me a better blogger and more importantly a more present social media user.

The day I signed up for my Twitter account, it was at the urging of a co-worker.  When I asked them what it was for, they said something like, “You use it to just show what you are about.”

That was a pretty good way to sum up Twitter.  11 years later, I am going to continue to embrace that and let my Twitter account evolve to match who I am, rather that trying to slavishly conform for some artificial expectation based on what I have told myself it should be.

Have you ever talked to a child about passwords? They are a generation that was born with the username/password paradigm deeply entrenched into every aspect of life. It is fascinating and often humorous.

But remember, they are kids. They don’t understand risk. They don’t see the bigger picture. So all the ones I have talked to, and this is a sample related to my family, have a simplistic view.

They think of things they can easily remember.  Some have even realized that they should string together some numbers or password.  All of them reused the same password for most everything.

We can look at kids and smile. They have so much to learn.

But wait?  Are you doing much better?  Are you reusing passwords for all your accounts?  Is your password system something that is easy for you to remember?  Do you regularly changes your passwords?

Most of us, myself included tend to act like children when it comes to our passwords. Eventually though, like all children, we must grow up and face the cold scary reality.  We need to take passwords seriously.

Fortunately solutions exist to help you that require very little effort and will completely change the way you think about passwords.  They are called Password Managers and they should be your new best friend.

A password manager is a tool that does the work of creating, remembering and filling in passwords. You just log into one online account with a difficult to remember password or passphrase. 

Once in your vault, you can store all your passwords.  This freedom to store your passwords frees you up to make nearly impossible to crack passwords.  

Passwords that are completely random and possibly HUGE.  Fore example did you know that your gmail account password can be 100 characters long?  I didn’t until I started using a password manager.  Now all of my passwords are at lengths that would make brute force attempts nigh impossible.

A 2010 Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) study told how a 12-character random password could satisfy a minimum length requirement to defeat code breaking and cracking software, said Joshua Davis, a research scientist at GTRI. Richard Boyd, a senior researcher at GTRI says, “Eight-character passwords are insufficient now… and if you restrict your characters to only alphabetic letters, it can be cracked in minutes.” In any case, to be on the safe side, a password length of 12 characters or more should be adopted.

InfoSec Institute 

12 characters? Ha!

Now, it will be a challenge to get started on the road to password happiness, but it is worth it.  

I suggest you visit a service like Lastpass or at the very least see what sort of Password Manager is built into your browser.  Yes, a service like Lastpass charges $24/year, but for the freedom to host and manage your passwords encrypted online, it is worth it.

BUT WAIT!  WHAT IF LASTPASS GETS HACKED!?

Ain’t you clever. 

Yes, all services will eventually get hacked in some way and having your passwords all in one places sounds scary, but if you think about it, it is worth the risk.

Lastpass will inform you of any intrusions. Then you simply log into your vault, change your master password and then move through your existing accounts and generate new passwords for each one.

Lastpass was intruded upon back in 2015.  Encryption they use is so powerful that no passwords were lost.  Even if the security had been terrible and they had gotten their hands on your master password, they offer two-factor authentication, which would have shut down all but the most persistent hacked (who happen to have access to your phone).

No it is not a 100% risk-free world, but this is a system that works with the reality of our world.  Giving you the power to control the security of you ever-growing digital footprint while maintaining the level of security that most expert recommend. So please give it a shot.

I started my Twitter account in April of 2008.  I had heard a lot about Twitter, and how it was going to change the Internet, so I thought I would give it a shot. After all, I was a person who has a lot of things to say.

It turns out, I had very little to say once I started.

So I shared some stuff,  most  info about myself and posts I found interesting.  Unsurprisingly not much happened with that.  I languished in the Twitter basement, eventually using it mostly as a novel way to consume news.

It was a mistake early on that I made worse when I started my blog. Once that was taking off, I used Twitter as just another broadcast channel.  Sharing my posts automatically and enjoying when someone liked things.

At this point I unfollowed all those news sites and focused my following on just a few people in my blog’s niche.  I thought I had figured it all out, but I hadn’t, I wasn’t really enjoying Twitter.  Instead it was just a means to get more traffic to my site.

I did this for years. Trying to figure out the best way to phrase my headlines or improve my sharing.  What I didn’t realize is that I could get a lot more out of Twitter by surrounding myself with people I wanted to know better. Instead of my just throwing out the occasional like or retweet. 

Instead I made getting to know them and their content the main part of my Twitter use.

On Twitter, we get excited if someone follows us. In real life, we get really scared and run away.

Unknown

I quickly realized that about half the people I had been following were exactly how I used to be.  So I dropped those and replaced them with all the people who made an effort to develop a relationship with me.

The results have been outstanding.  Not in the traditional measurements, but in overall satisfaction.  My traffic from Twitter hasn’t changed at all, it has remained about the same since the changeover.

But now when I get online, I am actively thinking about who might enjoy my post and love when I coax a like or a comment out of them. It is like I actually know these people. 

They are my community and I appreciate and value them by not wasting their time with the self-promotional nonsense that I dropped into Twitter in the past.

My Twitter world is so focused that very little from outside my area of interests gets through.  I would like to say this is because of some algorithmic shift by Twitter, but I think it is from careful grooming.  No longer do I know instantly when some disaster happens or a famous person passes away and it’s not big deal.  I can get that information from a news site.

Instead I have a feed that reflects who I am and the people I am most interested in knowing.  It is an amazing capability and it has made Twitter my favorite social media platform.

TLDR?

Person figures out Twitter works best when they use it to try and connect with people and not for self-promotion.

A lot has been written about the negative effects of social media on people. Some would argue you just need to drop out completely, while others suggest you might be surrounding yourself with the wrong people.

I want to take a look at the success side of social media.  What happens when you appear do be doing very well.  You have followers and people are liking your stuff. Life is great.

For many of you, this is the promised land.  You have surrounded yourself with people you like and who like you.  Your message is getting out to the world and you are reaching your goals.

But are you?

For some, and not all of you, social media is a sweet trap.  It become a mindless treadmill of seeking more and more likes and shares, with the likes and share becoming the goal.

The problem is, it is hard to tell when this is happening to you. The seeming adulation of your adoring social media public can blind you to reality.  So what you need to constantly keep asking yourself is, what were my goals when I started this social media account.  Am I making progress.

For example, if you are interested in podcasting and want to connect people to your show.  Then check out your audience growth and compare it to the success you are having on your social media accounts.  Do you see a correlation? 

If not, is this the best use of your time? Maybe you need a new platform , a new strategy, or to connect with different people.

Another thing you can ask yourself is, should I be changing my goals to match the audience I was lucky enough to connect with?  Perhaps experimenting with a new type of writing or a different format would engage them in new ways.

If your podcast is not being fed by your social media account, maybe the social media account is where you should be putting your content instead.

The TLDR of it is simple.  Don’t get comfortable.  Pay attention and assess your failures and your successes.  Make sure that you are focused on what you are trying to accomplish and always keep trying to make it better.