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6 Social Tools Every Parent Blog Should Have


Blogging is not an island. When you write a blog post, you assume people are going to read it and hopefully share it. You need to set your blog up to make it easy for your readers to share and contact you. Check out these six social tools every parent blog should have on their site:

  1. Social Networking Site Profile Link. You do not have to include a link to every social network site you belong to, but you should include the ones where you are the most active.
  2. About Me Page. This is one of the most important pages on your blog. When people come to your blog and like what you write about, they want to know more about you. Tell your readers why they should read your blog. Let them get to know you!
  3. Contact Page. Make it real easy for your readers or anyone to contact you. If you are uncomfortable about putting your email on your blog, then using a contact page is perfect. If you have a WordPress blog, here is a great list of 18 contact page forms plugins.
  4. Sharing Buttons. So, now your readers have found you and they want to tell all their friends about how awesome your blog is and share your posts. You need to make it easy for them. I always put sharing buttons at the beginning and the end of every post. At the very least, have a Twitter and Facebook button. If you are unsure which sites to add, try using AddThis or ShareThis and your users can choose which sites to share on.
  5. RSS Feed and Email Subscriptions. The easiest way for your readers to know when you have updated your blog is to have an RSS feed or email subscriptions. The easiest way to do this is with a 3rd party service like Feedburner.
  6. Facebook Page. The best way to keep your personal and blogging accounts separate on Facebook is to create a Facebook Page for your blog.

The easier you make it to read your blog, the more likely your readers will return and share with their networks.

What other tools will help make a blog more social?

Image from Microsoft Images

Blogging in the Summer? Yes or No?


Remember the end of the school year as a kid? The anticipation of summer and more importantly, no school. The lazy days of summer gave us time to dream, play and be free. Often, as the summer ended, there was a new excitement for the school year. The joy of purchasing new school supplies, seeing old friends and the structure of the school year are usually welcome come September.

As I watch this cycle every year repeat itself with my kids, I began to think about applying it to my blogging. The summer is a perfect time to take a break from blogging and be free. Taking the time to enjoy my family, read a few books or just enjoy the warmth of the summer day.

I’m a big believer that the best place to look for blog post ideas is your life. You need to give your brain a break to live and enjoy. Come September, when summer is over and you are back at your computer, you will feel refreshed and there will be a new joy for blogging.

Take A Blogging Break

So, how do you enjoy a summer break, without losing your blog? Let’s start with the math. If you decide to take two months off during the summer, that is eight weeks and at 3 – 4 posts per week, you need 24 – 32 posts to cover your break.  So, how do you come up with those extra posts?

1. Write one extra post. During the other 10 months of the year, write one extra post each week and you will have 40 posts. Even if you write one extra post every two weeks, you will have 20 posts.

2. Repurpose old posts. We all have posts that we wrote when we first started blogging that could be updated and revised. Find the 10 posts that have the lowest traffic and rewrite them.

3. Guest posts. If you have one guest post each week, that is another 8 posts.

Blogging with pen and paper

With these three idea, you could have 38 – 58 posts ready to post during your summer break. And if you are like me, you may get the urge to write during your break. Don’t let that stop you. Buy a journal and try writing with pen and paper and don’t worry about links or your readers. Write for yourself and see what you come up with. You may end up with a few more posts.

What ideas do you have for planning for a summer vacation from blogging?

Images from Microsoft Images.

Parent Bloggers, Do You Need a Niche?


As soon as I decided that blogging was going to be more than just a “way to keep relatives informed,” everyone wanted to know my niche. What do I blog about? Well, just about everything that I like. But that isn’t a very good niche. I resisted for a long time narrowing down my blog to a particular niche.

When you blog about your life, it is very difficult to narrow it down to a quick one sentence tag line or elevator pitch. And I’m going to go against what all the “experts” say. I’m telling you that you don’t need to pick your niche…..right away! I have been blogging since before there was the word, blog. I created websites in Microsoft FrontPage and I always wrote about whatever I wanted and put up lots of pictures of my kids. In 2007, I realized I had readers that weren’t related to me and that was when I made the switch to being a blogger for business.

That is when the trouble began. I went to conferences and everyone wanted to know what I blogged about. My answer was different for each person because it depended on what I had written about that day. I read over and over that I needed to have a niche, I needed to know what I wanted to do with my blog, I needed to have a goal and a plan. I didn’t have any of those. I just continued to write.

The more I blogged, the more I realized I enjoyed blogging about technology and social media. I wrote about those subjects more and more and less about what my kids were doing. I continued to write and now four years later, I finally figured out my niche.

Did I just waste four years writing about something that wasn’t my niche? Not at all. I spent four years experimenting and improving my writing. Now, I have an elevator pitch, a niche and I’m working on a formal mission statement, goals and a plan.

Clues to Your Niche

Here are a few things to pay attention to that may help you find your niche.

  1. What do you like writing about the most?
  2. Look at the types of blogs you choose to read on a daily basis?
  3. Look at your tags on your blog. Which ones are used the most?

My point here being, if you enjoy blogging and you have no idea what your niche is, don’t worry about it. Keep writing and it will come, even if it takes four years!

Image from Microsoft Image Gallery.

Involving Your Kids In Your Blog Business


When I overheard my 11 year old describe my job as, “getting paid to be on the computer,” I knew it was time to involve my kids in my blog a little more. Sure, they are great topics, but I wanted them to understand what I am doing online.

Why do I care if my kids know? There are several reasons, but the most important one is because I write about them on my blog sometimes. I want them to understand how I include them on my blog so they can make them choice whether they would like to be included. I often ask them if I can include a story on my blog about something they did. They should understand what that means.

The second reason is so they understand that I am built a career out of doing something I love. It is possible to create a career if you are not finding what you want working for someone else.

Here are several ways I have started to include them more in the business of my blog.

  1. Share what you do every day. Every night when we talk about what we all did during the day, I tell my family about the posts I wrote. This helps them understand how they are included in my stories.
  2. Have the kids review products. I do product reviews on my blog and if the product is for children, I let them do the review. They use the product and then we create a video and I either interview them or they just tell me about the product and I paraphrase. It is possible to create a video without showing your kids faces. I will show them using the product while they talk about it.
  3. Give your kids a blogging day. This is one that I have been trying to get my kids to do, but so far no one has really jumped on it. They see it as homework I think, but I’m not giving up. I used to hate writing and I never thought of myself as a writer. I discovered I hated writing about the topics the teachers wanted me to write about. Once I started writing about things I am passionate about, I started to love writing. I want my kids to share that love of writing (or at least not detest writing.)
  4. Turn the camera around. I am always taking pictures and filming my kids. When I am vlogging or need pictures of me using a product, I have my kids take the pictures or record the video of me.
  5. Hire your kids. My kids love to feel like they have a job to do (and get paid.) I hire them to research, scan in business cards, enter data in my database and even clean my office. They are more willing to do this when I tell them I am hiring them as I would any other employee. I give them deadlines and let them figure out how it should get done. It gives them a sense of what having a job is all about.

I work at all hours of the day from my home and involving my family is very important to me. How do you involve your kids in your blog?

Images from Microsoft Images.

Keeping Track of What Others Say About Your Family Online


We’ve discussed where to draw the line when choosing topics to write about your family, but what about information that others may post about you, your family or even your blog. How can you keep track of that information?

First, I need to point out that there is no system that is going to catch everything that is out there on the internet about your family. I have a few methods that I use to track what might be said about me and my family.

  1. Google Alerts. Setting up Google Alerts is quite easy and can be done for just about anything. I have Google Alerts set up for my name, my kid’s names, my husband’s name, each of my kid’s schools, my blogs and a few keywords I track. It was through those Google Alerts that I discovered my daughter had set up an email account she shouldn’t have created, my son’s play received awesome reviews from our local newspaper, an article was written about my husband and someone had stolen one of my blog posts. I have the alerts sent directly to my email and I quickly scan through them. It doesn’t take much effort and can find a lot (but not everything.)
  2. Social Mention Alerts. While this is similar to Google Alerts above, I find that they do overlap sometimes, but Social Mention often finds different things. You can set up alerts again for anything and have them emailed to you.
  3. Twitter Searches. I set up columns in my TweetDeck that searches for each of the names I want to find. This could be done in HootSuite or any other Twitter monitoring tool that has columns. This isn’t quite as accurate because people often shorten things, but once again, I’ve found a few things about my husband’s company.
  4. Tweet Beep. I just found Tweet Beep today, so I have not used it, but it looks like Google Alerts for Twitter. If anyone uses Tweet Beep, let me know how well it works.

The best defense is to be sure you teach your children how to sue the internet safely. But you can not always control the information that is released about you. This is another way for you to track what others might be saying.

What tools do you use to monitor your family’s name online?

Image from Microsoft Images

Parent Blogging, How Much is Too Much Information?


Parent Blogging, How Much is Too Much Information? Parent bloggers have years of endless topics to blog, but where do you draw the line? How much is too much information? Which topics are ok and which topics are off limits? Ultimately, each of us needs to make that decision for ourselves, but there are a few guidelines I use.

Would I tell my neighbors this story? Our kids (and spouses) do a lot of things that would make awesome blog posts, but do you really want everyone to know everything that happens in your house? Would you tell your neighbors the story? If I answer no, then I don’t blog about it.

Would you want your child’s friends to hear this story? When our kids are young and do a lot of really cute things and have friends who can’t read, I had no problem sharing stories about their potty training, bathing, etc. But now I have a 14 and 12 year old and I’m sure they would not be happy if I discussed some of their personal (yet maybe humorous) habits. If I’m unsure, I will ask my kids if they are ok with me posting the story or picture.

Would you want your boss or your spouse’s boss to hear this story? The same goes for your husband/wife. I have a lot of great stories about my husband, but does he want his boss or peers at work to hear these stories? Probably not. So those topics are off limits.

Will someone get hurt if I write about this topic? The intent of my blog is never to hurt someone. I realize that sometimes I will write about a topic that may touch a chord with some people and others may not agree. But if telling this story means a friend will be hurt, then I will think twice about telling it.

Do you want this story out there for eternity? Once you hit publish, it is on the internet indefinitely. You can pull the story, but someone somewhere has already cached it. This is also a good question to ask yourself when posting pictures when you are in college. Would you want your future (or potential) employer to read this story or see these pictures?

Everyone’s limit will be different. Some people will have no problem blogging about every aspect of their life and that is ok too. I have one ultimate test that I use,

When in doubt, leave it out.

Where do you draw the line for how much information is too much when blogging?

How Do Parent Bloggers Find the Time to Blog? 10 Tips For Finding Time


The number one question I’m asked when I tell people I blog is, “How do you find the time to blog when you have 4 kids?” The second question is, “How do you do it all?” I use the time effectively or I would never get anything done.

Finding time to Blog There are days where it all flows easily and I feel like I’m on top of the world. But there are also days where I am lucky to get a shower in, I forget to pick someone up from school and all three meals are McDonald’s. Not something I care to admit, but the truth.

Here are my tricks for finding time to blog, keep a house up and raise kids.

  1. Let go of perfection. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have standards and you shouldn’t try to do a good job. It just means that not everything you do has to be done to perfection. That is an impossible goal, so don’t even try.
  2. Don’t do it all yourself. I have someone come and clean my house every 2 weeks. I know that if nothing else, my showers and floors will get cleaned every 2 weeks. It also forces me to pick up every 2 weeks. I hate cleaning with a passion and so I let someone else do it. Ask for help when you need it.
  3. Carry something with you to take notes. Whether it’s a pad of paper or audio notes on your iPhone, when an idea strikes, take note of it. I use my iPhone because I can talk faster than I can write. When I have an idea for a post, I talk it out. I find that often I talk enough to get an entire post written. If you use a program like Dragon Dictation on your iPhone, you will save some of the writing time too.
  4. Work when you wait. According to Answers.com, the average person spends 2 – 3 years in their lifetime waiting. When I’m waiting at the doctors, in line at the grocery store, in line to pick-up kids, I get small things done that I can do on my iPad or iPhone. I check e-mails, read blogs, research for articles I’m writing or edit articles. It doesn’t seem like much, but it helps me get some of the small tasks done. There are days where during that time, I listen to music or catch up on a TV show. Either way, I’m accomplishing something I want to get done.
  5. Have a weekly plan. Each week, I look at my deadlines and plan out how I will accomplish everything. Things do come up and I have to adjust, but I find having a plan helps me.
  6. Schedule in time for last minute stuff. I have deadlines each week, but I try to make my deadlines several days before the article is really due. That way when I have to take a kid to the doctor or I am sick, I have some leeway on my time.
  7. Learn to say No! I’m still working on this one. You have to know what you have time to do. Saying no isn’t not an insult. It just means you do not have the time. There are so many things we would like to do, but we have to prioritize our time. Leo Babauto of Zen Habits wrote an excellent article, 7 Simple Ways to Say “No.”
  8. Take a break. This may seem like an odd tip for this topic, but if you do not take time for yourself, you will burn out. It will begin to take you longer to do tasks because you will not be able to focus. Take a break and you will feel refreshed.
  9. Enlist the help of your family. When I have to review products, I get my family to help me. If it’s something we can all do, I get everyone to try it and I record their responses on video. This morning my kids and I did a workout video together for a review I’m working on. We had a blast and it was a great way for me to work and spend times with me kids.
  10. Have fun! When you stop having fun blogging, then it may be time to quit. When your work is something you love doing, it doesn’t feel like work.

Not all of these tips will work for everyone. Use what works and leave the rest.

What ideas do you have for finding time to blog?

Image from Microsoft.

Blogs Make Better Dads


… by Brad Powell

Blogs make me a better Dad. I’m not kidding. Reading and writing about the journey of fatherhood helps me be more thoughtful about the ride. It’s much like a family dinner at the end of a long day of vacation. It’s a time to discover and process what’s important. The entire clan gathered around a table at a greasy spoon in a small town and I hear “I loved the rock candy we got from the Cracker Barrel” and “the bird that pooped on Myers’ head when we stopped on that hill was awesome” and “I want to go swimming at the hotel pool after dinner.” These tiny snippets of our day, the truly memorable ones, would be completely lost on me if we had not stopped to enjoy soggy chicken fried steak.  Rock candy and bird poop dropped with precision on an infant’s head trumps a $28 per ticket train ride through the most beautiful landscape in America? If I’m listening, I realize that it does.

The conversation time awakens my attention to what matters. That is exactly what new media offers me as a parent: a virtual conversation.

I am jolted awake by PERSPECTIVE.

Most morons I know are not bad people they just lack perspective. Myopically positioned, these folks can’t get over themselves or the way they see the world. Please don’t let me be one of these folks. Give me broadband access. Give me interesting people talking about life.

My sweet wife offers the following insight as to how new media has enhanced her life as a parent. She touts three distinct benefits: anonymity, convenience and community. The ability to anonymously (at least initially) seek out information that you might find embarrassing is key: “Thank goodness some one else’s child does that.” Then there’s the ability to interact at times conducive to a busy parent’s schedule:  “2 a.m. is a great time to discuss developmental milestones.” And lastly the greatest benefit is finding a community of like minded individuals that understand the struggles of a working parent of three; “Many of my still single girlfriends just don’t get why I’m too tired to go out syndrome“ syndrome!

Having been in the content creation business for 5 years the opportunity to look at parenting from many different angles has been rewarding. You can check out some of our work at DadLabs. And I’m not just a creator of content; I’m a consumer, too. These three dad-bloggers really make me think.

Jason Avant over at Dadcentric. He is hard nosed, no nonsense and sometimes edgy. When he thinks you are full of it he will tell you. If he does, you probably need to hear it because this dude is honest, sincere and as devoted to fatherhood as any I know.

Craig Heimbuch from Man of the House. Craig is a wonderful writer, funny and wicked smart. He is all of that and willing to talk about the insecurities of fatherhood that keep us all awake at night wondering if we are doing enough as dads.

And CC Chapman head honcho over at  Digital Dads.
C.C. is the nicest guy in the world but yet a total badass.  He is the epitome of a kind and caring father who sacrifices none of his masculinity to be so.

These are just some of the gents who make me ponder how I’m doing as a dad?

Thanks for the perspective guys.

Brad Powell is founder and Chief Operating Officer of DadLabs.com an Internet television network dedicated to all things dad.  He serves as co-host for DadLabs weekly web shows and is an avid parenting blogger and speaker. Brad is co-author of DadLabs Guide To Fatherhood, Pregnancy and Year One and can be heard weekly on the Cast of Dads pod cast on Blog Talk Radio. You can follow him on Twitter @daddybrad.

Why Be a Mommy Blogger?


Why would I want to be a Mommy Blogger? I get this question a lot. Why would I want to share intimate details of my everyday life with the world? Very good question, which I will answer in a moment. First let’s look at the Mommy Blogger phenomenon.

Marketing to Mommy Bloggers appear to be a new phenomenon, however, Moms have had the purchasing power in the family for decades. Marketing to moms is not new at all. Here is an ad from the 1950s, which clearly depicts a Mom making her child very happy with the 7-Up. If only it were that easy!

1950s Advertising Mom

Photo by James Vaughan

The difference now is that brands do not have to just market “at” Moms. The dialogue is now two-way. Moms are talking with brands about the products we use. Moms are influencing the next generation of products by telling brands what we need instead of brands telling us what we need.

According to the The BabyCenter 2010 Mom Social Influencer Report,

  • 18% of moms who use social media account for 78% of the influence
  • Motherhood is the #1 trigger for social media usage
  • Social moms are most influential in their native environments

So, why would I want to be a Mommy Blogger? As The BabyCenter 2010 Mom Social Influencer Report has shown, the #1 reason women go online is motherhood. Being a first time Mom can be very lonely. We often leave office jobs where we have daily contact with other adults and are within days thrown into an environment where the only person to talk to is our baby. Women are social creatures by nature, therefore, women seek out others online more than men.

Like many Moms, I went online to find others at home like me. I started my blog to share with my family, the daily changes in my kid’s life. I found that writing about my passion for technology brought other Moms with a similar passion to my blog. I found my tribe and a replacement for the office camaraderie I missed when I decided to stay at home with my babies.

Whether you are a Mommy Blogger or a Mom who blogs, the majority of us share the intimate details of our lives and passions because we want to find our tribe and share our knowledge with that tribe. We seek out the daily companionship we left at the office. Being a Mom can be a very lonely job. Being a Mommy Blogger brings the world to your computer and you realize you not so alone after all.

Are you a Mommy Blogger? If so, why did you go online and blog?

Michele McGraw is a mom of 4 who blogs about technology, digital scrapbooking and fitness at Scraps of My Geek Life. She can be found socializing on Twitter, @ScrappinMichele.

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