3 places you shouldn’t bring your social media to

I’m all for social media. I earn a living through it. But I’m also a social human being and I have strong opinions about where you should (and shouldn’t) bring your social media. I wish I could say they are gospel truth but they are just my opinions. Consider leaving your social media at home (or at least in your pocket) while in these 3 places.

Your Bedroom (for all you married folks). I’m sure you’ve heard all about the studies that have been done regarding screen time right before we go to bed. Glaring at a bright screen just inches from your face messes with your sleep. But that’s not my angle here.

Do you really need to be “talking” with your vast social network while laying in bed next to your spouse? I’m a big fan of our bed and bedroom being a “no social media zone.” I don’t even keep my phone plugged in at night in our room. It’s far away in the kitchen. It just seems weird to be in the one place in the house that partially exists for intimacy with my husband, and then be interacting with a friend on social media (or texting) while laying next to my husband. It’s as if that person is in the room with me. That’s weird.

Keep your bedroom a place where digital friends and family aren’t allowed.

Your Honeymoon or Vacation. A friend showed me a pic of a girl she knew who had posted several pics of her and her new husband on their honeymoon. I was flabbergasted. Why would you want to bring your friends and family along with you for the honeymoon? Do you really want to spend this special time seeing what your friends think of that pic of the coconut on the beach?

Also girls, heads up, the only people who really care about your honeymoon are your BFFs and your mom. And even they likely don’t want to see very many pictures.

Vacation is a similar “place” so I lumped it in with the honeymoon. I remember going on vacation as a child and my parents never once checked in with friends or family from back home. They didn’t do work on vacation. They didn’t have casual chats with their friends from home. Why? BECAUSE THEY WERE ON VACATION! Also, you used to have to pay extra to make a long distance call. So there was that too.

They also only took pictures on vacation to remember moments-moments that mattered to the people on the vacation. Once they got home I don’t think they showed those pictures to any of their friends. Maybe my Grandparents cared but that’s probably it.

Vacation is a time to get away from the everyday life and sometimes, the everyday relational commitments you have. It’s a time to focus on the people you’re going on vacation with. Delete social media apps from your phone. Have your spouse change the password. (All things I’ve done before.) Be present on your vacation and then after you get home, only show your pictures to the few (your mom and really nice friend) who ask to see your pictures.

Caveat-if you go to a REALLY cool place, post a few quality pics AFTER you get home. Because that is fun for your friends to see.

Your Workout. I’ll keep it short and simple. No one cares that you look ripped in that post-workout selfie. No one cares that you logged 2 miles today. No one even cares that you worked out. Work out for you. Not for the affirmation, you get from telling your digital friends that you worked out. (Full disclosure, I confess I’ve totally done this before.)

What about you? What other places do you think should be a “no social media zone?”

You be responsible for you. I’ll be responsible for me.

It’s that time of year again.

School uniforms are pulled out of the closet and washed. Curriculum notebooks are dusted off and piled on kitchen tables while a parent creates a lesson plan. School supply lists are printed and items checked off in the busy Target aisles.

Parents everywhere are planning for another year of school and moms are feeling all kinds of emotions.

Some (like me) are elated that kids are going to be shuffled out the door every day to trustworthy and reliable teachers. Others are crying tears as they prepare to say good-bye to an unscheduled summer routine with their kids.

Those that send their kids to private school feel the pinch of monthly payments. I have homeschool friends that are thrilled to be starting another year while some are feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of doing it all.

Another kind of emotion is also running rampant this time of year. Many moms feel frustrated and defensive. And that makes me feel sad for them. 

A homeschool parent posts a first day of school picture on Facebook and someone writes a comment that says they are starting too early.

A public school parent shares their excitement about the kids going back to school and someone comments on how they “can’t imagine sending their kids off to strangers all day” because they’d worry about them. The public school mom feels judged while the homeschool mom was just stating an emotion they themselves would feel.

The Montessori Mom posts a picture of her child walking into a unique classroom and some public school moms roll their eyes at the “hippy education.”

A private school Dad posts a picture of his kids in their smart school uniforms and others make comments offline about how “it must be nice to be able to afford a private education.” Sadly, comments like these are also made on social media, too.

This should not be.

Here is the deal, all you fellow moms and parents: You are responsible for you, and I am responsible for me.  

“Who are you responsible for?” is a question we ask our kids A LOT. We ask this when we notice them worrying unnecessarily about a sibling. We talk with our kids constantly about taking care of themselves because we know it’s in their nature to want to point out someone else’s faults rather than take ownership of their own actions. They love to make sure their siblings are doing what they think they should be doing.

I feel like we as parents need to ask ourselves this question when we are tempted to make judgments about another’s educational choices: Who are you responsible for?

I’m responsible for my time, talents and resources and I’m responsible for my kids’ education. I am responsible for me and mine.

My husband and I have talked and prayed about which educational choice is best for our family and each kid. The decision we came to is public school and we love it. It’s been good for our kids and family on so many levels. It suits us and our personalities.

One of my best friends from college homeschools her kids. It’s such a good fit for her. I honestly cannot imagine her enjoying all of the things I love about public school. And that’s not bad! It’s just different! She and her kids are thriving as a homeschool family.

Another friend sends her kids to a Montessori school. She is one of those persons who likes to investigate, research and do hands-on activities. She’d rather take her kid on a slow walk to explore every twig and bug. She is not rich but she and her husband make their budget work so they can send their kids to a Montessori school.

I also have a few friends and family who pay for private school. None of them are “rich.” They make different living and spending decisions so that they can send their kids to private school because that is what they feel is best for their kids. It works for them.

Each of these parents that I’m thinking of are fully capable of making a decision for their child’s education. Fully capable.

And you are too.

No one else is responsible for your kids other than you. Yes, lots of people help you raise your kids. Baby-sitters, teachers, doctors, grandparents, aunts and uncles all help you, but you are responsible for you and yours. 

So parents, post those first day of school pictures and don’t feel like you need to defend your choice of education.

Moms, (and a few Dads, I’m sure) try not to feel insecure/ashamed/offended when someone leaves a comment that (perhaps) wasn’t even meant to offend. In the words of Taylor Swift, “shake it off.”

Who cares what someone else thinks of your choice to homeschool? You know you are doing what you feel is best for your kids. You know your kids and your family and your finances and your personality and your season of life better than anyone else.

Trust your instincts and don’t look to anyone on social media to affirm your choice in education.

You be responsible for you, and I’ll be responsible for me.

It’s not my responsibility to worry about what you are doing with your kids each day from 8am-3pm. It’s not my responsibility to determine whether your child should be pulled out of public school and homeschooled for a year because he’s behind. That’s your deal. And if you’re my friend in real life, I will gladly listen to you as you process the pros and cons and when you decide what to do, I’ll bring you chocolate and hugs and tell you, “you can do this!”

For my friends on social media, here is what you can expect from me:

When you post a first day of school picture with all of your kids in bare feet, I’ll hit “like” because I truly love that almost all homeschool first day of school pictures have kids in bare feet. They don’t need to wear shoes to school! It’s awesome.

On Instagram, I’ll double tap the screen when your picture of 3 kids with matching uniforms passes across my feed. Those kids seriously look so cool. Mine probably have mismatched t-shirts and basketball shorts on. Just trying to keep it classy around here . . .

I love when a friend shares their first day of school picture on Twitter because I’ll reply back that I’m super excited to be sending mine off to the best school in the world too. (No seriously-our school has the best teachers in the whole entire world.)

You Montessori moms, I will like your picture out of pure admiration because I think it’s awesome that you’ve set your mind on making sure your child gets the education you think is best. I love that. I really do.

You be responsible for you, and I’ll be responsible for me.

This parenting thing is no cakewalk. Let’s all trust that our friends on social media are doing what they think is best for their kids’ education and applaud their efforts. We ALL need at least that.

How to create images for your blog to use on social media

When I talk with beginner bloggers, I’m always surprised by how many of them struggle to promote their blog posts. They’ve invested time and energy (and sometimes tears)  into writing that post, but they are hesitant to share it with the world. Girls, I get it! I really do! I’ve been there and done that. Perhaps because I spent almost 5 years working in the social media and blogging world as a “professional blogger,” it comes a little easier since I know what to say. But it’s still scary to promote a blog post I’ve just written. You must do it though! One great way to promote your most recent blog post is to create an image that truly captures the attention of a reader scrolling through her Facebook feed (or Twitter, or Pinterest or Instagram as we’ll get to later)! That image should match up with your blog design as I mentioned before. So here are some simple steps you should do with every single blog post you create.

Create a featured image. The featured image is what various websites and social media platforms will pull in first when someone posts the link to your blog post. So you want it to be good. I will sometimes create an image with a text overlay to use as a featured image. Here is the picture I’ll be using as the featured image for this post.

how to create images for your blog to use on social media

My featured image as is.

Next, I’m going to put a text overlay on it using PicMonkey (free photo editing tool) so that I will stand out even more as the featured image when shared on social media. You do not always have to use text overlays on the featured image, and in fact, many times I do not. But in this particular case, I want to.

how to create image for your blog featured updated

This needed to be resized to 470 x 246

This picture is now ready to go. The reason I resized it to 470 x 246 was so that nothing would be cropped when I posted it to Facebook. When I post the link for this blog post to Facebook or Twitter, this is the main image that will show up, or in the very least, it will be one of the options I can select as the photo I want associated with the blog post. So I don’t want any of my words to be cropped out.

Julie’s Tip

If when you share a post to Facebook, and it’s not pulling in your featured image, it may need to be “debugged.” Copy your link here and it should fix the problem. Reshare the link and you should see the featured image.

 

You can see that I added more than just text to the image. I also used salmon and green rectangle blocks to add some color to the image. Why did I do this? Because as much as possible, I want to use the same fonts and colors that go along with my design board. You can read more about using the right colors for your blog here. 

Now let’s get those images ready for social media.

Your blog post is already ready for Facebook and Twitter. As long as you don’t use a square photo for your featured image, it should pull fairly well from your blog. But what about Pinterest and Instagram? And are there pictures that do better on Facebook than the featured image you already have?

One thing I’ve started doing when writing a blog post is factoring in time to get all of my images “social media ready.” It’s not enough to simply put a picture in your blog post and call it good. There will be days when this will have to be enough, but if you can, always work hard on your pictures. So here is what I’ve started going recently:

Step One: Write blog post

Step Two: Find image to use

Step Three: Edit image for use as featured image (as needed)

Step Four: Modify image for Pinterest (make it vertical and add text overlay)

Step Five: Create square photo as needed for Instagram and possibly Facebook.

Why do I do this? Well, for one, I’ve been reading a really good book on blogging that talks a lot about the importance of Pinterest in getting blog traffic. So I’m trying to take Pinterest more seriously. Secondly, certain images do better on certain social media platforms. I’ve read that some bloggers have more success with square photos on Facebook. Some bloggers don’t even post to Instagram simply because their blog isn’t the most image friendly blog around (I’m kind of in that boat and I’m sad about it because I love Instagram more than all the other social media platforms.) 

Now I want to show you how you can modify a featured image for each social media platform. I’ll use my post from yesterday as an example. Here is the main image:

how to use colors to brand your blog

Original image for the blog post

 

This is what I did to it for the featured image: 

how to use colors to brand your blog featured

Again, I had to resize this to 470 x 246

 

And this is what I did to get it ready for Pinterest:

how to use colors to brand your blog

Why did I make it vertical? Because over and over again, longer, vertical images do better on Pinterest. If you’re a DIY blogger, take multiple images from your post and combine them into one long image so that Pinners can see a step-by-step image of what is featured in your blog post. Just remember, that tall, vertical pins almost always do better on Pinterest.

But what about those square images? Well those are great for Instagram and Facebook. However, Instagram is not only for square photos anymore! If you have a Pinterest photo that is vertical, but not too tall, you could use it on Instagram as well. So here is what I did to create a square photo, from the original photo, that I’ll use to promote the post for a 2nd time on Facebook.

how to use colors to brand your blog square

Remember, I really did all of this image creating in one big step. I created the featured image first (rectangle), then modified it for Pinterest (tall rectangle), then modified it to a square image. It took me less than 10 minutes to do all 3 pictures.

Julie’s tip:

Save each picture with the same name but change the last word. For example, I saved these pictures as “how to use colors to brand your blog.” how to use colors to brand your blog pinterest,” “how to use colors to brand your blog square.” It made it much easier to find them when uploading to social media.

Lastly, let’s talk about fonts. Please pick 1-2 fonts and stick with them. Make them legible and easy to read. I know some of those fonts are really fun. But if people can’t read the fonts very easily, then they won’t know what your post is about by reading the text on the image. Keep font simple and use the same ones over and over and over again. This is all about branding too, which I talked about in greater length here. 

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A social media checklist for bloggers

This past weekend I taught my first live Blogging 101 Class. It was an absolute joy to teach 6 different women who are diving into the world of blogging. Some are just starting out. Others have been around for awhile but didn’t have any idea of how to focus in on a specific niche. We had theologians, trauma survivors, teachers, crafters and foodies all working hard to develop their niche and take some practical steps to reach their end goal. Some want to start speaking at events. Other want to sell their products. One woman may start offering coaching for her healthy eating blog.

social media checklist for bloggersOne of the things we talked about was how to promote our blogs on social media. It’s one thing to have great content. But if no one knows about it, then your blog is dead before it even starts. Many bloggers can get bogged down with staying on top of their social media promotion. Or worse, they don’t even promote their blog on social media for fear of . . . judgement, failure, criticism . . .  the list could go on. Back when I did blogging and social media as my day job, I developed this check list. Let me be bold and say that I think this social media checklist for bloggers will help you get organized on a weekly basis! I personally use this every week and have found that I’m far more consistent and focused with what and when I post on social media. It also helps me not spend all day on social media. I do this checklist ONCE in a given day. This frees me up to do more of the mom thing or the consultant thing. 

The way I use this, wether it’s for my own blog or for a client, is that I print multiple pages off at once and keep it in my blogging folder. (This folder contains my editorial calendar, client notes, ideas and this social media checklist.) Once a day I will pull this checklist out from my folder and sit down with my computer. I start with Facebook, but you can start wherever you want. One thing I stressed in the class on Saturday was that you don’t have to be on all of the social media platforms.  Go deep on 1 or 2 social media platforms. Now I say that . . . but then I also say . . . don’t be afraid to go deep on a platform you’re not as familiar with. For example, I’m not very comfortable or familiar enough with Periscope yet. But I want to get there because I think it would be a really good platform for me to use. On Periscope, I could do mini-lessons for bloggers that go into greater detail than a regular blog post. I don’t have time yet to invest time and energy into Periscope, but I want to get there.
So as you use this checklist, know that you don’t HAVE to be on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. At least not starting out. Pick 1 or 2 to go deep on, and use this checklist to be consistent in posting and interacting with your fans. Ready to grab it?

 

blogging 101 book coverInterested in taking Blogging 101 on your own? Today I’m releasing my first ever digital course!

You may not be able to come to Kansas City for my next class, but you can download my class materials and 6 helpful worksheets to start, grow and monetize your blog. I’m offering this full course for 2 days only at a reduced price. After the 2 days are up, the course will be divided into 4 different mini-classes.

So if you want it all for one low price, get it now.

Here’s who I’m NOT voting for in 2016

It’s an election year. Obviously. My least favorite kind of years. I really dislike talking politics. Mostly because I’m absolutely terrible at articulating my thoughts and I also feel like “discussions” about politics are rarely (if ever) actual discussions. So you will not see me slamming politicians on social media throughout the year. You will not read status updates from me where I whine and complain about “the stupid idiots”out there who endorse X candidate.

Except for today. Today I will make my ONE political social media post of 2016 and then you won’t hear another peep from me again.

Let me say that I already disliked Jerry Falwell, Jr when he told the students at Liberty University how to handle “those Muslims.” So when I read that he essentially endorsed Donald Trump as a presidential candidate, shortly before Trump stumbled through trying to quote a verse from the Bible, I was blown away.  On sooo many levels. As Dr. Russell Moore of the ERLC stated so well,

“The problem is with allowing Trump to present himself as a man of faith and character, without calling him out on both. Trump has said that he has nothing for which to seek forgiveness. This is despite leaving two wives for other women, destroying families with casino vice, and trafficking in ugly, racially charged rhetoric. Portraying this lost soul as a brother in Christ is not only doing wrong to Trump himself, it preaches an anti-gospel to all who hear. The gospel is about repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, not about excusing sin and injustice for the sake of political power.” (Emphasis mine)

So come November, I will go and vote. But if I can find a place to make these stickers . . . I’m definitely going to slap one on my shirt as I leave the voting place and call it good.i did not vote for trump

 

I refuse to vote for Donald Trump and I hope you do too, for the sake of our nation. I guess, that if Trump is elected president, I’ll want people to know that I had no part in the demise of our nation with him at the helm. So there ya go. My rationale behind these not-yet created stickers.

That is all.

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Get serious about blogging in 2016

That post title is not just for you-I’m speaking to myself here. I recently drafted up my 2016 blogging goals. That was fun, and a little scary.

I want to get serious with my blog in 2016. This past fall, I took a big leap and quit my job of 5 years so I could take a much needed break and focus on emotional and physical recovery after a rough year. I was literally losing my hair due to unrecognized stress (and a prior illness). Oops. Now that I’ve weeded out some responsibilities from my life, I feel like I finally have time to build my own blog. While I’ve personally blogged informally since 2007, owned (and sold) a local moms blog, done ghost blogging and managed a non-profit blog for almost 4 years, I’ve never had time to focus on my own platform.

So 2016 is the year. After pouring over my blog stats and most read posts of 2015, I’ve zeroed in on my niche and set some goals. Just 3. Three goals. And a bonus goal because I like a little challenge.

blogging 101 image in postGoing after goals is also fun with friends. One thing I keep getting asked to do is to host a blog class. A “how to start a blog” kind of class. It’s finally happening folks. On Saturday January 30th I’ll be leading a 4 hour blogging class here in Kansas City.  If you’re like me and you want to get serious about blogging in 2016, let’s do it together. This class will cover:

  • First Hour-Who is my audience and how the heck do I go about this blogging thing? (How to determine your blogging niche and what blogging platform to use)
  • Second Hour-How do I spread the word about my blog in a non-annoying way? (How to utilize social media and email marketing to increase blog traffic)
  • Third Hour-Help me make this a reality! (How to set and achieve goals for your blog)
  • Fourth Hour-I’d like to make it rain. (How to monetize your blog or platform)

I’ll also include other helpful tips like how to create an editorial calendar, apps and programs to make blogging and social media posting more automated, digital handouts, and more. In order to keep it small so I can give more individualized help, I’m only allowing 10 slots. Register below to reserve your spot! The first 10 people to register and pay will get one of the 10 slots.
Price: $50
Date: Jan. 30th, 2016
Time: 8:30am-12:30pm
Location: 180 English Landing Dr. #230 Parkville, MO 64152 (Emmaus Church)

Bring your computer and some goals and we’ll get blogging!

 

P.S. The biggest reason I’m doing this class is to raise money for a trip I’m taking in March. I’ve been asked to head to Italy to blog and utilize social media to create awareness for what God is doing among Italian church planters. So if you’ve got a heart for the nations like I do, know that your purchase of this class is going entirely towards an opportunity I have to help spread the gospel!

 

Blogging 101

Join me on Saturday January 30th, 2016 from 8:30am-12:30pm and learn how to start, manage and grow a blog.
  • Already started? Give me your URL so I can be ready to help you individually.
    When I receive your reservation request, I'll send you an invoice via PayPal for $50. Once payment has been received, your slot will be saved.