I Design + Develop + Support WordPress websites

How to: Add the new Twitter follow button to WordPress

Twitter just came out with what I would describe as their version of the Facebook “like” button. It lets you add a button that your site visitors can push to follow your twitter account without ever leaving your site. To get this button onto your WordPress website, all you have to do is paste the following code where you’d like the button to appear:

<a href="http://twitter.com/terranb" class="twitter-follow-button">Follow @TerranB</a>
<script src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" type="text/javascript"></script>

This will give you a button that looks like this:

This will display a styled twitter follow button if you’re not following me, or a checkmark and the word “following” if you are followed by my twitter name. Go ahead and try it!

A couple of things to note

  1. You will of course want to change any reference to “TerranB” to your own twitter name
  2. If you’re adding this to the content area of your post make sure to paste it while in the HTML, not the Visual editor
  3. If you want to put the button in a widget area, just use a text widget

Advanced configuration

For those of you who are never satisfied with the “out of the box” styling and formatting twitter offers a number of custom configuration options for their new follow button.

Hide your follower count

By default the number of followers you have will be shown. To remove this add data-show-count=”false” to the link like so:

<a href="http://twitter.com/terranb" class="twitter-follow-button" data-show-count="false">Follow @TerranB</a>
<script src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
You’ll end up with a button like this:

Button, Text, and Follower Count Colors

You can also change the colors of the the follow button, the link to your twitter profile, and the follower count text by adding data-button=”color” (blue or grey), data-link-color=”hex code”, and data-text-color=”hex code” to the link respecitively. All together it would be something like this:

<a href="http://twitter.com/terranb" class="twitter-follow-button" data-button="grey" data-link-color="00FF00" data-text-color="FF0000">Follow @TerranB</a> 
<script src="http://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" type="text/javascript"></script>
This would get you a button that looks like this:

Other customizations

There are a number of other customizations available including the language used, alignment of the button, and Whether or not to display the user name with the button. It’s important to note that Twitter is very explicit in saying that it must be very clear what user the visitor will be following if they click the button, so if you choose to remove your username, you’ll have to display it yourself manually, so you should really only do this if you you’re unable to your username how you want with the Twitter supplied code. You can find out how to do all this, and anything else you want to know about the twitter follow button here

Won’t work on WordPress.com

Unfortunately for those of you using blogs hosted at wordpress.com, this code won’t work for because wordpress doesn’t allow the use of javascript citing security concerns.

If you’d like some help switching over to a self host WordPress website, just shoot me an email!

Will you use the Follow Button?

So what do you think? Are you going to use the new Twitter follow button on your WordPress site? Or are you going to stick with “old fashioned” links and the classic “t” twitter icon? Why or why not?

Why not to Automate Everything

A copywriter friend of mine, Christine Parizo, recently came across a request from a reporter looking for  a wordpress expert to answer some questions, so she thought of me. The reporter was looking for information on plugins that will automatically tweet and post to facebook when a new blog post is created. Now, there are all kinds of plugins out there that do this, but even if they all worked great (and I’m sure some of them do), I still wouldn’t recommend them.

I think automation is great. I also think the web is a great tool for automation. Even a website is a form of automation. You put up your sales copy, write a blog post, or put up a video, and it keeps on working for you automatically as a sales tool without you spending more time on that particular part of your site. Find a salesman who will do that!

But sometimes automation just doesn’t make sense. Think about it this way: You’ve just written a 1000 word blog post that you may have spent hours researching, or you’ve even just dashed off a quick 400 word post like this one is going to be because something sparked an idea, but then you let an automated bit of code take over when it’s time to write the whopping 14o characters it takes to promote the post on twitter. Does that make sense?

What these plugins do is take the post’s title, create a shortlink (from bit.ly for example) and post it using the authorization you gave it to access your twitter account. Sounds good so far, but what if that brilliant thing between your ears can come up with a better way to promote your post than by just spitting out the title? I bet it can too!

Once you’ve spent all that time writing your blog post, why automate that last crucial yet simple and fast step of promoting the post when you could probably come up with a much better way of promoting it in a fraction of the time it took you to write it?

My point is that automation is a great thing, but only if it either delivers the same same result in a shorter amount of time, or the time to “do it by hand” is greater than the reward of adding your own touch.

That’s my take on it. What do you think? Is all automation the right choice no matter how little time it saves, or does the human touch still matter on the web?

The art of the Linkedin Connection Invitation

For various reasons I’ve become a bit of a public figure in the local “online scene,” which means I’ve started to get more LinkedIn connection invitations, especially from people I haven’t actually met.

I think this is great – in fact click here if you’d like to connect with me. But read the rest of this post first because what I’ve been seeing is that people are terrible at writing connection invitations.

Should you connect with people you haven’t met?

Before we get too far I think it’s worth addressing the question of whether you even should connect with people you haven’t actually met. This is something I struggled with for awhile. My response to invitations from strangers back then was:

Hi <name>,
I’ve made the decision to only connect with people on Linked in who I’ve actually met. If we have and I’m forgetting I apologize.

I would however be happy to meet and we can talk about what we’re working on. If this is something you’d be interested in let me know.

Thanks for understanding,
Terran

This met with mixed responses. Some ignored, some I ended up meeting, and some offered indignant replies indicating they thought this was a silly policy.

So what did I do? I ended up asking what other people do on, where else, Linkedin Answers. I got some great responses on both sides of the argument.

One of the especially convincing points someone made was basically “if you’re only connecting with people you know you’re basically using Linkedin as a contact manager, and there are better solutions for that.”

So now, while I don’t usually seek out connections with people I don’t know, I will accept them depending on the person.

Writing connection invitations to people you’ve met

First lets talk about writing connection invitations to people you actually have met. Here you could probably kind of get away with the default:

I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.
– Terran Birrell

But what fun is that? I prefer writing something more along the lines of:

Hi <name>,

It was great meeting you at <place>! I enjoyed our discussion about <topic>

Best,

Terran

Or I might thank them for a tip they gave me, or remind them about something we were discussing that we had planned to follow up on. Basically a personal anecdote to trigger their memory.

I’ll let you in on a little secret too. These don’t take a lot of work, but you can get away with even less work if you met several people at the same event because all you have to change is the second sentence.

My response to generic connection invitations

What’s worse than a generic connection invitation from someone you have met? That’s right, a generic connection invitation from someone you haven’t met. I generally don’t write a lot of these myself, but I have started to receive quite a few, which is why I’m writing this.

Lately I’ve taken to responding with something like :

Hi <name>,

I’m having some trouble placing you. Have we met? If not, would you mind sharing why you’d like to connect? I’m not opposed to “meeting” via linked in, but I like to get an idea of why people are interested in connecting 🙂

Best,
Terran

People will sometimes ignore this, but I’ve also gotten some well thought out responses explaining their thinking, which generally results in my accepting the invitation.

Writing connection invitations to people you haven’t met

So how do you skip that intermediary step and just get to the person accepting your invitation and avoid people just ignoring your generic message? Make it personal!

You will of course still run into many people who won’t accept any invitations from people they haven’t met, and you’ll waste your time writing personalized messages to those who will accept any invitation, but you’ll maximize your chances if you personalize your message.

A recent response to my prodding for more information offers a great clue of what the initial invitation should have looked like:

Hey Terran,

No, we have never met, but that is the best part on online connecting!

I am a health and social media coach and it is always good to connect with a web designer 😉 (just in case I need ya or perhaps you need me 😉

Hope that answers your questions!

Warmest,
<name>

So what does this message do? It acknowledges that we haven’t actually met. If it weren’t explicitly answering my question about whether we’d met, it could have been more subtle about that. It also tells me a bit about the sender, what it was from my profile that she found interesting, and best of all indicates that she might have work for me at some point. That was an excellent response, so I accepted the invitation.

A more generic example might look something like this:

Hi Terran,

I came across your profile [ saw your comment in some group,  follow you on twitter, read your blog post on x, or heard about you from a friend] and saw [some interesting thing about you]. In my work as [profession] I am also interested in [or have similar clients to you] and thought you’d be a good person to connect with.

[preferred salutaion],

[your name]

Basically, what you want to do is mention how you came across their profile, what about them you find interesting, how this relates to you or what you do, and, if you can mention, what’s in it for them.

Practice on me…

Ready to try out your new Linkedin connecting skills? If you enjoyed this post, might want some web design help or have clients that might want some, or think we should be connected for some other reason head on over to my Linkedin profile and let me know.

What do you think?

So what are your thoughts on Linkedin connecting? Do you connect with people you haven’t met? Why or why not? What do your favorite connection invitations look like?

Why Twitter Doesn’t Suck

An acquaintance of mine, Jason Mark, recently wrote a blog post on Why Twitter Sucks which pointed out that Twitter is less popular than Myspace, it’s usage has peaked, it’s expensive (ie takes more posting to be considered interactive), and is for “old people” (according to high school students).

While all this may be true, I disagree that twitter sucks. I will say, however, that I’ve found from the analytics on one site that with almost five times as many twitter followers as Facebook fans I still get more traffic from facebook than twitter. I think some of this is that google analytics isn’t counting traffic from twitter clients like Tweetdeck as actually coming from twitter, but still.

So why don’t I think twitter sucks even if it sends less traffic to a site despite more followers than fans, and even if all the rest of Jason’s points are correct? It comes down to one final point Jason makes:

All this being said, there are some audiences which LIVE on Twitter. Geeks. Venture Capitalists. Reporters. Bloggers.

What this means to me is that Twitter is where you find influential people. Maybe you won’t find anywhere near as many customers on twitter, especially if your demographic is young, but what you will find is plenty of the people who can influence your customers.

I’ve gotten a bit of business from people on twitter, but rather than selling to the people I met on twitter, it has been referrals from people I got to know on twitter to other people they know, or at least who know them.

What I have found Twitter to be very good at is becoming friends with people (often influential people) who you never would have met otherwise. Try friending someone you’ve never met on Facebook. Doesn’t usually go so well. But follow them and interact on Twitter and it’s a different story. And As for Facebook pages, from what I’ve found, it can be hard to get people’s attention (and get them to fan you) unless they already know about you. They’re a great way of keeping in touch with people who are already fans though.

As you’ll see if you click on Jason’s name up top, he actually uses twitter, and I don’t get the sense from his post that he really thinks twitter sucks. His point is that you shouldn’t just go jumping into every social media platform you can find. You should examine the platform and see if it’s right for your business. I totally agree with this take, and it’s true of just about everything – not just social media.

That’s my take on it. I agree that twitter may not be the best place to mass market, but I think it’s a great place to make real connections with people who can let you reach a mass market with their help.

What do you think? Does Twitter Suck? Why or why not?

A Day in the Life of a PodCamper

Last Saturday I attended a day-long event called PodCamp Western MA 3 (I built that site). This was my second PodCamp – I also attended PodCamp CT 1 last fall – and I have to say I’m hooked.

So what is a PodCamp anyway…

PodCamp is an unconference that started just a few years ago when Chris Brogan and some other folks wanted to learn about podcasting (hence the name), so they started a conference in Boston to get people to teach them about it.

Now PodCamp tends to encompass all aspects of social media, and generally also includes some sessions about business, marketing, websites, and all kinds of cool things!

The best part about PodCamp is that anyone can run a session, and many of the sessions pop up the day of the event. They’re designed for the exchange of information between peers, rather than the typical conference model of having “experts” talk at you. And you still end up with some heavy hitters with all kinds of knowledge who might otherwise be headlining conferences that cost several hundred dollars. All for the low-low price of $25 (breakfast, lunch, and a t-shirt included).

What my day looked like

I was part of an “elite group” of PodCamp Helpers so I showed up a little early to help set up. With breakfast (coffee, OJ, pastries, and fruit) set-up and people filing in to register this is a great time to network for those so inclined. People are generally friendly and you’re bound to at least have something in common in your interest in social media. And if you’re like me you’ll “know” a lot of twitter friends who you’ve never actually met.

Opening remarks

Morriss Partee gave his opening remarks (watch here) to let everyone know what the day would look like. You certainly didn’t need to know what you were doing when you got there.

Session 1: Social Media 101

Julianne Krutka and I ran this session. Who’d have thunk it – I only started doing this social media thing a year ago. We had some great questions from business owners, job seekers, and others covering twitter, facebook, linked in, and more. We had some great participation from people in the group when they could answer questions better than we could, which is exactly what’s supposed to happen at PodCamp. I even got to share my favorite social networking “trick” which is basically:

Social networking is just networking that happens to be online. The same rules apply.

There’s always something to learn in social media, and PodCamp attracts people who like to learn, so this session was one of the biggest of the day. If you want to get exposure to a large group definitely consider leading the Social Media 101 session at your next PodCamp!

Session 2: PR in Social Media

The next session I went to was about using social media to help with public relations and was led by Jaclyn Stevenson. You can watch a video of some of this talk here.

Jaclyn recommended some neat online tools in this session:

HARO: At Help A Reporter Out you can sign up for an email list where reporters send requests for interviewees, etc. Instead of randomly sending out press kits you can just contact reporters who are writing about something you know about.

PitchEngine: PitchEngine offers an “online newsroom” where you can post your press releases. As a web designer my focus in any social media endeavor is driving traffic back to a source I control (my website) so the viewer can actually do what I want them to do. Any content you produce should have the ultimate goal of getting people to contact you, buy something, signup for something – whatever you goal is.

So I was curious why I should be creating this content on some third part site when I could just as easily create it on my site (If you can’t easily create new pages on your own site you should contact me :D). What Jaclyn told me is that when you create a press release in PitchEngine you can select a category to put it in (like sports) and reporters are able to subscribe to RSS feeds for each of those categories. It’s kind of like a reverse HARO. Instead of you finding out about what reporters need, reporters find out about what you have to offer.

While I’d still really encourage you to make sure that press release links back to your site, I’ve got to say that PitchEngine sounds pretty darn cool! You get to borrow their audience instead of just relying on your own.

Press Release Grader: This neat little tool from the cool guys over at HubSpot apparently lets you paste in a press release you’ve written and then tells you how good it is and what you can improve. Sounds pretty cool!

Jaclyn had some other tips, so why not watch the video?

Lunch

How can you go wrong with free lunch (well, included in the ticket price)? This is a great time to do some more networking so choose you table carefully and don’t be afraid to table hop once you’re done eating to see how people are enjoying the day, and what they’ve learned.

Session 3: WordPress

I led this session. We talked about WordPress.com vs WordPress.org (self-hosted), Installing WordPress, Hosting recommendations, Themes (premium, free, and custom), and plugins.

I promised the attendees that they could have my notes from the session, so you can download them by clicking here. They really are just notes, so they’re probably going to be most useful to just see the plugins we talked about if you didn’t get a chance to write them down. If you’re curious about anything there feel free to contact me to ask about it.

Lesson learned: leading sessions, especially on your area of expertise, is a GREAT way to get exposure. People feel more comfortable approaching you, your session is bound to attract the people it would be most useful for you to talk to, and even the people who didn’t make it to your session might ask you about it.

Session 4: Value Viral Marketing

Steve Haase and Christiana Briddell are two of the three people behind a really cool marketing experiment that happened over the summer called The Influencer Project which took off like crazy and which they’ve used to get sponsorship for (and basically create a brand new company around) other similar projects in other industries.

They call this type of marketing “Value Viral Marketing” because it involves coming up with an important idea (the value) that’s related to something the sponsor company is concerned with and turns it into a viral marketing campaign by making it really easy to share.

One kind of rule I’ve come up with from sitting in on this session is essentially:

Get people involved in content creation who will also gain by sharing with their followers

Steve and Christiana also gave some other tips like giving many ways to share very easily, and running contests. For example, they gave away a spot on the influencer project to the best “spreader” of the idea through twitter.

The real lesson that they kept repeating was that it has to be value based for this kind of promotion to work. It has to be some big idea. It can’t just be marketing about the company, and it can’t just be a cat doing something funny. That might go viral, but it’s not going to help a brand.

Session 5: Social Media for Non-profits

My girlfriend Lori Satter led this session. She didn’t feel qualified to be the “expert” at the front of the room, so we both spent the day recruiting people we thought would have something to contribute.

What was really amazing about this session was the level of participation. In the true PodCamp spirit Lori treated it as a chance for everyone to learn from each other by asking questions to lead the conversation rather than getting up and talking.

The other great thing was the number of different types on non-profits represented from college admissions and alumni relations, to public schools, churches, the alzheimer’s association, and the non-profit Lori works with: The Emily Dickinson International Society

Wrap up

PodCamp finished off with a bit more networking as all the sessions wrapped up, and an some emotional closing remarks by Morriss that showed just how much he cares about PodCamp Western MA, and the sense of community it creates.

One Regret

My One regret is that I didn’t make it to the after party. Those of you who remember last Saturday will know things were awfully slick out there on the roads. So as we came sliding into the driveway (quite literally) those braver than I were networking away in Westfield.

Going forward

Now with PodCamp over the one thing left to do is to blog about it! If you do be sure to let Morriss and/or me know about it over at the PodCamp website so we can post it there and everyone can learn about the sessions they missed, and why they should go next year!

Create a Newsletter in WordPress

Ever wanted to create a separate “newsletter” page for your site that’s segregated from your main blog? This tutorial will walk you through doing just that for your WordPress site.

This post comes to you courtesy of Angelique at AfMarCom.com who had me create this solution for her site.

Step 1: Create Your First Newsletter

This part will be easy for anyone who’s used wordpress for any length of time. Just create a post as you normally would by clicking the posts link along the left hand side of your admin panel and then select “Add New.”

Maybe you’ll write about some time sensitive topic you really want people to read now. Maybe you want to offer excerpts from your weeks posts. Or as Angelique chose to do maybe you want to pair highlighted posts from the week with special newsletter only content.

So you’ve written your newsletter, and you’re ready to push that pretty blue “Publish” button. Don’t do it just yet. Wait for the next step.

Step 2: Create a Newsletter Category

There are other ways to do this (such as in the categories control panel), but you may as well do it while you’re creating your post. Just look for the “Categories” box along the right site of “Add New Post” page. Click “+ Add New Category,” name your category something like “Newsletter,” and click “Add.” Make sure the category is checked before moving on.

Ok, now you can go ahead and publish your post.

Step 3: Exclude your Newsletter from your blog page

Here comes the “tricky” part. First we need to find out what the category ID number of your new category is. Click the posts link along the left side as you did when creating a post, but this time select the “Categories” link.

Now find the Newsletter category you just created and hover your mouse over the link. In your browser’s status bar (usually in the lower left) you’ll see the URL this link will take you to. It’ll look something like this http://pressmy.biz/wp-admin/categories.php?action=edit&cat_ID=5. That number at the end is your category ID. Write it down for the next step.

Next we’re going to add some code to your theme’s functions.php file. Open it in your favorite text editor and add this code:

function exclude_category($query) {
if ( $query-&gt;is_feed || $query-&gt;is_home ) {
$query-&gt;set('cat', '-1');
}
return $query;
}
add_filter('pre_get_posts', 'exclude_category');

Before you go accusing me of being a php genius here’s where I found that code

You will need to make one little change to that code. See the part that says $query->set(‘cat’, ‘-1’);? Just change that number 1 to the category ID number you wrote down earlier.

Finish off this step by uploading functions.php to your server using your favorite FTP program. Check your blog page and make sure the post you just created isn’t showing up.

Step 4: “Create” your Newsletter Page

You may have noticed that “create” is in quotes up there. This is because we’re just going to use the archive system built into WordPress. First lets make sure your newsletter post is showing up on the category archive page.

The URL should be something like http://pressmy.biz/category/newsletter where “newsletter” is the name you gave your new category.

Some Thesis Only Display Options

Angelique uses a premium WordPress theme called Thesis, so to make her new newsletter page show up nicely I made a few changes to the theme which I’ve included here in case you use thesis too. If not you can ignore this step.

Unless you’ve already changed the thesis archive display options you’ll probably just see the title of each post in the category. If you like this then you can skip the rest of this step.

Customizing the look of your archives pages is one place that Thesis really shines. Just visit the “Thesis Options” panel and find “Archives” under “Display Options” along the right had column. You’ll find four options that should be pretty self-explanatory, but here’s a brief explanation:

  • Titles only: This is probably currently select. It will display only your post title as a link to the post
  • Everything’s a teaser!: Your archives pages will appear with a double column of post excerpt with a title, published date and read more link.
  • Same as your home page: Your archives will look just like your home page. Nothing more to be said here.
  • Post excerpts: This will look much like “Everything’s a teaser!” except each excerpt will take up the whole column

Just pick one and click the save button. Play around until you find the option you like.

Step 5: Add your Newsletter Page to Your Navigation Menu

Now that WordPress 3.0 is out you can add navigation menu items on any 3.0 safe theme super easy by visiting Appearance > Menus and adding the category to the menu.

Step 6 (optional): Remove “From the category archives” (thesis only)

Another “thesis only” step. Skip it if you don’t use thesis.

If you’re like me and you think the “From the category archives” text at the top of your Thesis Newsletter page shouldn’t be there, with a quick addition to your custom.css file we can fix that. Open Custom.css found in the custom folder of the main thesis folder and add the following code:

.cat_newsletter #archive_info p {
display:none;
}

Be sure to change “newsletter” in .cat_newsletter to the name of your category. If you would prefer to remove this text from all your archive pages simply remove the .cat_newsletter class from the above code

You’re Done!

There you have it. Now you have a newsletter page for your WordPress site where you can post special content, time sensitive posts, or summaries your blogging activity for the week or anything else.

What else can you think of to use a “newsletter” page for?

Another note

If you’d like to have multiple newsletters that don’t show up on the blog page, just replace

$query->set('cat', '-1');

with

$query->set('cat', '-1', '-2', '-3');

Notice, you’re just adding a comma and then adding new category IDs. Really simple!

Display Content Only to Logged in Users in WordPress

This is something I recently did for one of my sites that I think is really neat, so hopefully you will find it useful as well.

Basically it adds content to a post or page based on your input in a custom field, but only for logged in users. It also displays a message telling non-logged-in users that they’re missing out on something.

Here’s the first part of the code which goes in your themes functions.php (custom_functions.php if you’re using Thesis):

function add_loggedin_content () {
global $post;
$loggedinmessage=get_post_meta($post-&gt;ID, 'logged_in_content', TRUE);
if ($loggedinmessage) {
if ( is_user_logged_in() ) {
echo do_shortcode( $loggedinmessage );
}
else {
echo 'This page contains content that only logged in users can view. If you are registered <a href="/wp-login.php">click here</a> to get access. To register <a href="/wp-login.php?action=register">click here</a>.';
}}}

My application is to display a contact form only to logged in users. Since I’m using contact form 7, I wanted to be able to insert a shortcode in the custom field. If you wanted to insert regular content just change:
echo do_shortcode( $loggedinmessage );
to:
echo $loggedinmessage;

Adding the user only content

To use this function just go to the post/page, scroll down to “Custom Fields” and click on “Enter New.” In the “name” field enter:
logged_in_content

Then enter whatever shortcode or content you want in the “Value” field.

Theme specific code

You need to add a bit more code to get the contents of your new custom field to actually show up. The problem is that this code tends to be theme specific.

The site I’m using this code on is using the Thesis Theme. If you are too you can just use this code:

add_action('thesis_hook_after_post', 'add_loggedin_content');

This will run the function at the bottom of the post.

To get the code to a similar location in the Genesis Theme, another of my favorites you’d instead use:

add_action('genesis_after_post_content', 'add_loggedin_content');

Please note that I haven’t actually tested this, but according to WPrecipes you should be able to get a similar effect in any wordpress theme by instead using this code:

add_filter('the_content', 'add_loggedin_content');

So what uses can you think of to put this code to use for?