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?