Passing away of an avid blogger

Arun Jaitley, India's ex-Finance Minister and a well-respected political leader, passed away today. 

Besides being an orator, a parliamentarian, a lawyer and an administrator, he was a blogger - and his posts used to be full of pithy analysis on topical economic and political matters.
arun jaitley
Arun Jaitley's blog
Jaitley was seriously ill for many months and due to this he declined to take up a ministerial berth in PM Modi's cabinet when the party came to power second time in a row in May. Yet, he kept on expressing himself on his blog - mostly on the big decisions taken by the government. Like other politicians of today, Jaitley was also active on Twitter, but the blog, which later became a full-fledged personal website with many sections, always remained his primary platform for reaching out to his audience.

Just two days before his health took a serious turn and he was admitted to hospital, i.e. 8th August, he wrote a piece titled 'PM Narendra Modi and HM Amit Shah Achieve the Impossible' explaining how they managed to get a record number of bills passed in the latest sesssion of Parliament despite all odds.

A big loss to the Indian politics, also to the Indian blogosphere.

For success in blogging, first correct mistakes

You might have read many tips for success in blogging. But they do not work the way they should, because bloggers make mistakes that they can easily avoid. 

Not only new, even established bloggers often ignore the blogging craft. In the present post, I share common blogging mistakes, and also tell how you can avoid them.

In the next post, I will give a list of blogging mistakes that have ethical and legal overtones. 

You have started a blog but...

Let me assume that you are one of the two types of bloggers: either you have already started a blog or you are new to blogging and are thinking of creating a blog now. 

You might have some (or no) knowledge of blogging. Chances are that some of your friends might have blogs, and one or two of them often boast about the money they have made out of the blog. You might have seen that a friend's blog is quoted by others for its good articles or photos. 

You know the subject (at least that is what you think) and you can write some articles on the blog's subject, which people will like to read. Or, you might have thought of starting blogging without much expertise, to earn some pocket money.

Perhaps you have also applied the SEO tricks that you read on the web and even paid a few dollars for promoting the blog.

Whichever type of blogger you are, you are prone to making mistakes on the blog, which look small but impact the blog in a big way. These mistakes make your blog unreadable/ dull and boring. And your blog does not receive much traffic.

Without going into the thory of why some things work and others do not work well on a new (even established) blog, let me take you straight to what you should NOT do on the blog. If you take care of such mistakes, the chances of your success in blogging improve in a big way.

1. Improper blog title

Look at your blog's title carefully. If it does not relate to the subject of the blog or is too abstract or witty to make good sense, you must change it. Luckily, you can change the blog title any number of times as it is not related to the domain name (or URL or web address) of the blog.

Let's see some examples of poor titles:

  • Mayank's Blog (no relation with topic; this title can be OK if Mayank wants to profile himself on the blog and he does not write on specific topics)
  • Yoga for everybody (too broad, commonplace)
  • Mystery that I am (abstract)
  • Homepage (no title given)
  • Start a blog effectively (action oriented, but not clear about what specifically lies in the post)
  • Reducing belly fat (passive)
  • Recipes from the far east (passive heading; also not defining the geographical region clearly)
2. Poor post headings

This is similar to having a poor blog title. If you are one who does not bother about the headings of your posts, change that habit. If your posts have headings that do not prompt readers about what the post talks about and they are not sharp enough, you need to revise them.

Passive, too descriptive, confusing post headings are not liked by readers; they also are not easily indexed by search engines. 

It would help to look at the headings of your old posts and make them direct, action filled, even provocative. A heading that tells the reader that answer to his problem lies in the post. Modern search engines also love good titles that directly answer search queries.

CoSchedule headline analyzer is an excellent free tool for improving headlines.

3. Poor display and Clutter

If you believe that writing is good enough for a blog, think again. Your blog is like a newspaper or magazine, and if you do not spruce it with visual elements, it will look too boring. 

Put photographs or other types of images, even videos, to support the written part. When putting images or videos, make sure you have the right to use them.

Many things matter in deciding the appeal of a website (including blog), and nothing destroys the appeal more than clutter - too many elements scattered aimlessly. Too many widgets. Too many columns. Too many photos and video thumbnails. Too many different blocks of texts.

I have seen many blogs in which there is weird coloring of text or background. This looks childish - and should be used only on kid blogs or blogs on creative/ performing arts, not on other type of blogs.

Keep your blog neat and clean, the way a good homemaker keeps his/ her house. A bad web design (and a good website design that is spoiled by too many elements), both make the blog unprofessional and clumsy. 

4. Poor readability

We are still on design, not on the quality of writing (the next point). 

Some actions by bloggers that reduce readability are: 

  • reverse text colour display [white text on black background]
  • poor contrast between the background and the text: light text on light background or dark text on dark background
  • background image with varying contrast
  • too fast or too slow scrolling text
  • animated text
  • animations over text
  • too narrow reading column
  • unconventional experiments with font and text display
  • prose written with central or right alignment
Do not let your blog's great content suffer just because you have made it such that it irritates the reader. 

Also make posts as big or small as would suit your blog's personality. If you can write only short posts, you should better be writing on Facebook or Twitter. If you write too long posts, don't forget to make sections with distinct sub-headings and to put images so as to break monotony and improve understanding. 

5. Poor writing skills

When you don't care for language and proof, your reputation as a blogger goes down. People might forgive sloppy writing and errors on a personal blog, but not on a professional blog.

Some of the common problems with writing are:

  • ‘I-don’t-care’ attitude towards language. This happens because of attitude and sometimes to hide language illiteracy.
  • random experimentation with language
  • grammatical mistakes
  • proofing mistakes (wrong spellings, improper use of punctuation marks, wrong capitalization, etc)
  • language not easy and flowing for the web: long-winded, sentences; long paragraphs; no text variation and highlighting, especially when a large number of things are discussed; very long posts [and refusing to break them into two]; using obscure expressions and quotes; linguistic show-off
6. Irregular posting

You create an outstanding blog with a great design, highly relevant domain name, great content and what not. You write a few great articles too. But after that you take a long break, thinking that visitors and money will keep flowing in.

Don't do that if you want visitors to come to you regularly and look for updates. Without visitors coming to it, the blog would die. Don't let that happen.

7. Not doing any promotion, especially offline

To think that the quality of your writings will propel the blog does not pay on the web, unless you already are a celebrity, a popular influencer or a recognized expert.

Your blog is like a small shop in the crowded market. Unless you tell people about what you sell, people will not know about the shop or its merchandise. They will pass by it without pausing and making a purchase even if your product is best in the class. You need to put a good sign board, maybe a signage at the turning, perhaps also an advt in the local paper and a pamphlet inside newspapers.

If you do not engage with fellow bloggers, flaunt the blog on social media, submit the blog to directories, send emails to your friends and make the blog posts friendly to search engines, very few people will visit the blog. 

You must promote your blog even if you do not want to make money out of it. Since blogs are a more serious way of expressing oneself than Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp, the blog will wither away if you do not promote it on your social networks and also through email etc. 

8. Too much money-seeking, too early

I have also seen some less bloggers putting many advertisements on the blog without letting the blog to mature and establish itself.

A big number of people, especially young adults with engineering/ IT background, are drawn to blogging and website-making just for earning quick bucks. Their blogs are stuffed with keywords and they apply SEO tricks to earn money by fooling users and search engines.

Too much money mindedness can derail you from your path to being a successful blogger. If you are not passionate about a subject but want to blog because it will get you BIG money and QUICKLY, you better look at other avenues of money making. 

9. Dividing time un-intelligently

If you spend disproportionately big time on one aspect of blogging, you are likely to ignore other important aspects. The result will be that the ignored area will act as a bottleneck in the growth of the blog.

If you give too much time to many areas but you do not have the capacity to keep doing so, it may lead to burnout. I have seen many bloggers concentrating on writing only OR doing SEO all the time while writing poor content OR socializing too much but not writing enough. Many bloggers give up when they find that they cannot cope up with the work.

It is not that too much work is involved in blogging but bloggers get exhausted when they do not use time intelligently. So, divide time between writing, optimizing & making the blog appealing, promotion and monetization.

blogging success tips: avoid mistakes

Let me end this post by repeating what I said at the beginning: for success in blogging, it is equally important that you avoid mistakes. I will talk about more mistakes that bloggers make, in the next post. Till then, good bye!

TikTok and now Shoelace: trying to change the social networking game

You have heard of TikTok but not of Shoelace, right? Perhaps yes.

While TikTok is presently the most downloaded app on Google Playstore, much ahead of Facebook and Instagram, Shoelace is not yet there.

Let's talk about TikTok first.

TikTok is a video sharing social media app owned by Chinese IT major, ByteDance. It allows users to post short videos, and is very popular in a number of countries. Though less popular than Facebook and some other social media platforms, its growth in recent years has been phenomenal. It is available in as many as 75 languages and is among the most downloaded mobile apps.

Since one can create a short video instantly and add many effects, the app tends to be highly popular among groups of young people who like to communicate with entertaining videos. In areas where it is very popular, it has given rise to 'TikTok celebrities'. Some of them claim to be making big bucks from advertisers.

TikTok's popularity has led to its inappropriate use and thus the platform has courted content related controversies. Some countries have even banned it temporarily or permanently because of such content, which includes pornography, cyberbullying and blasphemy. Data privacy has been a big issue with the app.

Next, Shoelace.

Shoelace is Google's new social networking offer: a new app. It is available only in NewYork right now and you can download it only if you get an invite for that. Unlike major other apps, it is hyper-local, i.e. meant for networking in a specific geographical area.

Shoelace is meant to keep poking you on new happenings around you so that you get social in your real life. You are also suggested like-minded people and social activities such as dining together. 

You can learn about Shoelace first-hand here: Shoelace New York

While TikTok is about quick sharing of videos and the new smart-phone savvy generation has lapped it, Shoelace may succeed or it may wither like many other experiments - including some by Google. The experimentation is important even if it fails, because new platforms and new ways of socializing that we see today are the outcome of such experimentations.

shoelace by Google

How frequently should I update the blog

This post is in response to queries I have received about how frequently one should update the blog.

The questions are like these: Whether I should blog everyday? How frequently should I post? I am updating my blog regularly but not getting much traffic, why?  What is the minimum frequency per week for a blog to be popular? How many times in a week should one blog so as to earn from it?...

You should update your blog according to its niche, your content, competition's posting habits, and interest of your audience - all of them are linked.  Of course,  a big deciding factor would be how much resources you want to spend on the blog and what you want to achieve from it. 

Since organic traffic does not chase blogs any more because of competition from social networking and instant messaging sites, social media integration is as much important as frequency of posting. You must publish all your major blog posts on your social networking sites, after proper modifications.

It has been documented that traffic on the blog goes up when frequency of blogging is increased. However, the increased is less when the frequency is raised to a very high level.

The right frequency of posting on the blog is important for success in blogging. Too less updation makes the blog lost in the crowd of millions of new posts being written everyday. On the other hand, too high a frequency might take too much resources without corresponding benefits. A high frequency also means most of your posts could be without adequate research. 

frequency of updating blogs
I will close the topic with some examples to illustrate the points made above about the desirable frequency of posting for different types of blogs:
  • If you write about daily news of your area, you will need to update it at least once a day and sometimes more than that. If there is a breaking news or something really big, you might need to be online all the time. 
  • If you write on gadgets, you will be expected to update the blog at least once a week as new gadgets are regularly released. Since there are hundreds of bloggers and consumer websites are your competitors here, you will need to be quite frequent and on the dot. You will need to post immediately when a gadget that was being anticipated for a long time is released.
  • If you write on very serious topiccs, e.g. research in a specialized field, you may write when a new develpment takes place in that field, and that could be rare. However, so as to keep the blog active, you should keep writing knowdge-based posts.
  • If your topics deserve well-researched posts of a good length, your readers will not expect short posts. They would patiently wait for your long posts even if you publish posts only once in a while.

Blogging as mass media: Can you equate a blog with a newspaper?

This post carries excerpts from The Manual of Blogging, a reference book on blogging, available on Amazon.

Blogs were among the first social media entities that, in addition to connecting people, gave rise to mass distribution of content. However, puritans would not like to dilute the significance of traditional mass media such as newspapers and television – where a formal ‘press’ entity broadcasts news and information to a large audience/ readership.

... On the other hand, some media observers in the early blogging days got swayed by the tide of blogging. They even predicted that blogs would soon annihilate the mainstream print press. That never happened.

... While the boundaries have disappeared or are fast disappearing among different media formats, web 2.0 media, which include blogs as well as other social media formats, have a winning edge due to their inherent interactivity and sharability, which the traditional media (newspapers, magazines, radio and television) do not have.

... Despite disdain from the traditional media, social media is gaining importance as an important means of spreading information. Blogs are an important social media segment, which usually have long-form content with a longer shelf life than social networking segment (Facebook, Twitter etc).

Blogs as the fourth pillar of democracy

blogging journalists

... When it comes to standing against pressure, especially against oppressive governments, most media houses buckle down. Bloggers who choose to act as a watchdog by reporting wrong-doings in public offices and the society and by writing against them are in a very small number, but they are a highly motivated lot. They individually cannot resist pressures and threats and yet try to keep doing their job, sometimes by remaining anonymous. 

... Only a fraction of blogs qualify to be equated with press in the sense of its role to be a fearless watchdog of public and social life and governance. A slightly bigger minority of bloggers report on events or analyze issues like a mainline writer/ journalist would do, and they earn their reputation as a professional writer or blogger. 

... In a wider perspective, all bloggers who blog about any matter that is not private and personal are a sort of journalists, but not professional journalists. A larger fraction can, however, be equated with media, discussing matters ranging from science to health, fashion, cinema, sports and current affairs.

... Bloggers have no obligation to carry out the dictats of their bosses as they do not have any. Contrast this with the journalists working in traditional media bosses who quite often are politically aligned and have hidden business interests.

How can bloggers get maximum out of a press tour?

Bloggers are now routinely being called to press parties, especially by big tour operators, tourist destinations, hotels, governments, companies dealing with big manufacturing projects, at book and product launches, and so on. 

Because bloggers have special needs and they should ideally be given information differently from seasoned journalists, savvy companies also organize press tours exclusively for bloggers.

Whether as part of a standard press party in which journalists from print (newspapers, wire agencies, photo agencies, magazines) and electronic (television, radio) media take part or as part of a bloggers' press trip, bloggers must follow some rules of the game to make the best of the trip and to become more worthy of being invited in future.

Eleven best practices bloggers should follow when invited for press trips

1. Do homework.
Read about the place of visit, the host, special things that you are likely to see. Read material they send you. It helps greatly if you make your draft stories in advance. These may or may not play out finally but you will have ready-made outlines around which you can ask questions or seek more details when you are actually on the location.

2. Be fully prepared.
If going to an unknown place, check weather on the web. Keep clothes suited for the place - umbrella, light or heavy clothing depending upon temperature, jeans, cards. Pack medicine (sun-cream, anti-allergen, antacid, anti-pyretic, medicine for vomiting if going to hills by road). Keep all your gadgetry, and a pencil and a notebook even if you are sure the host will provide that. Keep a cellphone with good camera. Keep a battery bank. Though most hosts try to take full care of guests's needs and emergencies, sometimes they are not that prepared, or unseen things might happen.

3. Be punctual and responsive.
Respond to the invite. Be on time the first time and every time even if others in the group are not that punctual. Use the waiting time for knowing more about the place, organizing yourself, clicking photos.

4. Participate and enjoy.
Be game. Volunteer when there is an option (e.g. in response to 'Who all want the pre-sunrise visit of the temple tomorrow?'). However, don't be adventurous beyond what you can take. If part of the trip is too difficult for you or you suffer from an ailment that does not allow you to undertake that (e.g. trekking), tell the organizers - in advance, if possible. Exchange notes. 
Enjoy the trip. Use the opportunity to make friends. Don't be tense and always looking to be 'on the job'. 

Remember, the press trip is a professional assignment and also a sort of picnic: don't lose out on either.

5. Don't grumble.
If comforts are not as promised, don't make too much fuss. Don't be after food and drinks, better seat on the bus, better room, gifts etc. Don't complain about junior PR guys when their boss makes a courtesy visit. Don't talk about better experiences, like 'In my visit to ... they did this and this.' Don't be too demanding. Don't bargain about your compensation unless necessary.

Don't develop an ego of 'an invited blogger' or 'journalist' who must be looked after well.

Don't forget to send a 'thank you' note, immediately after the trip.

6. Take detailed notes.
Go beyond what information is given publicly by the PR guys. Note down all that you can: mundane details that pad up the story, also details that would add value to your stories.

Exchange contact details with key people especially when you would need to quote them on the blog, or to get background information. This is especially useful when companies  and government organizations take the press to new projects that are hard to explain in simple terms.

7. Think differently.
Think from human angle, think from reader's point of view, find interesting details. 

Don't make the mistake of  writing based on pamphlets and adding a bit of your story; write from your own perspective and based on your experience, and use pamphlets only for padding. 

Don't ask too many public questions. If you want some details exclusively, ask them during lunch break, after the briefing, through a phone call, on email.
If you discover an exceptional story idea that will help the hosts, be discreet in discussing that with others. Propose that as an exclusive story to be done later on.

8. Click, even if you won't use photos.
Photos not only are useful as part of blog posts, they also help recall many things that you might miss otherwise. Click yourself in different settings, but also click shots to emphasize the place and important objects - photos that would support your reports.

blogger trip press tour

9. Work on the spot, on the go.
Do not leave work till you are back. Every evening, before going to bed, work on your draft stories, jot down things that you could not during the day, improve your drafts if already made. You can even write a post while on the tour if you want to make more than one post on the trip. 
Otherwise too, why not issue a 'teaser' post with a photograph to tell the readers about your detailed post coming later? Why not post tweets and photos of the fantastic things that you experience? But be careful: on a professional assignment, your posts/ photos should tell others as a reporter, not as a picnicker.

10. Be honest.  
Disclose on the blog that you were taken on a all-paid-for press trip. 

If it is a sponsored trip [in which you are paid for writing the post, beyond courtesies of a press trip], disclose that. 

Unless it is a sponsored trip, write honestly about good things but be  discreet about criticism - and tell that the views are your own.

Do not talk about personal inconveniences caused due to your host's lack of care, but talk about hardships if they tell a story (e.g. in a submarine, how uncomfortable and claustrophobic it can be to remain in small cubicles for long duration; roughness of sea at a particular coast during rains; winding roads to reach a steep hill, which make you throw up at every turn).

11. Deliver.
Know the organizer's expectations in advance. Some organizers might expect you to post a number of tweets or short posts or photos (e.g. on Instagram) everyday. If that is part of the understanding, fine; if not, go along and do at least the minimum level of postings.

Don't ignore to write posts even if there was no obligation. In fact, write more than what you promised or what the organizers expect. Send them the link once you publish a post even if they did not ask for such details.

Blogging helped recover this blogger from two years of confusion and anxiety

While surfing the web, I came across this fascinating story of a lady who had been suffering from 'brain fog and anxiety' for over two years - and then she discovered blogging. Now she is an inspiration for others!
It has been almost a year since I started my blog, and I have never felt as creatively fulfilled as I do right now. Blogging incorporates all of my favorite things: community outreach, learning, photography, and writing.

You can see the full story here on Thriveglobal.

As is usual, I went to the blog and found it buzzing with activity. I discovered that Katie is active much beyond most ladies of her age. You name a social media platform and she is there, though she seems to have started social networking only recently. On Instagram, she already has nearly 7000 followers. On her blog, KatieGoesPlatinum, she talks of other accounts on social media, greying, products for use by old women, coloring of hair and so on. 

old age blogging

Behave yourself on social media if you want US visa!

If you want to visit the United States for any purpose, you will need to provide  your social media details for the last five years in the visa application. In addition, you will have to give details of all the email and phone numbers you used during the same period. 

A wrong information or hiding of information may result in denial of visa.

Earlier, this information was sought when the authorities suspected terrorist or other dangerous connotations with a visa seeker. Official and diplomatic visa seekers will still be exempt from this requirement. 

The administration feels, this move will help it screen visitors better. Whatever purpose it actually serves, this is another example of Trump's sustained pressure on immigration. 

Nearly 15 million people seek US visa every year for travel, work, education and business purposes.

Concerns are being raised about safe-keeping of data, privacy of visa seekers and possible threat to immigrants' rights due to any breach and misuse of data.

This US move may encourage other nations also to screen social media accounts of visa applicants and could become a world-wide norm.

When blogging defies age: Florence, 96, just got two blogging awards!

This blog, telling about the life in Dublin, Ireland, would turn 3 years this July. That should not make news. 

But it should: The blogger, Florence McGillicuddy, will soon turn 96! Yes, the icing on the cake is: only last month, he received two Silver Surfer awards for 2019 from Age Action Ireland, an organization celebrating achievements of old people. He received the overall top award as well as the Golden IT Award.

florence blog Grandadonline

Florence's blog, GranDadOnline, talks of the life as it was in the yesteryears and recalls major events of the bygone era.  Age Action Ireland describes his way of connecting with the younger generation thus: 

He has developed a unique relationship with the children in the local Ballyroan Boys’ School over the past three years through the internet.
Florence brings history to life for the young students as he researches historic facts about their city and composes the lesson in an email which the children’s teacher helps the students read. The students have learned about what life was like in Dublin when Florence was growing up and events such as what happened to Nelson’s Pillar, an airplane crash in Terenure, and he even organises school tours to cigarette factories.
In turn, the children will write back to Florence in old fashioned handwritten letter format which is a wonderful display of generations coming together and learning from each other.

Florence's use of tech looks even more fascinating when we consider the fact that even in this developed country, only half of the people between 65 and 74 years of age have ever used internet, and the usage of technology by people of 75 years and above is negligible.

All you wanted to know about #hashtag

Hashtag (# sign) is seen everywhere on the web these days. However, in absence of clarity on use of hashtag, it is being used indiscriminately. Sometimes this hurts the very purpose for which it was created, that is, greater visibility. 

The use of hashtag on social media started in 2007. It was lapped up by Twitter as a way for making words instantly searchable like any hyperlink, and for finding and grouping all tweets related to an expression. The basic purpose remains the same till date. So, if you put an expression '#CleanTheWorld' in your tweet, and if a visitor clicks on this hashtag, he will be shown all recent tweets on which this hastag has been used. Similarly, if he searches for this expression on Twitter, he is likely to see your tweet on the search page.

Hashtags are now being used on other social platforms, sometimes with some good sense and often wrongly by hashtag-crazy people. You might have seen some Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts that publish posts full of hashtags, which only harms the prospects of such accounts. Google and Twitter themselves put relevant hashtags around posts, and they use them sparingly and wisely.

I will limit this discussion to use of hashtag on Twitter, as this is the platform optimized for this.

When and how to use hashtag

We should use hashtag when we want to propagate or promote something on Twitter. In general, this 'something' would include a thought, an issue, an event, but not a specific product.

Most people use hashtags to spread a thought or support a cause or criticize something they dislike, thus spreading the message.

Businesses often use hashtag for promoting their brands or campaigns. 

Hashtags are now being used more and more for directed conversations on Twitter through Twitter chats and contests.

Hashtag best practices

1. Use relevant expressions / keywords with hashtag. Do not use hashtag expressions that have no relation with the topic of the tweet.

2. Use hashtags already in use. It helps if you use a hashtag that is already popular and is relevant to your subject. Inventing new hashtags for your needs is fine but these would take long time and you will have to work hard to make them popular.

3. Use hashtags that are short and memorable. When using long expressions, they must be such that people would recall them easily. Conversely, don't use abbreviations unless they make a sense.

4. Use Capital Letters and numbers to separate words. When using more than one word, capitalize each word for easy readability as well as recall. You can see the difference between these two: #ChampionsLeague vs #championsleague. You can also use 2 for to and 4 for for to separate words (e.g. #Volunteers4charity).

5. If you are a businessperson/ celebrity/ screen personality, create hashtags around your business/ persona. You should create one or two memorable hashtags about your products, relating to your area of operation, a social cause that you/ your business promote, the program that you produce.

6. Remember that if a hashtag is trending or has become very popular, your voice is likely to be lost in the flood of tweets that use the same hashtag. So, when a major event happens, associate your tweets wisely with the hashtag (out of many hashtags in use) that suits your views. 

7. Double check before using a hashtag. It may have a very different meaning than what you intend it to have. Some hashtags acquire a special meaning over time, some expressions may have different meanings in different contexts, using a phrase in a continuous hashtag may acquire a new meaning, and some hashtags may be associated with specific brands. For example, you cannot be using the hashtag #MeToo to express your participation in an event as it is now inseparably associated with issues relating to women's dignity.

8. Hashtags are great for search! Why only creat hashtags, why not use them intelligently for research? When you search Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or Amazon with hashtags, you are likely to get more relevant results. 

How not to use hastags on Twitter

1. Putting too many hashtags in one tweet. In one tweet, you should put only one or two hashtags, rarely three, but never more than that. Even three looks a bit too much.
hashtag spam

2. Using hashtag just because the expression looks great to you. If you are in love with some expressions, do promote them but not just by putting # sign before them. There are better ways to do so, such as writing more about them on your blog or discussing them on social media.

3. Spoiling sense and readability with hashtag in sentence. A hashtag can be used anywhere inside the tweet. But if you use it inside a sentence, take care that it does not spoil the readability and sense of the tweet. (A bad example of such a tweet: Whenever #socialmediatalksabout something, it goes viral, not when #Obamacriesabout. The way these are used for compressing phrases hurts readability, isn't it?)

4. Putting too broad or general hashtags. Well, this is not an abuse of hashtag but a waste of this facility unless you are an authority on that subject. For example, if you write tweets on news around you, putting a hashtag #news will not make the tweet viral because this hashtag is too broad and anybody searching for #news will get hundreds of results from big newspapers etc and your tweet will hardly be visible.

5. Repeating the same hashtag in a tweet. Repeating a hashtag does not help; rather it shows the person/ brand in poor light. It also irritates.

6. Mixing up hashtags (#) with mentions (@). On Twitter, these two signs serve different purposes and are not synonymous. Using them one after the other in quick succession also leads to confusion.

7. Using the same hashtag across social sites. All expressions do not resonate the same way on all social networking and bookmarking sites. Due to various factors, especially the user behavior, a trending Instagram hashtag may flop on Twitter.

7. Using hashtags for wrong purposes or without sensitivity. Don't use a hashtag to malign people, spread hatred or aggravate a social situation. Restrain yourself from using hashtag to divert a discussion towards an undesirable direction. Avoid popularizing a hashtag that is likely to be exploited for wrong purposes.

In their urge to get traffic to their opinion, especially on a controversial topic, some people make hashtags with intemperate language. Some use expressions that might hurt a religious or racial minority. Social ethics requires that we do not indulge in promoting hatred or demeaning someone's faith.

Avoid these technical mistakes while putting hashtags

1. Hashtag with only numbers. Twitter does not accept hashtags like this: #1234

2. Text before hashtag sign. If you put letters or numbers before # sign, nothing after this sign is hashtagged.

3. Putting a space or punctuation mark or @ within the tagged expression. Such expressions are not accepted: #World News (The hashtag will be read only as #World) | #It'sFriday (The hashtag will be read as #It)

4. Putting separate hashtags for a long expression. For example, if you want to promote PlainTalk, you should use #PlainTalk, and not #Plain #Talk .

4. Hashtags on private account. Hashtags work only when the Twitter account is public.

Promoting your hashtags

When you are passionate about some thought / cause you will either create a hashtag or follow one. The hashtag would need promotion like any other media/ social media entity. One way to promote it is to keep using it in relevant tweets. That's obvious.

You can promote your hashtag by using the same expression on different social media accounts.

Promoting the hashtag beyond social media helps, but it should make sense. Include your hashtag on your email signature line and social profiles (on FB, Twitter, Instagram, website, blog, etc).

They can promote their hashtags not only on social networks but also by putting these on business cards, writing pads and other stationery, advertisements, presentations, company pamphlets, company vehicles, etc.

Do your hashtags really serve a purpose?

Common sense says that a hashtag would make the connected expression popular, which in turn would help the tweet become popular. If the tweet is connected to a blog post or a photo or a video, these will get popular too.

With this premise, brands have been using hashtags to promote campaigns. But do all hashtags bring traffic? Do they lead to engagement? Is the engagement always helpful?

While majority of campaigns using hashtag get desired results - to varying extent - some backfire. In some cases, poorly constructed hashtags have hurt sentiments or have been seen inappropriate and have received backlash from followers.

In some cases (e.g. when an opinion is sought through a hashtag), there can be very critical responses. Sometimes, trolls have been seen to exploit hashtags and post irrelevant or abusive responses, thus derailing the campaign and embarrassing the brand.

Studies on use of hashtags on Twitter have found that more than three hashtags in a tweet result in lower engagement and people disliking the account, even unfollowing it. In ne study it was found that hashtags on Facebook posts reduce engagement. Tweets with too many hashtags (or only hashtags) are treated by majority of users as hashtag spam and are not responded to. 

The short point for use of hashtag by persons and businesses is that hashtag should be taken as a tool for promoting thoughts or products on social networking platforms. Like a physical tool, it works to its best if used expertly; it hurts the user if used shabbily or for wrong purposes.

Remember the golden rules of hashtagging:
  • Keep it simple, easy to recall.
  • Keep it relevant.
  • Don't overuse it.

best hashtagging practices

Social Logging is one of the top Indian blogs!

Indian Top Blogs, a website bringing out a directory of best Indian blogs for the last nine years, has included Social Logging as one of the 250 top Indian blogs.

Feels good, especially because the blog is just completing one year.

In an email message, the compilers have stated that they have included Social Logging, finding its content relevant for blogging and social logging, overally high quality of posts, high regularity and a simple design.

Thanks Indian Top Blogs for the recognition.

Bill Gates recommends top books on his blog

'Bill Gates'

The name sounds familiar, even if you have taken four shots of vodka or got up after a disturbed sleep. Isn't it? If you are still confused about the person, look at this Wikipedia page on him. 

By the way, besides being one of the richest persons in the world and a top philanthropist, he is a blogger!

In this post, Bill has given a list of books he recommends for this summer. You can go to the original post on his blog through the link [Bill Gates reading list] or by clicking on the image below. In short, the list includes these titles:

The Rosie Result, Upheaval, Nine Pints, A Gentleman in Moscow, Presidents of War and The Future of Capitalism. Of course, he recommends his wife Melinda's recent book on philanthropy, The Moment of Lift.

Shared web hosting is great for bloggers and small businesses; choose the plan with caution

You start a blog and put hard work on blogging. Soon its need for web resources grows and you look for a web host better than the one you have. 

This happens often with those who open their blog on a free blogging platform or they create the blog using a CMS and host it independently on a web host but they choose the web hosting company or plan that serves just their immediate purpose. 

Not much is lost if you face one of the above two issues. However, it is better that you research web hosting even when you are planning to start a new blog, and then invest money wisely on web hosting.

There are numerous sites on the web telling you which website hosts are the best. I can't dispute their reviews but caution you that in many cases, such reviews and recommendations are colored; they have some hidden commercial relationship with the web host they recommend

How to select the web host most suited for your website

Consider various factors that are relevant for your website/ blog, and then pick the web host that suits your needs. I discuss here some key points that many bloggers miss while looking at the numbers flaunted by web hosting companies to lure customers.

best web hosting company

Stick to a big web hosting company. 

Generally speaking, big web hosting companies maintain a minimum acceptable standard of resources and services. Though many users complain on web hosting forums, that big web hosts don't bother about small bloggers/ website owners, I still feel that they are much better than the one offering you a re-seller plan at half the cost offered by the big company.

You will not have issues with shared web hosting if you choose the plan wisely.

There are numerous web hosting options available in the market. Some common ones are: 

Shared web hosting. In this type of web hosting, a server is shared by many users, and this option itself has many variations. This is good for users who don't want to spend a lot of money on web hosting plans and don't mind some of its traffic and data transfer limitations of the shared plan. 

VPS hosting. This gives the user an independent virtual space on the web hosting server. This plan is great for businesses that want more power than shared hosting, but don't want to deal with dedicated hosting's prices. 

Dedicated hosting. This web hosting plan is both powerful and pricey; it is reserved for sites that experience incredibly high levels of traffic per day - bloggers and small businesses do not need this type of web hosting plan. 

Managed WordPress hosting is for those who want to build their sites on the back of the popular WordPress content management system (CMS), but don't want to bother with a lot of the back-end stuff (such as updating the apps and CMS, and enabling automatic backups). The web hosting company provides the necessary technical support.

In cloud hosting, you pay for only as much resources you use but is at present more expensive than shared web hosting. In fact, most big web hosting companies now provide cloud-based web hosting for all types of plans.

Small businesses and bloggers can run their websites for a long time on a cloud-based shared web hosting plan - and being on the cloud, they can ask for bigger resources if they need in future. This is the plan you should look for.

There can be a catch in any type of shared web hosting plan that you choose: some web hosts start charging exorbitantly once you upgrade; some companies are not discreet and allow shady websites that can hurt the entire server; some have too many websites sharing the server, so when the traffic in some of them spikes, other sites are badly affected. Therefore, look for reviews of shared web hosting plans offered by different companies. Again, big companies with high reputation are less likely to be indiscreet.

Server location is a very important factor in web hosting.

In olden times, you could buy hosting plans from only one location where the server of the web host was located. Now most big guys have servers in many countries, at least one in each continent (except Antarctica, of course) - and they direct visitors to their country's office. 

For example, if you are not located in the US and click on a link on a web host's advertisement on this blog itself, it might take you straight to the web host's site meant for your country, and the rates might be better than what are seen on the ad. 

Ideally, your web servers should be located near your audience so that the website/ blog opens fast. As site speed is a positive SEO signal, this also helps in search engine optimization of the website. In most cases, it is also more cost-effective to buy from a server in your location; it might also give you better customer service and in your native language. 

But be doubly sure that the local guys are as good as the main web hosting company. Check online forums and review sites, make local inquiries and also call them up. Why I emphasize this is because I have seen many reports that some hosts have unreliable franchisees or inefficient local units outside their headquarters.

Most bloggers are served well by Wordpress CMS; frills may be of no use.  

It is quite likely that your website/ blog is created on Wordpress. If so, you do not need a website builder if the web host is giving you the website builder at a cost. Small businesses and all bloggers will seldom need a website builder that has features beyond what Wordpress CMS can give - and it is free. 

If your website has been built on a website creation software, e.g. Wix, Weebly or Joomla CMS, check whether the web hosting company gives you the required hand-holding support. It should not happen that you buy the plan and then realize that hosting the website/ blog is creating issues and there is nobody in the company to give the type of technical support you need. 

Site uptime and web security are important things to consider in web hosting. 

All web hosting companies boast of a fantastic uptime, but many websites/ blogs suffer because the web hosting companies do not abide by their commetments on uptime

One reason I support big web hosting companies is website uptime. Though there are reports of poor service when their servers sometimes go down or get slow, they still are the most reliable lot. Small, local, web hosts might have a problem here.  

Security of the website is very important. That includes server security, secure connections, security certification, and data backup and recovery. Your website/ blog is at serious risk if the web hosting company does not care for these. Some web hosting companies do not provide security certification (HTTPS certificate to the website/ blog) or charge for that; some do not back up your website/ blog in lower-end shared web hosting plans. Do not compromise on your website's security even if you have to pay a higher sum for this. 

Do your own analysis before you buy the web hosting service.

Do not go by the fancy 'star' ratings or '4.5 out of 5' type ratings given by review sites. They usually do it for a monetary consideration. Even comments on review sites and forums may be manipulated. That is a reason I suggested above that you choose from one of the top web hosting companies operating in your country and then go for the best plan that suits your requirements and your budget. When analyzing your requirements, think of 5 years from now.

All the best!