Three Ways to Use IFTTT: If This Then That

Hey loves! Have you heard about this free service called IFTTT? If not, IFTTT, which stands for “If This Then That”, is an online service that automates various functions to help you improve your digital life. They use conditional statements, called ‘recipes’ to trigger changes on other web services like Facebook and Instagram. A lot of bloggers use IFTTT because it helps them share content in various platforms minus the hassle. Now, there are about 20 million ways (I'm just guessing, lol) to use IFTTT, but I’m only going to share three recipes that have worked for me.

1. Save links from your favorite tweets to Pocket

A few months ago, my Favorite tab on Twitter used to be an abyss of funny tweets and links I’d like to read for later. Finding the latter is like finding a needle in a haystack. But through IFTTT's sorcery, any starred tweet that contains a link will go straight to my Pocket, a web and mobile-based app that save interesting articles, videos, images and more. Once an article is saved to Pocket, the content is available on any device — even offline.

How to create a recipe on IFTTT - Send Twitter Favorites to Pocket App

2. Share ‘starred’ Pocket entries through Buffer

If you've been following me on Twitter, you'd know that I love sharing articles that I deemed useful and inspirational. However, I prefer to share these at peak times where most of my followers can see the tweet. IFTTT makes it possible to me to share starred articles from Pocket then tweet it using Buffer, a web-based scheduler app.

3. Post Instagram photos as Twitter Photos

A few years ago, Twitter (or was it Instagram?) removed the ability to automatically show Instagram photos in their streams. Sucks, right? But IFTTT found a way to share Instagram photos without the extra clicks. Posting the same image on different social media accounts may be an overkill, but it saves time for you readers, who are struggling to connect to their 3G signal, to view your photos.

Post Instagram Images on Twitter via IFTTT

And that's how you put the Internet to work for you! *badum-tss* IFTTT supports a lot of online platforms and apps, including cloud storages such as Dropbox and Box, and I'm sure you'll discover at least one recipe to improve your productivity or workflow. Best of all, IFTTT is free!

Have you tried IFTTT before? What's your favorite recipe? 

 

Evernote vs. Day One: The Perfect Blogging Companion

A couple of weeks ago, I tweeted a question about Evernote and Day One. Which one is better? I admitted that I was leaning on Day One because of the pretty user interface, but I needed to know if the app can handle my workflow. A blog reader then suggested I should write a comparison between the two and I thought that was a brilliant idea (Thanks, Danica!). A thousand words later, here I am with a comparison post! What is Evernote? Evernote, in its simplest term, is a digital workspace. It is designed for notetaking and archiving your thoughts, ideas and inspiration. Evernote comes in three plans: Basic, Plus and Premium. Here’s a summary of the things you could do with each plan:

  • Evernote Basic: You can write ideas on the desktop app. You can also clip text, photos, and links from anywhere on the web. It also comes with a Work Chat feature to share and discuss your notes with others. You only get 60MB of monthly upload allowance. Price: Free.
  • Evernote Plus: You get all features being offered on Evernote Basic but with offline access on your phone. You also get 1GB of monthly uploads and have the ability to forward or save your emails. Price: PHP550/year or $2.99/month.
  • Evernote Premium: You get all the features mentioned above, plus the ability to turn notes into presentations, annotate attached PDFs, and scan business cards. You can also see previous versions of your notes and has an unlimited monthly uploads. Price: PHP1100/year or $5.99/month.

The best plan is entirely up to your lifestyle and work. For my blogging needs, however, Evernote Basic is more than enough… provided I have wi-fi or 3G on my phone. While I was in Japan, I was forced to upgrade to Evernote Plus because I needed the offline access on my phone while touring. I never had this kind of problem while I was in Manila because I was always on LTE/3G. Needless to say, I was a little annoyed I had to pay two bucks for offline access, but I’m also quite glad that the upgrade happened at the right time because Evernote Plus was only introduced last April 29, 2015.

Anyway, here’s a screenshot of the notebooks and the unedited note of post:

Evernote

Evernote may be a robust note-taking tool but like everything else, there’s always going to be pros and cons:

The advantages of Evernote:

  • The basic plan is free.
  • Evernote can be synced on multiple devices.
  • Notebooks serves as a folder of your notes. For better organization, you can stack these Notebooks into Stacks.
  • Evernote comes with a powerful search function, but you can also add tags on your notes.
  • It has a built-in simple rich-text editor, allowing you to change the fonts, add lists, and create a to-do list at a click of a button.
  • Apart from note-taking, you can also attach photos, links, and PDFs.

The disadvantages of Evernote

  • You have to pay for added features.
  • Offline access for mobile is only available on paid plans and that sucks. However, you can still use Evernote on your laptop even while offline.
  • The interface of Evernote for Mac can be a little overwhelming. Maybe it’s just me but I think there’s just so many things going on that I find it hard to focus on what I’m writing.

It’s given: Evernote is a powerful tool. But it’s also complicated. I know how to make to use Evernote but I always feel there’s so many things going on in one window. The organization of the notebooks can also be quite confusing. Wouldn’t it be nice if I can put colour on the notebooks? I wish! If you’re also having trouble with Evernote, I recommend reading this fantastic article on how to organize your Evernote account.

What is Day One? From the website, it is described as "a journaling app for the iPhone, iPad and Mac. Record life as you live it. From once-in-a-lifetime events to everyday moments, Day One’s elegant interface makes journaling your life a simple pleasure.” From the description itself, it’s not meant to go against with Evernote but some people prefer this app than the other. One thing I’m particularly fond of is the design of the app. The sidebar and toolbar are not intrusive but easily accessible. In other words, I can write without getting distracted by other things. I also like how easy it is to find older entries through the calendar I also like how easy it is to find older entries through location, calendar, or tags. But the app is using Markdown instead of a rich-text editor (RTE). For a journaling app, I believe using Markdown instead of a RTE defeats the purpose of journaling because no one has the time to memorise syntaxes like these:

[example](http://dayoneapp.com/markdown)

Here’s a sample screenshot on how to format the texts:

Fortunately, you can bold or italicize a word or sentence using your keyboard (ex. Ctrl/Cmd + B or I).

The advantages of Day One

  • The mobile app is free on iTunes.
  • The user interface is gorgeous. It’s modern and clean. Just the way I like it.
  • The interface is focused on writing. It also has that personal appeal whereas Evernote is so serious and business-y.
  • It has a calendar, making it easier for you to find previous entries.
  • You can also add tags and location for better organization.

The disadvantages of Day One

  • Day One for Mac has an upfront fee of $10.
  • I can’t sync the app on iCloud unless I upgrade my Mac OSX to Yosemite. Fortunately, you can sync it through Dropbox or Day One’s account.
  • There’s no visual editor to make formatting much easier.
  • Not available for Windows and Android phones.

In conclusion Which is the better app? In terms of features and versatility, the obvious choice seems to be Evernote. You can write and attach photos, links and articles on Evernote. It’s also free and supported by various devices. But with so many features offered, users may feel overwhelmed. But if you need an app to write your thoughts or ideas without the extra features, Day One is a great choice. It’s a simple but modern looking app. It’s also easy to browse old entries and you can use tags for better organization. The only downside is that it’s cost $10 (one-time payment) and not available for non-Apple devices. As for me, I would continue utilizing Evernote as my blogging tool while Day One for personal entries that I can’t share in public.

Do you have any experience with either app? What do you like about these apps? 

Growing Your Blog with Pinterest

I’m sure that a lot of you have heard of Pinterest before, but probably have not utilized it properly to benefit your blog. But that’s all going to change starting today because you’re an Internet rockstar and you totally deserve the best things in life, including “secrets" that could improve the growth of you blog. But what is blog/web traffic anyway? Good question! In a non-techie way, blog/web traffic refers to the number of people who visited your blog. This traffic grows over time as more and more people visit your blog, and it becomes a vital tool to discover what people like reading on your blog, how long they stay to read your articles, where do they come from, and so forth.

Ok. Then what is Pinterest? Pinterest is one of the leading social media platforms today. If Facebook’s purpose is to chronicle your every day life, and Twitter is your thought bubble in 140 characters, then Pinterest is your visual bookmarking tool that helps you discover and save new creative ideas. In it’s simplest sense, Pinterest is your digital mood board.

Ok, cool. But why should I use Pinterest?

Obviously, there are various reasons why you should use Pinterest. But I’m going to start off with the very cool fact that Emma Stone once said on Jimmy Fallon Live that she loves Pinterest. (On a side note: I went to YouTube to get the link of the Jimmy Fallon video but ended up watching five makeup videos by Wengie. Talk about poor attention span!).

If you're already a member of Pinterest, then you and I, together, now share something in common with the sassy actress. At this point, I’d like to think that we’re now one step closer to Andrew Garfield! HA HA!

But seriously, you need Pinterest because it no longer limits your inspiration within the books and magazines available within your area. Pinterest helps you collate various ideas, inspirations, tutorials, and what not from all over the world in one place. Food lover? They have over 1.7 billion pins about various recipes. Selling a handmade product? Guess what? Two miilion people pin products every day — can you already imagine what Pinterest could do to your sales? Mind-blowing!

And as a blogger, you can use Pinterest to promote your content too.

Follow Kisty Mea's board Blogging Tips on Pinterest.

First things first, signup with Pinterest. I don’t know why Pinterest is invite-only in the Philippines but if you don’t have an account yet, you’re in luck because I’ve got a special registration link valid for a limited time only. Just click this link or the cute button below to get started:

Sign up with Pinterest

Once you’ve got your Pinterest up and going. It’s time to fill it up with your particulars, like your name, blog URL, and so on. Pinterest allows you to verify your blog, so make sure you do that to increase the credibility of your website.

Now, here’s the real deal: The first thing you need to know is that Pinterest is open to any kind of niche but it’s most effective to lifestyle topics and interests, such as do-it-yourself tutorials, arts & craft, freebies, home decor, traveling, creative resources and blogging advice. By knowing the interests of the audience of your blog and that of Pinterest, you’ll have an idea what to write and to promote.

It’s also very important to write with quality. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Quality content is STILL king. Write something with value, not only for yourself, but for others as well. Your peers, readers and followers will most likely share your content on social media, including Pinterest.

Another important thing to point out is that Pinterest is all about visuals. Your blog photos should be visually appealing (a.k.a. drop dead beautiful) but consistently unique. It’s also encouraged that you use vertical photos than horizontal photos on Pinterest because they’re easily seen and stand out better. Captions should also be descriptive. To be honest, I’m still figuring out how to use vertical photos consistently on my blog posts because they're not ideal with Facebook and Twitter, but from experience, vertical photos does perform better when acquiring new visitors and getting repinned multiple times on Pinterest.

Join community boards. These are similar to your personal boards, but other people are also pinning their own content. While I haven’t really utilized community boards to my benefit, I did notice that they have 10x more following and that could really help you reach a wider audience worldwide and boost your blog traffic.

P.S. Kayla also wrote a wonderful entry on stepping up your Pinterest game. You may also want to check that out, as well.

The Real Price of Blogging: 5 Things You Need To Build A Badass Blog and Its Cost

In the past seven years, I've gotten numerous emails asking me for advice about starting a blog, and I think there are various ways to tackle this question because everyone has a different blogging journey. So I'll start with the objectives, the tangible essentials that you need to create a blog. Now, I don't want to come off too technical so I asked the help of amazing bloggers and creative freelancers to craft a blog walkthrough for people like you who want to start a badass blog.

1. Domain Name

How much? $10+ per year, from Namecheap

If you're signing up with web platforms like Tumblr or Blogspot, getting a domain name is optional because you'll automatically receive a blog URL in a particular format (or subdomain) for free. But if you're serious about blogging or establishing a name for yourself, a domain name is necessary. When choosing a domain name, pick a name that's memorable but easy to type.

Domain Formats of Different Blog Platforms


2. Web Hosting

How much? Price starts at $5 per month. My current web host offers $30/year.

Some of the popular web hosts other bloggers use are Bluehost and Dreamhost. I have no experience with any of these web hosts (yet) but I did ask friends for some feedback:

I chose Dreamhost because they offer reasonably priced packages and I'd heard great things about them. — Nesha of Nesha Designs

I use Bluehost and they've been really helpful in terms of customer service and prompt in replying to my emails. Their reps are really resourceful and they rescued me numerous times after I mess with my coding and broke my site by accident. — Aimee of Ready Set Happy

Always remember that a web host is crucial to your online business or blog. If your web host is down all the time, you'll lose valuable clients and readers. Look for a web host that's reliable, one that delivers an uptime of 99%, and has an incredible customer service — all at a reasonable price.


3. A Blog Platform

Currently, there are five platforms that a lot of bloggers choose from — Tumblr, Blogspot, Squarespace, Wordpress.com, Wordpress.org. The web design goddess, Ashley of Nose Graze, was generous enough to write an in-depth yet concise pros & cons for each blog platforms (the blockquotes).

Tumblr (Free) is a micro-blogging platform that's perfect for shareable content like art, photos, and poetry. Its reblog feature serves as an excellent blog exposure tool and could boost your traffic. But since it's considered a 'micro-blog', the platform comes with basic and very limited features. Ideal users: Artists, photographers, writers and poets.

The pros of Tumblr: It's very easy to use and has an active community, or fandom. Illustrators, photographers, writers and poets can receive great exposure through this platform.

The cons of Tumblr: Although intuitive, the features and functions of the platform are very limited. The inability to visit a blog on another tab affects a blog's traffic. 

Blogger (Free) is a Google-powered platform is one of the most reliable blogging platforms since 2000s. Like other free platforms, Blogger also has their set of "limits" but they aren't very limiting at all. In fact, each Blogger account can have up to 100 blogs per account, 1 GB of total storage, and 2000 unique labels per blog. For more info about the limits, read thisIdeal users: New bloggers and for anyone who doesn't want to spend too much.

The pros of Blogspot: It's free, you have a large amount of freedom over the design/code, you're allowed adverts and JavaScript.

The cons of Blogspot: You're at the whim of Blogger/Google. If someone reports your blog as spam, they can delete/remove/hide it without warning. They have full control over all your content and could decide to shut down one day without notice or reason. There are also fewer customization options since you cannot use PHP or modify the admin area in any way.

Squarespace (Paid) is a paid platform that offer so many things. You can showcase your portfolio, sell your products and blog your thoughts — all in one place! What I like about Squarespace is the ease of use and modern minimalist themes you can use. They also have an excellent customer support, and you won't have to worry about technical matters. Ideal users: People who want to set up a website but doesn't want to code.

Pros of Squarespace: It's very "what you see is what you get" and simple. If you're not tech savvy and don't want to become tech savvy, it will probably be the quickest and easiest way to get a site up and running. You have someone on the platform itself you can turn to for help/advice/questions. You don't have to seek out a third party "developer" or "maintenance plan".

Cons of Squarespace: It's not open source. That means you can't do whatever you want with it. This severely limits what you can do with the platform. Also, Squarespace is a HUGE pain to move off of. So if you decide to move to WordPress later, it will be a nightmare. Posts can transfer over okay, but images do not. It will require an experienced developer to get it working even somewhat okay. Also there's a monthly fee.

The Two WordPress There are two Wordpress versions: the .com and .org. The significant difference between the two is who's hosting your website. With Wordpress.com, somebody else takes care of the hosting for you just like what Google is doing to Blogspot and Yahoo to Tumblr. With Wordpress.org, you host the website. You'll install it on your web host, you make your rules on how you use it.

WordPress.com (Free) is the hassle-free version because all you have to do is think of a username and sign up. This easy to use platform comes with a robust analytics but doesn't allow third-party advertisers (no Nuffnang or Google Adsense). Yikes! Their free plan also comes with so many limitations, so if you want to access the advanced features, you'll have to pop $99/year! Ideal users: Anyone who wants to set up a blog without monetization in mind. Also, you must be rich.

Pros of WordPress.com: I've heard that their support is very good. It's easy and free to get up and running. Also if you decide to move to self-hosted later, it will be RIDICULOUSLY easy and completely seamless.

Cons of WordPress.com: The platform is heavily limited. You cannot use JavaScript or iframes. You cannot use custom themes. You cannot even add custom CSS without paying for an upgrade, and at that point you might as well move to self-hosted anyway.

WordPress.org (Free) offers the same features WordPress.com has but with more freedom, flexibility and customization in terms of usage. WP.org also has a repository of plugins that you can use to improve further and tweak your website. Using these plugins, you can turn your website into a shop, a forum, and even a social media site! The possibilities are endless! Ideal users: people who want to build a customized website.

Pros of WordPress.org: The platform is open source and there are hundreds of thousands of plugins. There are literally NO LIMITS with the platform. You can do absolutely anything with it. You're only limited by your own abilities and/or what other people have made (plugins). Plus you have full ownership and control of all your content.

Cons of WordPress.org: You have to pay for your own hosting and you're also responsible for your own maintenance (unless you hire that out). You have to stay on top of plugin/theme/core updates, and you have to be security conscious. Most of this should be common internet sense, like don't use the username "admin" and have a strong/good password.

Which one is the right platform for me? Choosing the right blog platform is crucial because you'll be spending a lot of time together. My best advice is to try them all since most of them are free, and you can decide which one you're most comfortable with.

Of course, for beginner bloggers, I strongly encourage signing up with the free platforms first to determine if blogging is something you can commit to. Blogging takes a lot of hard work and patience!

How To Choose A Blogging Platform


4. A Gorgeous Theme & Branding

How Much? $30-1500 or more, one-time payment.

If you want a fully customized theme, prepare to shell out some money. One customized theme can cost at least $1000. For pre-made themes, like the ones that you can find at Theme Forest and Creative Market, can range from $30 to $80. If you know a little bit of HTML, CSS and PHP, you can also create your own from scratch or download a free theme and modify it to match your style.

Need inspiration? Check Design Crushes for my favorite fonts and themes.


5. Social Media Marketing & Business Tools

How Much? Free or $5++/month

Paying for extra services to promote your blog is optional, but it's very useful for people who want to pursue blogging as a career or business. These services can help you streamline your creative process, promote content more efficiently and allows you to focus more on the important things. Here my current top three tools:

  • CoSchedule — A social media editorial calendar plugin that I highly recommend. The only reason I like this plugin is that I can manage my posts and schedule promotion in just one window. No multiple accounts needed! Price: Starts at $9/month.
  • Buffer — Buffer is a great scheduler app. You can schedule your posts on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and even Pinterest! Buffer also has a built-in analytics to check your growth and engagement. Price: Free or $10/month.
  • Evernote — Evernote is an all-around digital workspace where you can write, collect, present and even discuss ideas. I use Evernote to write drafts when I don't have any Internet access and keep notes that I deemed imperative. Price: Free or PHP550/year.

Aileen of IAmAileen.com is a very successful travel blogger from the Philippines living in Belgium. Despite her success, she doesn't spend much on tools. In fact, most of the tools she recommended to me are FREE! She was kind enough to share her favorites:

  • Portent's Content Idea Generator - it's a fun way of generating new content for my blog if I ever get stuck on thinking of a new topic to write about; otherwise, it really helps in suggesting keywords that I can use.
  • Click to Tweet - the easiest way to encourage your readers to share your blog post by highlighting a quote.
  • TwitterDeck- a free web application that helps me manage my Tweets, but the best feature that I like about it is that I can freely schedule Tweets in advance
  • Asana - a free management tool that helps me collect and plan the ideas or tasks that I have for my blog

The Total Cost? About $110 yearly. This is only an estimate based on the figures I've given you (and on the assumption you will buy a new theme every year), but the actual cost will differ from one blogger to another. Take me, for example, I paid $13 for my domain and $25 for my web host (I got it for 75% off on a Black Friday Sale). I also paid $50 to use CoSchedule. If you add all that up, you'll know that my essentials were %88.

I know this was quite a lengthy read, but I hope this walkthrough has helped you know how to start a badass blog! If you're a beginner in blogging, you're not required to spend a single dime. But if you really want to invest, then these are the costs you need to know. Let me know if you have any more questions! :)

6 Mobile Essentials for Blogging

Pursuing blogging and a life of travel at the same time is fun but also a challenging task. I think it's nearly impossible to do both — to go to exciting new places and write your adventures immediately — if we didn't have these applications and smartphones (Hallelujah to Steve Jobs for revolutionizing the iPhone!) to help us connect with our readers. In the past three years as a traveler, I don't think I'll be able to go through all of my backlogs, share real-time events, and craft a meaningful write-up if it wasn't for the following tools:

1. VSCOCam

There are thousands of photo editing apps available on iTunes, but VSCOCam is what most bloggers, photographers, and general iPhone owners user to post-process their photos. Their presets are just gorgeous, and the community is full of talented artists from all over the world.

I use this app for all of my photo-editing needs on my iPhone. I’ve purchased all presets, but A6, HB2, C8, M5, and J2 are just some of my go-to filters.

2. 30/30 (iPhone Only)

30/30 is a beautifully-designed app that uses the Pomodoro Technique. You make a list of tasks, set the time needed for each task (usually in 30 minutes) and finish them one by one. I use this app on my busiest days, when I know I'm overwhelmed with the amount of work that needs to be done.

3. Bloglovin’

I've never understood the importance of Bloglovin' until last December, and ever since them I'm hooked! Apart from their pretty user interface, Bloglovin' allows me to read my favorite blogs while I'm on the go, and save interesting articles for later. Bloglovin', however, is mostly focused on fashion/beauty/lifestyle/travel posts.

4. Wordpress

This app is what I use when I want to write a draft on my blog, reply to comments, and check blog statistics. Since this app has the ability to write blog posts, it's super helpful when inspiration suddenly pops out of nowhere and I need to write it down. You can also use this to read other people’s blogs, but I think it’s only applicable fort Wordpress blogs.

Blogger, Squarespace, and Tumblr also have their own iOS app which you can also use to publish new blog entries.

4. Downcast (iPhone Only)

Lately, I've been trying to make it a habit to listen to podcasts. With Downcast, I can listen to my favorite podcasts directly on my device without syncing with iTunes. There are other alternatives, like Instacast, but I can't seem to find one that's 100% free.

6. Buffer

Buffer is a social media management tool that I've only started using a couple of weeks ago. Buffer is a neat platform, making it easy for me to keep multiple social media accounts up to date.

Bonus — 7-9. Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

The trifecta of social media and blogging. Each has a different function and community, but for a blogger, these apps only mean one thing: real-time updates.

Bonus — 10. Spotify

Although I don't use this app regularly, it has been proven that music can boost energy and improve productivity. Apart from that, if you offer playlists to your readers, Spotify is a great platform to discover new music.

Bonus — 11. Fujifilm Photo Receiver

For those who didn’t know, I purchased a Fujifilm XM-1 mirrorless camera last year. One of its features is the ability to transfer photos to your phone wireless, which I then use to share real-time photos of events and places I go to.

There you have it, 6 and 5 more apps for your blogging needs. I was in the zone while writing this article that I couldn't help but add five more in my list. Have you got an iPhone app essential that wasn't mentioned on my list? Do let us know, maybe me or other readers might benefit from it. :)