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If you’ve followed me for any length of time, you’ve seen firsthand that I’m an open book. I love to share tips and tricks on how to make life easier.
As I’ve come into contact with other current and aspiring influencers, I’ve received questions about the tools I use.
Below are many of them. Some are affiliate links, meaning that if you visit their site through my link and end up making a purchase, I’ll receive a small commission, which I’ll use to help offset my expenses. There is absolutely no upcharge to you. In fact, many of these businesses run sales throughout the year, so there’s a good chance you can score a discount.
Winter holidays are great time to snag sale prices. Most businesses below have Black Friday, Cyber Monday and end-of-year promotions. Bluchic, in particular, has several sales throughout the year; although, the ones outside of November and December tend to be product-specific (not site-wide discounts).
Social media scheduling
Tailwind is a Pinterest and Instagram scheduling platform. At the time of this writing, I’ve been using it for about five months and I really like it. They have an Instagram “Smart bio” tool that I’m particularly in love with because now people have an easier time clicking on my story links. (Yay!) I also love that I can customize the buttons to my brand’s colors and the thumbnail images at the bottom. In addition, their analytics reports enable you to easily see which of your posts followers (and others) have liked and engaged with most.
Tailwind also provides ongoing training opportunities, and send updates to Tailwind customers as Pinterest and Instagram make changes to their platforms. (Gotta love someone doing the research for you and sending you the highlights!)
For instance, in November 2019, some Instagram influencers noticed their posts were getting a considerable increase in "hidden likes" (and decrease in publicly-visible likes). One of Tailwind's content marketers wrote a detailed article about it, with lots of data and examples, explaining why this was happening and what the change meant in terms of impact.
Another example is that Pinterest has been increasingly emphasizing the importance of fresh content. Tailwind has been sending email updates and holding Facebook Lives to ensure I understand what criteria Pinterest is using to determine what qualifies. In addition, when I schedule new pins via Tailwind, the system tells me if the pins will pass Pinterest’s “fresh” content litmus test.
In addition, Tailwind created a new software feature called SmartGuide that makes it easy to follow Pinterest’s best practices. When I schedule new pins via Tailwind, the system tells me if the pins will pass Pinterest’s “fresh content” litmus test.
Initially, SmartGuide is monitoring what I pin and helping me avoid any Pinning behaviors that could put my account at risk. Over time, the SmartGuide tool will keep me abreast of any new best practices as they evolve.
If all of this isn't enough, Tailwind also has thousands of Pinterest tribes. There are tribes for most any specialty or area of interest you can imagine. Because you're among like-minded individuals in these tribes, you get to know each other. You can announce to fellow tribe members what kind of content you're looking for and they'll tell you if they have any pins that fit your criteria. I've also seen tribe members ask for advice from the group, and use the group as a way to find subject matter experts for blog articles.
In other words, Tailwind Tribes are an easy way to find high-quality content to share on Pinterest from people you trust. In addition, they'll do the same for you.
When I first began building my website, I purchased an “easy” WordPress theme that had me in tears after 72 hours. The picture in my head and the monstrosity on my computer screen couldn’t have been more different. (Paying for an online course in how to use the software didn’t help, either. Web design is not my thing.) In desperation, I began searching for other solutions and realized I could purchase a blog template for the same price!
Bluchic’s templates immediately jumped out at me because of how clean-looking and beautiful they were. As I looked through their customers’ sites (on their Showcase page), it was easy to see how I could customize one of the templates with my colors and style of photography.
What’s more, the layout of their Paisley theme was exactly what I envisioned – a news-style homepage with plenty of navigational buttons at the top for core content. (Bluchic has themes/templates for product-centered businesses, too.)
Bluchic calls their designs themes, but in my opinion, they're more like templates because the bulk of the design and layout already exists. There is no starting from scratch. (To non-technical me, that's exactly what that other WordPress theme I purchased felt like.)
With Bluchic's themes, you're just swapping out photos and colors, and then pasting in your text. And of course, customizing the site map. But again, you start with a template that has a generic site map and page names, like the ones in the pink navigation bar of the Isabelle design above (e.g., home, about, etc.). Therefore, this process also is intuitive.
Much easier to create, a great-looking end product, and yet, the same price. It's a no-brainer.
Logos and branding
I found Adri, the designer who created my logo and branding materials, on Etsy. She has many ready-to-purchase logos in her shop and also creates custom logos and branding materials. I was nervous to hire someone I knew I'd never meet (she lives in South Africa); however, I trusted the great customer reviews and am glad that I did. Adri is extremely professional and took me through a full branding process, including a discovery questionnaire, mood boards and such.
Etsy has tons of graphic designers who specialize in logos and branding, so simply find one with great reviews whose aesthetic fits your style.
Also, make sure you know the designer's current workload and turn-around time. If you purchase a custom design, that process doesn't happen overnight!
Social media templates
Canva is the design tool I use to create all of my Pinterest and Instagram images. I started out with the free version, but quickly upgraded to the Canva Pro option. This was worth it to me for the extra tools and functionality. (For example, my brand’s fonts and PMS colors are part of my profile and, therefore, never more than one click away.)
And again, Bluchic
In addition to WordPress themes, Bluchic has 85 Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter templates in its Canva social media bundle. (Yes, 85!)
They all have the same look and feel as my blog theme, so this was a no-brainer for me. The templates provide a variety of looks for each platform, and have saved me so much time.
They also have opt-in templates, freebie library templates, and lead magnet templates, which I was about to hire a designer to create when Bluchic released them. There are 50 templates in that bundle alone. You could never hire a graphic designer to produce this many templates for the same price.
Occasionally I use an image from a no-charge, royalty-free stock photography site; however, those sites rarely have the shots I want. And when they do, I’ve seen them before on Pinterest and other places!
With a membership site, I get a much better selection and the rate per image is very reasonable because I pay for a monthly package. Shutterstock is the one I use. They have tons of unique, engaging, royalty-free images that have helped pull in a great deal of my Instagram and Pinterest traffic.
There also are many great, high-resolution stock photos on Creative Market. The images tend to be extremely reasonable, even without buying a monthly package. For example, an individual image on most stock photography sites will cost at least $32 (often $65 more); however, every royalty-free photo I've purchased on Creative Market has only cost $6 - $9. Seriously. And they're great shots!
In addition to photography, you can find a wonderful variety of templates on Creative Market for anything and everything, well, creative. I'm talking: blog themes, unique PowerPoint and Google slide templates, social media templates, easy-to-customize business card and brochure templates, and more. Plus, designers on Creative Market make fonts, illustrations, logos, icons and other design tools.
This is an important one because social media platforms can change their algorithms at any time. What this means is that, one day, you can have tons of likes and follower engagement, and all of a sudden, it drops like a rock because almost none of your followers are seeing your posts anymore. The way to avoid this is capturing email addresses. People aren’t just going to hand theirs over to you, but when you show up consistently and provide value, they’ll realize they can trust you – and they won’t want to risk missing your posts, either. 🙂
For email marketing and landing pages, I use ConvertKit. There are free email marketing services out there, but as I researched them, I didn’t want the hassle of switching to a better platform once my list grew to a certain point. I knew the fire in my belly would get me to that number, so I opted for a tried-and-true platform that positioned me for growth. ConvertKit also has a great online community, responsive customer support, and periodically run contests with prizes (like free service for a year!) so the expense has definitely been worth it.
(Bluchic also offers a course on how to grow an email list that is free and open to anyone.)
As I began researching web-hosting options for my blog, SiteGround quickly rose to the top based on reputation and price. I’ve been happy with my decision to use them.
Learning how to do "all the things"
Thankfully, the companies and businesses I mentioned above do offer free training on how to use their products. However, I have found that there's always more to learn because you'll wear so many hats.
My resource for additional training is Skillshare. I really like it because they have so many online course topics. And when you sign up for a Skillshare workshop (a series of courses that you agree to complete within a specific timeframe), you don't just learn about new skills, you apply that information afterward to ensure you grasp the concepts. You then post your work and exchange feedback with "classmates." And you may even receive input from the instructor.
Dale McManus did that with me, which I appreciated. I got a lot out of his iPhone photography and cohesive Instagram feed courses, as well as Joe Greer's mobile photography class.
There are so many other topics, too. The courses cover many creative areas (from podcasting and painting to baking and book binding), as well as a wide range of business, leadership and productivity skills.
I hope this helps
There's a lot more to being an influencer than most people realize, but having the right tools makes it a heck of a lot easier to shorten the ramp-up time and stand out. Whether you're a blogger, podcaster, course creator or social media influencer, these resources I've mentioned can help you increase your reach and impact – and do it in a sophisticated, engaging way.
Wishing you all the best as you pursue your passion!