How to Win the Game (and Customers) with Content on Linkedin

With over 107 million registered, engaged users in the United States alone, many of which are your customers, colleagues or more importantly prospective customers, Linkedin is the choice for B2B marketers.

And it’s growing. Every second, two more people join Linkedin. By the time you reach the period at the end of this sentence, Linkedin’s audience will have grown by 12.

From 2013 to 2014, Linkedin grew its membership by 20% – more than Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube combined. It’s the fourth fastest growing network behind Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr.

It’s a unique social media platform that lets you network with like-minded individuals and connect directly with potential customers. So the question is, why aren’t you using it?

If Linkedin gives you the capability to share targeted updates directly with connections or write posts to engage in thought leadership (and set yourself apart from the competition), why aren’t devoting at least 20 minutes a day with it?

Let’s put aside the incredibly powerful (and free) search capabilities of Linkedin for a moment. And lets save the potential of engaging groups for another time.

This is all about how you can collect, share, and create compelling content for your audience to start conversations and get connections motivated. Below are some tips for sharing stories and writing blog posts to engage your audience, and by the way, everything below is free. The only thing you need is the time.

First, Create “Listening Stations” with Google Alerts for Awesome Ideas

The most common excuse people come up with for not engaging their audience on Linkedin with an update to share or an article to write is the lack of ideas or time to generate them or a combination of both, which is downright scary.

Now, I’m sure we’ve all seen The Wolf of Wall Street so I’ll spare you the quotes about the things that are holding you back and do you one better by offering your a solution. It’s called Google Alerts and it’ll collect news stories for you, on a daily basis, based on keywords of your choosing, and send them to your inbox.

There’s no scouring search engines for information or researching niche blogs. The best thing is, it was developed by Google (it’s right in the name) so it’s incredibly useful, as powerful as it simple, and free, which is the best.

Here’s how it works. First, you enter a keyword you care about. Try something simple like “Digital Marketing”, “Fainting Goats”, or “David Lynch”.  Then toggle a few settings, enter your email address, and boom, done, that’s it. The alert automatically monitors the web for content related to that keyword and updates you by placing an email right in your inbox.

You can have alerts emailed to you daily, weekly, or if you’re into this sort of thing, as it happens. You can also narrow the alert regionally, or have it monitor only blogs, videos or discussions. There’s a number of settings to help you set the granularity of the alert.

In a data-driven world where things happen all the time, it’s an incredibly powerful tool for keeping you up to speed on what’s happening.

It’s great to set up a few of these alerts as “listening stations” that will funnel ideas to you automatically. Make a habit out of reading it daily. It’ll keep you updated on what’s happening in your customer’s world. It will also give you great content to share as an update or even ideas for a post.

When you’re ready to learn more about this go read Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and ‎Julien Smith. Five years later, it’s still the de facto standard for influencing people in social media. Great read.

Share Smart on Linkedin and Engage Your Audience

Now that you’ve got your listening stations supplying a steady stream of content to your inbox, it’s time to put it to good use.

Whether you’re sharing stories to your feed or using several articles for sources in a post, there’s some best practices you should follow to maximize your return on investment.

First, let’s talking about sharing an update. Sharing an update is easy enough – you simply copy and paste a URL into the “Share an Update” field on your homepage. For the most part, if the site you’re sharing has it’s act together, you’ll see a thumbnail and abstract appear after you copy and paste the article. After that, you can enter a message summarizing why you’re posting the content.

After that click “Share” and boom, done – you’re sharing content on Linkedin. Look at your spreading the word.

And while this is a pretty cool thing to do – sharing links and news you feel are relevant – it’s only scratching the surface.

One of the coolest things you can do is “tag” a person or company in your share, which engages your audience (the whole point).

As you’re writing your message to explain your post, you can type an “@” symbol and start typing either the name of any company or person on Linkedin to “tag” them in the post, which means they will receive a notification after you share. This is a great way to build your audience, stay connected with customers, or push prospects toward the sale.

Here’s me sharing a Windows 10 article from TechRepublic with Bill Gates (the real one) and mentioning Microsoft (the company, for reals) with my old college buddy William Johnson (who couldn’t care less about this). All the shares appear in gray, that’s Linkedin’s style.

So how does this work in the real world? Check this out.

Let’s say you’ve just had a great first meeting with a prospect and you want to keep the relationship moving forward. You know this person is incredibly interested in cyber security. In fact, that’s the problem you’re trying to solve with the prospect. Also, since you’re smart, you’ve connected with the person here on Linkedin.

An appropriate way to keep the prospect engaged is to find a news article or blog post the prospect would enjoy, share it on Linkedin, and mention them as you do it.  As an aside, if you really want to find the best cyber security news, do yourself a favor and follow Debbie Windell, the Director of Community Engagement at ICS-ISAC. She will fill your feed with so much great content with respect to cyber security you won’t need a Google Alert.

And by the way, you can automate content posting with Buffer – an application which lets you create a stockpile of content that will automatically post to Linkedin (or Twitter or Facebook) based on a schedule you create.  Plus it’s totally free for up to 10 automatic posts a day. The only draw back here is you can’t yet tag people on Linkedin posts in Buffer. It’s worth a look anyway.

Write Awesome Posts on Linkedin to Engage in Some Serious Thought Leadership

Here’s a question: What’s the most popular type of content on Linkedin?

Think real hard. Ok, give up?

I’ll give you a hint: It’s in your head. You’ve built it up over the years you’ve been working. The answer is this: Industry insights.

According to recent research, six out of 10 Linkedin users are interested in reading about colleagues experiences and expertise over all other content combined.

And lucky for you, Linkedin offers a free way of talking directly to your audience through posts. This is how it works:

On your homepage, you find that button all the way on the right that says “Publish a Post” and click on it. Then get to work Hemingway, write an engaging post filled with the insights and experience.

(Pictured: You Being Awesome)

Coming up with ideas is easy – you already have listening stations set up to stream ideas directly to your inbox. Plus you’ve got all this industry experience. Additionally, you’ve probably got an opinion, insight, or success story that will help someone in someway and that’s what it’s all about.

Disagree? Take this into consideration.

I talk to people all the time who feel like they work in a vacuum. They can’t imagine that anyone, anywhere, even within a 100 mile radius of their workplace, could be experiencing the same problems they face on a daily basis.

Worse yet, they can’t imagine someone in their position working in the next town over that would benefit from the novel way they solved their problems or how they arrived at awesome conclusions with innovative thinking.

They can’t even fathom that person like them exists – let alone imagine them having the same issues and the capacity for appreciation of the solution.

And that’s just wrong.

Everyday people work in environments that are admittedly not 100 percent similar to others, that’s true. Of course no office, graphic design den, factory, plant, or pizza shop is just like the next. But in ways, one municipality is similar to the next to the point where the ideas for solving problems could be just as applicable — or helpful — to others.

In short, don’t spare pixels because you think your idea isn’t awesome. Because it is. It’s awesome. Go burn some pixels telling people about it.

Now, you’ll want to structure your post for sure – add a couple of subheads, organize your thoughts, fashion a snazzy headline. Need some helping writing? There’s a outstanding blogger named Neil Patel who wrote a great article about Writing 2000 Words in 2 Hours.

Regardless of how its structured or how it gets done, just remember three simple rules of posting on Linkedin:

  1. If you’re trying to sell people something outright, game the system with keyword stuffing tricks, or not handling yourself professionally, you’re doing it wrong.
  2. If you’re trying to impart knowledge, educate, and helping others, you’re probably doing it right.
  3. Writing is about solving a problem – always. If you’re not solving a problem with your writing, back up until you see the “3” and start reading again but more carefully this time.

The coolest thing about writing a post on Linkedin is when you’re done and you hit “Publish”, every one of your contacts will get an alert. Everyone you are connected with will get “pinged” about your article. Powerful stuff.

There’s a lot of research into the best times to actually pull the trigger on your post. Many say early morning is the best, other go with the email-marketing standby and suggest right around noon.

The truth of the matter is if you write engaging content, folks will read it and if it’s valuable, they’ll tell others.

And sure, there’s research into how long the post should be. Accepted best practices say the posts should be between 1900-2000 words. (Check No. 6 here on this awesome post).  But don’t sweat that either or try to reach some word count by shoving unnecessary graphs onto the screen.

If you need some inspiration on who’s winning the game with this already, check out Jeff Haden for example. He has nearly 700K followers and posts to Linkedin quite often. Laszlo Bock, SVP at Google, does a really nice job too. Check out Liz Ryan as well, she’s got a great voice and loads of style.

But if you do nothing else, listen, you’ve got to make your post look awesome because it’s free. Here’s how.

Dress Up Your Linkedin Post with Free Pictures

Adding great photos that are applicable to your post is an awesome way to help your story. So the good news is there are literally dozens of great stock photography stuff on the Internet that offer amazing art that is absolutely free.

Trust me, this fact — the existence of such quality stock photography — coupled with your great idea for a post, makes for the potential for some amazing content.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to forgo the big giant list of sites (Dustin Senos over at Medium already has a great one going) and instead give you a magic link to Google. Ready? Here:

Magic Link

But I want to call out some of my favorites.

IMCreator.com

After you get past the truly unfortunate user experience (the site is just a bear to use) you’re find some of the most amazing photography hanging around the web.

The unique thing about this stock photography site is that there is a great deal of people and close-ups of faces, which is an incredibly powerful thing given the fact that people read websites and are more likely to respond to designs that incorporate human elements.

See above, a shot by Jonathan Kos-Read, just an amazing picture.

Freeimages.com

I’ve personally used this site countless times for tons of projects.

The site offers high-res, user-contributed photos that can be used for personal blogs or corporate campaigns. Polished isn’t exactly the word I’d use for this images – this is all about utility. It’s the polar opposite of IMCreator.com.

It just gets the job done consistently and that’s why I recommend it a lot.

If you’re a small business and you’re looking to start content marketing, the stunning amount of vertical-specific art on Freeimages.com makes it a must-have resource.  The account is free (that’s 100%, no future payment) so get after it. That above shot of the forest is by Andrew Cooper.

Startup Stock Photos

When I think of Startup Stock Photos, it reminds me of the good people on the Internet and how fortunate we are to have them.

The site’s creators obviously know how difficult it can be to work for a startup. Making this kind of high quality stock photography seems to be their way of giving back.

It’s all there in the site’s tag line:

“Take ‘em, these things are free. Go. Make something.”

Startup Stock Photos is packed with professional, ultra-clean, modern, art.  And the best part is they are high-res, highly versatile, and above all, free.

Takeaway: There’s a bunch of free stock photography out there but a small percentage of it is awesome.  When you find something you like that inspires you — and it’s free — be polite and attribute the author.

In all cases, use stock photography that is applicable to your subject and always, always, always, do the right thing and attribute your work. Linkedin’s clunky editor makes it a challenge to add captions to articles, so why not list the credits at the end of the article, like I do.

However you decide to do it, take five seconds to give the author some credit. It’s the least you can do.

Images I used:

How to Grow Your Small Business with Email Marketing in 2015

I’m a huge advocate for small businesses. I still firmly believe in Beaver County and its small business community and I know those that adopt digital marketing strategies can outpace their competitors.

But what’s the best channel for delivering your message?

Let’s back up. I was talking to a work buddy the other day and he posed this question:

If you had one and only one way to communicate a message with your audience – given the audience was already baked out — what would you choose?

Social media, direct mail, cold calling, SEO, all of these were on the table.

I used my “go-to” response in this situation: Never ignore a channel of communication and always focus on the most beneficial. It’s a pretty good sentence. You can steal it and tell folks you made it up. It’s cool.

“But, fine,” I said at last, “if I had to choose one and only one channel with what I know about the audience, I’d stick with an email blast.”

Me, When I Suggest Email Marketing as a Only Option

Me, When I Suggest Email Marketing as a Only Option

With that, my friend looked at me as if I had just burst into flames. It was as if I suggested to my friend we spread the word by stapling fliers to rattlesnakes and tossing them at people while we screamed the product name in a crowded mall.

The look in my friend’s eyes told me that in some course of the polite marketing discussion, I’d gone completely insane.

My friend looked me hard in the eye and asked, “Come on, does anybody really read email anymore? Isn’t email dead?”

Wow. I was indignant. I wanted to defend email marketing immediately, intelligently, and loudly.  But, I figured it’s a new year. It’s 2015. So it’s worth asking:

Can small businesses like the ones  all around the place I live still win the game with email marketing? Is email marketing still relevant for Beaver County small businesses?

Sure it is, here’s the proof.

Small Business Can Get Simple, Professional Email Marketing for Free

So let’s get this right out of the way, and it’s something I stress all the time when it comes to email marketing.

Email marketing can be totally free. Seriously. You can kick off your email marketing for 2015 without spending one dime. I promise. For small businesses with small budgets, free is a big plus.

And when it comes to email marketing options for small businesses, MailChimp is simply the best choice available, no question.

First of, MailChimp provides a free option for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails a month. There’s no credit card to enter or contract to sign. If you have an email address and the will to accomplish this task, you can email up to 2,000 of your friends six times a month at maximum. Is that enough?

MailChimp is the Best Free Option to Kick off Email Marketing

 

Well, try this. Go to Google and try and get a consensus about how often you should email your audience and you probably won’t find one because it doesn’t exist.

The frequency with which you hit your audience should be determined by your audience’s opinion of how often they want to hear from you. It changes from audience to audience.

So, all that said, six emails a month is plenty of sending to drum up some business. You can do some serious damage with six emails a month.

The service also has tons of free templates and a dead simple, drag-and-drop editor to help you make your email blast, so there’s no designing involved or coding. You can also upload first and last names, numbers, addresses, all the good stuff you need to make sure you personalize your messages like a good email marketer.

Plus the templates produce responsive emails, which is way important considering people are reading emails on mobile devices more than desktops these days. Finally, and this is coming from a place of experience, MailChimp’s deliverability is every bit as good as its highly priced competitors. Paying a bunch of money to some email service provider will get you no closer to your subscriber’s inbox. In some cases, MailChimp’s deliverability is better than pay services.

So it’s free and only cost the time you put into it. It seems to me that if you have a story to tell and want to build a unique audience, email marketing is a no-brainer.

Small Businesses Can Get Personal with Email Marketing

When you head over to Google and do a search on the top trends for 2015, you’ll find one term popping probably get a bunch of insights. Still, one answer remains on every list:

Content marketing.

Everybody loves a story and every brand has a story. The companies that have the ability to synthesize their message and pull together great content are going to outpace the competition.

The days of selling on the Internet nearly over. Digital marketing is evolving into a practice of engaging and educating consumers. It’s a trust game, just as it always was. The difference is, now it’s all out in the open and transparency is real.

Telling that story is quickly becoming paramount for businesses across the country.

And this is where email marketing comes in. No other medium allows you to engage your audience directly in a one-on-one conversation like an email.

Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter are communities with personal aspects in terms of follows, friends, and connections, but email is different. Email is a chance for you to tell your story in brief and invite the user to take the next step and continue the conversation.

With an opt-in subscriber, you have an active listener. With a story to tell, you have a chance to start a relationship with your subscriber.

Content marketing can be made personal with emails in ways social media channels simply can’t.

Now, I’m not one to bash a marketing channel. I like Facebook and Twitter, I use both. I’m not even making the case that Facebook or Twitter are worthless in selling products, though some certainly have.

I’m only saying Beaver County Small Businesses have a story to tell and that story can be told personally through email.

Small Businesses: Email Marketing is Better Than Facebook or Twitter for New Customers

Lucky for me, I stumbled upon a website that provided me with tons of content relevant to my conversation. It’s worthwhile fodder for having a conversation as to why email is not dead.

According to emailisnotdead.com, people prefer email for commercial communications. Here’s a few quick facts from the site:

  • Email marketing isn't dead to small business. Courtesy freeimages.com

    Email marketing isn’t dead to small business. Courtesy freeimages.com

    81% of US online shoppers are more likely to make additional purchases, either online or in a store, as a result of emails based on previous shopping behaviors and preferences. – Harris Interactive

  • 68% of consumers find email to be their #1 preferred channel for recieving commercial messages – CG Selections “Nationaal Email Onderzoek” (2013)
  • 66% of consumers have made a purchase online as a direct result of an email marketing message – Direct Marketing Association (2013)
  • One in five (19%) of consumers said they read every email newsletter they receive just to see if something’s on offer. – Forrester Research “North american technographics survey” (2014)
  • In 2014 consumers delete less promo emails without looking, down 25,4% relative to 2010. – Forrester Research “North american technographics survey” (2014)
emailisnotdead.com

Much of the above research points to fact that email is still a great vehicle for companies to tell consumers about products and services. It’s a way we expect to hear from companies. Even McKinsey & Company, a multinational management consulting company with nearly 100 years experience in driving success in business, says email marketing is far and away better at getting new customers than other forms of social media.

Email is almost 40x better at acquiring new customers than Facebook and Twitter – McKinsey & Company (2014)

So do you ignore other channels? Never. You need to tell your story in all ways possible. But email marketing is – and probably always will be – a viable option. Use it!

Stuff I Linked To:

3 Free Resources You Can Use to Make Your Blog Look Awesome

For a bunch of reasons that don’t really matter, I’m currently recovering from a seven-year social media and blogging hiatus.

As far hiatuses go, I wouldn’t recommend one from the social scene. I watched a lot of things happen around me, missed out on some great conversations, and lost valuable time I could’ve spent meeting great people.

My skills went pretty soft too. That’s perhaps the worst part.

So when I decided to jump back into the mix, I did what most anybody would do if they were coming back to something after a long while.

I made a list of the resources I would. In this case, it was a list of stuff I would need to start telling my story on a blog. After some thought, I soon discovered one awesome thing from this exercise that I want to share with you.

Everything you need to tell your story on the web is free. 

And that’s what this post is all about. It’s about free stuff to put enhance your writing from stock photos, to tools and even the platform to host your blog.

This isn’t about how to form your blog post because other people a ton smarter than me have already done that. (Read: 5 Elements of a “Perfect” Blog Post) This isn’t even about inspiration because I’m willing to bet you’re already inspired.

Everything below is free and can be used today to get started telling your amazing story. Let’s go.

1. There’s Free Stock Photos to Make Your Blog Look Awesome

Let’s start with explaining why you need pictures to accompany your story.

Imagery is a vital part of blogging because it helps illustrate your tale and anyway, people relate to pictures. If you need more convincing, go read what the experts say about using images in your blog posts.

First off, there’s a bunch of sites with free stock photography on the web. You probably already knew that.

Here’s something you didn’t know: Some of them actually have awesome stuff.

The good folks over at BufferSocial complied a pretty decent list of over 50 sites to get you started. (53+ Free Image Sources For Your Blog and Social Media Posts)

As an aside, if you haven’t already, you need to check out the Buffer. It’s amazing.

Now, the list is pretty long and some of the sites aren’t the greatest thing ever. Some of the suggested sources are just plain difficult to navigate from a user experience perspective. Other sites have photos that are just plain bad.

But there’s some awesome stuff and here’s two right off the bat (plus one I like):

this-job-is-on-fire-1434906-4-m

From FreeImages.com

Free Images www.freeimages.com

I’ve personally used this site so many times for countless varied projects.

The site offers high-res, user-contributed photos that can be used for personal blogs or corporate campaigns. Polished isn’t exactly the word I’d use for this images – this is all about utility.

It just gets the job done consistently and that’s why I recommend it a lot.

If you’re a small business and you’re looking to start content marketing, the stunning amount of vertical-specific art on Freeimages.com makes it a must-have resource.

The account is free (that’s 100%, no future payment) so get after it.

IM Free

From IM Free

IM Free (www.imcreator.com/free)

I want you to take a good hard look at the image to the right.

That’s a beautiful picture from the site above.

It’s inspirational. They say “When it’s beautiful you don’t have to force it, it works on it’s own.” That’s what we have here.

This is the kind of work you build a site around. If you’re starting a gym geared toward kick-ass women, this is the picture you use.

IM Free is packed with this kind of quality photography and it’s free for you to use. This site has a personal feeling unlike any other I’ve seen out there. You can find inspiration for just about any project just by perusing the site.

Startup Stock Photos (startupstockphotos.com)

Startup Stock Photos

From Startup Stock

When I think of Startup Stock Photos, it reminds me of the good people on the Internet and how fortunate we are to have them.

The site’s creators obviously know how difficult it can be to work for a startup. Making this kind of high quality stock photography seems to be their way of giving back.

It’s all there in the site’s tag line:

“Take ’em, these things are free. Go. Make something.”

Startup Stock Photos is packed with professional, ultra-clean, modern, art.  And the best part is they are high-res, highly versatile, and above all, free.

Takeaway: There’s a bunch of free stock photography out there but a small percentage of it is awesome.  When you find something you like that inspires you — and it’s free — be polite and attribute the author.

When using this stuff, think about the time and effort the people put into what you are using for no charge. Take five seconds to give the author some credit. It’s the least you can do.

2. There’s Free Software to Make Your Blog Awesome

As you can probably guess,  one of my favorite things about the web is you don’t have to look far to find the free version of what others pay so much for.

Now, don’t get me wrong when I go into this because I firmly believe Adobe’s Creative Cloud is solidly amazing. Every part of it offers features to make your creative job easier.

Photoshop is here, it will be here tomorrow, and it’ll be here 100 years from now. It’s like A Christmas Story 24 hours a day on December 25. It will always be.

However, if you don’t have Photoshop, and tons of people probably don’t, here’s two options.

If You’re Confident in Your Internet Connection, Go With Pixlr

I was in a pretty tight spot for a few months. I was working on a big project but my Adobe license became an issue for me. And I needed to work on several different machines but always take my work with me. imgres

In other words, I needed to be awesome with a 16 gig USB and nothing else but my talent.  Enter Pixlr.

Pixlr is a browser-based image editor that just rocks.

From the layout to actual existence of layers, features and filters, color control and file formats, Pixlr is everything you’d need if you didn’t have the real thing, and you can access it anywhere without even signing up for an account.

A special bonus is you can save to the editor’s layed file format just like a PSD and return back to your work later.

Pixlr is your answer for free art creation if you have an internet connection that is steady. Plus it won’t cost you a dime.

If Your Internet Connection is a Question, Go with GIMP

Wait, hold on. Do this first: Download GIMP anyway, just to have it around.

Seriously, if you’re ever in a tight spot and say to yourself, “Wow, I have no Internet, it’s the Zombie Apocalypse, and I need to color correct this picture of a pancake on my cat’s head,” you’ll be glad you have GIMP.search

Here’s the deal. You can download GIMP for absolutely nothing and have a surprisingly powerful photo editing suite that rivals photoshop. (There, I said it.)

GIMP has been around since 1996 so it’s been through the motions. It’s baked out.

Aside from it’s long list of features, GIMP has an intuitive, easy to grasp interface, which helps if you need to hit the ground running. Plus it’s totally free.

And what are you going to use for a word processor? You could wait until the next day and pound out a couple hundred words on your company computer in Word but who wants to wait? I have two options, both of which I use often.

If You Can Jump Online, Use Google Docs

Everyone has a Google account these days but Google Docs is still somewhat unknown as far as the search engine behemoth’s other branded material goes.

In short, Google Docs takes everything useful about Microsoft Office and makes it free.

Google Docs has three features:

  • Slides: a fairly decent presentation editor for slide decks
  • Sheets: a spreadsheet tool
  • Docs: an online word processor

Docs is everything you are used to with Microsoft Word except it’s free and it’s online. Everything you need to fire up a blog posting and make sure it’s spelled correctly is in Docs.

It’s a beautiful thing.

If Your Internet Connection is Shaky, You Need OpenOffice orb

Again, I’m going to make a suggestion. Just download OpenOffice, even if just to have it around.

Every time I get a new machine, I download it as a safety net because it’s free and incredibly powerful.

OpenOffice has all the elements of Google Docs with the addition of a 3D Illustration editor, database administration tool, and mathematical equation editor. It really has that last part, I’m not kidding.

OpenOffice’s word processor, Writer, is a sleek, modern writing tool that — believe me when I say this — gets more powerful as you use it. It’s a smart tool that makes writing easier.

If you’re looking for a program to write without distraction you need to check out OpenOffice. It’s amazingly free.

3. There’s Plenty of Free Places to Host Your Blog

As far as actually getting your content out there, you have two pretty solid options — Blogger and WordPress.

The Google-owned Blogger has been around since 1999.

It’s quite simply the easiest site to use if you’re going to start up a blog and see if you can stick with it. It’s fairly customizable — you can change some HTML / CSS — and its easy to add video and images.

Given, there’s only so much you can do as far as customization goes but that’s the tradeoff for a free product.

WordPress is another big-name option that lets you blog for free. It’s great too and has just as many features as Blogger.  There’s some customization and features. Like Blogger, WordPress is super simple to use and pretty much gets out of your way.

To be clear, the only real reason I’ve heard anyone prefer the free versions of WordPress over Blogger is the former just looks cleaner.

Blogger’s user interface is in sore need of a overhaul. WordPress looks bright and simple. Both are, but WordPress just is.

And then there’s Medium.

I love this site because it’s not about flash or even features – it’s about writing.

Medium features both distraction-free writing and presentation.  It’s remarkably modern, clean, and above all – free.

If Medium was a design element, it would be the white space used to enhance art.

Mashable writer Grace Smith did an awesome job pulling together 16 Blogging Platforms for Distraction Free Writing. Read up on that for more.

But, if you have a few bucks, host your own.

Now, I admit it, I feel way more comfortable with a platform that I can manipulate, right down to the bits.

So, I pay for hosting. By the way, if you’re looks for hosting with awesome customer service, go check out InMotion Hosting  (inmotionhosting.com).

Anyway, I pay for hosting because I like to know that I can customize my site and when I’m done, good or bad, it’s my design. Plus its my content.

That’s the whole reason I use WordPress on a hosted site. It’s free to download and install and considerably easy to use and customize. Also I don’t have to pay to add certain themes, styles, and I don’t have copyright issues to deal with. It’s my content.

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