There are a number of resources that will play an integral role in the growth of your blog and all the social media efforts that will help promote your site. This is a comprehensive look at the essential tools to help grow your blog.

Blogging/Mentorship Products

First let me start by saying that every single blogger I’ve interviewed has participated in some sort of mentorship or coaching program. While the information you’d find in many of these programs is probably available for free, two things happen when you purchase one of these programs. The first thing is that you get structure and guidance. Information overload is running rampant in the blogosphere and a coaching programs helps to focus your efforts. Additionally when you invest money, your incentive goes up.

  • Blog Mastermind: This is the course that really kicked off my entry into blogging. Yaro’s Blog Mastermind program gave me a structure and 6 months of incredibly valuable lessons that allowed me to get blog up and running. In an interview with Yaro Starak, we discussed what distinguishes those who succeed with Blog Mastermind vs those who fail. Feel free to download his free blueprint.
  • Cloud Living: Cloud Living is a bit more of a condensed version of the kind of information you would find in Blog Mastermind. If you are the kind of person who can take a small amount of information and generate a solid action plan, then you’ll find this book useful. It also is a bit more of a cost effective alternative to the Blog Mastermind Program. In it you’ll find tips on how to write content, how to setup your blog, and also some ideas for how to monetize.

WordPress Themes

One of the things that immediately impacts what people think about your blog is your design. I didn’t use a premium theme for a very long time, but the moment I switched themes and redesigned my site the response from the blogosphere was very apparent. I was taken much more seriously as a blogger. The best example I can think of a new blog that really has been launched properly is Another 20 Something, by my friend Monique. If you are not currently using a premium theme, I highly recommend you consider switching to one. Most premium themes are fairly easy to customize, resulting in a great looking layout for your blog.

  • Thesis: Thesis is probably the most popular premium theme and you’ll see Thesis used by across the blogosphere. I like thesis because it’s fairly easy to customize and the drag and drop interface makes it really easy to modify things. It provides a fairly intuitive user experience and if you want to get really advanced with with customizing you can do that too.
  • Catalyst Theme: the catalyst theme is used for really popular blogs like Zen Habits.  Formerly the Frugal theme, Catalyst has so many bells, whistles, and customization capabilities that you might call it the Mercdes Benz of premium wordpress themes. This was built completely based on the feedback of the users  and I have no hesitation in recommending it to you. I think that Catalyst has a great user community and the support that you’ll get from these guys is top notch.
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Operational Tools

All of the tools below are mostly free, with a few exceptions. These are the tools that are part of my day to day operations and I use them so much that it’s like breathing at this point.

Desktop Applications

  • Mac Journal: Distraction free writing tools are essential to creating content in my opinion. The reason is that all you can do with these tools is write. Most people take forever to write blog posts because they get caught up continually editing. Distraction free writing tools don’t provide much other than a black screen with green text. Since they take up the full screen,they’re a great way to stay focused on your writing.I’m a mac user which is why I use MacJournal, but if you are a PC user there’s an equivalent called WriteRoom that does exactly the same thing.
  • Skype: I don’t know how I’d function without Skype. I record all my interviews via Skype. Even if I have to make a phone call to a phone number and record it, Skype makes that possible. In order to record however, you do need to purchase the Skype call recorder add on.

Twitter Clients

  • TweetDeck: If you’re an active twitter user then it’s likely you use a twitter client.  While twitter itself has made some improvements, I find a client like Tweetdeck makes managing the whole experience much easier. Feel free to check my video tips on how I use Twitter.
  • Hootsuite: Hootsuite is another Twitter client. The thing that I use Hootsuite for is scheduling things in advanced. You can actually do bulk scheduling if you get the paid version of Hootsuite which costs about $5.00 a month.

Email Providers

One other thing that I’ve consistently heard from every blogger I’ve interviewed is the fact that they wish they had started an email newsletter sooner. Believe it or not email is still one of the most important marketing methods and almost every successful blogger will tell you that they make their money off email.

  • Mailchimp: WE recently moved our Newsletter to mailchimp and I have to say that I“m a big fan.  Mailchimp makes it easy to customize your newsletter and also gives you quite a bit of insight into the people who subscribe to your newsletter. With minimal design work you can do quite a bit. Top top it off it’s FREE. So don’t waste another day, and sign up for an account.
  • Aweber: Many bloggers use Aweber and it’s definitely an effective tool. I used it to run the Newsletter for quite some time. The thing that might turn people away is the $20 a month price tag. You really have to do just do a comparison based on your needs and decide which email provider would be best for you.
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Books

If you are a blogger, and you are not reading at least one book a month, you’re missing out. Books have played a huge role in how I’ve come up with many of the ideas and concepts that I’ve come up with over the last year.

  • Tipping Point: If there’s one Malcom Gladwell book you read, this should be it. The Tipping Point takes a very in-depth look at ideas that spread and what caused them to tip. My Twitip are article on Why 150 Followers is all You need was based on the concepts in the Tipping Point. This book completely changed how I approach building relationships and connecting with bloggers.
  • Outliers: The basic premise of Outliers is that natural talent might not be that natural after all. You may have heard that it takes 10,000 hours to master any skill and Outliers takes an in-depth look at some of the most successful people in the world including professional athletes, software executives, musicians and more.
  • Tribes: Tribes should be required reading for anybody who is a social media marketer or blogger. Seth Godin in many ways is somebody I’d call the Godfather of all this social media stuff. The concepts in tribes have been instrumental in many of my efforts and in coming up with my own ideas on How to Build An Insanely Loyal Tribe: One Reader at a time.
  • Linchpin: This is Seth’s most recent book. One of things that frustrates most people about this book is the fact there are no how to’s in it. But it profiles some incredibly succesful people who do jobs that you couldn’t describe on paper. It’s about becoming the kind of person who becomes indespensiable to an organization because of the value they create. If you can learn to do that, it’s something that will carry you very far in life.
  • Six Pixels of Separation: I had a chance to interview Mitch Joel, the author of the book. Mitch is  the founder of a digital marketing agency, and really seen as a thought leader. The most useful ideas that I got from this book were the ones that had to do with taking our online relationships into the offline world.  This is another one of those books that should be on the required reading list for bloggers.
  • Facebook Marketing An Hour a Day:  This is one of those books that you’re likely to find on the book shelf of any social media marketer. While I think you could find almost every idea in this book somewhere online, what it does is provide you with structure and a tactical plan for building a powerful Facebook fan page. Building a Facebook fan page for your blog can provide a powerful way to interact with and grow your audience.
  • The Element: I bought this book after watching Ken Robinson’s Ted talk. Creativity is something I think people have convinced themselves they have or don’t. I think everybody is creative on some level. Obviously, if you are in charge of accounting at your company, getting creative might end you up in jail, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t express it in other areas of your work. AS bloggers, creativity plays a big role in what we accomplish,  so definitely consider reading this book.
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Resources from Other Bloggers

  • 31 Days to Build a Better Blog: The content for this ebook is available for free on Problogger. However if you want it all in a structured format you can purchase the ebook. While some of the exercises in it are really simple. there are some real gems in it.
  • You Don’t Need a Job, You Need Guts: My friend Ashley Ambirge has a way with words that most of us can’t quite measure up to. I call her the poetic seductress of the blogosphere because she’s truly unique. In her ebook she actually dissects the various ways in which living a life that you think is not possible becomes a reality.
  • Networking Awesomely: To say that Colin Wright has an interesting story would be putting it lightly. This is a guy who goes around the globe for months at a time, while running businesses and living life to the max. It wouldn’t surprise me if he life turns into a reality show soon. His ebook dissects how he’s built relationships with successful executives and people in other countries.
  • Affiliate Marketing for Beginners: I’m not great at affiliate marketing, but Corbett Barr’s course is probably the best entry level product you can find. In this interview with him, he discusses the product in great detail. What I like about this course is that it’s run as a membership site and there’s an ongoing discussion about what’s working for people and what’s not.  If you want to get into affiliate marketing, this is a great starting point.

If you have other recommendations for resources that have been helpful in growing your blog, let me know in the comments below.

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