Join our Collaborative Board on Pinterest

In the interest of fostering a community where we lift each other up Faithful Bloggers has started a collaborative board on Pinterest. 

This is a place for you to promote your own stuff but to also gives you a chance to give back to the Christian community, a win/win for everyone. 

Our Collaborative Pinterest board is meant for you to share anything which would resonate with Christians or bloggers. Your pins do not have to be related to the topic of blogging. 

So, come join us and start pinning!

Faithful Bloggers Collaborative Board on Pinterest

 

Why We Moved from Wordpress to Squarespace

NOTE:  I am not being paid by Squarespace or Wordpress for this post. 

Moving to Squarespace

(UPDATE March 2018: As I expected when I wrote this post, I received some nasty emails from Wordpress diehards. Seriously people? I clearly state in this blog post that Wordpress is a good platform, I clearly state that it is the RIGHT choice for some people, just not for me and maybe not for others. Why people have a need to verbally thrash someone who has a difference of opinion I will never understand. What works for one person does not necessarily work for another...and that's ok folks! Hey, if you love Wordpress, you can still come over for tea.)

There have been lots of exciting things going on behind the scenes here at Faithful Bloggers. We've been planning and prepping but in addition to all that, we've been super busy with moving. By moving, I don't mean an actual physical move, I'm talking about a move from one web platform to another. We moved from Wordpress to Squarespace. I have moved (physically) a great big number of times and although a physical move has it's challenges, a web platform move has it's own unique set of challenges, none of which are any fun at all.  As you all have read, Faithful Bloggers changed ownership. At the time of purchase, Faithful Bloggers, Faithful Devotions, and The Faithful Bloggers Directory were all on Wordpress. I wanted to make that work, really I did. But I just couldn't. I know I'm probably about to get a bunch of you upset with me, but before all you Wordpress diehards get all hot under the collar, hear me out and read this entire post, because I really do believe Wordpress has a place, just not for me. And I think it may possibly not be the best choice for many other people, depending upon what they are looking for. You also should know, this was not my first experience with Wordpress, I've been there before. 

I know there are about a bazillion websites on Wordpress, I know it's a great platform, but it is not the only platform, and it's not the platform for me. I believe it really depends on what you are looking for whether Wordpress is the place for you to call home. Below is a run down of the pros and cons of the two platforms, so if you are just starting out, you'll be able to make an informed decision. And if you are dealing with any frustrations with either platform, you'll have an idea of what the other offers. Please note: Any time I mention Wordpress, I'm talking about a self hosted wordpress site. 

So why did I move?

Basically it boils down to the fact that I want to write, blog, and create great products, not work on a website. Squarespace allows me the luxury of doing just that. Let me explain further. Here's a few of the reasons I moved:

  • Squarespace has an incredibly clean, clutter free interface. It's also easy to use. Like any sort of software it does have a learning curve, but it's click and drag format is generally user friendly. Also, if you are just starting out, you should know that there will be a learning curve on either platform, but I feel it's fair say, you will have a longer learning curve on Wordpress. 

  • Live Chat!  I love this about Squarespace. When I have questions, I can just hop on live chat and get assistance immediately. Granted, their live chat is only available during daytime hours (eastern time zone), so you 3:00a.m. bloggers may not find this a benefit (unless of course you're a 3:00 a.m. blogger around the world from the eastern time zone). 
  • Domain, Design, and Hosting all in one location. I cannot say the transfer of the domains to Squarespace or the transfer of the entire site to Squarespace was the easiest thing I have ever undertaken (it isn't even in the top 10 easiest things). In all honesty, I didn't have to move the domains to Squarespace, that was a choice I made to have everything in one place, taken care of by one group of people. I know, Wordpress is free, but hosting is not and I'm paying similiar for Squarespace as I was for self hosting with Wordpress. The other thing that is not free (if you are considering Wordpress) is if you need someone to fix code or anything else for you. With Squarespace you are a paying customer, so unless you've monkeyed with the code on your site, they are there for you. If your Wordpress experience has been to email on a regular basis with your hosting company to get things fixed, you'll probably love Squarespace. I tried to recall if there had ever been a time when I had to email Squarespace, and although I can't say for sure, I don't remember any. I have used their live chat a few times. 
  • I HATE CODE.  I mean, I REALLY hate it!  Some people love it, some people tolerate it, some people hate it, I'm definitely in the third group. I have no business playing around with the inner workings of my website, nor do I want to. With Squarespace I don't have to deal with code. There are times I may have to copy and paste a portion of generated code into a code block but other than that, no code. This does not mean that those people who love code, can't access coding on Squarespace. If you are of the "I Love Code" camp, you can code to your hearts content on Squarespace. Here however is where I think Wordpress has a place. If you are the type of person who absolutely has to have the ability to manage every detail of your website, and you love that stuff, Wordpress will probably feel like home. But if what you are looking to do is write and blog and not have to deal with code hardly at all, you might want to consider Squarespace. 
  •  No 3rd Party Plug-Ins. There are about 5 million plug-ins (I might be exaggerating just a little) available on Wordpress. They are used to get your site to do just about anything you can imagine, there are probably plug-ins to get your site to do your laundry for you. Having so many options has it's positives and negatives. On the one hand, you have options. Options are good. Except at times, I found the options overwhelming. On the other hand, Wordpress is an open platform and anyone can author a plugin and make it available on Wordpress, this too is good and bad. Once your Wordpress site is up, you are going to load lots of plugins on your website, because you need them to do things like add forms to your site and numerous other tasks. These plugins are all authored by different people and they all need to be updated. If you overlook updating them, this is where issues occur. This is the open door hackers use to hack Wordpress sites. When I purchased Faithful Bloggers, it had been hacked and neither myself nor the prior owner, Tishia, were even aware of the hack till I started poking around in it. 
  • To some people, these next two things might seem nitpicky, but I'm creative and very visual so these were big for me. There were a few things design-wise in Wordpress that drove me batty. The first is the themes. Even though there are thousands of them, you read the description and it says "custom color", but then you load the theme and begin the preview and by "custom", they meant you can choose from, blue, red, pink or green (or some other limited selection depending upon the theme), that's not "custom". Granted, there are some which offer true "custom color" but why on earth do I have to go through the process of loading them and begin the preview process in order to know that for sure. The other design thing that drove me nuts is when I was choosing a font in the theme, which you can't do in all themes, the drop down menu just had the names of the fonts, all written in the same font, not in their own font. So I had to actually try the font in order to see what it looked like. I know there are premium themes which you can buy on Wordpress and they probably offer more flexibility, but it seems to me that out of thousands of choices, there should be a couple that don't drive me nuts. Wordpress does offer tremendous flexibility, if you know code or are willing to pay someone to make the changes you are wanting. Squarespace uses templates as well, and there are many less templates to choose from, however, I have found they are much more customizable for someone who doesn't want to deal with code. The font on any part of my website can be any font I want it to be and the color is truly customizable. I need to have the capabilities to do these things myself, to do them quickly and efficiently, and without having to play with code, Squarespace offers me that.
  • It's Just Easier. Less monkeying around with back end stuff frees up more time for writing and blogging.  As I said before, I'm looking to write and blog, not play with my website. When you write a post on Squarespace and you need to insert anything, a form, code, a calendar, a map or a whole slew of other options, all you do is click to add it right there in the text. You don't have to go to a plugin to get your form. See this videofor more details.
  • I have another site on Squarespace which I have had with them for 7 Years. In that time, I have never had my site go down, and I've never had an issue with messed up code. It's also never been hacked. I know there are first times for everything and I may just have been fortunate but it's a pretty good track record.

A couple other things you might want to know about Squarespace.

  • Your website doesn't have to be a blog. This wasn't important for me for the Faithful Bloggers website but it is for the other business my family owns, and it might be for one of my readers so I'm including it. On Squarespace your website can just be a website. Our family business website does include a blog but it has a non blog front page as well as many other pages. If you'd like to check it out visit www.homecareNHME.com.  You may notice it has a similar layout to the new Faithful Bloggers site, you should know this was intentional, not required, there are plenty of other templates. I used the same template for simplicity for myself. I felt that because the sites were so unrelated industry-wise, no one was going to say "boy your site has a similar layout to the Faithful Bloggers site", (except, all of you now). I also could have made that same template look very different. One other thing you may find useful to know is that on Squarespace you can have more than one blog on your website. If you want to see why anyone would want or need that, take a look at this very website. The main Faithful Bloggers website is set up as a blog, but if you click on the "Directory", that is also set up as a blog. Then you can click on "devotions" and that is set up as a blog as well. 3 blogs, all on one website.  
  • Just because I discuss the ease and simplicity of Squarespace, does not mean that a Squarespace website can't have all the bells and whistles. You can build a very dynamic and professional site on Squarespace (again, see the website I mentioned in the prior point, it has pretty scrolling images on the front page).  

A few things about actually making the move.

  1. I mentioned earlier that the move was not easy,  but don't let that scare you. If you have a straight forward blog with minimal things which would make a move challenging such as signup forms, etc., then if you decide to move to Squarespace it will be relatively easy and straight forward. The things on the Faithful Bloggers site which made it difficult were things like the forms, and the directory and a few other challenges like that.  

  2. If you decide to transfer your domain to Squarespace (which is not required), you should know the  transfer can take from 1-15 days, my tranfer took 6 days (I'm not very good at waiting).
  3. If you have a mailing list, Mailchimp integrates better with Squarespace than Aweber or other email services. You can use the other services with Squarespace but Squarespace is set up so you can automatically connect to Mailchimp when you load a form. I moved  the entire mailing list from AWeber to Mailchimp which made the move more challenging. UPDATE March 2018:  I moved my email platform to Convertkit.

In summary:

If you are the code loving, website fidgeting type I would recommend Worpress for your platform. To go along with Worpress I would recommend MomWebs.com for hosting (their tech support is very quick to respond). I also recommend AWeber  or Convertkit for your mailing list. 

However, if you are the, "I just want to write and blog and not monkey with the backend" type, I recommend Squarespace, and for your mailing list, I recommend Mailchimp or Convertkit.

3 Social Media Management Tools

Hootsuite, Buffer, Edgar, eClincher, Sprout Social...oh my! Goodness, it seems like new social media management tools pop up every day. Okay, not that often but there's a lot of them out there - old and new ones!

I'm in the process of trying two new ones right now. (If you're a part of the Facebook Group, you may have noticed some of the daily posts coming from Edgar or eClincher). Here's a quick review of the one I used to use and the two I'm currently testing out. This isn't a very in depth review of them - I'll post more in depth reviews about each one later!

Hootsuite

hootsuite

This appealed to me because it was free and for what I needed to do, the free option was perfect.

My problem with Hootsuite?

It was such a pain to have to go in every month and keep loading up my posts because after they're posted once they're gone.

Off the top of my head, I know Hootsuite currently works with these social media platforms:

  • Facebook profiles
  • Facebook pages
  • Facebook groups
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn

I haven't looked in awhile but I know they offer integration with quite a few social media platforms. Something I should probably look at again ;-)

Meet Edgar 

meet edgar

I've been drawn to this social media management tool for several months now, ever since I first learned about it from one of my Virtual Assistant clients who had me do some work in her account. Unfortunately, I wasn't willing to invest (at $49 a month for the option I needed, I wasn't sure it would be worth it) in them...until now.

The more I started tracking time I was spending on having to upload things into Hootsuite, I started to realize that the $49 a month was worth it. So I signed up on March 12th and spent 3 hours loading all the content into the library, setting up categories, setting up the schedule, etc.

3 hours may seem like a long time but the awesome thing? That content never has to be loaded into Edgar again! They reuse all the content in my libraries.

SWEET!

In other words, it's pretty much a load it up and 'forget about it' sort of thing.

I love how user friendly the interface in Edgar is. It's easy to set up categories (to keep content organized), scheduling is easy, connecting social media accounts is easy.

Currently Edgar works with:

  • Facebook profiles
  • Facebook pages
  • Facebook groups
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • LinkedIn company pages

They offer a 30 day guarantee so even though you have to pay the $49 to sign up, if at any time during those first 30 days you decide the software isn't for you, they'll refund your money.

One thing I wish I had thought about before spending all the time I did setting things up, to only load a few things because I am not 100% positive I'm going to keep using them. So if in this 30 day "trial" I decide to leave them, I'll have lost all that time I spent setting everything up.

eClincher

eclincher

I don't know how long this one has been around but I just heard about it on Sunday so to me, it's brand new. This one also comes with a hefty monthly price tag but comes in a little cheaper than Edgar - $40 a month.

They offer a free 14 day trial so I signed up for that yesterday (March 14th). They also offer the same thing that draws so many people to Edgar - the ability to load content and have it reused over and over.

One thing about eClincher that far outweighs Edgar is they offer more social platform posting abilities.

Currently eClincher works with:

  • Facebook profiles
  • Facebook pages
  • Facebook groups
  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • Pinterest
  • Google Analytics
  • Instagram
  • Youtube
  • Blogger
  • Feedly

Clearly, eClincher offers way more social media platforms than Edgar which is why so many people have been drawn to them.

So far, at quick glance and first attempt to set things up - eClincher interface is not very user friendly at all. Edgar definitely beats them in this department!

In the end, I'm sure I'm going to end up with eClincher or Edgar but I'm still not 100% sure. Hootsuite still appeals to me just because it's free but man, the time it takes to post all the content I need to post every single month - it really is a pain.

In closing, the one thing I want you to remember is that just because something works for one person doesn't mean it's going to work for you. You have to decide what fits your needs best and go with that. Be sure to choose something that you're going to actually use!

Now it's your turn - I want to hear from you: are you using a social media management tool right now? If so, what one? What are the pros/cons to it?

 

Social Media Perceptions: How Do People See You?

SocialMediaSkews-300x225
SocialMediaSkews-300x225

Social media is a great way to stay in touch with out of town family and friends. It's also an excellent way to connect with your blog readers and build a relationship with them. But we have to be careful about the things we share and how we share them. Post one thing and ask five different people to tell you how they perceived the post, you'll likely get five different answers.  And that's what the author of How Social Media Skews Our View shares in her post. Here's a little snippet of what you'll find in the blog post:

... But these interactions confirmed for me that we often don’t truly know what is going on with another person. Our perception is a fraction of the truth. We see and hear only a small percentage of what encompasses the totality of their life, and we form judgments based on that fraction of their experience that we are privy to. ... 

Head on over to How Social Media Skews Our View now.  It's definitely worth taking a few minutes to read!

Twitter Tips

The other day while I was doing a search on Google I came across a blog of a pastor, Rev Trev.  I really enjoyed his website - there's a lot of good information on it.  One thing caught my attention though was his report, Twitter Tips from Rev Trev.  It is a blueprint to help Christian increase their influence on Twitter. Here's a video of Rev Trev talking about the report:

So I signed up to get the report and started reading it. I have to say, I was impressed.  I really enjoyed the section about how Christian should act on Twitter.

It's a free report and you can get a copy at http://revtrev.com/twitter-tips/.  I highly recommend it!

Does Social Media Create Authentic Christian Fellowship?

Goup of hands in circle-uniqueness

I coach my daughter's Upward cheerleading squad (Upward is a Christian-based sports program). At each practice we have a devotion, recite Scripture memory verses, and pray.

This season's theme has been light. I'm sure you can guess what we've discussed: God is light, live in the light, walk in the light, moving from darkness to light, and so on.

This week's devotion was centered around Christian fellowship. Our memory verse this week was

If we live in the light, we share fellowship with each other (1 John 1:7b).

The verse in its entirety and from the ESV is this:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

I thought our week's memory verse was a perfect tie-in to this week's Faithful Bloggers' discussion on the use of social media to grow our blogs.

Obviously, Facebook and Twitter are social media—meaning they are designed to function best when people are engaging others and giving of themselves.

But I got to wondering: How do these interactions contribute to authentic Christian fellowship? Or should it even matter?

I'll answer the second one first: Yes. I think it does matter.

Created for Community

We know that God created us for community. According to the verse above, walking in the light with others who are walking in the light brings fellowship. We need each other for encouragement, especially in the Blogosphere.

I have actually seen my activity on Facebook and Twitter contribute to authentic Christian fellowship. I wrote about the opportunities for prayer and worship as I engaged in a few communities on Facebook.

And who would have thought that only 140 characters (typed in the form of a meaningful Bible verse or quotation) would be just the word I needed for encouragement on a difficult day?

Finding Courtney and Kelly here at Faithful Bloggers has been the beginning of wonderful Christian fellowship that only God could have orchestrated.

So I would say, YES! Authentic Christian fellowship is not only possible through social media; it's inevitable when you approach your participation with that as your goal.

Use these and other social media platforms to invite your followers to walk with you in the light. When you do, you'll find authentic Christian fellowship.

How has your participation in social media brought you into authentic Christian fellowship?

Image: www.crestock.com

Use Facebook to Grow Your Blog

A friend and fellow blogger told me the other day that, in her opinion, Facebook is like the "Cheetos of social media." I think she's on to something.

Facebook is tempting and tasty, fun and filling. Only after you've logged hours on the site do you have a stomachache and orange fingers.

Facebook, like all social media, can be a helpful tool in growing your blog. Moreover, I have witnessed incredible ministry happen on that platform.

I had a friend who was trapped in the ruins of the Hotel Montana after the Haiti earthquake last month. Facebook was my primary connection to updates on recovery of his body and ways to pray for his family. Truly, my faith was strengthened through the power of words expressed by complete strangers brought together for a common purpose on Facebook.

One Sunday, our local church service was canceled due to inclement weather. A friend organized an impromptu "church service" on Facebook, where several of us discussed Scripture.

I follow several pastors' pages and get daily edification from their posts.

Tread with caution, though. Facebook can be a wasteland of sorts, where every person you've ever known from infancy on is tending farms and sending hearts. Indeed, Facebook can suck away all of your free time.

Facebook, too, has a powerful ability to remove filters. I have found that there, people have a tendency to say what's on their minds with little regard for the way their messages are received. I have been hurt by the words and actions of so-called "friends."

How Facebook Can Be Useful to You

  • Obviously, all of your "friends" will see your posts in their feed. Use your updates to pique readers' interest about your blog. I find that most of my Facebook friends are eager to read my blog because they know me in real life.
  • Create a Facebook fan page for your blog. Persons who you do not want to "friend" can still receive your blog's feed.
  • Use the Networked Blogs feature to send blog posts directly into your friends' feeds.

How do you use Facebook to grow your blog? How do you guard against wasting time on Facebook?

Make sure you're a fan of the Faithful Bloggers page on Facebook.

Use Twitter to Grow Your Blog

Most Twitter users I know fall into one of two camps: completely overwhelmed or hopelessly addicted. I've been in both spots myself. But I think I've finally found a happy medium. I enjoy tweeting, and I've had some blog visits, solely from my links posted to Twitter.

Once you're up and running on Twitter:

  • Use Tweetdeck or HootSuite or a similar application to keep all your contacts organized. Sorting your contacts into groups will allow you to closely follow those conversations of most interest to you. The Lists function on Twitter performs a similar function and is also useful when using Twitter through the web.
  • Search for keywords and/or hashtag (#) terms to find conversations about topics of interest to you. This is particularly helpful to "introduce" you to potential readers for your blog.
  • Monitor hot topics, issues, and questions for possible blog post ideas.
  • Ask a question to get people interested in your topic so they'll click to your blog to read more. Resist the temptation to just tweet the ordinary, "New Blog Post" tweet. (Read more ideas like these in this article* by Chris Brogan.)
  • As I said above, I think Twitter can be quite addictive. My best tactic for this is limiting myself to short bursts of tweeting. If possible, set aside twenty minutes morning, noon, and night to tweet. Engage in conversation, re-tweet interesting posts, and follow people who follow you. I don't get to do this consistently, but when I do, I usually always add at least ten followers.

What are your favorite aspects of Twitter? How has Twitter helped your blog?

And don't forget to follow @faithfulbloggrs ;-)

*This article is featured on a website that does not necessarily contain Christian content.

Christian Tweeters

8Are you looking for Christian twitters to follow?  I always am.  Over the weekend I saw someone tweet about Twellowship and thought I would give it a try.  Basically by signing up you agree to follow all the "VIP" members and 20 other members that have signed up.  Supposedly all the members are Christians. Signing up was easy to do, just enter your Twitter username and password.  You are then presented with a page that allows you to automatically follow the required members.  After you have follow the required number of members your Twitter profile now appears as an option for new members to follow.

The "VIP" membership is a paid option that guarantees you new followers.  You are basically paying for followers and that is not something I will do.  But as a regular member there is not a payment required but you are allowing Twellowship to send tweets out of your account every Friday about Twellowship.  I didn't care for this either.  To not have the automatic tweets sent you have to upgrade to the "VIP" membership or close your account.

I like the idea of the Twellowship but don't really care for the way it has been executed.  Have you used it and if so, what's your opinion?

Think Before We Tweet

When I participated in the A Woman Inspired - Online Ministry Conference I learned much about social networking. I spend more time checking Facebook and Twitter now, perhaps too much time, but that's an issue for a different post.

What's been on my heart today is how quickly we expose ourselves with little "tweets" and "status updates". When we hit the keyboard we somehow seem to think we're just sitting talking with a few friends. I sensed the Lord saying "Don't you realize the world is watching? When your fingers type, your tongue speaks"

I felt led to dig into what the Word has to say about the "tongue":

"The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly." Proverbs 15:2 NIV

"The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit." Proverbs 18:21 NIV

"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." James 1:26 NIV

When we call ourselves Christians we are representing our Lord in all that we do and all that we say. Jesus has called us to be "in the world" but not like the world. We are different, marked by His seal and changed by His love. If in anger we type off a nasty remark, do we sound like Jesus? When we type words of fear, seeing the worst possible outcomes in our situations, do we sound like a people who have faith in a God who holds our future? Shouldn't we instead be typing light into the darkness?

I pray to be like the psalmist David, the one God called a man after His own heart, who wrote: "My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long." Psalm 35:28 NIV

May all of our words, (whether they be thought, spoken or typed) bring glory to the only One Who is worthy of glory and honour and praise. May our words offer salt to lives that have lost their flavour. May our words offer the hope of living water to a thirsty world. As people peek into the little snips we leave online, may they a see a clear reflection of the One Who calls us His own.

**************************

Today's post was by guest contributor, Karin.

Karin (HisFireFly) is a sold out disciple of Jesus Christ learning more each day what it means to abide in Him.   She desires to walk in radical obedience to His voice and prays that her life brings glory to The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.

Karin and her beloved husband live in rural Manitoba with their dog Faith and various barn cats on 20 beautiful acres the Lord has provided for them.

Stop by for a visit at Flickers of a Faithful FireFly where Karin blogs about Jesus, love, prayer, and life in rural Canada.

Photo credit:

Freebie: Christian Twitter Backgrounds

11

Today Faithful Bloggers officially opens the doors to our new Free Resources Center!  The first resource we created for our readers are free Christian Twitter Backgrounds.  There are 8 backgrounds to choose from and each background is based on a Bible verse.

Here is a sample of one of the backgrounds:

love

All of the Twitter backgrounds can be found here.  I have included installation instructions with each background but if you need any help, please let us know via the contact form.  Also if you would like to have the Twitter background customized with your name, blog name, or blog url we can do that for you for a small fee of $5, please see this page for more details.

I hope you enjoy these backgrounds!  There are more great free resources coming soon in the future.