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Change can be scary, but sometimes you just have to try new things. Giving a third party service, in beta, control over the home page of my blog was one of those scary things. I’m still not sure it was the right decision, but I’m sticking with it. For now.
Rebel Mouse describes itself as your social front page, building a dynamic site around what you share. According to the Rebel Mouse page, people are becoming embarrassed by web sites that are not as current or active as their social media accounts. I believe the problem is real. It can be difficult to find the right way to integrate social media on a blog. I also find that a quick tweet or mobile photo upload is more fun than a full blog post, and a lot faster. It can be tempting to skip the blog posts altogether, but you still need to have your own home on the web with fresh content.
Here are some of the reasons why I ultimately decided to try Rebel Mouse on my home page:
- I wanted to make it easier to discover content on my blog. There is a new emphasis on discovery rather than search in web design. Rebel Mouse provides that dynamic panel or masonry style layout made famous by Pinterest. Mashable’s new web site design is also a great example. The layout does that neat infinite scroll trick where you can just keep scrolling down to discover more content. My favorite examples of the infinite scroll are Pinterest and the Chrome Web Store.
- My social media posts can automatically help keep my blog fresh. If blogging isn’t your full time job, it can be really hard to do more than a couple posts a month. Posting to Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, and other social media sites will now add freshness to my homepage without any additional steps on my part.
- It helps me create more visual content. I read somewhere that blog content has evolved from lengthy text posts, to micro-blogging short text posts in social media, to skipping the text altogether in favor of pictures and videos. The web is becoming more visual, and that is exactly the way I like it. Rebel Mouse automatically tries to add an image or video to each post. If there isn’t one already, it will try to find one that is relevant. My new rule is to never make a post without an image or video.
- It provides an incredibly simple way to curate content. Many content marketing experts suggest that it is important to supplement your original content by sharing relevant content from other sources. Generally in social media copying other people’s content is naughty, but sharing or linking to that content is nice. Now whenever I share a link in social media, the link is republished on my homepage. In effect, I can get even more fresh content on the front page of my web site. It’s as easy as hitting a retweet/like/+1/pin it button.
- Rebel Mouse allows custom CSS rules. If the layout was locked in with the default colors and options, I never would have put it on my site. It would not have looked integrated, so the result would be unprofessional. It took some work, but I figured out enough of the CSS to decently blend the design with my site.
Some things to keep in mind:
- Rebel Mouse will dig up your history in social media. Suddenly all of those little posts will be on your homepage. Be prepared to find some skeletons in your closet. You can easily remove those items from your Rebel Mouse page, but plan to spend some time pruning the content at first.
- Your content flow from blog post to social media will be reversed. I have always created blog posts first, then shared them in social media. Now you have to think about sharing content in social media as a means to publishing it on your blog. Consider how the end result will look on your homepage. Eventually you will be able to use this to your advantage.
- Beware of duplicate posts on your homepage. If you like to share the same piece of content on multiple social sites, you will likely end up with copies of the same content in multiple Rebel Mouse panels because it will pull from each separate source. Consider the old formula of writing a blog post, then sharing the post in social media. You might put a link to your blog post on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. If you have all of those accounts linked to your Rebel Mouse, you will have three copies of that blog post on your homepage. Probably not what you’re looking for. If you have to share the same piece of content on multiple accounts, just remember to remove the duplicates. Maybe one day the Mouse will do this automatically.
- Your social media presence will need to be relevant to your web site. This is why I didn’t link my Facebook page to Rebel Mouse. I don’t filter myself as much on Facebook. The last thing I want is to have pictures from the party last weekend mixing with my thoughts about content marketing on my career-focused blog. If your Twitter account is a fire hose of tweets about anything and everything, maybe don’t open that valve up on your homepage.
- Rebel Mouse is still in beta! Things could change. Keep an eye on it so you don’t find any surprises when you load your own web site.
A little bit of branding
I’ve been busy trying to make all of my various social media channels work together. Basically, I have been throwing my signature and portrait all over everything with a profile page. I’m already sick of looking at this picture of myself. It’s all for a good reason though. I want every social media page I have to look like it belongs to this blog, and I want each one to serve a specific purpose. Often times I see bloggers begging their readers to “Follow Me!” with those little social media icons in the sidebar. What I don’t often see is a good reason for it. Usually you will find the same exact content from the blog, or links back to the blog that you just came from, or sometimes nothing at all.
Giving it all a purpose
I have a plan to make sure that each of my social media links has a reason to exist. Here is how I intend to use each profile:
The Facebook wall does a really nice job of sharing links. When you put a link on your wall, you get a thumbnail image and a short description, both of which are pulled directly from the linked page. You also get to add your two cents with a comment, and other people can comment as well. My Facebook page will act as a sort of shared RSS feed, with the potential for a social dialogue.
Twitter is all about what’s happening right now. I will use my feed to share anything that’s newsworthy and current. I’d like to start sharing more smartphone photos on Twitter, since I’m all about getting multimedia into social media. One thing I don’t want to do is tweet for no reason. I’m not going to post “good morning” as soon as I wake up every day. If you see a tweet from me, it’s because I really wanted to share some kind of news that I think is worthwhile.
The biggest video sharing site is sort of a dumping ground, but with some really nice features. One thing I like is that my Android phone and You Tube are best buds. I can take videos clips from my phone, and upload them to the site instantly. Then I can edit them together using You Tube’s online video editor. It’s an incredibly fast and mobile way to get videos out to the masses. My You Tube channel will be for sharing quickly made videos where quality isn’t as important as mobility and speed.
Vimeo focuses more on quality than quantity. This will be my outlet for video work that I care a bit more about.
Flickr, Picasa, or Facebook?
The last piece of the puzzle is a place to share photography. The only problem is that I’m not thrilled with any of my options. Flickr is kind of clumsy. Picasa feels under developed. The nicest option might actually be Facebook. The galleries are pretty easy to navigate, and it is very social. Since I’m already utilizing Facebook, it probably wouldn’t hurt to start sharing photos and even videos there as well.