Melissa Ibarra

    • Member Type(s): Expert
      Communications Professional
      Media - Freelancer
      Media - Broadcast
      Media - Print Journalist
      Media - Student Journalist
      Media - Web-only/Blogger
      Media - Other
    • Title:Online Community Services Specialist
    • Organization:ProfNet
    • Area of Expertise:Social Media, News Reporting

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    The Blog Blog: How to Make Blog Graphics on Your Phone

    Wednesday, August 26, 2015, 10:13 AM [The Blog Blog]
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    Yes, the graphic above was created while I was commuting on the train. Our time is so precious these days -- every second counts! Why not boost your productivity by creating graphics from your phone in your down time?

    This blog post consists of two parts: 1) Editing Your Photos With VSCOcam; and 2) Overlaying Text With Kanvas. I have an Apple iPhone 5s, so this tutorial is mainly geared towards other iPhone users. VSCOcam is an iPhone/iPad application, but there are other photo-editing equivalents. Kanvas, however, is available for both Android and Apple users. 

    Editing Your Photo With VSCOcam:

    1) Take a picture of anything -- or even nothing.

    The following is a random picture I took of a brick wall at Newark Penn Station. Sometimes plain images make the best backgrounds. On the contrary, amazing photography can also make your blog graphics stand out. It all depends on what type of aesthetic you are going for. 

    2) Open your VSCOcam application on your phone.

    This is what the icon looks like: 

    3) Choose the image you'd like to work with.

    Click on the camera icon on the bottom left corner of the screen to take a picture *or* choose the image in your gallery you want to work with. 

    4) Edit your image as your please. 

    Click on the middle icon at the bottom to edit your picture.

    You can choose default filters/effects or you can individually customize tthe brightness, contrast, grain, etc., by clicking on the wrench icon. 

    5) Save your image onto your phone. 

    The following image was my end result after playing around with the effects. I desaturated the image and added some grain. I also applied a slight vignette. 

    Tip: When working with images as your background, keep in mind your overall color scheme. If you're looking to use light colors for your text, darken your background. If you're looking to use dark colors for your text, lighten your background. The more it contrasts, the easier it is on the eyes. 

    Overlaying Text With Kanvas:

    1. Open Kanvas on your phone. 

    This is what the icon looks like: 

    2. Click on "+" in the upper right corner. 

    3) Click on "custom."

    4) Add an image using the first icon on the bottom of the screen.

    You can also add colored tints to the image as you add them. I added a greyish-blue tint to my image. 

    5) Add text and play with colors and fonts. 

    For my graphic, I used different fonts. I also played around with what colors work well together. Consider colors that contrast or accent well -- or even color combinations you personally like. I like to search images on Google for inspiration if I'm really stuck. I also occasionally refer to a color wheel for help. 

    6) Save your graphic onto your phone. 

    Unless you want your graphic public, make sure you select "make kanvas private." After that, you have the option to share your graphic via social media or even text message it to yourself. Once you click "done," the graphic should be automatically saved in your gallery. 

    And just like that, you've created a blog graphic on your phone!

    Congrats, and good luck making your graphic. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below. 


    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. All you have to do is fill out a quick form telling us what you’re looking for, your deadline, and how you want to be contacted, and we’ll send it to the appropriate experts in our network. The best part? It’s free! Get started here: Send a query.

    The Blog Blog: August 2015 Blogger of the Month

    Wednesday, August 5, 2015, 2:40 PM [The Blog Blog]
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    Every month, I highlight one successful blogger on The Blog Blog. By “successful,” I mean someone who has been blogging for at least three years and has seen their audience engagement grow significantly. For this month’s feature, we have Adam Hartung.

    The story behind every blogger is different. Hartung’s readership increased as he started writing for Forbes, where editors eventually republished his blog posts. Hartung tells us:

    “I started blogging in 2007 as a way to promote a book I published via The Financial Times. In 2009, Forbes editors reading my blog asked me to start writing a monthly column for them. In 2010, they set up a blog environment and asked if they could republish my blogs -- which I agreed -- and that has vastly increased my readership, as well as provided some income.”

    Creating the right network is always key to a blog’s success.

    We conducted the following interview with Hartung:

    1) What is your name and title?

    I am Adam Hartung, CEO of Content Laboratory (a communications services and app provider), Soparfilm Energy (an independent oil and gas exploration and production company) and Spark Partners (a strategy consulting firm).

    2) What is the name and URL of your blog?

    My website is, and the URL of my “It’s All About Growth” blog is At Forbes, I write the Leadership & Growth Blog

    3) Which audience does your blog cater to?

    I write strictly for business people -- mostly to educate people on how to be better leaders, and investors. My audience is predominantly C-suite folks and other people in management. I’ve had my readership evaluated several times and every time they report back, “everyone in business wants to have C-suite readers -- Adam you really do have them.”

    4) What inspired you to create your blog?

    Originally to promote my book, but soon I realized that few people read books anymore, and if I wanted to spread my management insights, a blog was far better than a book.

    5) What makes your blog so unique?

    Few people who write business blogs make strong predictions, and few will go negative on companies and their leaders. I do both -- in spades. I’ve made dozens of long-term predictions, months in advance, and had a staggeringly successful hit rate. Also, I’ve had an impact on the longevity of CEOs in public corporations.

    6) What is your ultimate blogging goal?

    I use this as a platform for speaking opportunities and to introduce my management thinking to CEOs who can offer me a board position in their company.

    7) If you could choose one piece of advice to give to new bloggers, what would it be? Have you made any mistakes and learned from them?

    Blogging is the ultimate marathon. Everyone I know who really tried ran out of gas. I’ve been doing this for years, and even my editors are surprised at the depth of blogs for such a long time. So don’t go into this if you aren’t really dedicated. Have a strong point of view and be willing to do research constantly to apply your viewpoint in a meaningful way for your readers. I can’t say I’ve had many mistakes from blogging.

    8) How successful has your blog grown to become versus when you first started it? If you could provide simple metrics, that would be great.

    I’ve had over 3 million readers and something around 6.5 million page views.

    9) How does blogging benefit you?

    It keeps my relevant to current and potential clients. They know I’m not someone operating on auto-pilot, or seeking retirement. It keeps me in “the thick” of business issues and with a voice people want to hear.

    10) Any other interesting stories or information you would like to provide? 

    I’ve had to change my use of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Even though you probably never heard of me, I have enough “celebrity status” in my readership that I can’t talk about my personal life any longer. For example, my insurance company told me I can’t pre-announce travel for fear my house will be broken into. With 20K twitter followers and 5K LinkedIn fans, I have to keep everything very business-oriented or it can cause problems.

    Hartung shows us the importance of having the right network, content and niche audience. He also stresses the important of consistency.  

    It’s great to find inspiration through the success of others. If you feel you make a great candidate for next month’s “Blogger of the Month,” please feel free to email me at


    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. All you have to do is fill out a quick form telling us what you’re looking for, your deadline, and how you want to be contacted, and we’ll send it to the appropriate experts in our network. The best part? It’s free! Get started here: Send a query.

    7 Cool Blog Tools Every Blogger Must Try

    Wednesday, July 22, 2015, 10:06 AM [The Blog Blog]
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    cool blog tools

    In case you felt it was time to spruce up your blog, I stumbled upon a few cool tools I think you ought to try. Enjoy!

    1. Tweak Your Biz - Title Generator

      "An outstanding title can increase tweets, Facebook Likes and visitor traffic by 50% or more" claims the website.

      This tool helps users generate efficient titles for blog posts. Not only do these titles help with SEO, but it also helps with content ideas. 

      I typed "baby fashion trends" in the search field. Some results were:

      "Best 20 Tips for Baby Fashion Trends"
      "Top 20 Quotes on Baby Fashion Trends" 
      "The A-Z of Baby Fashion Trends" 

      Results are organized under categories "Lists" and "Best." Also, to the right, you can view a long list of potential blog post titles -- and print/download them too!

    2. Ritetag
      "Findability" is key in terms of your blog traffic numbers. Be smart with the hashtags you use -- there is a strategy behind everything. 

      What Ritetag does is it directs users towards the strongest hashtags. Other features indicate: "unique tweets per hour," "good tweet length," "no image in tweet," and "too many hashtags." 

      Using this tool can ultimately increase traffic towards your blog.


    3. Piktochart

      Nothing is more boring to look at than large blocks of texts -- especially when it contains a heavy amount of numbers and statistics. 

      Piktochart is an easy-to-use tool that creates infographics. It allows users to condense loads of information into one, fun graphic. Infographics also have a better chance of going viral versus regular images. Even throughout Pinterest, one can see loads of pinned and repinned infographics. 

      With infographics, your readers can grasp tons of information with just once glance. 



      View Piktochart's instructional video
    4. Canva

      I've mentioned Canva before when talking about Facebook cover dimensions. I've come across numerous blogs that have so much potential content-wise, but sadly turn away readers with large blocks of text and unprofessional-looking graphics. Canva is the perfect tool to use for those who don't have the time or money to invest in graphic design classes or services. 

      The best part of Canva is that the service is free, however, if you want to use certain images you have to pay for the graphic. It's worth it in the long run, because you want to make great first impressions as you network with new people.

    5. Wefollow

      In my 10 Twitter Tips for Bloggers post, I mentioned reaching out to influencers:

      "Influencers are those with the greatest amount of followers. Sometimes when you tweet at them or respond to one of their tweets, they can end up retweeting you to. This can result in greater exposure of your work or even more followers for your account."

      Now the question is, where can one find influencers? Wefollow is a great tool to help find the best influencers, or as the website says, "dicover prominent people." With this tool, not only can you reach out to influencers, but you can use them as your own resource and rolemodel.

      As you can see above, I typed in "personal finance," and the tool provided me with a number of personal finance influencers. 
    6. Iconfinder
      Iconfinder provides its users with half a million premium icons, licenses for commercial projects and royalties to contributing illustrators. It's a great tool to use in the designing your blog -- to add a more professional feel to things. 

      You can read more about Iconfinder here (and watch a video).
    7. FlipSnack

      If you've hit a creative plateau, somtimes you're forced to think out of the box. Perhaps a simulated book/magazine may do the trick. Depending on your audience, some may find a flipbook more engaging. 

      This tool converts PDFs to HTML5 Flipbooks.

      Good luck revamping your blog, and if you know any other cool blogging tools, please feel free to let me know! 

      Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. All you have to do is fill out a quick form telling us what you’re looking for, your deadline, and how you want to be contacted, and we’ll send it to the appropriate experts in our network. The best part? It’s free! Get started here: Send a query. 

    10 Things to Check Before Publishing Your Blog Post

    Tuesday, July 14, 2015, 3:39 PM [The Blog Blog]
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    After all the hard work you put into your blog post, hitting “publish” can be as rewarding as sipping a glass of wine after a long, hard day of work. However, just as one must complete tasks before leaving work, a blogger must check certain things before hitting "publish."

    Below is a list of things bloggers should check before publishing a blog post:

    1. Is your blog post consistent in format?

    The more consistent your blog is, the more professional it comes off.

    • Are all your headers formatted the same way? (Some bloggers write headlines like titles, while others write headlines in complete sentences.)
    • Are you consistent with how you spell/type words and phrases (e.g., “Q&A” versus “Q and A”)? Our blogs on ProfNet Connect follow the AP Style format.
    • Do you consistently categorize your blog posts (e.g., Art, Music, Fashion, etc.)? This helps readers easily navigate through your site. 

    I’ve also seen blogs show consistency through their visuals. One example is Notice below how professional her images look when there's consistency in font and style:

    2. Have you proofread your post?

    Bad grammar and typos can really hurt your blog.

    • Did you reread your post more than once?
    • Can you possibly ask someone else to look over your post?

     3. Does your blog post contain at least one pinnable image?

    Images make blog posts more enjoyable to read. They are easy on the eye and even break up lengthy blocks of text. Every blog post should contain at least one pinnable image. Overlaying text onto the image also makes the picture more appealing on Pinterest.

    Below is our ProfNet Community Pinterest page

    pinterest page blogging tips

    Take a look at our board, and see which pins stick out the most. Your pinnable images should give people a reason to repin your image, or better yet visit your blog. 

    4. Is your blog post SEO-optimized?

    Your blog traffic will not increase if people can't even find your blog -- no matter how amazing your content is. Having keywords in your post's title can help people find your article. Think about what people search for on Google (e.g., “How to Start a Blog” or “10 Easy Summer Fashion Tips” or “An Easy Recipe for Chicken Pot Pie”). Also, make sure some of those keywords lie within the text of your blog post. 

    5. Have you added titles and alt text to your images?

    Adding titles and alt text to images you upload makes them more likely to appear in search results. For example, if someone searches “cute baby boy” under images in a search engine, your image is more likely to pop up in results if it contains the words “cute,” “baby” and “boy” in its title or alt text.

    6. Have you checked your links?

    • Did you include internal links?

    Internal links can increase page views. It also helps with SEO. You should link relevant thoughts and ideas to past blog posts within your text. This especially works if you’ve already built your loyal blog audience. (See what I did there?)

    • Did you test-run your links?

    With any link (internal or external) you include in your blog post, always check if they work. One little character can throw off the whole link. I also like to click the option to “open in a new window.” This way, if the reader wants to finish reading my post after clicking a click, he/she does not get lost in navigation.

    7. Did you provide a call-to-action?

    You’d be surprised what a simple question at the end of a blog post does. It can evoke comments and conversation.

    On top of that, if you’re blogging for a business, do not forget to include a link to where to buy your product -- make things easy for your readers. I always tell people to assume their readers are lazy.

    Furthermore, do not forget to include visible contact information or other ways to be reached – email address, social media links, etc.

    8. Would your own post appeal to you?

    As you scroll down your page, does your blog post look boring? Would you be interested in reading it? Are there big chunks of text that don’t look appealing to read? Formatting can make a huge difference when deciding whether or not to read your post. Don’t just think numbered lists and bullet points -- add images, videos. Embed tweets or vines. Infographics are great too. Make your posts fun to read!

    9. Is your post easy to understand?

    Sometimes a blogger can become too comfortable writing in his or her own voice. Reread your blog post and see if you've said something that another reader may not understand. Did you use any shorthand, slang, abbreviation, or references your reader may not get? If so, try to explain it, or even link the phrase to an article, YouTube video or website.

     10. Are you proud of your post?

    This is the *most important* question to ask yourself before publishing your post. Every time I click publish on Diaper Etiquette, I must say I am proud of what I write and the original photography I’ve uploaded. The more proud you are of your post, the more effortless it becomes to share your work. 

    Happy Blogging!

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. All you have to do is fill out a quick form telling us what you’re looking for, your deadline, and how you want to be contacted, and we’ll send it to the appropriate experts in our network. The best part? It’s free! Get started here: Send a query.

    How to Build a Loyal Blog Audience

    Wednesday, July 8, 2015, 10:23 AM [The Blog Blog]
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    One of the biggest mistakes new bloggers make is assuming readers will automatically revisit their blog. Little do they know, building a loyal blog audience takes effort -- as much hard work as creating content for your blog (or even more). 

    Here are a few tips I’ve gathered on how to build a loyal blog audience: 

    1. Focus on your niche, rather than everyone.

    As cliché as it sounds, you can’t please everyone. In the blog world, this especially proves to be true. Those who count most are those who visit regularly. They are the ones who are more likely to share and appreciate your work, simply because they relate to your work. As you keep blogging, you'll start to notice who and what type of people your blog attracts. Try to cater to that demographic specifically and keep them in mind when you create content.

    2. Be original. 

    Originality adds to the quality of your blog. You want to be able to offer your readers unique and valuable content. The more original your work is, the more likely visitors will choose to read your blog over other blogs.

    Having a great personality may lead to original content, but I believe there's is a thin line between incorporating your personality into a blog and lacking a sense of professionalism. It's easier said than done, but try to find a unique voice while maintaining formality. Although I write in a conversational tone, I try to maintain professionalism by writing in complete sentences, AP-style format, etc. If you can find the balance between using your own voice and presenting yourself in a professional manner, then you are on the road to success. 

    3. Constantly seek improvement.

    There is always room for improvement, no matter how successful your blog has grown to be. Research veteran bloggers within your niche. Not only use them for inspiration, but seek constructive criticism from them. Then, try to find success in your own unique way. 

    4. Publish with full confidence.

    Always be proud of your work. If you don’t feel confident in the content you create, then you are doing something terribly wrong. Every time you click “publish,” you should be proud enough to share your work with the world. Remember: Your viewers seek value!

    5. Use catchy headlines.

    Consider using catchy headlines (while keeping SEO in mind). Headlines should lure your readers in. Most readers make a decision to read a post based off a headline alone. If a headline can’t catch one’s interest, one may miss out on some of the most amazing work you’ve written.

    Aside from using catchy headlines, when you share your posts on social media, you can use catchy captions. For example, my blog post name on Diaper Etiquette was “Lobster Fest 2015.” However, my caption via Facebook and Instagram was “Cloudy with a chance of lobster mac-n-cheese balls!” 

    6. Keep your posts easy on the eye.

    Most people scan versus read. (Even I’m guilty of this. Our time is just so precious these days.) Try using sub headers, bullet points, line breaks, or images to break up long blocks of text -- anything to make it easier and faster for people to read! 

    7. Take the time to show your readers appreciation. 

    For example, on Twitter, retweet your readers (adding a personal message if you may). Take the time to comment on their blogs, social media accounts, etc.

    For my Diaper Etiquette blog, I take people who hashtag #diaperetiquette on Instagram, and repost them on my Instagram account. I also take the time to interview others via email and write blog posts about their kids.

    (Above is where I highlight members of our #diaperetiquette community. People love to be featured!)

    8. Build genuine relationships.

    Attempt to work with others in your niche – collaboration forms symbiotic relationships. Chat via social media. Most people via social media list their email addresses -- reach out to people! Build communities across all social media platforms. Networking works best when you build friendships.

    Also, don't forget to give yourself time to answer questions and reply to comments. If your blog offers value to readers, chances are they may have questions or may want to engage in conversations. 

    9. Form email lists.

    Every marketer knows email lists prove to be successful. I’ve heard great things about MailChimp, and I recently just signed up for them. I haven’t personally started my own email list yet, but I am subscribed to plenty. I enjoy them, and they keep me in the loop with promotions, news, Twitter parties, giveaways, etc. 

    10. Write guest posts.

    Guest post on blogs wherever you can. It not only increases your exposure, but also builds your credentials as an influencer. 

    11. Offer free content.

    People gravitate towards free stuff. Offer free e-books (they’re actually easy to write and publish), printouts, e-courses, videos, or podcasts. In addition, try hosting giveaways and contests. 

    Whether you're a reporter, blogger, author or other content creator, ProfNet can help you with your search for expert sources. All you have to do is fill out a quick form telling us what you’re looking for, your deadline, and how you want to be contacted, and we’ll send it to the appropriate experts in our network. The best part? It’s free! Get started here: Send a query.

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