Pulling Back the Curtains: Symphony Tools

Over the last few months, in our secret lair in Palo Alto, we've been quietly working on an exciting new project. A new application for you, our savvy bloggers and social media managers, to grow and manage your social presence. Not only your blogs, but all your social profiles from one place. And today we're happy to pull back the curtains and announce Symphony Tools. A full-featured beautiful social media dashboard.

Symphony compliments NetworkedBlogs very nicely. While NetworkedBlogs is great for growing your readership, Symphony is great for professional bloggers and social media managers who need a premium product with advanced features to grow your businesses.

And while we're building Symphony, we're also improving NetworkedBlogs at the same time. We recently changed the layout of published posts to make them look better on Facebook, and we're very excited about the explosive growth of digest emails that now deliver your blog posts via email 3 million times a month.

We'd love for you to try Symphony and share your thoughts. And to celebrate the launch, we're giving a way a free subscription for 6 months to the first 100 people who sign up through this link.


Bigger Images in Published Posts

Visually appealing content gets better engagement on Facebook than text-only posts. We’re in an age of ‘pretty’ in social media - even the major social networks are taking cues from Pinterest and Instagram. And in an age where everyone has something to say on social media, you need to give your content an edge over the rest.

In that vein, some of the most common feedback we receive is that our automatic blog syndication feature could be prettier. Enabling syndication can save you the time of having to manually post every blog update to all your facebook and twitter pages, but at the end of the day it’s only useful if it helps get your blog read.

So we’ve made some visual changes to how syndicated blog posts appear in Facebook:

  • Larger Images
  • More description text
  • Removed the source link

The result is a much cleaner and visually attractive Facebook post. Your fan pages are about to get a lot more visual - this update will be in effect by Monday, 4/29.

Like the new layout? Let us know what you think in the comments!


New: Blogger Dashboard

If you visit NetworkedBlogs today, you'll notice two new updates that we're happy to share with you:

Simplified Navigation

We redesigned the top level menus to make it easier to navigate around the site. If you're used to the old menus, take a few seconds to be familiar with the new changes, most notably:

  • Instead of the "profile" menu, click on your name or picture (in the top right corner) to go to your profile page.
  • Click on the NetworkedBlogs logo in the top left to go back to the home page from anywhere. This was done previously using the "news" menu, which is redundant and is now removed.
  • The syndication menu is replaced with the new "Blogger Dashboard" menu, which leads us to the second update...

The Blogger Dashboard

If you have a blog, then the Blogger Dashboard is now the one place where you can find all the tools and features that NetworkedBlogs offers: automatic and manual publishing to Facebook and Twitter, adding Blog tabs to Facebook pages, widgets, invites, premium features, and everything else related to managing your blogs.

Our goal from these updates is to simplify NetworkedBlogs and make it easier to find what you need without having to remember and visit many different pages. While it might take a bit of getting used to at first, we believe it's much better than what we had and we hope you like it as well.


You Can Now Add Your Organization as a Blog Author

Today we're announcing a new feature useful for blogs owned by organizations. If you prefer to list your organization as the author of the blog rather than yourself, you can now do so. For example, on the NetworkedBlogs Blog profile, I listed our company, Ninua, as the author by linking it to our company page on Facebook. You can also list both, your organization and yourself, as authors if you like.

To list your organization, you must first get verified as an author with your personal account. That's because someone, a person, must manage the blog. You verify yourself using the same methods as before: either by installing the widget or by asking friends for confirmations. Once you're verified, you then go to the blog profile page and click on "edit authors" and from there you have the option to add any Facebook page that you manage as a co-author. You can also hide yourself from the authors list if you prefer not to be listed.

We hope you like this update, and we're looking forward to your feedback.


No More Grouping of Posts on Facebook Timeline

We have good news to share today. A few months ago, after Facebook announced the new timeline for profiles, we received reports from users that once they switched to the new timeline all their blog posts were grouped in a small box. Obviously that's a problem for anyone who wants their content to have good visibility on Facebook. To get around that problem, we switched to a new publishing format in which we published by sharing a link as opposed to publishing a story. That solved the grouping problem but came with a side-effect of not showing the blog name with each post and not having a direct link to the blog profile, because when sharing a link we have little control over the layout of the post.

As of last night, Facebook has solved the problem, and we switched back to the original publishing format. Going forward, your blog posts will look nicer on your Facebook profiles, pages, and groups. And posts will not be grouped together anymore, and will get the same visibility that manual sharing gets on Facebook.

Our goal is to give you the best possible way to share your posts on Facebook. Please let us know how this change works for you, and how it compares to the other method of publishing by sharing a link. Also, if there are any improvements you'd like to see in how posts are published, please let us know in the comments.


New Tool: Quick Publisher

One of the feature requests we hear a lot is a way to include a custom message with each post before publishing it to Facebook or Twitter. Custom messages require a little extra effort to write, but they add a personal touch and improve engagement, and hence distribution, of your blog. So today I'm happy to announce our latest publishing tool, Quick Publisher.

You can access Quick Publisher from the top menu on networkedblogs.com. You select the post you want to publish and the Facebook and Twitter targets you want to publish to; and you can also add a custom message if you like. You hit "Publish" and you're done.

You can also open Quick Publisher by going to your blog profile and then click on the "syndication" link under each individual post. In that case, the post will be pre-selected for you and you can publish it right away. This will eventually replace the manual syndication option we have right now.

Also, in the dialog window, if your latest post has not been pulled to NetworkedBlogs yet, you can click the "refresh" button and it will do an immediate fetch of all the feeds of your blogs to check if there are new posts in any of them. It's equivalent to hitting the "pull now" button on all your blogs at once. Nice, right?

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the Quick Publisher operates separately from the automatic syndication feature. In other words, if you have set up your blog to publish automatically, and then you publish a post manually using Quick Publisher, you'll end up with duplicate posts. Quick Publisher is good for blogs that are not set up to publish automatically, or in case automatic publishing fails.

And, one more feature: you can use Quick Publisher for status updates as well, not only to share your blog posts. So if you have several Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that you want to update at the same time, this is the perfect tool for it. I hope you enjoy using it, and we'd love to hear your thoughts on how to make it better.


Custom Themes For Facebook Page Tabs

Today we're introducing a few updates related to Blog tabs on Facebook pages: first, we're making it much easier to add a Blog tab to your Facebook page. Rather than the multi-step process that was required before, now you can just go to your blog profile page on NetworkedBlogs and click the new "Add Tab to Facebook Page" menu, and you're set.

The second feature we're announcing today (this one is for for paying customers) is the ability to customize your tab by choosing a theme that fits your content and style. If your use a lot of pictures, then you can choose a style that displays your pictures prominently, and if you prefer a dark theme, we got that too. Also, once you sign up for a paid plan, you can switch back and forth between themes as often you like, and you'll also have access to new themes as we add them.

You can see a custom theme in action on our own NetworkedBlogs page.

Another customization we're offering today is the ability to hide the NetworkedBlogs branding from your tab so your brand gets all the attention. This option is available on the Plus plan. Check out our new features, and if interested, sign up to one of the premium plans to get started.


Changes to our Payment System

As you know, NetworkedBlogs is offered as a free service and will continue to be so. We love helping our users find new readers and get visibility and distribution on social networks. To cover the costs of running the service, we also offer paid plans with extra features. Your payments allow us to keep the site running. Thank you.

Until recently, we used Paypal as our only payment system to handle subscriptions to our PRO and Premium Listing plans. And, while Paypal worked really well, we needed a payment system that's tightly integrated with our application so that when a user signs up or changes a subscription, the updates are reflected in the app immediately. We also wanted to make it easier for our users to check the status of their subscriptions and manage them from one place. So we spent the last few weeks working towards that goal, and I'm happy to announce that we just launched our new payment system, and with it, we also released a new set of premium plans.

The new payment system and plans introduce a lot of improvements. Now it's much easier to sign up, change your plan, cancel, or update the features you use. And we now offer annual plans that come with a good discount off of the monthly price. And, we're also introducing new premium features (such as tab themes, priority support, and custom blog thumbnails) that we'll cover in more detail in the next post.

So how does that affect you?

1. If you're using NetworkedBlogs for free, you're not affected.

2. If you have a subscription to the PRO plan ($4.99/month), then you're not affected. You can keep your subscription through Paypal going and you'll continue to get the same features you signed up for (fast feed updates, faster support, and custom cover images for blog profiles). If you like, though, you can switch to one of the new plans and get more features.

3. If you have a subscription to the Premium Listing plan ($19.99/month), then make sure to read the next section as well. Generally, though, you can also keep the subscription going and continue to get the features you signed up for, except for one: promoting the blog in the directory and search results. Instead of that feature, you'll now get the ability to use custom themes on Facebook pages and you can upload custom thumbnail images (the next section explains why this change). Your plan is now equivalent to the new Plus plan.

Bonus for Users with the Premium Listing Plan

One of the features of the Premium Listing plan was to highlight the blog in the directory and search results. But due to changes triggered by our big update in October, we couldn't offer that option since then, and we might not offer it again for a little while. So we owe you this missing feature for the ...


New Format for Published Posts to Timeline

Happy new year, everyone. We have a lot of new features planned for release in the next few weeks, but today we have a small update to announce. As Facebook opened the new profile Timeline to everyone, we started getting reports from users that once someone switches to the Timeline, all their blog posts disappear from their profile. This seems to affect some users, not everyone. As far as we can tell, it seems to be a Facebook bug, and we're hoping for a fix soon.

In the meantime, while we wait for an official fix, we experimented with a different publishing format with a few beta users in the last couple of weeks and confirmed that it doesn't suffer from the same issue above. So today, in the next couple of hours, we'll be switching to use the new publishing format. This will affect posts published to profiles only. Facebook pages and groups are not affected.

The new format is similar to the current one except for these small differences:

  • The "share" option on the new format is much better. When you click "share", it opens a dialogbox from which you share directly without leaving Facebook, instead of taking you to the post age like the current format does.
  • The NetworkedBlogs logo doesn't show under each post any more.
  • The small link to the blog profile on NetworkedBlogs that used to show under the post summary is removed as well.
  • If your post doesn't have an image, we will not use the blog thumbnail image. This is to avoid having an image repeated too many times if many of your posts don't have images. Also, the thumbnails tend to get out of date quickly if you change your blog theme or layout. So we're simplifying things by only publishing an image if the article has one.

This will go live very soon, and you should notice it the next time you write an article and have it published to your timeline (pages and groups are not affected). If you have feedback or questions about this change, please let us know on this thread.


New Feature: Feed Tester

One of the most common questions we get on a regular basis is: why doesn't NetworkedBlogs pull my posts successfully? And after investigating, we find that most of the errors tend to be simple things like using the wrong feed URL, misconfiguring FeedBurner, missing to enable "full feeds" so that images are included, and so forth. These settings are usually easy to fix if you know where to look. So today we're announcing the new Feed Tester tool that should help with that.

On your blog profile page, you will now see a new menu item, Feed Tester. It runs a lot of tests against your feed and gives you a brief report of the results. Here are some of the errors that Feed Tester can uncover:

  • Missing, invalid, or wrong feed URL.
  • Blog taking too long to respond (more than 10 seconds).
  • Feed with missing posts.
  • Feeds that are formatted incorrectly.
  • Feeds that don't contain the latest articles.
  • Feeds that don't have the post images.

These cases represent almost 90% of all the feed related questions we get on our support site. So we hope this tool will help a lot in finding and solving problems faster for everyone. Give it a try and let us know how you like it.

News Page Available Inside Facebook

Another update we'd like to mention, which we pushed earlier today, is that the News page is now available inside Facebook again. If you usually go to our Website directly, then you will not see anything different. However, if you visit NetworkedBlogs using the bookmark on the left side menu in Facebook, then you'll notice that you can view the News page now without leaving Facebook. We hope this makes it easier to get in, check the latest, and get out easily.