About a year ago, I collected a bunch of my favorite tech-y finds in THIS original post, including goodies like Square to take credit cards at comic cons, and the handy social media browser plug-in Yoono. I have pointed many people to that article, when making a suggestion for some piece of technology that would make their comic-ing life easier. Even being fully submerged into the webcomic community, we creators can spend so much time… you know… CREATING, that we can easily miss some awesome plug-in, or app, or gadget that would be a HUGE help. Heck, I probably have as well. But I put together that last article to give everyone one big collective pointer… kind of giving you all access to my secret junk drawer. I figured… it’s been about a year; time for another collection of COOL JUNK!

Socialize!

If the comment system in WordPress seems slow, buggy or just a pain to deal with, there are alternatives. I have installed Disqus on my site, and have to say I am a happy camper. The initial install took a little time to convert all past comments to the Disqus format, but ti was all automated and easy. Some benefits to Disqus:

  • Allow your users to log in with their social network accounts like facebook and twitter.
  • Comment can be posted without refreshing the page. (this could be considered a con, if you’re looking for page hits, but it’s a much more user-friendly experience)
  • Drag-and-drop media, so easy!
  • The integration across all sites that use Disqus makes it easy to keep up with conversations everywhere!

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One keyword search in WordPress’ database is all it takes to realize just how many social network plugins there are out there. While every website has different needs, and you will undoubtedly play the “has everything I want except…” game, there’s a bunch that are just well programmed little plugins.

  • Get Social gives you the basics, in an easy-to-use simple format, in a nifty floating sidebar. If you don’t want to clutter up your posts with social network icons, this is a great option.
  • ShareThis is widely used, and has dang near everything you need, with lots (and lots) of options. A big plus: the user-friendly pop-up that keeps the visitor on your page, while posting to a social network.
  • Shareaholic, using the “Sexy Bookmarks Widget”, is also a pretty integrative plugin and browser tool. And, well, pretty.

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Much like I did with Yoono prior, I have been babbling about this plugin, website, widget, app, etc. Hootsuite is pure awesome. If you’re looking for an easy way to post to multiple networks at once, keep up with @replies on twitter, notifications on facebook, keep tabs on your facebook pages.. and even more… this service is for you. Ho does it differ from Yoono (since I liked that so much and it can do a lot of the aforementioned tasks as well)? The ability to SCHEDULE your status/posts. We’re not all able to be GLUED to twitter and facebook all day long to nudge our followers to click a link. Yoono will simply post immediately wherever you wish, but Hootsuite allows you to pick a time and date, or utilize their new “auto-schedule” service, which helps determine when is best to post your update. HOW it does that, remains to be seen, but I am testing it out. Some other things to think about:

  • Hootsuite is not totally free. If you want to add more than 5 networks, you have to opt to pay a monthly rate. If you wish to connect some special networks, like Google+, that annoying “sign up for a PRO account” box will pop up. If 5 i all you really need, this is a great option for free.
  • Much like I warned with the “Tweet Old Post” plugin last time, be mindful of how much you schedule per day. If you copy-paste your updates and post every hour, your followers will start to ignore them, or unfollow you.
  • Also, keep in mind that Facebook is now working to subtly deter people from using third-party services to post to their pages and profiles, by lowering the percentage of people who will see a status posted by Hootsuite (or another service). Best way to get your post seen? Sign in and post directly through Facebook.
  • If you desire it, it’s waiting to be installed. Hootsuite comes as a plugin or a “hootlet” for your browser. It’s also an app for your smartphone or tablet (iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, even Keitai). Even with all this, I tend to use their straight website more than anything.
  • Organize your “streams” (ie: columns) any way you like, with as many or as few as you wish. For instance, under your titter tab, you can have your @replies, DMs, individual lists, sent tweets, retweeted tweets, and much much more. Or, just exactly the couple you need.

 

On the Go!

Here’s one I really rely on at conventions. I wanted a better, neater, way of tracking what I sell and how much I earn, for each convention individually. It certainly helps to see what sells, where. This cheap little app called Sales & Commissions is everything I need. Set up a new “account” for each convention, and (key point) set up your full inventory with  prices– your reoccurring items. When you make a sale, you select the convention, and then select the pre-entered item, for a quick and easy way to track your sales! Then, after the convention, you can email yourself the entire log for the “account”, for your records.

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While I try not to obsess over my page hits, unique viewers, or referrals… it’s good to check in once in a while. At $4.99 a pop, Quicklytics is a little pricey for an app, but a very highly rated and thorough app for checking your stats with Google Analytics. If you ever used Analytics itself, you know overwhelming it can be when you first get it set up. I enjoy using this app, because it manages to store a TON of information in a much more user-friendly manageable fashion.

 

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Last time around I mentioned Square, which is still a great app and smartphone device to ensure a sale at a comic con even if a customer is out of cash.  But now, I feel it only fair to share that fact that Paypal how its own smartphone credit card reader, they are calling PayPal Here. The concept is basically the same. Free card reader, free app, but Paypal/Square take a percentage from each sale. In many of our cases, a sale, even with a small percentage taken off, is better than no sale. These percentage fees are very close: 2.75% for Square, as oppose to 2.7% for Paypal. Here’s some key other differences:

  • You can get a free reader online for either, but only Square is in sold in major stores like Staples, Walmart, or Walgreens. (for $10, and then you get a $10 credit once activated)
  • The paypal app for smartphones allows for itemized transactions; the Square app lumps everything together, unless you use the iPad app.
  • Read a more in-depth comparison HERE.

And in the back of the Junk Draw is…..

Like you may have seen right here on this website (to the right towards the top), we use rotating banners instead of cluttering up the site with everyone’s all at once. This type of tactic is great for keeping your site clean and snappy in the loading department. The WordPress plugin we use is Datafeedr, and it’s your basic bare-bones app. Throw the widget in your sidebar somewhere (or wherever you please), and set up the rotational ads under “tools”. You can add multiple ad spaces, each containing as many rotating images or text with links (all using  HTML coding) as you wish. There are also “before ad” and “after ad” text areas you can utilize. It’s a great space-saver, and a fun way to… say… highlight specific comics or storyarcs for your visitors?

 

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If you know me at all, you know what a fangirl I am of Google Docs (now associated with Google Drive). I use docs for everything. Grocery Store Lists, organizing a big event with multiple people like NYCC, even the article schedule for the Alliance! A bulk of my wedding was planned using google docs. I also use an excel spreadsheet as an expense report of my sales vs. spending for comic conventions, craft fairs, events, book festivals, etc… for each year. Every time I order bookmarks “freebies”, I throw the total into this doc. When I get back from a convention, I take the total from my Sales & Commissions App mentioned above, and add it to this doc. It makes me accountable, adds up what I spend, what I earn, and shows me the difference. Glad to say I’m already far into the black this year, hoping to break last year’s record!

If you’re an Excel wizard, you probably could whip this up yourself. But in case you’re not, I’d like to share this template with you, to use for your own expense report. Try it out! If you like it and want to really use it as your own, you can download it or duplicate it!

That’s it for now folks, but there’s probably a 3rd edition coming up in the future! Feel free to share any tech goodies in the comments below.


Dawn Griffin is a self-described “crazy chick”. She likes steak, Cleveland sports, video games and oh yeah, comics. She spent her high school years either playing street ball, pitching, or drawing comics and submitting them to syndicates. Once she –accidentally– discovered the world of webcomics, the sydication route became a pointless hurdle. After all, “Crazy Chicks” do things their *&%$ selves. Dawn is the mastermind behind Zorphbert and Fred, and the illustrator of the Abby’s Adventures kids book series. She can be easily bribed with ice cream.