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Are you ready? It’s time for Essential WordPress Plugins Part 2! In my first post on plugins I covered the workhorses of the plugin world:
Those guys may not be the coolest or flashiest plugins, but they are the ones you cannot do without. SEO, backups, and security are VITAL to the success of your site. Overlooking them could spell disaster for your new blog.
But now we’re on to the more glamorous plugins you can use to spruce up the appearance of your blog. Ooh la la! In Plugins part 2, we’re going to talk about WordPress plugins for images and social media.
WordPress Plugins Part 2
Images, Appearance and Social Media
If you’re new to blogging you’ve probably already heard that great, shareable content is the cornerstone of the success of your blog. Along with that great content though, goes great images and a way to share it all. The old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words” has been around forever because it’s TRUE. Images that help convey your message will prove to be an invaluable asset for you to help drive traffic to your blog. And once they get to your blog, displaying your images well is going to immediately improve the impression new visitors get.
These WordPress plugins will help you display your images so your readers want to share it.
Genesis Responsive Slider
One of the most popular methods for displaying images related to your content is the slider. A slider is a slideshow and displays a specific set of images, which change based on the animation settings you’ve chosen or by clicking the arrows on either side if there’s no animation. I highly recommend the Genesis framework (affiliate link) for the foundation of your blog, and there is a specific plugin for the Genesis slider.
Choose your settings in the Genesis menu and then put the Genesis responsive slider in a widget to be displayed on your site wherever you choose. Sliders are typically featured near the top of the home page and display featured content on a site. It’s a great way to feature your most recent posts. Genesis will grab the featured image and use that in the slider. Sites like Wayfair and Amazon use sliders on their sites. This is an easy way for you to play with the big dogs.
Image Caption Hover Pro
(FREE for basic, $15 for Pro)
I have previously used the Genesis Responsive Slider on this site and I may again in the future. But when I was redesigning the site over the summer, I wanted something with a little more customization available. I was moving away from using a static front page and instead wanted to display the blog layout on the landing page. I also wanted to show more than one image for my recent posts. After some trial and error, I finally found Image Caption Hover.
There is a free version available. But for $15 you can get the pro version and have access to a TON of different animations and options. This is a case where I felt the $15 was well worth it. With Image Caption Hover Pro, I was able to set up a carousel at the top of my page with four images across (6 is the max). And the best part? You can create A HOVER EFFECT. How cool is that? I have it set up to show a blurb about the post and a custom button that links to the post when you hover over the image. No coding required!
There are a ton of WordPress plugins out there that display your recent posts on Instagram. If you’re working to build your following, having a widget somewhere on the site that immediately connects your readers to your feed will help. And if you post content on Instagram that isn’t available on the blog, like sneak peeks or behind the scenes pics, this a great way to encourage readers to follow you on Instagram if they’re not already.
Instagram Feed is a really simple plugin that you connect to your Instagram account using a token. Don’t worry, there are instructions on how to get your token and connect. You can set it up in minutes and display it in a widget using a shortcode. You decide how many pictures, columns, etc. to show and also what actions are allowed. This is a popular plugin, probably because of the ease of use. There is a Pro version as well which gives you more options to configure but I find the free version provides everything I need.
jQuery Pin It Button for Images
If there’s a way to customize things, I’m going to find it. I’m just wired that way. I noticed on other blogs they had custom buttons on their images for pinning to Pinterest. I was on a mission to find out how to do this on my site too. What I found was jQuery Pin It Button for Images. I created a custom button using GIMP (you could also use Canva or my new fave, Ribbet) and saved it as a picture. Within the setting for the plugin, I specified the custom button as the pin image instead of the default. You can also decide the position of the button relative to the image. This may not seem like a big deal but having a custom button for pinning can really set your blog apart and help establish your brand identity.
You know what bugs me? When I’m scrolling down the page of a site and I have to scroll all the way back to the top to get to the menu. A minor annoyance, sure, but there’s an easy fix. A sticky menu will “stick” to the top of the page and always be visible as a user scrolls down through the page. It makes navigating your site easy and encourages your audience to stay and explore other pages on your site.
myStickyMenu is a free plugin you can use to specify a menu that’s always visible when scrolling. You can choose your main navigation menu from the top of your page or you can create a completely separate menu to display. I liked using the same menu because it adds to the illusion of being “stuck”. I’ve seen other sites create a totally different menu. Either option looks cool in my opinion.
Ultimate Social Media Icons
If you want to increase your social engagement, you need to have an easy, attractive way for your users to share the content they love. There are so many WordPress plugins for social media that it can be hard to figure out which one is the “good” one. I had tried a few different plugins when I first started my blog but the one I ended up with was Ultimate Social Media Icons.
It was easy to set up and I liked that there were different colors and styles to choose from. I recently upgraded the buttons I show in posts but I still use the Ultimate Social Media Icons in my top navigation and sticky menu and also in the mobile version of my menu. I just noticed I now have the option to use custom buttons so I may look into doing that!
(FREE, $29/yr for Pro)
In September I upgraded to the pro version of Social Warfare (that’s an affiliate link) for my social media sharing in posts. The pro version allowed for a hidden image to be used when sharing to Pinterest. This was something I’d really been trying to figure out how to do for a while. I’d read posts about hiding images in the posts themselves but if you have a featured image specified it overrode those settings.
With Social Warfare you can specify in the post editor as you’re creating your post which image should be used if someone shares it to social media and it doesn’t have to be an image that’s in the post. It can be any image that’s been uploaded. There’s an option just for Pinterest and also for other social media accounts. That was worth the $29 alone (actually it was $23.20 after a 25% discount) but as an added bonus you can create custom buttons using the settings in the plugin.
That wraps up WordPress Plugins Part 2. Be sure to pin this post on Pinterest and check back for updates. I’m continually searching for easier ways to do things and I’ll update these posts if I find them. If you missed it, be sure to check out the first part of this post where I shared the best maintenance and security type plugins.
I hoped you found these posts useful. If there any topics relating to blogging that you’d be interested to learn about, drop me a line in the comments or shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to start covering some topics that interest you!
Be sure to check out my blogging resources post for a lot more WordPress Plugins and blog tools to help you grow your blog.