If you’re a WordPress user you’ve probably heard of Jetpack — when it was released to WordPress.org users just over two years ago it was greeted with a mix of delight and suspicion.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Automattic’s baby, Jetpack incorporates a number of different popular features (and some not-so-popular ones) into one neatly-tied package. Some people love it for that reason, others hate it.
But I’m not here to hate on Jetpack — after all, I use it myself. I didn’t for a very long time under the misguided impression that it didn’t offer much, but boy was I wrong. While it has its flaws, there is a lot to love about Jetpack and a lot of functionality to squeeze out of it.
In this post I am going to cover just a handful of Jetpack’s features in detail, but they are my favorites and alone should convince you that it is a great option for your WordPress site. If you know very little (or nothing) about Jetpack, or even if you have used it and think that you don’t like it, read on. It’s got a lot to offer.
Before We Start…
I have already mentioned that there are reasons why people don’t like Jetpack. To be honest, I understanding their reasoning. It almost definitely is intended as a vehicle to deliver premium services and can be a little overbearing in its implementation, but you always have the choice to ignore the premium offerings. In my opinion, the upside (i.e. all the free features) is well worth it.
There is however just one thing that I don’t like about it, and that is the auto-activate feature. Basically, if a new module is added to the Jetpack plugin it will be activated by default on your site. Fortunately, there is an easy fix for this: just install and activate the Manual Control for Jetpack plugin. This prevents auto-activation of new features and gives you full control over your site’s functionality.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into the fun stuff!
If you’re a blogger then you almost definitely have social media accounts with Facebook and Twitter at the least (if you don’t, you’re not blogging right ;-)). One of the chores that has always bothered me is the promotion of new posts via those social media accounts. Fortunately, Jetpack’s Publicize module removes all of the hassle out of social media post promotion.
Just hook your social media accounts up to Jetpack…
…and each new post will be published to those accounts:
As you can see, you can also create custom messages to share with your specific audiences. It’s very slick, very easy to use, and makes sharing your posts an absolute cinch.
In the past I have spent a great deal of time deliberating over which comments system to use. I started with the default (as everyone does), tried out Livefyre, then switched back. In my humble opinion, you can’t beat it.
Actually, it turns out you can (kinda). Jetpack Comments takes the default comments system and supercharges it with awesome sauce. Visitors can now log in to leave a comment via Facebook, Twitter or WordPress.com.
Furthermore, the form looks sleek and sexy and tends to integrate perfectly with your theme:
As you can see, the upgraded comments system also includes options for visitors to subscribe to comments and new posts (this optional feature is controlled by the separate Subscriptions module). Basically, commenting and subscribing is made extremely simple for engaged readers, which is exactly what you want.
Social sharing is something most bloggers (myself included) obsess over. We love getting those social shares. Personally, I’m a huge fan of Digg Digg and will continue to use it. But I also use Jetpack’s sharing module:
As you can see, the social sharing options look fantastic and integrate beautifully without any customization necessary. My Digg Digg bar setup only offers the option to share via Facebook, Twitter and Google+, but I take the opportunity with Jetpack’s Sharing module to give readers a number of options.
Furthermore, the placement of these sharing buttons acts as a nice reminder of their option to share, should the user be blind to Digg Digg’s floating sidebar.
4. Contact Form
All bloggers need a contact form and Jetpack delivers on that front. Just activate the module and you’ll see a new button on your Post/Page screens:
Hit that button and you’ll get a simple and intuitive screen from which you can build your contact form:
Once you’re done, just click the button to add the form and that’s it! People can now get in touch quickly and easily. Not only that, but if you have Akismet installed on your blog, contact form submissions will be run through its anti-spam system so that you only get genuine messages.
5. WordPress.com Stats
This has saved me some time since I installed it. Although you almost definitely use Google Analytics or another Analytics package like Clicky (I use both), the WordPress.com Stats module (essentially another analytics package) is well worth activating.
Why? Because you get analytics data right on your WordPress Dashboard:
The WordPress Dashboard has so much potential in terms of becoming a centralized location for all of the data you want to see on a daily basis, and adding WordPress.com Stats into the mix just makes it that much more functional.
Since I already sign into my Dashboard at least once a day to check comments and downloads of my information product (via the awesome Easy Digital Downloads Dashboard widget), it’s a no-brainer to include analytics there so I don’t have to take the time to sign into a separate service. Even better, WordPress.com Stats puts no additional load on your server.
And There’s So Much More….
I’m really just scratching the surface here. Jetpack is currently made up of no less than 25 different modules, each of which has an important part to play if you desire its functionality. Other highlights include:
- Notifications via the toolbar on the site’s front end
- The ability to blog through your email client
- Extra sidebar widgets
- An artificial intelligence-based spelling, style and grammar checker
- Full-screen galleries with comments and meta data
- A standalone CSS editor
- A mobile theme
- WP.me URL shortener
Plus there’s even more. For most bloggers there will be a number of modules that could potentially be of great use, so I urge you to get exploring!
You may have a few questions about Jetpack (and please feel free to ask them in the comments section below) but there is one that sticks out to me more than most: Can’t you download individual plugins from WordPress.org that replicate most of Jetpack’s modules?
My answer to that would be both yes and no. Yes — some of the functionality in Jetpack’s modules is duplicated by standalone plugins. I already mentioned the Digg Digg plugin — my favorite for social sharing — for instance. Then there’s Contact Form 7; an extremely popular contact form plugin. The list does go on.
However, Jetpack offers something that other plugins may not: You are practically guaranteed of beautifully functional and tightly-coded functionality that will be continuously updated for the foreseeable future. That’s a huge benefit and not one to be ignored.
Each and every Jetpack module I have used has integrated with my blogs’ themes with no trouble at all. The added functionality always looks awesome and behaves exactly as expected. What less would you expect from Automattic? That to me is the major selling point of Jetpack — the practical guarantee that you are getting a quality product.
Now I would love to get your opinion on Jetpack, so please take this opportunity to make your opinion know in the comments section below!