Enter the Blogosphere
I promised another Facebook related post this week, but instead I think it’s time to switch gears and get acquainted with some other social media options out there before you start to think that I’m on Mark Zuckerberg’s payroll.
This week I will consider the pros and cons of blogging as well as some of the better sites out there that support the endeavor. The fact that anyone with an internet connection and an email address can start a blog means that there is a huge range out there in terms of content as well as quality. And indeed, it sometimes feels like everyone and their cat has a blog these days. But as you will see, although it’s a fairly easy thing to set up, it takes more than good intentions to sustain a blog over time. Nevertheless, the idea of having your own virtual soap box makes blogging an attractive option – and then of course there’s always the hope that your blog will go viral and land you a six figure publishing contract and movie deal. Unfortunately, more often than not it will go something like this: Mr. Whiskers gets a great idea for a blog, writes two posts, and then gets “too busy” to update it for a year or three.
Needless to say, don’t follow Mr. Whiskers’s example (I hear he’s kind of aloof anyway). Blogging, like the rest of social media, takes a commitment from you in order to be a useful tool for your business. It can be a tougher pursuit in terms of time management because most blog entries tend to be quite a bit longer and require more research and crafting than what would normally go on Facebook or Twitter. So be honest with yourself: if you don’t have the time or the interest, then don’t do it. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I think it is better to have no social media presence at all than to post updates too infrequently.
But assuming you are game, the first step in becoming Master or Mistress of the blogosphere is choosing the right platform for your needs. The following is a quick run-down of the best blogging platforms out there (though by no means an exhaustive list), each of which will offer you slightly different experiences and features.
Wordpress.org: This is hands down the best option for those of you who are deadly serious about blogging and want an elegant interface and the most control over the look of your blog. With wordpress.org the software is free but you will have to pay a small fee, which covers the cost of your domain name and hosting. If you don’t mind having a “.wordpress” extension in your blog’s web address, then head over to wordpress.com. It’s a sort of “lite” version of the original, free to use, but you get fewer features and less overall control. I hear that the Wordpress platform requires a bigger learning curve than other “click and go” options because of all the customization involved, but if you really want to run with your blog idea (and get that six figure publishing contract) then all roads lead to Wordpress.
Blogger: Google’s blogging platform offers a super simple set-up and look. It’s free to use (as long as you don’t mind a .blogspot extension – though premium options are available too), and all you need is a gmail account to get started. It literally couldn’t be any simpler. The design is not as flashy as Wordpress, but if you are on the fence about blogging this might be a good place to start before deciding whether to upgrade or invest more time (or money). Plus you’ve got Google backing you up. I hear they are doing pretty well these days.
Tumblr: The love-child of a social media site and a blogging platform. It’s considered a more “alternative” option to the previous examples because unlike other sites, Tumblr makes multi-media the main event. Ever wanted to pair a soundtrack with a book you are cataloguing? Go for it. Want to add video of a pop-up book? Why not?! And if you are a plate-obsessed lad or lass like me, feast your eyes. While Tumblr certainly gives you the option of writing a long prose entry on the publication history of your latest acquisition, it is likely to get lost among all the visual stimuli. The other thing to remember with Tumblr is that the large community of users and the way you can “share” posts can sometimes make it feel more like a Twitter or Facebook type of platform, which may or may not suit your needs. So if you want to focus on more traditional long-format blogs and let your writing take center stage, Blogger or Wordpress are going to be your best bets.
I can speak about Tumblr from personal experience as I just launched a site for B & L Rootenberg. It is early days yet so I’m still getting to know all of the features, but so far so good. What I particularly like about Tumblr is that I can vary the length and types of posts depending on how busy I am any given week, plus it’s a fun and easy way to showcase items in our stock with big, beautiful, eye-catching images. I have also heard that this platform is the university librarian’s blogging site of choice. . .what an amazing tool to help you get a sense for what special collections libraries like to acquire and show off.
While you are considering whether to start your own blog, it will help to think of it as a way to increase your reputation in the field and promote your expertise in a given area. Remember that your blog is a window into your brand’s identity, so keep your posts interesting, focused, and true to you. Happy blogging!