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- You can add as many plugins as you wish with the self-hosted version, but you are limited with WordPress.com to their smaller list of approved plugins.
- You are able to add, modify or create your own theme with the self-hosted version, but again, you are limited with WordPress.com to their approved themes.
- Properly cared for, your content is 100% safe (in the very unlikely event that WordPress.com or LiveJournal goes out of business, the hosted version on your totally separate server, with your very own backups is safe and sound).
- You are even able to modify the WordPress programming itself, if necessary.
The main reason they are great is because so many people are on Facebook, and when they become a “Fan” of your page, people will receive updates in their feed all about you, your blog, or your product.
While it is important to design your Facebook page right, it is also important to make your Facebook page a sub-community in and of itself by importing your RSS feed into your Facebook page, enabling video, photo and discussion posts, and, most importantly, changing your wall so that it defaults to posts by you and your fans.
The latter point is key, as Facebook defaults to hiding your fan posts, which discourages interaction, and creates a far more divided community (or, really, none at all).
It is changed by clicking on the “Options” button under the “Share” box, then “Settings”, then changing the first drop down option to “Posts by Page and Fans”.
Here are three common reasons why bloggers don’t want to embrace the community features of a Facebook fan page, and why I think they should get over it:
1. I don’t want spammers muddying up my Facebook page.
Most people use their real names on Facebook, and in many ways put their reputation on the line. Unlike YouTube or MySpace, this website is populated with real people with real reputations to uphold. It is possible to make a fake Facebook account, but this is a pretty big hassle. Really, if people hate you so much that they go through all the hassle of setting up a fake account just to “Fan” your page and write nasty comments or upload offensive photos, you should feel honoured to be so noticed!
Even if a spammer does go through this hassle, or some drunken idiot otherwise stumbles upon your page, you hold all the cards. Just delete the offending comment, photograph or video and move on with your life. You can also kick the person out as a fan (by bringing up the list of fans and clicking that little “X” on the right side).
On the very, very off chance this happens, delete it right away. Spammers rarely return, especially when they discover they had so little value from their efforts. (It’s like covering up a spray-painting job the very next day – no spray-painter worth their palette will want to go back any time soon, just to have their “work” covered up right away.)
2. I don’t want to lose traffic.
This is a ridiculous argument, and is getting more ridiculous daily.
The fact is that Facebook is the number one destination for a large and growing group of people. I’m pretty sure some teenagers think it’s the only website on the Internet. If anything, you will gain traffic from promotion on Facebook, not lose it.
In fact, you should even promote your Facebook fan page (and your Twitter account) on your website. The more your existing readers fan your Facebook page, the more likely others will find your page, and may, in turn, discover your website.
3. My blog is supposed to be the community, I don’t want to draw attention away from it.
I used to whimper a little when somebody commented on my post in Facebook instead of directly on my blog. After wiping up the tears one day, I realized that in almost every case the commenter wouldn’t have found my post at all if it hadn’t been for Facebook.
Similarly, I’ve had posts where quite a bit of dialog occurred on both Facebook and directly on my blog. I’d chime in occasionally on both, and include a short link to the blog comments for the Facebook commenters. This had a mushroom effect on the comments directly on my blog – something that would not have happened if I didn’t set up and promote the Facebook page effectively.
For many reasons, your blog should be the primary community for itself. Make sure you encourage an active comment stream on every post and page, encourage RSS subscription, and maybe even delve into other interactive features like discussion forums, but don’t underestimate the value of Facebook as a sub-community for your blog.
And don’t fear it, either. Facebook can be your friend!
Most bloggers know of or use WordPress. If ever there was a “killer app” for anything on the web, WordPress is definitely it.
But have you ever been to a Wordcamp?
WordCamp is sort of like a mini-convention for WordPress users. A blogger’s convention, really, but with some fun technical stuff about WordPress as well.
I went to one in Surrey, British Columbia a few months ago and was so inspired by what I found there, that I decided to plan my own. I live in a relatively small city, Victoria, British Columbia (about 350,000 people live in the area).
It’s a lot of work – organizing speakers, finding a venue, promoting the event, finding sponsors (not essential, but I found 7 for ours). This said, the event is an amazing opportunity to bring together the local WordPress community and share ideas. We have a number of people coming from all around – Vancouver, British Columbia, Seattle, Washington – even Saint John, New Brunswick!
My website design company, IdeaZone.ca, is the title sponsor of the event, and my website hosting company, dotcanuck Web Services, is the web hosting sponsor. Needless to say, there are 100 people that may not have heard of us before who will certainly know who we are now!
I’ll do a follow-up post after the event to let everyone know how it went.
You know now that you should blog. You may have even thought about what it is you should be blogging about. In case you haven’t, the one sentence answer is: Blog about what you know about.
Now comes the technology…
Where should I blog?
When I get this question, I like to look at the objectives before I answer it.
If you are blogging as yourself about a light topic, and you might like to make some extra income from your writing, but that’s not the major objective, then you should examine the free (or inexpensive), multi-user options like WordPress.com, Blogger or LiveJournal. Consider not just today, but where you see your activities in a year down the road, or three.
If yours is a more serious venture, or a more serious topic, where professionalism is key to success, I tend to advise people not to use these free tools, and go with a hosted solution.
There are a few different hosted blogging platforms available, but the superior one is the hosted version of WordPress, downloaded for free from WordPress.org.
The advantages of the self-hosted vs. the WordPress.com version are numerous:
When selecting the hosted version of WordPress, it is important to select a website hosting company that is familiar with WordPress. For example, at our website hosting company (dotcanuck Web Services), we host many websites that operate using WordPress, so our support staff are intimately familiar with what is involved.
When image is critical, we also have a website design team with a tremendous amount of experience selecting and skinning appropriate WordPress themes, and building them from scratch.
What should my website address be?
You can move your website down the road, but it is better to have it hosted in the same location for it’s entire lifetime. Think not only about search engines, but every other incoming link – digg’s, tweets, and even people’s personal bookmarks – all of these could die if you moved it to a new location in the future.
Again, if your blog is on a topic that you don’t anticipate could ever become a serious business, by all means keep it on the free website address you get with your multi-user option. But if it is on a serious topic, with a serious business intent, invest a small amount of money to have it hosted, and register a domain name.
What should I think about when registering a domain name?
Consider your audience.
If you are appealing to a global audience, look for a .COM domain name that describes your topic. If you cannot find .COM, look at alternatives like .NET, but be careful – people may judge you, and presume you are less of an authority if you use the wrong domain name – too many dashes, too long, an inappropriate top-level domain, too cryptic or clever, beginning with a number, etc.
If you are appealing to a specific country, register a domain name using their country code. For a Canadian audience, you would register a domain name ending with .CA. Similarly, for a UK audience, you would register a domain name that ends with .CO.UK.
American’s beware: this is pretty standard in every country in the world, except the United States, where a .US domain tells the message that we couldn’t get the .COM. (The other consideration is language, of course, but we can’t help you there.)
Don’t make the mistake of looking for a name, finding it’s registered, and moving on. Make a note of these names and contact the owners to find out if they are for sale. Domain names are real estate like any other kind, only virtual. People buy and sell them all the time.
Now it may be that your name is registered, and the owner does intend to use that for some other purpose, so it’s not for sale. But if you find that the website address does not resolve, or it comes up with a multi-link “parking” page, the chances are pretty good that it’s for sale.
People in the domain name speculation business, called domainers, are not as daft as they once were, either. Unless they have a million dollar domain name, most of them are not foolishly holding out for a million dollars. Domain names commonly resell for under $1,000 on exchanges like Sedo.
While WordPress.com does allow you to use your own domain name for a fee, the extra cost of this service there is nearly as much as a web hosting company might sell a package to self-host WordPress. The greater flexibility with the self-hosted version is too great to pass by for the sake of a few dollars a month.
If you are building an entire website, there are blog options within CMS systems like Drupal and Joomla for people who are building an entire website, too. Keep in mind, however, that entire websites are often using the self-hosted version of WordPress – it’s not just a tool for blogs. Perhaps the most popular example of this is CNN.com.
Many of my blogs now get more traffic from social media links than search engines. A year ago, the amount from social media was almost nil.
There are many different ways to promote your blog using social media tools; I’ll share a few here.
People are on Facebook already anyway, so why not get your blog entries added to their regular stream.
Create a Facebook page for your blog and get all your friends to fan it (and ask them to post it to their wall, using the “Share” option on the bottom left of the page, so their friends will know about it too).
You can populate your Facebook page with your blog using the built-in “Notes” application, or you can use a great third-party application called NetworkedBlogs. (Set up either application on both your page AND your regular Facebook profile, too.)
I also like to change the settings so people automatically see the wall with fan comments (click on “Options” below the “What’s on your mind?” box, then click on “Settings”).
Once your page has 100 or more fans, don’t forget to name it, so you can link people more easily to your Facebook page.
Broadcast your new blog entries automatically on Twitter using a program such as TwitterFeed. There are a few programs like this around, I use this one because it’s intuitive and reliable.
Don’t forget to update your status on LinkedIn to point to your latest blog entry, too. (These status updates may be e-mailed to your LinkedIn contacts.)
If you have accounts at MySpace, Friendster, or any of a zillion other social networks, you can use Ping.fm to broadcast your latest blog entry to all of these in one shot (again, make sure you use a URL shortener).
If your objective is to to get your video “out there” in the widest possible way, upload it to your Facebook page, your YouTube channel, Vimeo, DailyMotion, etc. When embedding your video into your blog, however, consider the network effect – the largest network is on YouTube, but perhaps you want to connect more with the artistic types commonly found on Vimeo? (If people click through from your blog to the network, hopefully they will add you as a “favorite” or a “friend”.)
Again, if the objective is to expand your network, consider uploading your image to Flickr and embedding it with a link to your Flickr profile, rather than uploading it directly to your blog. People will find more of your work, and may be inclined to forward other items, or add you as a contact.
I plan to write a version 2 of this article in the future. What are some of the things you are doing to promote your blog using social media?
I’ll admit it, I really love Feedburner. All my feeds for all my websites are ran through Feedburner.
What Is Feedburner?
At it’s most basic, Feedburner is a pretty simple concept. It grabs your RSS feed from your blog, and essentially re-posts the content … as an RSS feed.
So, unless your blog is so terrifyingly busy that you are getting hammered with a huge bandwidth bill every month, Feedburner at this level does very little for you. It’s all the extra features that make it so amazing.
First and foremost, Feedburner keeps track of your subscribers. A regular RSS feed does nothing of the sort. Sadly, however, it does for your subscription numbers what Google Analytics did for your traffic – it brings brutal accuracy. It tells you not only how many subscribed, but what percentage actually read their subscription.
Warning: Your tuned-in daily readers might not be as tuned-in, or daily, as you thought!
Optimization and Customization
With Feedburner, you can take your plain-Jane feed and add a bunch of nifty features. The list of features is long. One example is allowing people to submit your article to Digg or Delicious directly from your feed.
If your blog is a “company blog”, why not let people subscribe to it by e-mail. It’s like your company newsletter, only way too easy, and built-in to Feedburner.
If you are not using a program like WordPress that has all the great publicizing features built-in, Feedburner also has some handy tools like PingShot to help you (before you get wise and switch to WordPress).
Is your blog your retirement plan, because that whole lottery thing didn’t work out? Of course you can put ads on your blog, but these don’t translate easily (and often, at all) into your RSS feed. Seeing how Google owns Feedburner, they have a handy little tool to plug their ads right in using AdSense.
There is a handy little plugin for WordPress called FD Feedburner, which will redirect your standard RSS feeds to the correct Feedburner RSS feed in a fairly seamless manner.
Before you switch to Feedburner from your existing RSS feed, consider all the places where your feed is being used. I would suggest burning your feed first, then changing all the places that use this feed (i.e. your Facebook page or profile, your Twitter-feeding application, etc.), and update the RSS feed on your actual website last.