You should also have a profile on social networking sites and a link to your blog on that profile. In these ways, you can establish thought leadership or mind share. You might have heard these terms in reference to companies such as Apple and Sony, who don’t have a lot of market share, but the media is always talking about these companies anyway. Blogs help you gain mind share, and because of that mind share, others will recognize you and your company as an expert in your field. This eventually leads to more interest and more business for your company.
This chapter begins with a review of blogging platforms. If you already know what platform to use, you can skip the next section and move ahead to “Finding the Best Blog for Your Business.”
You can produce your blog in one of two ways. You can host your blog free on a site that lets anyone create a blog using a set of stock templates (or an HTML template if you want to have your own look). These sites include the name of the blogging site in the URL, such as http://zenoferox.blogspot.com, which is the website for the Zeno Ferox blog site on Blogger that we referenced in Chapter 1, “Why Are Blogs So Important?” If you want a blog to be on your own site, you can download software that you can install on your web server and configure it. Some download options are free, but others are not, depending on the features you want on your blog.
If you want to start blogging quickly and get your name out there right away, hosting your blog on a blogging site is the best way to go. The following sections discuss some of the more popular blogging sites.
In 2003 WordPress started as open source software for people to publish blogs on their own websites, but in 2005, WordPress decided to host its own blogs for the web public at www.wordpress.com, which is shown in Figure 3.1 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wordpress.com).
You might notice that we used WordPress.com instead of WordPress. The reason is that there are two separate WordPress sites: one with the address www.wordpress.com and another with the address www.wordpress.org. The difference between the two is that the WordPress.com site hosts blogs on its site; all you have to do is go through a few steps to create your blog.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, is a site shown in Figure 3.2 that lets you download the WordPress web publishing application so that you can install it on your server, configure it, and then post blog entries.
Figure 3.2. The WordPress.org website.
The difference is that on WordPress.com you create your blog from a set of stock templates, as discussed earlier in this chapter, and the URL has wordpress.com in it. With WordPress.org, you download and configure the WordPress system so that you can have greater control over how the blog looks and have a custom URL.
Is WordPress the best option for your blog? And if it is, should you use WordPress.com or WordPress.org?
To answer the first question, WordPress is a popular web publishing system that creates both websites and blogs, and WordPress blogs are rated highly by Google and other major search engines. The downside to using WordPress.com is that you have the Wordpress.com site name in the URL, so your blog doesn’t look as though it comes from your business. In addition, unless you pay for WordPress premium features, your readers will occasionally see Google text ads on your blog (these ads help fund the free accounts from WordPress).
You can download the WordPress system free from WordPress.org. You just need the open source web language PHP and open source database MySQL installed to install it. WordPress is customizable, and despite the fact that WordPress provides excellent instructions for setting up a system (and even suggests offering hosting services if you need them), it takes time for your team to get a blog up and running.
If you have the manpower to create a blog, and branding its URL under your own name is important to you, consider downloading and using WordPress to power your blog.
SAY Media’s TypePad sprouted from Movable Type, a blog platform that was developed by Six Apart. Since the first edition of this book was published, the company VideoEgg purchased Six Apart, renamed the company SAY Media, and sold both Movable Type and the Six Apart name to the Japanese company Infocom. SAY Media still operates TypePad as of this writing.
Like WordPress.com, TypePad is a blog that is hosted on the SAY Media site.
TypePad, shown in Figure 3.3, has become a popular paid service that many mainstream media companies use, including ABC, MSNBC, the BBC, and Sky News (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TypePad). TypePad prides itself on being a full-service blogging site that’s also reasonably priced; as of this writing, the Plus plan costs $8.95 per month, and TypePad offers two other plans up to Premium at $29.95 per month.
So why do businesses use TypePad? According to the TypePad site, you can do a lot of things in TypePad that you either can’t do in Blogger or WordPress.com or that cost extra in WordPress.com. For example, you can password protect your blog, which costs extra in WordPress.com. However, the blog platforms are constantly improving. So what some sites tell you is an advantage really isn’t. For example, the TypePad site’s comparison page states that TypePad easily connects to your social networking profiles, but recently WordPress.com and LinkedIn (as well as other sites) have become much more proficient at connecting with each other. So do your research.
Speaking of research, TypePad does give you a free 14-day trial so that you can learn whether it is right for you. If you like it, you can view the TypePad pricing page to determine what features you need in your blog that correspond to the plan TypePad offers.
In the first edition of this book, Six Apart offered the free Vox blogging service for people who didn’t want to pay for TypePad. Because VideoEgg acquired Six Apart, the Vox service was permanently closed at the end of September 2010, and Vox users were given the ability to export their blogs to TypePad.
Blogger, shown in Figure 3.4, was created in 1999 by Pyra Labs, and was one of the earliest blog publishing systems available on the Web (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blogger_(service)). Blogger’s popularity got the attention of Google, which bought Pyra Labs in 2003, and Google’s increased popularity over the years has resulted in more popularity for Blogger.
Figure 3.4. The Blogger website.
LiveJournal, shown in Figure 3.5, claims on its website that it is a “community publishing platform” that combines blogging and a social network. As with Facebook and some other social networking sites, you can add and connect to other “friends” in the system. Only people who can view your blog post can comment on it. So if your post is visible only to your friends, only your friends can comment.
Figure 3.5. The LiveJournal website.
The Posterous Spaces blog, which is owned by Twitter, is much like WordPress and Blogger in that when you create a name for your blog, the URL (that is, your website address) contains the name followed by posterous.com. As with WordPress and Blogger, you can also update your blogs from your Posterous Spaces account from the website or on your iPhone or Android smartphone. Figure 3.6 shows examples of blogs that Posterous Spaces thinks exemplifies the best of what its service offers.
You can also post to your blog in an email message. You send a message to your blog name at posterous.com. The subject line becomes the subject of your blog and the text of your email is the text of your blog. When you attach a file to your email message such as a photo or video, Posterous Spaces places the attached file within your blog so others can view it. You should check your blog post after you send the email to ensure that it looks the way you want. If you want to tweak the post, you can edit it in the Posterous Spaces website.
You might decide that you want your own web server to host your blog, to keep all your pages under the same URL. For example, if you have a website called www.nancysnursery.com, you might want the blog to have the URL blog.nancysnursery.com rather than something like nancysnursery.wordpress.com. You might also want to have a blog development platform so that you can customize it to your needs. A number of free and commercial blog packages are available, some of which are offered by companies that also host their own web-based blogs for others to use. We take a brief tour of some of these sites, starting with the free blogging systems.
TypePad, WordPress, and LiveJournal all have their own server software that you can download free from their sites, but the LiveJournal and WordPress blog systems have different names. LiveJournal lets you download its server code free from its website. If you want to download the WordPress platform, you have to visit www.wordpress.org and download the application from the download page, as shown in Figure 3.7.
Figure 3.7. The WordPress.org website download page.
The downloadable version of TypePad is called Movable Type. You can download the Movable Type Developer or Moveable Type Blogger versions of Movable Type free, as shown in Figure 3.8. However, if you want even more functionality, you must download the Business or Enterprise versions and pay for those services.
Figure 3.8. The Movable Type website’s Download page.
A couple of other interesting free blogging applications take a somewhat different approach. Thingamablog, with the website shown in Figure 3.9, doesn’t require a third-party host, and it doesn’t require you to configure any programming languages or a database to get your blog up and running. You need the Java programming language installed on your computer (available free from Oracle), and all you have to do is install the Thingamablog application to your computer and go through the installation procedure.
Figure 3.9. The Thingamablog website.
Drupal goes even further: It’s a flexible content management system that can be modified for a number of requirements. As the Drupal website’s About page explains, there are a number of applications for the free Drupal system, from discussion websites to e-commerce applications to social networking websites (see Figure 3.10).