Reflecting on blogging

Less than a year into blogging, I am getting a glimpse of its potential. I thought it might be useful for those of you considering the blogging option for personal creative expression, stakeholder engagement, or as an option for a business website.

The free option first

I started, as many do, by opting for a WordPress.com site. This is WordPress’s free option where they host your blog on their site. This blog is a WordPress.com blog – if you look at the name, you can see the WordPress name in the URL.

With what I know now I wouldn’t take that option. But it did give me a great opportunity to learn about blogging and a platform to get my ideas out there. I started with infrequent posts in August 2010 and received an average of two page views a day that year. In February, I started posting more frequently and from January to April the average monthly page views were 4, 6, 13 and 41 respectively. If I maintain the momentum I have established, I will easily clear 5,000 page views for the year. But I fully expect to exceed that acknowledging the steep learning curve I am on. If I compare that to my previous publications – my book Better Business for a Better World in 2000 and articles in academic journals, blogging wins hands down as a publishing platform. Granted, many of the blog visitors might not linger long, but on the other hand, others have engaged and recommended the blog to friends.

WordPress.org

In March, I purchased another hosting plan with OpenHost for $NZ6.99 a month. Just ten days ago, I installed the WordPress software on my own site www.stepstosustainability.com. The WordPress software includes free themes to customise a site, but I chose to purchase a theme from www.elegantthemes.com as I wanted a professional and hopefully eye-catching site. In just over a week, I have the site up and running. It is still a bit rough, and I haven’t customised a logo yet, but it is working very well.

Static and dynamic

WordPress’s versatile software enables a site that is both static, supplying a stable presence for the site, and dynamic, with the inclusion of a blog. It has features important to me – I am able to embed video and, using a WordPress plugin (free third-party software to “plug in” additional features) each blog post has a group of buttons to enable readers to share posts through their social networks. This image shows the main static page in the top row. It includes a link to the blog. The main categories of the blog appear as blog menu items in the bottom row.

Blogging for stakeholder engagement

Large companies such as General Electric are using blogging for stakeholder engagement. In the wake of the Japanese tsunami, GE was in the firing line, as they made the Fukushima nuclear reactors. Many GE engineers have been blogging for some time, and when the tsunami placed GE in the spotlight, those engineers were ready to engage through blogs. Mitch Joel identifies seven types of company blogs.

Using WordPress software for your website

For small and mid-sized companies and not-for-profits, WordPress’s software is ideal as a website to provide those static and dynamic features mentioned earlier. Traditional websites have generally required a massive pre-launch investment, and then typically decay in relevance over time. With a blog website with static pages, the approach can be different, with less investment in the infrastructure, but more investment in engaging and keeping content current. What I don’t know, is how well a blog website can handle databases, but I suspect plugins will take care of that.

Skill required

There are three zones of skills:

  1. Most computer users can reply to blogs or forums and interact with social networking software.
  2. Others get to know how to use software interfaces, such as those of WordPress. There is a bewildering array of things to learn, but there is also lots of online help. I have used Moodle extensively, (a learning management system). This exposure has helped and I can now make sense of html (a computer code).
  3. The more techy stuff requires higher degrees of expertise. If you don’t have these skills, you need to have access to them.

So for a tiny financial outlay, I now have a website I am happy with, and I am confident it will meet my needs as the website develops. If you are considering developing a blog, please share your thoughts.

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