Recently, my mother-in-law and friend started blogging. I encouraged both of them to blog because I don’t get to see either very often and both are very good writers. I figured both would create interesting blogs that I and others would enjoy reading.
Both asked me questions about what it takes to get started. I don’t consider myself a blogging pro by any means but I’ve been doing it enough years now to have an idea of what has worked for me and what might work for others.
Here are a few questions friends or family or coworkers have asked me about blogging and my answers:
How do I get started?
I usually tell people to read a few blogs for a while before jumping into the fray. This is especially important for those who have been told to start a “company blog”. It’s worthwhile spending some time checking out different blogs before starting your own.
So I checked out some blogs, what’s next?
I’m a big believer in simplicity. So unless they already have a website, I’ll usually suggest taking a look at Blogger or Windows Live Spaces. Both make it very easy to start a blog. There’s very little to get in the way of writing which is what a blog is about anyway. I find Blogger a little easier to use but Spaces feels a bit more flexible and powerful. And, if down the road, they decide to move to WordPress, they’ll be able to easily migrate content.
If you want even more control over your blog but want someone else to host it, take a look at WordPress.com or Typepad. Both offer a hosted blog solution that many have come to rely on. Robert Scoble hosts his popular blog at WordPress.com and Seth Godin relies on Typepad to handle his. Both are proven platforms with very responsive support communities.
But what if I want to host my own blog?
I’m hesitant to suggest this option mostly because if they run into problems I become their technical support person of choice. The installation isn’t for the faint of heart if you’ve not familiar with at least some basic Linux/PHP/CSS/MySQL. But I digress. If I know someone is tech savvy I’ll suggest they take a look at WordPress.org or Moveable Type. I’ve tried a number of other options but these are the big two. I’ve been using WordPress for about five years now and really enjoy it. There are tons of themes and plug-ins available for it and it has such a strong community that any problems I run into are answered quickly. And tools like Windows Live Writer have vastly improved the writing/posting process for hosted blogs.
Choosing the right blogging platform is important but it’s not the most important decision. Creating interesting content is the most important. If you are interesting people will come. And they will return. New bloggers can easily get bogged down with all the themes, plugins, widgets, blogrolls, and the like while they ignore writing. It’s not about where your blog is hosted, your hip theme or page full of widgets…it’s the quality of your writing that matters most.
OK, put the Flickr widget down and start writing. 🙂