How many times did the “factoid” that a month with five weekends happens only once every 823 years appear on your social media feeds this fall? Though Snopes makes mincemeat out of that legend (October 2011 had 5 weekends – how quickly we forget!), September 2012 was certainly special for #blogchat. Overblog, a leading European blogging platform that is re-launching (like, from scratch) itself in the USA, sponsored all five chats. Additionally, three vibrant co-hosts added to the already über-stimulating, aerobically-paced chatter typical of the Sunday night discussions. It took me a couple of weeks to digest all this, but I wasn’t surprised to realize that my main takeaways all looped back to Overblog.
Overblog caught my attention at Jeff Pulver’s #140 Conference (“The State of Now”) June 19th-20th 2012 in New York City. I co-adjunct a social media course in the continuing education program and Columbia University’s School of Journalism, and one thing we always emphasize to our students is that different social platforms are different ecosystems. What’s appropriate and interesting on Twitter, let’s say, may not belong on Facebook. I advocate that unless the check-in or pin is really good, people should not push their FourSquare or Pinterest onto Facebook or Twitter.
When I saw how Overblog aggregates a person’s social into one space AND provides the ability to curate, I though, hmmmm. Let me try. Long story short, for several weeks I was stuck with pink. I had chosen a pink “theme” just to see how it looked, and I couldn’t get out. Happily, Overblog did not give up on me, and I now have a site for what I am calling “My Social Media Stuff.”
Anyway, I learn a ton of stuff each week on #blogchat, but here are six things that hit home with me about blogging during the month of September.
- We should get organized. I love Nick Kellet’s Listly. I’ve been a magazine journalist for years, and I am a big fan of bulleted or numbered lists. They enable readers to get to the main points more easily. Lists work fantastically in blogs too – not just in the reading, but in the writing as well. But as Nick Kellet was tweeting, an idea was sparking in the back of my mind. Overblog similarly can help us keep our social selves organized. When my entire social is aggregated onto one page, I get to see how much I’m repeating myself. Luckily, I can curate and edit out all the reruns. Every time I see the same photograph or link pop up in my Overblog, I am reminded that with social I need to practice what I preach. Importantly for my blogging, with Overblog I have in front of me in one place what has caught my attention enough so that I’ve put it on social media. Blog topics galore!
- We should own who we are. Neil Glassman from CMP.LY did a great job of explaining why those of us (and we all wish) who are being paid by brands to blog need to disclose this information on our blogs. But, tra-la-la, this slides over to other meanings of “owning.” We need to be responsible for and about what we say on our blogs. That doesn’t mean we can’t be controversial, but we should always try to fact-check ourselves. Yes, opinions can’t be fact-checked. But they need to be based on something. Even faith can be sourced! And now for the Overblog connection – just about the only thing we can own on the Internet is a URL. That’s why so many bloggers use WordPress and buy hosting for the URL(s) they have claimed. It really doesn’t cost much to own and self host – the equivalent of a few cups of java. Many bloggers, however, don’t feel “up” to the maintenance and expense a WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla site entails, and so go with something like Blogger. Here’s the amazing news. Overblog has many nice themes that require no coding (though they are all fully customizable with HTML and CSS) – and you can tie your Overblog to a self-hosted URL. YOU CAN OWN YOUR BLOG. And it’s pretty no fuss. You can add a blog to the page that has your social, or you can put your blog on a different page under your account.
- Blogs ≠book chapters. The chat with Lisa Petrilli was elucidating. Blogs are one thing; books are another. Not everyone is a book writer, but some bloggers have great book ideas. The Overblog connection? This platform makes it easy to practice and see how “chapters” might look.
- Collaboration is great. Many of us in #blogchat are lone bloggers, but during every “open mic” chat, more than one person raises the topic of how best to collaborate on blogs. Yes, sharing is never easy. (My kids are young adults and I still tell them they have to share better!) But what if you were using a blogging platform that actually facilitates a collaborative blog? Voilà, Overblog. Check out how the folks who put together Social Week NYC (October 15-19) used Overblog collaboratively.
- Customer service is king, that is, after content. Oh, the buzz on #blogchat about brands who erase negative comments! Such a no-no. We all love brands with great customer service, those who respond to their consumers, and for #blogchat-ters who represent brands, a reputation for good service as well is good content remains a primary goal. I must say that Overblog’s customer service is really blowing me away. Having problems setting it up? They’ll get on Twitter with you. Or email. Or even the phone.
- We need to keep up with the fast-paced world. Yes, here’s another frequent #blogchat topic: whether email is still important. I could name names because I know where you all, my fellow chatters, stand on this. I also know that we’re concerned about how our blogs look on mobile devices and how and when we should add video. Overblog again to the rescue: You can livestream to Overblog. Yes you can. And Overblog is set up to look good on all kinds of devices. Yes it is.
Overblog isn’t for every blogger. People attached to beautifully designed websites probably might find it redundant. And many bloggers have time constraints that make blogging hard enough. The last thing they need is a recommendation to try something new. Still, give Overblog a look over. You might find it pretty cool. Me, I’m always an early tester and cautious adopter for all kinds of new tools and technology. I’m still in the testing stage, but I’m pretty sure Overblog has me hooked.
For a in-depth look at Overblog, follow this link to Jason Fall’s whitepaper on choosing a blogging platform: here.