"A blank screen, he's got a blank screen!"
A common starting point for us all in the world of blogging is a blank screen. And possibly a blank expression. Well, don't worry, we've all been there, and I'm going to walk you through the whole process of starting a blog from scratch. By the end of this post, you will have seen some "how-tos" on creating a blog, writing a post, following other bloggers, and most importantly, you'll have seen that it's pretty straightforward when you get stuck in.
So, what is a blog anyway? It's many things to many people, but where the word comes from is a combination of the phrase "web log". Many users initially saw blogs as a way to keep an online journal (or log) of their lives. The uses have since expanded, and now there are many forms of blog, but they all involve a user writing a "post" and publishing it to an online tool. The user can choose to keep the blog private or leave it open for anyone to see. For those that go public, there is the option to gain followers/fans, and there are even cases of bloggers making a living out of their writing. The benefits of sharing your blog include opportunities for others to engage with your posts, to share ideas, and as a support network.
What do you need to do to get started?Firstly you will need to decide on which blogging platform you wish to use. There are many out there, and each has pros and cons. What is common to all platforms is that you will need to create an account to use them. You can think of this in terms of when you were setting up an email address for yourself: you could choose from Google, Yahoo, Hotmail, Vodafone, etc. They all essentially do the same thing, but there are a few to choose from. Well, it's the same with blogging tools. I'll go through some of the options in the next section, to help you decide which one you want to use.
Which blogging platform should you use?This will come down to personal choice, really, but to help you decide, I'm going to introduce you to a few options.
The three platforms that I have tried out in the past are Blogger, WordPress and Tumblr.
- Owned by Google, so if you have a Google account, you already have Blogger
- Completely free
- Easy to set up and use
- Offers basic analytics
- Hosted by Google, so if they ever shut it down, you could lose your blog
- Some templates look a bit dated
- Blogs can look very professional
- Easy to set up and use
- Free (but limited) version available
- Free version has the same risk as Blogger (if the host ever shuts the service down, you could lose your blog)
- You may find that you have to pay for the "nice" parts that come free with other providers
- Very well suited to blogging on a mobile device
- Media-centric, although you can post just text
- Clean and modern look
- Blogs tend to not look as professional as Blogger or Wordpress
- Analytic tools are not as in-depth as Blogger or Wordpress
Tumblr has become a well loved micro-blogging tool by librarians. Just search for the hashtag #tumblarians to get an array of librarian humor and real librarians sharing their workday lives.
My thoughts on the three platforms.Unless you are willing to pay for hosting to set up your own WordPress site (which can look VERY professional, but costs money), then Blogger or Wordpress.com (the free version of WordPress) are your best options. Tumblr is fine, and arguably has the best mobile app (iOS, Android and Windows) of the three. However, it doesn't have the same administration tools as the other two. Blogger is a bit easier to use for a beginner but doesn't look as fancy as WordPress. If at a later stage you wish to transfer your blog into a self-hosted website using the full (paid) version of WordPress, then you can easily export your Blogger blog to WordPress. So, it is up to you to balance the pros and cons and decide which platform suits you best. Any of these three will work fine for Rudai23.
Which blogging platform do I use?Personally, I have been using Blogger for years. I tried moving my two blogs to WordPress a few years ago (I thought they'd look nicer), but what I found was that they were no longer showing up in search engine results, so I switched back to Blogger. If I had been using WordPress from the start, I would not have had this problem. I had created a "track record" and had gathered followers through my Blogger sites and so it made sense to leave them there.
Another BIG reason why I choose Blogger is that it is completely integrated with my Google account, so everything is really smooth: I can link my Google Calendar, Drive, Photos, Google Plus and YouTube stuff to my Blogger blogs very easily. They all work well together because they are all part of the one account. So there you have it, I use Blogger. By the way, you may have noticed that the Rudai23 blog is also created using Blogger!
If you decide to go with WordPress (or any other platform) for your blog, that is absolutely fine. When you have created your blog, its URL will be shared to other Rudai23 users, and we will be able to work with you no matter what way you decide to go. However, for the purposes of sharing a tutorial with you, the next thing I am going to show you is how to get up and running with Blogger.
Getting started with BloggerThere are only a couple of simple steps involved in setting up a blog using Blogger.
1. Blogger requires a Google Account. If you do not have a Google Account, you can watch the video below to see how to set one up. If you already have a Google Account, you can skip this step.
2. Create your blog. The video below shows you exactly how to do this. In this video, you will also see how to publish a post, which is the basis of "Thing 2"
That's it! You're now up and running with your blog! The set-up and posting steps for other platforms like WordPress and Tumblr are broadly similar to the videos, and if you want to use either of those platforms instead of Blogger, they are very easy to set up.
Your Tasks for Thing 1:If you've been looking at the links and working through them as you read this post, you may have already completed most of the first Thing! If not, all you have to do is:
- Choose a blogging platform
- Create your blog
- Complete our registration form, including the URL for your blog.
Want to know more?Blogging, and the finer detail of how to use your chosen blogging platform, is something that you will get better at with practice. One of the best ways to find out how your chosen platform works is simply to experiment with it. Have a look around at the settings. Play around with the themes. See if you can figure out how to add images to your posts.
As a helping hand, I've put together a number of short video tutorials. You can look at these now, or you can come back to them later on when you want to explore some of the more advanced tools in Blogger. The videos can be found at the following links:
- How to follow another blogger via email
- How to add an image and a hyperlink to a Blogger post
- How to manage your posts in Blogger
- How to change the layout and appearance of your Blogger blog
Check out our Pinterest board Bloggers That Rock for some inspiring librarian bloggers.
Thing 1 is written by Wayne Gibbons, an Educator and Social Media enthusiast.