Blogs are one of the older but enduring forms of dissemination on the Internet. A blog can serve as:
- a publicity tool, announcing project updates;
- a thought leadership tool, offering research, findings and comments on the field;
- a search tool, using keywords and links to promote the project in site rankings.
One of the best blog models is Gordon Snyder's ICT Center blog, which offers perspectives on ICT industries and education. On his blog, Gordon does several things that are considered best practices, including extensive linking to other sites (which raises both awareness and search standings) and links to share and comment on information.
Before committing to a blog, browse a few others in your field, considering what their topics are, how often they publish, and what sorts of comments they attract. Here are some lists and examples:
Florida Advanced Technological Education Center
ICT Learning: Industrial Skills Training
Community College Spotlight
Business Industrial Network
Top 100 Educational Blogs (Online Education Database)
Blogs can be friendly, accessible ways to communicate with your audience and key stakeholders. The role of a blog should be to help your project or center build and shape your public voice and brand. Before diving in, consider these tips:
- Your blog should have a goal — write with a purpose or you'll have a tough time keeping an audience. On a similar note, make sure your blog is well-written and readable. Spell-check and edit!
- Know who your audience is (or who you want it to be) and write to that audience.
- Blogs should be personal and familiar, not copies of press releases or fact sheets. Be a good storyteller or teacher, and don't be afraid of a little humor.
- Write with authority, creativity, and excitement. Sell your project or center and get comfortable with tactful self-promotion.
- Be respectful. Assume that your audience is just as smart and knowledgeable as you are. Check your facts and tone, and embrace the expertise that will come your way.
- Be sure to give credit where credit is due by citing and linking to sources and thanking contributors.
- Keep your blog posts at a reasonable length — usually 300-750 words. Blogs are not dissertations (thank goodness).
- Make it easy to share your blog with others. If you want people to find and follow your blog, utilize all the key sharing plugins on your homepage.
- Evolve! Learn from your audience and from your experience. As your project or center evolves, your blog should, too.
- Be sure to know your industry's keywords and sprinkle them throughout your posts to help people find your blog and boost your search rankings.
- Be patient. You won't get hundreds of readers instantly, and you'll need to blog consistently for quite a while to build an audience.
- Determine who will write your blog and how much time they're expected to utilize. Get a commitment from your writers, and create a realistic posting schedule.
- Monitor hits and comments to assess interest in various topics.
Most Popular (Free) Blogging Platforms
Blogger.com is the easiest to use, and has almost instantaneous setup. You can go from blog-less to publishing your first post in less than 15 minutes thanks to an extremely easy setup process. Blogger supports drag-and-drop template editing, and much more.
Tumblr.com uses a shorter even less formal format called micro-blogging. It's a combination of a full-fledged blog and a Twitter feed. It focuses on short, frequent posts that are not much longer than Twitter updates. Tumblr is a great solution for people who aren't looking to commit to a blog as a time-consuming project.
WordPress.com is an open-source platform that offers an almost limitless variety of options: themes, plug-ins, and gadgets of all stripes. It isn't as simple to set up and configure as the others, but once you get going, the sky is the limit. It's also a scalable solution, allowing you to do everything from maintain a single blog with a single user to an entire stable of blogs with multiple users overseen by one site administrator.
Are you interested in more social media uses? Check out the next section: Analytics and Tracking.