This article was originally written in October 2009 for Plugged In Lawyer, a blog about social media for lawyers.
Every effective multi-faceted social media strategy starts with a base camp. Think of it as the hub from which all spokes emanate.
While it might be theoretically possible to use another platform like Facebook or LinkedIn as your base camp (at least from the “hub” perspective), the best base camp is your blog or CMS. Why? Your own blog/website/CMS is your little piece of digital real estate that you control, to the extent that you can control anything out on the wild wild web. Facebook and other third party providers can and will change their terms of service at the drop of a hat, change their revenue model or worse, go out of business altogether, and your base camp could become untenable or wiped out. Oh no, it’s way too risky to put your valuable base camp in the hands of a third party.
Blog, CMS and/or website platforms are the more logical choice for other reasons, also. For instance, you can point your personally branded domain name to your blog/CMS, making it a lot easier for people to remember how to get to you. Instead of http://www.facebook.com/editapps.php?ref=mb#/pages/Plugged-In-Lawyer/127402606172?ref=sgm (www.facebook.com/pluggedinlawyer is only slightly better) , it’s http://www.pluggedinlawyer.com.
Another really important reason to use a blog/CMS as your base camp is that your content is exportable, in case you want to pull up stakes and move. For instance, look around this site. Remember how I told you that I set this blog up for less than $35?
That was a stunning start, but there is a lot of functionality that I don’t get or have to jerry-rig with my free wordpress.com site. At some point, I will want to move everything over to a self-hosted wordpress.org platform, but I have that flexibility with my easy to use export and import tools. Trust me when I say that Facebook doesn’t offer the ability to export your content.
So what are the blogging & CMS platforms of choice? Let me start by saying that “platforms” are simply the programming that makes a website a website (or a blog a blog or a CMS a CMS). Where you used to have to hire a programmer to “build” a platform, platforms now come “pre-packaged.” Don’t confuse website “design” with a website’s “platform.” Designs are just skins that give a look, feel and usability to the bones of your platform.
The most common of your pre-packaged CMS/blog platforms are WordPress, Blogger and Typepad/Moveable Type. Advanced developers like Drupal, but I don’t find it intuitive at all, and haven’t found any reason to hike up the steep learning curve it presents.
For my money, I’m WordPress all the way. I’m in good company with one commentator reporting earlier this year that WordPress is the platform of choice for 27% of Technorati’s top 100 blogs, with the next closest competitor (Typepad) having only 16%.
WordPress comes in two flavors — hosted (wordpress.com, hosted by them) and self-hosted (wordpress.org, hosted by you). I’ve put up a couple of self-hosted sites up with wordpress.org and it always amazes me how much funtionality a layperson like me can pack into a site. On the less beneficial side, you will have to buy separate hosting and deal with a vendor who speaks another language. I also had to hire a programmer to do a little extra heavy lifting on my behalf. If you want to go this route, email me at pluggedinlawyer @ gmail.com because I would be more than happy to recommend the guy I’ve been working with. He is easy to work with and very reasonably priced.
The other flavor of WordPress is wordpress.com, the hosted version. I set up my first blog on wordpress.com exactly two years ago this month and promptly dropped it when I couldn’t use my personal domain name. WordPress.com has come a long, long way in the last two years, and my long ago abandoned wordpress.com blog has become PluggedInLawyer.com, as you can see by looking at my archives. Not only has the available funtionality from wordpress.com been hugely improved, but now you can add your personal domain name for $9.95/year.
I am extremely picky about what funtionality I believe is needed to build an effective base camp, and for my money (all $9.95 of it), wordpress.com has been one pleasant surprise after another. I expect to keep PluggedInLawyer.com on my free wordpress.com platform for the foreseeable future and strongly recommend that you start with this inexpensive alternative, as well.
How do you set set up your own wordpress.com site? Watch this 2 minute video, sign up, and then read WordPress Sites So Easy That Even A Lawyer Can Set Them Up.
Blog on! Or, for you lawyers, blawg on!