Avoiding Social Media Indecision

SMUGgle Maddie Grant, the formerly reluctant blogger, makes a good point when she (after her obligatory allusion to my awesomeness) says I made her want to tear her hair out with the Social Media 110 course.

She’s absolutely right: you don’t need seven ways to shrink your URLs. It only takes one. Pick one that works for you and use it. Social Media 110 probably should have been a 200-level course; as you’re starting with social media, it’s not essential that you understand all the different ways you can shrink your URLs.

This reminds me of a story, which I believe was in Made to Stick, about a study of college students and their choices. When given a choice between studying and going to a movie, something like 30 percent chose studying. But if the choice was between studying, the movie and another event (some kind of interesting lecture or presentation), the number of people who chose to study actually increased. More choices made it harder for the students to decide which of the fun things to do, so they were more likely to default to studying.

I hope giving you seven ways to shrink URLs doesn’t likewise create indecision for you, or overwhelm you with options. You surely don’t need to try them all. I like SnipURL because it has a browser bookmarklet that makes posting items to Twitter really easy. So if you’re looking for a recommendation, that would probably be mine.

But any of these services are fine. The main point is to just start using one of them.

That’s also another reason why I do all my posts about blogging with reference to the WordPress platform. Blogger and Typepad are fine, and if you like them, use them. I had visiting professors review them as part of the blogging curriculum.

But my main goal with SMUG is to help people get engaged in social media, using state-of-the-art tools, so I just picked the one blogging platfrom I think is best and most powerful. And I want to be able to go deeper with one platform, instead of saying “This is how you do it on WordPress, but you can do the same thing on Blogger by… and on TypePad by….” I just don’t have the time or inclination to do the same thing three different ways. And I surely won’t be shrinking my URLs seven different ways.

Choosing your blogging platform is a lot more consequential than deciding which URL shrinker to employ, because you could change the latter every day (not that you should) without really affecting anything, but it’s harder to make a switch once you’ve decided on a platform for your blog.

Meanwhile, Maddie’s post gives me further impetus to provide some recommendations on a few steps everyone should be taking — sort of an updated, “new-and-improved for 2009” version of Social Media 101. Instead of 12 steps I will probably have five or six that I would call “must-dos.”

In doing so, I hope to help you avoid the indecision that leads to procrastination, and give you concrete steps that will be fruitful for you personally and professionally.

It’s a balancing act in which the inclination toward research as befits a global university (and one that is nearing the one-year anniversary of its formal establishment!) is in tension with the desire to make things straightforward and simple for beginning SMUGgles. Thanks to Maddie, I’ll try to be more clear when I’m exploring a range of options as a research project, and that I’m not recommending that everyone go forth and do likewise.

Blogging 107: Typepad Pros and Cons

Chancellor’s Note: This post was written by Associate Professor Jan Husdal, the newest addition to the SMUG Faculty. Please join me in thanking him for this contribution, and also check out his excellent Typepad vs. WordPress blog.

For someone setting out to become a blogger, choosing the right platform is important. Once chosen, it is very difficult to reverse to a different platform. Not because it is not possible (since in most cases it is possible to fully export and import posts between blogging platform), but because every platform works differently and you get used to doing your blogging in a certain way. Apart from that, different blogging platforms cater to different audiences, so it is important to choose the platform that suits your needs.

Comparing “the big three”

In brief, although many may disagree here, my division is this:

  • Blogger
    If all you care about is a quick set-up and a free platform for making money
  • WordPress
    If you want a free platform with a lot of functionality and if you are in it for the blogging, not for the money
  • Typepad
    If you want a platform that is easy to use and that can be customized for business

So, what are the disadvantages and advantages of choosing TypePad for blogging?

TypePad – Pros

An interface that is easy to use and understand. The TypePad user interface is intuitively set up an easy to use. I had no problems finding out where which function was.

The ability to add scripts. This allows you add or embed practically any desirable widget you want, since most widgets are scripted. This means that TypePad can easily be integrated with other services.

The ability to have AdSense or other scripted ads. Since most ad content is scripted, with TypePad you can build a so-called make-money-blog or an affiliate website, e.g. for amazon.com

The ability to customize your blog theme. This is possible from The Plus level and up. For more information, see this post: How to build a TypePad theme from scratch.

A wide selection of themes. TypePad has some 200+ themes to choose from and they keep adding new themes all the time.

Unlimited number of Photo albums. TypePad is the only blogging platform that has integrated photo albums. Not the best I’ve seen, but it beats Flickr or other services.

TypePad – Cons

TypePad costs money. Their Basic account starts at $4.95/mo and although that may not seem like much, you can get a lot more functionality for free in WordPress or Blogger. The Plus level, which is the minimum I recommend for TypePad, comes at $8.95/mo. The Pro account at $14.95/mo gives you full control over your themes CSS and HTML templates, but as the name suggests, it is better left to the “pros”.

Very few integrated widgets. Although the upside to TypePad is that you can install any widget you like, the downside is that you need to hunt for it yourself. Many of these widgets come in free ad-based and paid ad-free versions. That adds even more costs to your Typepad blog. On a side note, in my opinion any blogging platform should come with an integrated search form, contact form and default Error 404 page. Only WordPress does that.

Limited number of blogs in one account. If you want to create more than one blog, you need to Plus account. If you want more than three, then you need the Pro account.


TypePad is a blogging platform that is easy and straightforward to use, and it has a vast selection of themes to choose from. It is fully customizable and also allows commercial content, which means that you can make money with your blog. But, TypePad comes at a cost, and there are free systems, like WordPress, that offer more functionality for free.


Here is a post I’ve written that hightlights some of the major differences between TypePad and WordPress: wordpress.com – not for serious bloggers? Many of the WordPress “pros” in the post are at the same time TypePad “cons,” adding to the above.

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Blogging Platforms Compared

Note: This post is Blogging 105, part of the Blogging curriculum at Social Media University, Global.

In developing the curriculum for Social Media University, Global I had originally planned to have Blogging 105 be about the pros and cons of WordPress.com and WordPress, with Blogging 106 and 107 providing the same analysis for Blogger and Typepad/Movable Type, respectively.

If someone wants to write those posts (106 and 107), I would be glad to have you join the SMUG faculty as a visiting professor. But given limited time (and my increasing satisfaction with WordPress.com and WordPress), I will focus on why this platform is both a great way to get started with blogging, and also why it provides flexibility for growth as you become more serious about it.

I have limited experience with both Blogger and Typepad. They’re both fine, and their major advantages from my perspective is that you can embed flash-based widgets, which is something you can’t do, for security reasons, on WordPress.com. That lets you put all those sharing icons like this:

…at the bottom of your posts. I had a friend describe WordPress.com as “Digg-proof,” which is a limitation, I suppose. You can overcome it by moving to a WordPress installation on a rented server, however, so it’s not a crucial deficiency in WordPress.com, from my perspective. And I guess it helps with security, so some malicious Flash application can’t bring down thousands of WordPress.com blogs

WordPress.com Benefits

  • It’s free, and comes with 3 gigs of storage for photos and documents. No credit card needed to get going. No 14-day free trial. You can start now in about 30 seconds, and could quite possibly blog long-term without spending a penny.
  • If you’re nervous about starting, you can make your blog private and get hands-on experience without anyone seeing. (Or if you want to get experience in a blogging playground, check out the Training Wheels blog, where I would be happy to make you an Author.)
  • It’s Open Source, so lots of unpaid programmers are adding cool features really rapidly.
  • You can embed YouTube or Google videos (and some other types), as well as Slideshare.net slide shows.
  • If you want to use WordPress.com as a podcast server, you can pay another $20 a year to upgrade your storage to 8 gigs, and to enable you to upload mp3 or video files. (More on this soon.)
  • Bandwidth is unlimited and free. If you can upload it to WordPress.com, your blog visitors can download it. It doesn’t matter how many of them visit.
  • You can create workflows for an editorial process. You have a hierarchy that runs from Contributor (can write posts but can’t publish) to Author (can publish and edit own posts) to Editor (can edit anyone’s posts) to Administrator (can do all of the above plus add or delete users and change blog design.) So if you want people to be able to write posts but want a quality check before they go live, you can have that process built into your publishing tool.
  • URLs are in plain English, and you can edit them for search engine benefits. For example, I have given this post a URL that ends …global/blogging-platforms-compared/. Google looks at that URL and deduces that this post might just be about comparing blogging platforms. So if anyone searches on those terms, I’ll be likely to come up higher in the rankings than if I had a Typepad URL like …/blogging-platfo.html
  • Upgrade costs are minimal. For $15 a year you can customize the look and feel of your blog, as we did here and here and here. For $10 a year you can map your blog to another domain or subdomain (see the same examples, as well as the domain name you see in your browser right now), although it may cost you another $10 to register a domain name (like social-media-university-global.org). I already mentioned the $20 a year fee for 5 gigs of extra storage, and for $30 you can have an unlimited number of private users. Add it all up and you’d have a hard time finding a way to spend over $100 a year on a fully featured WordPress.com blog. A comparably equipped TypePad blog would be at least $300 a year, and more likely $900.
  • If your blog becomes wildly successful and you want to start offering Google Adwords or Flash-based applications, you can transfer your blog from wordpress.com to a server you control (and that you can rent for maybe $10 a month.) Just update your server’s IP address with your registrar, and you can make the move without losing any links.

As I said earlier, I would welcome as a visiting professor anyone who would want to explore the pros and cons of either Blogger or Typepad in a guest post. Or if you have experiences with any of these platforms that you would like to share in the comments, please do!

Otherwise, what are you waiting for? Get started with WordPress.com now.

Intro to Blogs

Note: This Social Media University, Global course is cross-posted as Social Media 105 and Blogging 101.

Many people have misconceptions about blogs. Some of this is based on misinformation or disinformation from the mainstream media about mysterious “bloggers.” Like we’re a completely different breed, if not a full-fledged new species that should be prevented from procreating.

In essence, a blog is just a Web site that allows comment and conversations. Thanks again to Lee LeFever for his “plain English” overview:


The best part about blogs is that if you are reading this, you can have one. And it won’t cost you anything, except perhaps two minutes of your time. But we’ll let you prove that as part of your homework assignment.

So, if you don’t already have a blog, SMUG can help you get started. You can pay to have a TypePad account if you wish, or you can get a free one from Blogger, a Google service. In the spirit of academic freedom, SMUG doesn’t require that you use WordPress.com for your blog. But we do recommend WordPress.com. Why?

  • It’s free. Not a 14-day free trial, but completely free for the basic service.
  • You get 3 GIGABYTES of storage at no extra charge, and there is no limit on bandwidth, which is pretty impressive.
  • SMUG uses WordPress.com. Everything you see here (except for our domain name) has been accomplished without spending a penny, and with no support from an IT department. So if you see something you’d like to replicate on your blog, you can just ask the Chancellor (see box at upper right, or put your questions in the comments) how to do it.

WordPress.com does have some limitations on the kinds of scripts or widgets you can embed. And you can’t use Google’s AdSense program to monetize your content. (If you’re seeing Google ads on this blog, they’re from WordPress.com, not SMUG.) But then again, the WordPress.com service offers an astonishing level of benefits at no charge to me, so I think it’s great.

If you really think you’re going into blogging as a for-profit enterprise, you might consider TypePad. Or, you could start on WordPress.com, register your own domain (like I did with social-media-university-global.org) and use domain mapping. Then if you decide you want to move on to full-blown WordPress on a leased server for maximum customization, you can move it and re-map without breaking any links or losing Google juice.

Homework Assignments:

If you don’t already have a blog:

  1. Think a few minutes about a name and URL for your blog. But don’t think so long that it keeps you from taking the plunge and actually starting. If you later decide you don’t like your URL, you can always get another blog on WordPress.com. They’re free.
  2. Get a timing device of some kind. It can be an old-fashioned analog wristwatch, or better yet one of those digital athletic ones. If you have some kind of stopwatch function that would be ideal. But don’t spend any money for it (you could even use the clock function on your computer, if necessary.) We just want to get a rough idea of how long step four takes.
  3. Start your timer.
  4. Start your blog on WordPress.com. In the curriculum for the SMUG Blogging major we will be working through lots of lessons that will use WordPress as the blogging platform. So if you use WordPress instead of Blogger or TypePad it will all look more familiar as you doing your homework. Click here to get a preview of what it will look like when you start your WordPress blog, and click here to actually sign up for your account.
  5. Stop your timer.
  6. Add a comment to this post, including the URL of your new blog and how long it took you to get started. Was it two minutes or less?

For All Students:

I plan to create a post of SMUG student blogs, so if you don’t want your blog listed there, please also indicate that in your comment.

If you already have a blog:

You’re one of our advanced students, so help please help your classmates by sharing your experience. Leave a comment below indicating

  1. what blogging platform you’re using,
  2. what you like and dislike about it,
  3. how long you’ve been blogging and
  4. your URL.

WordPress.com Increases Free Storage 6,000 Percent

As TechCrunch notes, my free blogging platform of choice, WordPress.com, has increased the amount of free storage it provides its users from 50 Mb to 3 Gb. Here’s what I see when I upload graphics or other documents to my blog:

wordpress.com free storage

Note that a few days ago that 3GB figure in the lower left was only 50 MB. I formerly used Flickr as a storage space for my photos and other graphics (since it offered 100 MB a month vs. 50 MB a year with WordPress.com) and just pulled the graphics from Flickr into my blog posts, but now it seems I should be able to upload graphics indiscriminately without even coming close to exceeding my WordPress limits. Especially if I’m uploading mostly 72 dpi screen captures.

As Erick Schonfeld says, this is a huge advance that puts significant pressure on competing platforms. WordPress.com has had the advantage of Akismet protection against comment spam (which has saved me over 34,000 spam comments.) By offering triple the free storage of Blogger, WordPress.com takes another big leap.

When I started this blog, I made it my goal to never spend a penny on any of the services. My purpose was  more than miserliness; I wanted to encourage others (particularly those in the PR field) that they can have blogs without spending  any money and without support from their IT department. As I say in my “It’s All Free” section, if you see something on my blog that you like, you can rest assured that it was completely free.

Why is free such a big deal? Because it helps to drive home the ridiculousness of spending several hundred to a few thousand dollars to attend a communications conference in which you learn about social media if you fail to take the next step and actually get hands-on experience. And it’s why I developed my 12-step Social Media Program.

Barriers to entry in blogging and other social media aren’t just low. They are non-existent.  Zero. Get started with your WordPress.com blog today. When you do, please leave a comment below to let me know how it’s working for you. You also can subscribe to the RSS feed for this blog, which will provide you with regular updates and pointers on issues you may find interesting and helpful. (If you don’t know what RSS is, see steps 4 and 5 in my 12-step program.)

You really should check out Facebook, too. It’s also free. Friend me if you’d like to stay in touch and learn more about social media.

If your work involves any communications, or marketing, or sales, or management responsibilities you owe it to yourself to begin to understand social media. And if you paid anything for college, or attend any career enrichment seminars for which you or your company pay admission fees, you’re seriously missing out on a great educational value if you don’t take advantage of the free hands-on education you can get through WordPress.com, Facebook, Twitter (you can follow me here), Flickr, YouTube and related services.

What’s holding you back?