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 119: Managing Multiple Blog Contributors

For many people, blogging is a solo effort; an exercise in self-expression.

But if you’re considering blogging for a business or organization (like our Mayo Clinic News Blog or Podcast Blog, or a global university like SMUG 😉 ) you probably don’t want to have the entire responsibility resting on one person.

You’ll want to get multiple contributors involved.

One way to significantly increase the number of voices represented in your company blog is to, well…capture their voices. And their pictures. Using a video camera. Like the Flip. That’s going to be covered in Blogging 130: Video Blogging.

WordPress (and its hosted service, wordpress.com) is ideally suited to enable lots of people to contribute text for a blog, while still enabling the blog manager (or the management group), to exercise final control.

It does this through its hierarchy of user levels:

  1. Contributors can write posts, but they don’t have authority to hit the “Publish” button. When they are finished, their posts are in the “Pending Review” status, until a higher-level user reviews and approves for publishing. If you were to use WordPress to publish and online newspaper/newsblog, for instance, and wanted to maintain an editorial process that would have articles go through review by an editor, you could have most of your “reporters” be Contributors, so that it would be impossible for one of their posts to be published without that review. Associate Professors at SMUG are in the Contributor role.
  2. Authors have the authority to publish a post and upload files, and can edit their own posts…but not anyone else’s. They can also save their posts as “Pending Review” but if you want to have that two-step process, you should have most users be Contributors. As an author, someone will inevitably hit “Publish” instead of “Save” and have a post published before it has been reviewed. But if you have a blog in which all of the authors are relatively equal and its just a forum for them to publish their thoughts, Author level access is appropriate.
  3. Editors have access to publish, edit or delete any post, page or comment. They can do almost everything an Administrator can do in terms of the day-to-day blog operation, but they can’t add or remove users, for instance.
  4. Administrators have complete control over the blog, including the ability to delete it. When you start your own wordpress.com blog you become its administrator. But you could add me or any other wordpress.com user as a contributor, author or editor. And if you want to become a SMUG Associate Professor, I can add you.

It’s really easy to add new users in different roles. Just click the Users link on the right side of your blog’s dashboard:


And then, at the bottom, add the email address of someone you want to add as a user:


If that address already belongs to a WordPress.com user, he or she will be added in the role you specify.
If not, you’ll be prompted to send an invitation for that person to create a wordpress.com account.


When you click “Invite your Friend” you have an opportunity to tailor the personal message before clicking “Send Invite”


Be sure to check the “Add user to my blog as a contributor” box, and then when that user joins he or she will be in the Contributor role on your blog. You can always promote to a higher level (Author or Editor) once that’s done

It’s that simple. And on WordPress.com, it’s free. On Typepad, you have to pay at least $149.50 a year for similar functionality.

The WordPress.com FAQ offers some further illumination on user roles.


  1. If you haven’t started your WordPress.com blog, do it today. Then, if you need or want to have multiple contributors, go through the steps above to add them.
  2. If you would like to become a SMUG Associate Professor, leave a comment below, and I will add you as a Contributor.

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Welcoming an Associate Professor

It’s been rewarding over the last several months to see the number of “students” at Social Media University, Global climb to more than 150, and to have so many countries represented, literally putting the “Global” in SMUG.

Another goal has been to get more “faculty” members, and to have “associate professors” with experience in different areas contributing their expertise. That’s why I’m so excited to have Jan Husdal providing the Blogging 107: Typepad Pros and Cons course. An added bonus is that he’s from Norway, so now we also have two continents represented among the faculty.

I have appreciated learning from Jan through his Typepad vs. WordPress blog; he’s responsible for helping me find out how to add the social sharing buttons you see on some of the newer posts here.

I know you will find his posts helpful, too.

If you see any of the courses in the proposed curriculum that you would like to write, or if you have ideas for class offerings that you think would be helpful and interesting to others, please get in touch with me through the e-mail you see in the Contact the Chancellor sidebar.

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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WordPress Growth Rocks

TechCrunch calls the growth of the WordPress blogging platform, as announced today at WordCamp, “Awesome.”

It doesn’t surprise me at all that U.S. unique visitors to WordPress.com have roughly tripled in the last year to 20.9 million per month, while Typepad.com has only increased about 20 percent to 7.2 million. The two platforms were roughly equal a year ago.

But what wasn’t equal was the value proposition. WordPress.com offers 3 gigabytes of free storage and unlimited bandwidth, and for $45 a year you can customize the CSS, buy an extra 5 gigs of storage (and the ability to upload mp3 files so you can host podcasts), and map your blog to a domain or subdomain of your choosing.

You’d have to spend at least $299 a year on Typepad.com for anything approaching this functionality. And the cheapest, entry-level package price on Typepad.com is $49.50 a year.

With Typepad you can get a two-week free trial, but with WordPress.com you can blog for free almost indefinitely. And even with upgrades that would give most people as much functionality and capacity as they could possibly need, the cost for WordPress.com is still less that that for the stripped-down version of Typepad.

It all adds up to powerful incentives for new bloggers to start with WordPress.com, because all it costs them is their time to learn.

And that doesn’t even take into account the free, open source WordPress.org software you can download and install on another server for even more functionality.

Ben Martin agrees.

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