This is the fourth part of a seven part mini-series looking at how and why to turn your blog into a social media hub. You’ll be able to find the complete series here.
So far we’ve looked at prepping the networks you’re going to be using for your hub, and what features you might want to consider. By now, you should have a pretty strong idea on what your hub is going to look like, so all we need to do now is find a home for it.
For that, the best option is setting yourself up with a self-hosted WordPress blog.
While there’s nothing wrong per se with free blogging options like Blogger or WordPress (the .com version; self-hosted WordPress is on the .org domain), they severely limit how much interaction you have with them from a user perspective. Designs are limited as well, and add-ons aren’t supported, and to make a truly effective social media hub on your blog, you need fluidity to design.
The worst thing about free blogging options is that you’re also placing all your content into the hands of a third-party. If Blogger, WordPress or any other free blogging platforms change their Terms and Conditions, you could find yourself without a blog. With a self-hosted option, all the control lies in your hands. While there are other options like TypePad and Squarespace, I just prefer WordPress for its ease-of-use and community support.
Just in case you aren’t already using self-hosted WordPress, here’s a quick guide to getting set up :
- Choose a domain name and a web host to host your blog. Bluehost is perfect for this, since it offers packages that set up the domain and hosting as an all-in-one package. There are several others, so Google “web host” and find the one right for you.
- Once you have your account, you’ll be taken to an area called C-panel. This is simply the Admin dashboard for all the backroom stuff associated with your site. Once in there, its simply a matter of using Fantastico to set up your WordPress account, as shown by my friend John Haydon’s video.
Planting the Seeds
The reasons for using a self-hosted WordPress blog are numerous, but the main two (at least as far as a social media hub is concerned) are design and add-on flexibility. Since the hub is going to be both your home-base and outpost, you need a platform that can handle your needs – WordPress is perfect for this.
The look and feel of your hub will define how useful it is to your visitors. The less cluttered the look, the more effective the hub can be, although some folks prefer a more information-led design. This is where WordPress and a premium theme comes into play (a theme is just a pre-designed look or framework for your blog) - you can choose a template, page, sub-pages, sub-domain or any number of design options to present your hub.
There are benefits to each option:
- A page holds everything in one area, although it could get cluttered.
- Sub-pages allow you to set up different niche hubs (more on that tomorrow).
- Sub-domains offer a completely separate hub altogether, but still tied to your blog’s main domain.
- Templates allow a different look and feel from your blog design, and help give that unique hub feel.
What you choose will mostly be determined by how many resources you populate your hub with. How you populate these resources is up to you; again, the great thing with self-hosted WordPress is that the flexibility of design is limitless, thanks to plug-ins.
Social Media Plug-Ins for Your Hub
WordPress is an open-source community, which means that there is a whole community of developers making really cool applications (or plug-ins) every day. These are released to the WordPress userbase (almost always free of charge) and you can then use them on your blog to help turn it into anything you like.
Some of the best ones for a social media hub (and ones that I’ll show you examples of in the design post coming next in the series) include:
- Enthropia’s Lifestream. One of the ways to show what you’re up to on different networks is Lifestreaming, and Enthropia’s plug-in for WordPress is one of the simplest. This is perfect for those that don’t want a full-on social media hub.
- Twitter Tools. Offers great integration between Twitter and your blog and vice versa, including tweet archives, posts, admin options and more.
- Smart YouTube. Ideal for video bloggers, this gives you a larger set of options than just video embedding – playlists, RSS feed support and iPhone compatibility being just a few.
- FotoBook. While there are plug-ins and widgets to integrate your blog with Facebook, one of the coolest to do this in reverse is FotoBook. This imports all your pictures from Facebook and enhances the personal aspect of your social media hub.
These are just some plug-ins that, along with your design and the existing applications from the various social networks, will make up your social media hub. The great thing with WordPress is that, no matter what you’re looking to do via your hub, you can probably find a plug-in for it. Just go to WordPress Extend and start searching – that’s where the treasure is to shape your hub, your way.
Takeaway: Make a list of how many features you’d like on your blog. Decide if you want to go for a single page, sub-pages, sub-domain and how intensive or lite you wish your hub to be. Sketch some ideas for layout, since tomorrow we’ll look at the various options available, with examples of each to a successful hub. To make sure you receive the latest from 7 Days to Turn Your Blog Into a Social Media Hub, feel free to either subscribe by RSS feed or email subscription.
Note: This blog no longer runs on the Headway framework. Instead, it’s a custom WordPress design by Lisa Kalandjian of SceneStealer Graphics.