How to Blog – #ACR14 Social Media Bootcamp

Paul Sufka

“When you first start off trying to solve a problem, the first solutions you come up with are very complex, and most people stop there. But if you keep going, and live with the problem and peel more layers of the onion off, you can often times arrive at some very elegant and simple solutions. Most people just don’t put in the time or energy to get there.” – Steve Jobs

The goal for this presentation is to try to remove the major barriers to entry into the world of blogging. Before moving onto the technical aspects of setting up a blog, I hope that the following observations also help break down a few other hurdles that might also be holding you back from starting.

Reasons that I think people don’t blog:

Taken together, this means that:

  • As a content creator, you have the chance to have significant impact. 
  • We overestimate the effort required to become a content creator. 

Blogging has become a mainstream and powerful platform that is accessible to anyone. While detailed knowledge is not required, knowing the key terminology and background can be extremely valuable.

I would suggest spending a few minutes going through this Prezi presentation which “describes what blogs are, history, and future influence in society” and then a few minutes scanning through the terms defined in WordPress.org’s “Introduction to Blogging.”

There are a number of excellent blogging platforms currently available. As a general rule, the more control the platform gives you over the design of the blog, the more technical knowledge will be required. The 80/20 rule applies here again, such that only a small amount of technical understanding can have you running one of the most powerful blogging platfiorms: WordPress.

Why do I suggest WordPress?

Furthermore, I also suggest running a self-hosted WordPress site since you are not limited in ways you can change the design of your blog, nor are you limited in the plugins that you use.

Setting up your self-hosted WordPress site:

Designing your site:
 
The best way to set up the design of your site is a relatively personal one. I think you should design a blog that you would enjoy reading. As you browse around the web, take note of which sites draw you in. Personally, my blog is inspired by the readability and simplicity of Medium.com and Instapaper.

In WordPress, the design or template of your blog is called a Theme. WordPress.org currently has over 2,700 free and premium themes in their directory, which can be installed with just a few clicks. Alternatively, a number of more advanced profession themes are available. This site is currently running Thesis 2 (of note, this specific theme does require you to be a bit more technically savvy, but the majority of them minimal additional technical knowledge).

WordPress Plugins:

These are the tools to add various functions to your blog.  Often enough, whenever you think of something you want to add, a plugin already exists that you can install and have running with a few clicks. Details of the types and specific plugins I recommend are covered in my prior post: My WordPress Setup, Plugins and Writing Tools.

Driving traffic to your site:
 
Typically, the biggest driver of readers to your site is going to come from social media. On Twitter. adding a hashtag can be extremely helpful, and in the world of rheumatology, top suggestions  would be to use a conference hashtag such as #ACR14 or the rheumatology education hashtag #RheumEdu.

The other way that people will find their way to your blog will be through search engines, which is referred to as organic search. Because of the algorithms that Google uses to index pages, it is worthwhile to think a little bit about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so that readers can find you organically. On WordPress, there are a number of plugins that take care of most of this automatically. If you’re looking to really dig into some of the details you can read through Google’s Starter Guide.

The 80/20 of SEO for most bloggers simply requires that you:

  • Write good content.
  • Give your writing accurate titles.

Adding visual content to your site:

Humans are visual creatures, so adding images to your site and posts both draws people in, and will also improve social sharing.
If you’re not using one of your own photos, options for free images include public domain images (works that are free of known copyright around the world) or else images with certain Creative Commons licenses that usually allow works to be used with proper attribution. A nice resource for free images can be found here.

Last, I want to include a list of all of the current active rheumatology bloggers that I’m aware of at the time of #ACR14:

(This post was originally fueled by significant amounts of caffeine, so if I’ve accidentally left you off this list, please let me know.)

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Thanks for checking out my presentation. As always, if feel free to give feedback or ask questions below in the comments, or else by reaching out to me on Twitter at @psufka.