When I started my blog 9 years ago, I knew I would have a bit of a learning curve. Even though I started on Blogspot, I knew exactly nothing about PHP, CSS, Akismet, trackbacks, outlinks, Google juice (what the cool kids now call SEO), landing pages, and all the other things that have nothing at all to do with writing but with which a blogger has to contend if he wants to get more readers than the average episode of “So You Want to be an MSNBC Host”.
Blogging is a bit easier these days. Free platforms like Blogger and WordPress do much of the hard work for you (and for free), but keeping a blog with fresh content and an appealing design still takes more time than most of us have. We’re all busy, right? We have family obligations, work, church, hobbies, friends, pets, a second job because the Obama economy has been such a smashing success, the occasional long detour to shake the NSA surveillance van because we accidentally typed “tea party” in an e-mail about grocery shopping…you get the idea. Lots of stuff to do and little time to do it so forget trying to keep up a blog full-time.
Still, blogging is a valuable tool for any activist, whether you work on the national level or inside your own neighborhood. Fortunately, there are a few ways to blog without having to maintain your own site. Each of them work in different ways, so you may want to take a look at a couple or three of them to see which of them suits your style and gives you the tools you want to reach the people you want.
1) Tumblr. I bet you thought Tumblr was just for animated gifs, sexy Paul Ryan pictures, and shots of a certain politician judging you. Nope. Tumblr is a powerful and versatile platform that can handle not only a quick re-blog of a picture or quote but also a full-blown blog posts with links and pictures and all. Take a look at how Pejman Yousefzadeh uses Tumblr as a link “outpost”. He links to his own blog posts, but you can link to other posts you find interesting or useful and add your own commentary. Just pick a template (most of them free, some of them for sale for as little as $5), set up the links to your social media accounts and go!
2) Storify. This platform is a little trickier to use, but if you are active in a couple different social media areas (let’s say Twitter and Facebook), Storify could be the most useful platform you’ve ever seen. Here’s how it works: you create stories by dragging links — individual tweets, links to Facebook posts, Instagram pictures, web links, etc. — into a story. Storify then arranges them in the order you choose, so you can create a chronology, collect a “Twitter rant”, or aggregate a bunch of reporting on one story into one place. Take a look at my Storify page to see a couple different things you can do, then go on to see what others have done there. Several major news services use Storify to collect stories on a particular event like a natural disaster or other big story. You can do the same thing. The bonus here is that Storify publishes easily to both Twitter and Facebook so you can share your story with everyone as soon as you hit the “publish” button.
3) User blogs at “community” web sites. If you want to write standard blog posts (that is, a couple paragraphs with plenty of links and block quotes), you can do that at a “community blog” like Red State or Ricochet or even at FreedomWorks’ hosted community site, Freedom Connector.
The upside to such a blog is that you don’t have to worry about maintaining anything and you can build an audience inside a community with which you’re already familiar. As well, many sites will promote member posts to the front page if the administrators think the post is particularly good. The downside is that some membership sites only let other members view member posts (such as Ricochet, which requires a membership fee) and a more popular site can get so busy your post can get lost in the shuffle. Still, these sites are great places for you to learn what makes for a “promotable” post and give you a stable place where you can work out your writing style.
4) Guest posting. Do you have a blogger friend or family member? You may just have a place to write once in a while. I’ll let you in on a little secret about bloggers; we’re often on the lookout for new content for our blog, especially content that comes to us already written, with links, proofread, and polished to a brilliant shine. If you have something that fits into the style of our blog and we can pretty much put it right up on the site, chances are we’ll do just that. This isn’t necessarily an option for everyday or even once a week blogging, but if you only write once every couple of weeks or once a month, reaching out to other bloggers might be a good option for you. Actually, if you know a couple bloggers and they’re amenable to publishing your posts, you may be able to alternate posts with them, one on one week and one on another. In time, you may even end up as a co-blogger on their site — bonus!
There you have them; four ways you can blog without starting a blog of your own! As with anything in new media, you should experiment to see which, if any, work for you. Once you do start something, drop me a line on Twitter. I’d be more than happy to share your new venture into new media.
(Photo Credit: Kristina B on Flickr)