Today, we’re going to dip into the old Social Media Explorer mailbag, and answer a reader question. Â
(Actually, we don’t have a mail bag. Â We never get physical mail from readers, except the one time I got a box of Ginsu knives. Â And the time someone mailed Jason a bunch of pedometers for starting Twit2Fit. Â But mostly we never get real mail. Â
A reader emailed this question to us, and we like throwing out Old West metaphors. Â It makes this crazy mixed up digital world seem a little more human. Â So try picturing us Â with a big, heavy canvas mail bag that we pick up from the local train station and lug back to the office about once a week. See, isn’t that more fun?) Â
From our friend T.W., Louisville, KY: Â
Ok, one day Iâ€™m gonna have this blogging/social media thing down to a science, but thatâ€™s just not the case today. Â I have several questions… I know you guys are swamped, so please donâ€™t feel like you have to get this back to me anytime soon!
Wordpress.com or WordPress.org? Â If you say WordPress.org, why? Â How do I go about getting hosting? Â Finding a theme, etc?
If itâ€™s wordpress.com, how can I find a theme that I like or change out the header of a theme? Â Should I get my own header created?
Where do you get pictures from to use in a blog post? And how do you give credit to the photographer?
Should I take a crash course in CSS, whatever that is?
An Answer from Kat: Â
Hosting and Themes and Such Like:
If you’re just starting out, I would go with WordPress.com. Â Find your writing style, your voice and your editorial focus firstâ€”itâ€™s really easy to get caught up in tweaking designs and plug-ins and all that. Â The posts themselves are the Main Thingâ€”get a handle on that first, then itâ€™s really dead easy to export it and then import it into a self-hosted (WordPress.org) blog later. Â
If you go the WordPress.com route to start, once you set up your blog, go to My Dashboard for the blog. Â The navigation is along the left. Go to â€œAppearanceâ€ and you should see the Available Themes. Â There are about 50 or 60 themes to choose from, some of which you can customize to some degree. Â I personally like PressRow, or any of Chris Pearsonâ€™s themes (heâ€™s from Louisville originally.) Â
If you insist on a self-hosted blog, though, go with just about any hosting company except GoDaddy. Besides their misogynistic Super Bowl advertising, their service is AWFUL. Â
You usually get a free domain registration when you sign up for hosting, so thereâ€™s no need to do it separately (and that can also make things really more complicated and confusing than they need to be).
If your hosting has something called â€œFantasticoâ€ youâ€™re in good shapeâ€”you can install WordPress without having to do FTP or anything remotely scary.Â
If you decide to go with a self-hosted blog, youâ€™ll need to pick a theme. Â There are probably millions of free WordPress themes out there. Â Just Google â€œfree wordpress themes.â€ Â If you’d rather not wade through those millions, you could check out Smashing Magazine’s great list of 100 Excellent Free WP Themes. Â
Youâ€™ll then have to install it. Basically, youâ€™ll need to copy the files for the theme into the themes folder for your WordPress install. Â Itâ€™ll be something like â€œyourdomain.com/wp-content/themes/.â€ Â Â You can probably do that through your hosting companyâ€™s control panel. Â Otherwise, youâ€™ll have to use FTP. Â Â Which is a little advanced for this response, although itâ€™s not terribly complex. Â
Then youâ€™ll need to go to your Admin dashboard, to Appearance, and activate that theme. Â
Pictures and Design-ish Stuff
There are several sources for non-copyrighted images on the web. Â Do not use Google Image searchâ€”most of those images are copyrighted. If youâ€™re on Flickr, go to Explore > Creative Commons to do a search. Â Â Creative Commons photos are usually okay to use, as long as you attribute the source. Â I usually attribute source by putting â€œimages courtesy USERNAME on Flickrâ€ at the bottom of the post, and link to the original image on Flickr.
Another good source for free images is Stock Exchange. Â You have to register, but theyâ€™re good quality photos, and at most youâ€™ll have to attribute source and post a comment or ask for permission. Â (Each photo has usage instructions). Â
If you need to edit photos, and donâ€™t feel like shelling out for Photoshop, a couple of options:
GimpSHOP Â Â â€“ A freeware clone of Photoshop. Â Not terribly user friendly if youâ€™ve never used a photo editing software, but totally free.
PhotoPlusÂ â€“ Serif Software makes older versions of its software available for free. Â Slightly more user-friendly than GimpSHOP, IMO. Â Or you can pay about $10 for the most recent version. Â
Aviary â€“ An online suite of free photo editing tools. Â Nice if you donâ€™t have hard drive space or permission to install stuff on a shared computer (like at the library). Â
As for CSS, like FTP, it’s not terribly complicated, but it’s too big a subject for a short response like this. Â Very briefly, CSS is a styling language that allows you to control the colors, fonts, and other design elements for a website. Â If you’d like to see how powerful CSS can be, check out CSS Zen Garden. Â
My friend was so pleased with my response that I decided to use it as the basis for my post for today. Â I hope some of you find it valuable. Â Sometimes we get so caught up in the big picture, inside-baseball stuff here, I think it’s refreshing to post the occasional 101-level item. Â
If you’re just getting started in social media, I don’t think you could find a better starting point than a blog. Â If you’re starting your first blog, I think a no-cost hosted WordPress blog is a good choice. Â This will get you up and running. Â Be brave, make mistakes, learn fast.
Oh, and on a closing note, I still plan to post a Quick ‘n Dirty Guide to online privacy protection, but we have some other exciting things in the mix right now (which I’m not gonna discuss!) that have to take priority.