Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Art Society Blog #2 - Getting started

This is the second in a SERIES of posts about art blogs for Art Societies and Art Groups. This post covers what to think about when getting started with blogging and before you start to set up a blog.

The first post Art Society Blogs #1 - Why blog? looked at why an art blog can be both suitable and useful to an art society and its members

The next posts are going to look at the process of setting up a blog for an art society and how to make it very effective.  I've decided to break this out into topics so bear with me!

The last blog post considers what's involved in setting up a Group Blog for an Art Society - which allows society members to write their own blog posts.

How to set up an art society blog - first things first

First things first - this is what I always ask people to think about first.
  • Understand the difference between a website and a blog
  • Name the blog
  • Agree a blog URL
I've created an art blog, using Blogger, for this series of blog posts about art society blogging.  More of this later!  What this means is that I can demonstrate different aspects of blogging and show you screen dumps of what things look like without messing about with my own blogs!  

Bear in mind I'm a Blogger person - because it's all completely free and I don't need a host and I don't have to pay any bills!

Understand how blogs are different from websites

Key people in the art society need to understand the difference between a website and a blog.

It's the first thing I have to explain when people ask me what they would need to do to set up a blog.  It's particularly important if the Chair or Committee are not techie or familiar with blogging.

Here's my explanation.

 A WEBSITE is usually a relatively static site - and can remain unchanged for long periods.

In addition, very many of them are old and set up on antiquated software with poor design features.

Others can be hugely dependent on one person.  Many is the story I have heard of art societies being held to ransom by website designers / support people!  Frankly I think it is highly unprofessional.  However it happens - and far too often for my liking!

Typically a website comes with a Home Page and then a navigation menu which leads you through different sections of the site.  Typically you start at the top and follow the navigation menu through the site.

The website content relates to the main functions of the society - explaining what it is, what they do, who runs it, who its members are and what their art is like.  The exhibition page will generally up date once a year.  Old exhibitions may need to come down depending on available space. New members galleries will be added from time to time.  The names of the office holders may change - once a year.

The news page may update more often - however, for most societies, the news in future will be delivered via the blog.  Which means the website will become even more static

Interestingly, I've found it's the art societies which have had more active news pages and events schedules which have seen the sense in developing an art blog which can then deliver the news to people - as it happens!

A BLOG is a dynamic site - its content and 'home page' change on a regular basis.

Instead of a focus on the home page, the focus is on the latest blog post.

In addition its content can be accessed in a variety of ways.  It's not hierarchical like a website.  Instead it works according to how you structure and label the content and how you choose to make it accessible.  The content on my blog can be accessed via:
  • labels / categories (Blogger widget - see the side column)
  • date: year | month | day (Blogger widget - see the Archive near the bottom of the side column)
  • LinkWithin shortcuts (at the end of every post) These generally prompt posts similar to the topic of the one just read.  So if you wrote about one artist - they would generally prompt other posts about the same artist.
  • search (Blogger widget - see the Google Search near the top of the side column) 
EXAMPLE
  • Put the search term "rotring art pen" into Google search which is near the top of the right hand column and you can find this blog post - typically in microseconds
The focus of a blog is typically on the POSTS (think "articles").  In general these deal with one topic at a time.  The content of the post is (or should be) always of some relevance to the art society.
EXAMPLE: 
  • This blog is hosted by Blogger
  • I've posted over 3,000 posts in the last seven years
  • Those posts have been visited by nearly two million people
  • Most have at least one image and sometimes a lot more
  • Most tend to be on one topic - but are long rather than short or snappy
  • All the posts are archived in a systematic way and are accessible at any time
  • All the content is categorised and can be accessed via subject matter
  • I haven't paid Blogger a single penny to host this blog
  • I cannot even begin to think how much it would cost to get it hosted independently - even if I could find somebody to do it for me!
The webware which makes a blog work is typically found on the Internet and accessed via the Internet.  It's certainly possible to have a blog without needing to find a host or paying for any services from web designers.  In other words somebody else looks after all the really techie headache inducing bits - and, for the most part, you just supply the look and the content using the easy to use templates and widgets supplied by Blogger et al.

Webware also means that a blog can be updated and maintained anywhere where you can get an Internet connection.  I've written blog posts - complete with images - while sat having breakfast in a French hotel!
A blog is very accessible and can generate followers (subscribers) who want to keep up with what's published.

Its dynamic content can be published - as and when it happens - via feedreaders and despatched to email subscribers.  That means something VERY important - people do NOT need to come to the site to hear about what's happening.  They can catch up while reading other blogs on a feedreader (on a computer / tablet or phone) or have the news delivered via email to their inbox (or both as I do!).  This is one of the main reasons why a blog can get a lot more visitors than websites.

In a recent development, art societies are now using blogging software to deliver a combined website and blog.  Such a move of course helps an art society to keep its website costs to a minimum - and can eliminate hosting costs and technical headaches in the process.

To do this, the blog/website uses the scope offered by blogging software to install Pages (you can see examples at the top of this blog) to deliver static content about the art society.  This in turn can eliminate the need for a separate website - and the associated costs.

Key Question 1:  List the ways a blog might improve the profile and marketing of an art society, its member artists and their artwork - when compared to the existing website

Key Question 2: What are your priorities for what you want your new art society blog to do:
  • right now?
  • in the future?
Create an Identity
Once you've agreed your art society will have a blog you need to stop and THINK about branding and identity.

You need to do two things:

  • decide on a name for the blog - remember you are deciding on a BRAND name for the art society blog which reflects well on the art society
  • decide how that is represented in terms of the Blog's URL

Also think about what you want the name to be if in future you wanted the one site to be both website and blog.

If you want to keep it simple use the art society's name - and then add "News" for a simple blog.  However do please recognise that people get very bored if they need to type out long URLs and remember how they are spelt.

My advice would be to have a short name and a short URL which is compatible with the name of the society and identifiable as belonging to it.  Nobody wants a long URL!  Even more importantly, nobody wants a blog to be hosted on sites which generate URLs which are a mile long and complete gobbledygook!

Key Question 3:  What's the simplest and best name for a blog for (name) art society?

Key Question 4:  How is that expressed simply and easily as a URL?

Art Society News #1 - A blog title, a URL and the first page (for members websites)
Expenses to date = NIL
If you want Google to recognise separate words in your URL then you need to hyphenate your URL.   That then means it might be found more easily via browser searches.

Hence my new exemplar blog is:

You'll note that its sum content to date is a new page for Members Websites


Please note subscriptions only become live after you have verified the link in the email you will receive

2 comments:

ashar said...

Thanks again for sharing, great tips. If I set up a Blog for my society, can the members post an article directly onto the blog? other than through comments boxes
ashar

Katherine Tyrrell said...

Ashar - yes they can - if you make it a group blog. I'm going to tackle that in the next but one post in this series of posts about setting up an art society blog

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