At this point, the blog has been hailed, eulogized, and ceremoniously brought back from the dead — because, to be honest, a lot of people still doing quite have a handle on why we blog, what’s important about blogging, or whether or not blogging is right for them. But this much is clear: Blogging is a smart marketing tool for basically every small business, blogging is great for search engine optimization, and blogging can be very personally fulfilling.
If you’re considering starting a blog, whether it’s for yourself, your employer, or your small business, your first step isn’t to come up with ideas or create content — it’s figuring out what the best platform for your blog is going to be. Because before you can start publishing, you’ve got to establish what, where, and how you’re going to actually make it happen.
There are no shortage of blogging platforms available, and it seems like, as the old ones wither away (sorry, Blogspot), new ones (hello, Medium!) crop up. That seemingly constant turnover can make it difficult to pinpoint exactly what the best platform for a blog like yours is going to be, but there are a few basic rules and best practices that can make it easier to choose.
The key is to establish what you want from your blog. Do you just need a way to share photos? Are you thinking about writing longer pieces, maybe personal essays? Do you want to sell digital assets or merchandise?
Depending on what you want — increased brand awareness, somewhere to plunk your thoughts, or just a supplemental way to reach your audience — the various platforms offer different advantages and perks.
Here are a just a few instances where you might use the most popular platforms:
If you don’t have a ton of time to blog, but do want to have something that looks professional and clean, WordPress is always a good choice. It’s basic, it’s easy to customize, and the SEO value of the sites hosted there is pretty solid. You can also attach it easily to your main website. WordPress is a good pick for large companies, because it allows for a collaborative back-end, but is also popular with small businesses.
Unfortunately, WordPress’s social functionality is a little lacking; people can like or share your posts, but it doesn’t do as much of the marketing work for you as, say, Tumblr, which is a daily habit for a lot of users. If you’re looking to reach young people, or you just don’t have a ton of time, Tumblr can be a smart move. You can buy a domain or simply use the .tumblr url, and know that when you post and share with tags, your posts will get see.
Tumblr is also great if your posts will be image or video heavy. Share photos of your products that are especially cool, or GIFs of your behind-the-scenes operations. If you’re a photographer, you should definitely use Tumblr, even if it’s in addition to another, more text-heavy blogging platform. You can also use Tumblr to demonstrate your taste; reblogging the work of others is both an exercise in community support and a very, very easy way to illustrate what your company is about.
Tumblr does have a unique community of users, though, so be sure to look at some of the brands that use it well. Some examples to look at include NPR, Time Magazine, GQ, and Coca-Cola. Then, poke around at what kind of data Tumblr lets you get; though it’s amazing for brand awareness, if you’re really going to be needing to show ROI, Tumblr might not be your best bet.
If you’re looking to do a lot of long-form, influencer writing, consider Medium, the publisher-platform hybrid that everyone’s raving (or at least, curious) about. This attractive, easy platform does a lot of the social sharing work for you, which makes it easy to get eyeballs on your work, but doesn’t live on a separate, branded page in quite the same way as WordPress or Tumblr.
You can create a collection for your brand, and then invite your friends or influencers to write for it — a great way to expand your network. Medium is also very boss-friendly, so if the CEO of your startup has expressed interest in blogging, direct her to Medium to give it a try. Plus, it’s got metrics that, while fairly basic, are easy to see and fun to get alerts about.
These three aren’t the only blogging platforms — plenty of people still use Blogger, though it’s not especially good-looking or flexible, and Svbtle has been trying to edge in on Medium’s success for some time — they are some of the most useful and popular.
But again, when deciding what’s the best platform for your blog, the real key is establishing what you want, who you’re hoping will read it, and how much time you’re willing to dedicate.