Blog Tips 4: Publicizing your Fulbright Blog

We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto! (Image posted onFlickr by James Clark --

We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto! Let’s tell our story…. (Image posted on Flickr by James Clark.)

This is the final installment of a four-part series on blogging. The full set includes:

  1. Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?
  2. Choosing and Adapting to your Blog Platform
  3. Finding your Blogging Niche
  4. Publicizing your Fulbright Blog

Fulbright’s sponsors encourage the students and scholars who receive Fulbright grants to blog about their experiences. They want to publicize the Fulbright program, the work we (their Fulbrights) are doing, and the cultural nuances we are discovering. They want us to share who we are and what we learn. Why not generate as much good publicity as we can?

If you’ve gotten your Fulbright blog up and running, you are ready to publicize your work. (If, on the other hand, you haven’t gotten started blogging because you’re still feeling overwhelmed by technical issues, you may want to check out Daniel Piechnick’s Website Setup Guide 2013: The Dummies’ Guide to Setting Up a Website.)

Based on past blog tips I’ve posted, you may have determined what level of privacy you desire. This matters because everyone in the world will be able to see what you post on a public blog site.

You may have shied away from being very open or very public about events in your life, but even if you don’t want to be highly public about everything you do, you will probably want to your friends and family know about your blog. In one fell swoop, you can notify them of the blog’s existence and invite them to receive automatic emails of everything you post. (If you are using WordPress, you can find the tools on your Dashboard — just look for the “users” button and then “invite new.”)

If you’re feeling ambitious, you may want to invite everyone in your contacts list.

Today we've got new technologies. (Image downloaded from Tumblr --

Today we’ve got new technologies. (Image downloaded from Tumblr.)

And if you’ve decided to “go for the gold,” and to use your blogging efforts to full affect, you can generate a wide audience. The following tips can help:

  • Register with Google, Bing, and other search engines so you show up when people use them to search the web (WikiHow can help, as can the WordPress “Publicize” page).
  • Sign up to receive automatic mailings of your own postings (in other words, invite yourself to be a “user” so that the system will automatically email you a copy of each post). This is a good way to keep records for your files. Doing so can help when you go to compile formal Fulbright grant reports.
  • Once you receive an email about a post that mentions a person, organization, or business, forward a copy of it to those people. Doing so helps people know they’re appreciated and it increases interest in your site.
  • Forward a copy to other people you think would be interested.
  • Set your blog platform to automatically load notification of each blog post to Facebook, Linked In, Twitter, and the like. (I’ve chosen to upload to Facebook manually, because I want the option to select which photo Facebook posts.)
And they can help us spread the word. (Image downloaded from Toastmasters --

And they can help us spread the word. (Image downloaded from Toastmasters.)

You can load notifications to your personal page in Facebook, or you can set up a Fan page for your blog. You’ll need the Fan page if you want to enable visitors (to a WordPress blog) to click “like.” Keep in mind that only people who have “liked” your page will see posts you stream to that Facebook page. As a result, I chose to stream posts to my own personal Facebook page which has far more “friends.” (And, thus, I’ve not yet made good use of my Fan page.)

Jonathan Kennedy (the spouse of a Fulbright) clued me into the value of using Facebook “likes” to tag businesses and organizations you want to become more involved with in your new Fulbright home. I subsequently realized that I could increase interest in my blog by posting links on the Facebook pages of those businesses and organizations when I mention them in a post.

WIth today's Internet you are always "On Air." (Image from National Publicist --

WIth today’s Internet you are always “On Air.” (Image from National Publicist.)

There are many good sources of help on line. For instance, WikiHow has a post about using social media to create interest in your blog. It recommends (and explains how) to:

  1. Interact with other blogs.
  2. Cross blog! (As in, posts links to your past blogs in your new blogs, which I frequently do.)
  3. Submit your posts and links to your blog on tools like forums, discovery engines, peer-sourced news feeds and social networking sites.
  4. Write great headlines and subject lines.
  5. Step back and analyze your blog as objectively as possible.
  6. Stay consistent. (As in, post frequently.)

Regarding search engine optimization, WikiHow discusses:

  1. Research “Search Engine Optimization” which is also known as SEO.
  2. Consider manipulating your content to include more key words.
  3. Link to popular blogs you like and websites relevant to your topic.

In signing out, I’ll mention one last, critical point about Fulbright blogging:

It goes without saying that in everything you do as a Fulbright, and particularly on the on the Internet, you’re a cultural envoy. Your job as a Fulbright is to facilitate and grow cultural understanding and respect. That means, of course, that you need to consider what you post from multiple perspectives and stay positive in what you post about your hosts.

Flimerz explains "you can draw viewers by connecting with your audience." (Image form Flimerz --

Flimerz explains “you can draw viewers by connecting with your audience.” (Image from Flimerz.)

Anil Dash provides "A Blog About Making Culture." (Image from Anil's blog site --

Anil Dash provides “A Blog About Making Culture.” (Image from Anil’s blog site.)

Blog Tips 2: Choosing and Adapting to Your Blog Platform

When you start blogging, you may feel like you have to stand on your head to get the software to do what you want.  (Photo from

When you start blogging, you may feel like you have to stand on your head to get the software to do what you want. (Photo from

This is the second of a four-part series on blogging. It’s the whiniest one, but I’ve decided that’s okay because I want to help you avoid some of the pitfalls I’ve experienced.  It tends to portray blogging as a pain (which it can be) without describing the joy it brings.  For that you’ll need to reference other blogs in the series:

  1. Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?
  2. Choosing and Adapting to your Blog Platform
  3. Finding your Blogging Niche
  4. Publicizing your Fulbright Blog

Choosing a good blogging platform is very important. I can’t really tell you which platform is best (I’m an n of one as we statistics geeks say).   Although I don’t have broad experience in selecting blogs, I have had all too much experience adapting myself to the blog template (Motion) and platform (WordPress) I selected back in August.

Other blogs, such as App Storm, can help you compare popular platforms.

Overall, I wish I had tested a few different blog platforms and templates before I committed to one.  I jumped into using WordPress, and I have to admit: it’s okay. Very good, in fact, for something you’re getting for free.

Fortunately, some of the WordPress features I don’t like have improved with recent updates.  I am starting to feel more satisfied with the product.

Hopefully the things I’ve found will ease your own transition into blogging:

Upgrades — Although I love the look of the (free) template I chose, it has a couple of goofy features that I’m unable to change.  And even though I paid to upgrade to the Pro package, I’ve found I can’t modify the goofy elements while retaining the basic template design.  (I’d have to change the template all together.)  Of all the upgrade features I purchased, only the specialized domain name seems worth the cost in retrospect.

Generating Text — I enjoy the ability to start drafts, save them, and return to them later.  I have many partially complete files waiting.  On days I’m too busy to write, I can pick one of those up, brush it off, and use it to keep my audience engaged.  As I mentioned in the first installment of this series, typical blog readers expect frequent updates and they loose interest when a blog looses its zip.  I try to keep my blog zippy by keeping the entries short and always including images.

Blogging platforms. (Image from App Storm.)

Blogging platforms. (Image from App Storm.)

Regarding text, I could really use reliable spell and grammar check features within the online blog window.  If there’s a way to enable these in WordPress, I hope someone will let me know how.  I also haven’t figured out how to compose the text in Word and then copy it over without loosing the paragraph formatting.

So I compose in the WordPress window and, before hitting “publish,” I try to remember to copy the text into Word, locate errors, and manually correct them in the WordPress window.  I frequently forget this step, though, and discover annoying errors after I’ve disseminated the article.  Then I have to go back in and change them in the on-line version.  Unfortunately, the people who received them via email end up seeing the mistakes.

And, YES, I could edit more thoroughly.  But I only have so much free time available for blogging.  To keep my real work flowing, I find I have to accept more typographical errors in my blog than I allow myself in other venues.  Most of my readers are forgiving on this point.

Graphic Layout — Other than the spelling/grammar check issue, today’s WordPress is more user-friendly and has better graphic tools than when I started blogging in August 2012.  But if you’re a stickler for graphic composition as I am, you may still find yourself disappointed with various layout features.  I have trouble placing photos where I want them, but I find I get better results by writing the text first and then inserting the photos into the text.  I make a practice of previewing each draft multiple times to see what layout decisions are getting lost in translation.

Lately I’ve taken to using WordPress’s (new) gallery feature to insert photos.  It’s much improved over past versions.  Organizing, editing, and inserting photos is much easier these days!

My software sometimes makes me bend over backwards to get the results I want.

I feel like this when I’m trying to achieve pleasing layouts.  (Thank God for yoga!)

Capturing Photos — Photos add a lot to a blog.  My readers say they enjoy them.  Although I have a very nice camera, it’s cumbersome to lug around and it takes me a lot of time to download the cards.  Moreover, pulling out a professional camera tends to alter the tone of events.  People continue on more naturally when I use my tiny, unassuming iPhone camera.  That’s important when I’m part of the event I’m recording, and not just an observer.

Overall, my iPhone does a fabulous job for its size!  It also lets me include myself in photographs without much fuss.

Using the iPhone I can email the images directly from the “camera” to my laptop.  I size them down (to about 700k each) for the blog before I hit “send.”  The photos are good enough that I frequently upload them to WordPress without further editing.

Video — The iPhone also captures video well.  Unfortunately, I find that I must shrink the video files down for the blog (though perhaps they’ve upgraded this feature, too?).  Shrinking requires me to use extra software, and I have to send them back to the States, where my husband has appropriate software.  I haven’t taken to editing my video clips, and the ones I’ve posted haven’t gotten many views.  (I’ve heard people claim that posts with photos get more views than those with just text, and that those with video get far more.  But that hasn’t been the case with my blog — probably because my videos aren’t polished.)  If I were to start over, I wouldn’t pay extra for the capacity to post videos (although I would still pay extra for the unique domain name).  I’d simply upload the videos to a different (free) site, like YouTube, and link my blog to that URL.

Blogging Devices — I haven’t been successful at blogging directly from my iPhone or iPad as I’d anticipated doing.  The features have been too limited for my liking (architects are so darned particular!).  I believe that the iPad editing features have improved recently and may be well worth re-investigating.

Last Words — All this being said, I do enjoy blogging, reflecting, recording, and connecting with others.  I think I may keep blogging even when my Fulbright is finished and I no longer see blogging as part of my job.

I’ve been back home for Christmas vacation (for 2.5 weeks now) and I have to say that it’s been fun catching up with friends and family and answering questions they have about stories I’ve posted on the blog.

It always surprises me when I meet people in Dublin who know what I’ve been posting.  My readership there isn’t too far behind my readership in the States.

Blog Tips 1: Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?

The Communications Director at the Fulbright Commission in Ireland asked me to provide some tips on blogging to share with other Fulbrighters.  I’ve created a series of four blog posts on the subject:

  1. Why Blog about your Fulbright Experiences?
  2. Choosing and Adapting to your Blog Platform
  3. Finding your Blogging Niche
  4. Publicizing your Fulbright Blog
Fulbright header

Header from a CIES webpage.

So then, why blog?

Blogging experts say the main challenge is to continually generate new content that’s of interest to others. With blogging, they say, you have to stay very active and load new content regularly or you’ll lose the attention of your audience.

We’ve all seen stale, dormant blogs.  That is a viable way to go… if you simply want to meet your grantor’s wish that you blog about your experiences without investing much of yourself in the process.

I’ll admit I wasn’t thrilled at the request to blog when it arrived.  I’ve never followed blogs and didn’t see the merits or the potential for growth.

As a Fulbright, you have content that’s of great interest to others.  Blogging provides a quick and fun way to share this content. It can provide an opportunity to learn more from your own experience and also learn about writing for a real live audience. You can track your statistics to see what interests people in different parts of the world, for instance.

So, who’s your audience? My own has grown over time. It includes people I’ve known a long time and the folks I’m meeting here each day.  It includes regular visitors from across the US and Europe, and occasional visits from people in Africa, Asia, and South America. Watching the statistics page on WordPress gives me some idea of who I’m reaching and how often they visit.

The notion of sharing in this way comes fairly naturally to me.

When I lived in Switzerland in 1997, I emailed many dozen friends and relatives each day.  They were interested to know about what I did, saw, and thought while living alone in a foreign land. They’d send questions and encouragement. That helped me feel support during a challenging time in my life.

Blogging is an even better platform for me to do what I was attempting then. It lets me share photos and ideas with many more people, and do this very quickly. Most of all, it lets me address the goals of the Fulbright program by promoting the work that I’m doing and the cultural exchange I’m experiencing.

My cousin lived in Paris for a year in 1993. She wishes she had Internet tools then. They make staying in touch AND growing your social network so much easier.

A few parting thoughts for this introductory blog:

  • Choose your blogging platform and template carefully. Some are easier to use than others.
  • Watch tutorials about your platform so you can learn the tools quickly.  You’ll need to develop your own set of approaches over time, so that blogging doesn’t consume too much of your time.
  • Craft a catchy title and consider purchasing an easy-to-recall domain name for yourself.
  • Determine your level of desired privacy so you can adapt your activities accordingly. You can keep your URL under wraps and share it with select friends, or you can go public and connect in to search engines like Google and Bing.
  • Learn to keep some content in reserve (saved in draft form) to pull out when you don’t have time to generate text but you want to get something fresh posted.

If you’re determined to do this well, then you might as well learn to enjoy blogging and to see it as a way to document, reflect, and share. Just think: in the end you’ll have a beautiful log of your experiences. It will help you remember and record all you’ve done. Best of all, it will help you stay connected with people back home as well as those you’ve just met.