A new look for Mengel Musings

If you’re reading this post in a feed reader, stop! Click over to the site right now and check out my new design. I purchased the Thesis theme for WordPress about a month ago and have been mired in CSS and PHP mods for the last month trying to come up with a fresh look for the site. I’m pretty happy with the result and I hope you all like it.

In addition to wanting to upgrade to a theme that allowed for more flexibility and customization and better SEO, I also wanted to give the blog a more professional look as I start to take on more freelance work and consulting projects. I’ve rearranged my work schedule such that I have more time for these kinds of opportunities now, so you’ll notice the consulting tab above. If your organization could benefit from some brainstorming on marketing, PR or social media strategies, please contact me (there’s a tab for that, too).

I’ve also spelled-out a comment policy and moved the site’s archive from the sidebar to its own page. The SMB-TV link above is where I’ll continue to post updates about Social Media Breakfast Tech Valley (I’m close to nailing down the details of our second SMB).

So what do you think? Take a look around and let me know how else I can improve.

Thanks for coming along with me on this blogging adventure for the last six months. I appreciate all the comments, feedback, tweets, links and just general love. You guys are the best!

Why Lee Aase is Mayo Clinic’s Social Media MacGyver

It’s no secret that Lee Aase and the Mayo Clinic have embraced social media. Blogging, podcasting, YouTube… you name it and they’ve experimented with it, and in most cases been successful. I was fortunate enough to sit in on Lee’s session at the 2009 Ragan Corporate Communications Conference: “The $4 a week online newsroom and other MacGyver Tips.”

maclee

Lee (who is much taller in real life than expected) was kind enough to post his presentation to his blog. He shared simple secrets for quickly and effectively building a social media presence. While a lot of the tools he shared weren’t necessarily new, the reasons for using them in certain ways and the approach taken at the Mayo Clinic were what really got me thinking. Here are a few examples:

1. The Mayo Clinic has three blogs, and all are hosted at WordPress.com. They pay ~$10 a year to repoint the domain name to a mayoclinic.org site. My initial thought was, “Why aren’t they using WordPress.org and self-hosting the blog?” After all, it offers far more in the way of plugins, themes and features. (Click here for a quick explanation of the difference between these two platforms.) But Lee made a few great points. By hosting with WordPress.com, his team doesn’t have to go through the clinic’s corporate IT department. They don’t have to deal with firewalls, internal servers or just generally bogged down IT processes. Secondly, hosting the blogs on WordPress.com brings them more traffic. The Mayo Clinic blogs are often featured on the front/login page of WordPress.com, allowing many people to discover the blog that way. WordPress.com also has fairly simple analytics built in to the platform, so no one on their staff needs to go in-depth learning the ins and outs of Alexa or Google Analytics. And by repointing the domain name, they preserve the ability to eventually move to a different platform and not lose all of their search ranking.
Key Takeaway: Don’t always opt for the most advanced tool. Pick simple tools that reduce entry barriers allow you to get started.

2. With an existing “Medical Edge” radio show, the Mayo Clinic was already in the habit of content creation. It converted this show to a podcast and pushed it out through its blog. It’s also easier for busy doctors to record audio or video than it is to get them to write out a blog post. With a $150 Flip Video camera, Lee and his staff can interview doctors and researchers and post excerpts to the blog quickly and with minimal editing. There’s no need to invest in expensive A/V equipment and the training required for communications team members to use it.
Key Takeaway: Use existing content to ease your organization into social media. Find out the easiest way to get people to contribute (audio, video, writing) so that they’ll be more willing to participate.

3. “Don’t just pitch the media, be the media.” Lee agreed that this was somewhat overstated, but essentially the Mayo Clinic is creating its own content and that content is driving interest from traditional, mainstream media. The Mayo Clinic’s news blog has become a place for journalists to access information on Mayo Clinic research, publications, public health experts and patient stories. Lee’s even been successful with keeping certain posts embargoed and only accessible to journalists before releasing to the public. The content that the clinic creates and shares on its social media outposts has been picked up by national news outlets including CBS and the Wall Street Journal. Videos posted to The Mayo Clinic’s branded YouTube channel have been published online alongside news stories. Having so much rich content available in so many forms (blogs, audio, video) makes the media relations team’s job that much easier – in many cases the journalists are calling them to ask about content that’s been posted.
Key Takeaway: Create and share your organizations own original content. Make it interesting so that journalists will want to know more. Develop content in a variety of formats so that any outlet can use it.

Lee’s presentation really emphasized that social media can be pretty simple. Don’t complicate things. Pick tools that let you get started right away, use content that’s already at your disposal, and offer it up in a variety of formats that make it easier for reporters and customers to gobble up.

For more goodness from Lee, enroll in his Social Media University, Global, and become a Smuggle!

How I ported my blog to WordPress.org

I’m getting settled in here at my new home on the web, after moving from my free wordpress.com blog last weekend. The process to move my blog over to a self-hosted wordpress.org account was actually much easier than I anticipated, thanks in large part to my tech-obsessed husband, but I thought I would outline the basic steps for anyone else looking to move from a site like name.wordpress.com to a WordPress.org site. Here’s how I did it:

1. Purchased my domain name and hosting

There are two steps here: I had to register the domain and then pay for a hosting service where I can store my Web site’s files. I think it’s substantially easier to buy the domain and hosting from the same place, so do some research to find a good hosting service that you’re comfortable with and then register your domain name with them. I would recommend using yourname.com if it’s available. If you’re not yet ready to move to a self-hosted site, you should still consider registering your domain name just to reserve it. I used hostmonster.com for both domain name registration and hosting and have found it to be really user-friendly, inexpensive, and to have great customer service.

wordpresslogo2. Logged in to my hosting service and installed the WordPress.org software

With Hostmonster, this process was extremely easy as it has an “Install WordPress” icon on the control panel – it was literally the click of a button and WordPress was installed. WordPress gave me a temporary password to use (the username is “admin”). You can change this password to something easier to remember. Make sure that your hosting service’s easy-install option installs the most current version of WordPress.org.

3. Found a Wordpess theme design for the new blog and uploaded it.

There are thousands of themes available – many more so than with WordPress.com. The choice can be overwhelming! Make sure you choose a theme that’s widget-enabled (most are) so that you can install cool plugins on your blog. I found a theme I liked and downloaded it to my desktop. Then I went back to my hosting service, logged in, and uploaded the theme to WordPress.org. You can upload several themes if you want to test out different looks for your new blog.

4. Exported and imported content from my old blog to new blog

This part was much easier than I thought it would be. In the old blog at WordPress.com, there is a “Tools” menu on the left hand side with an “Export” link. I clicked on this link, made sure the “All Authors” option is selected and then clicked “Download Export File” and saved the file to my desktop. Then, I logged in to the admin console of my new WordPress.org site. In the new WordPress.org blog, I clicked the “Tools” menu on the left hand side and clicked “Import” and then found the file that I had saved on my desktop. I checked the box to import all media and then imported my old blog. (*If you’ve been blogging on WordPress.com for a while and your export file is larger than 2MB, you may need to contact your hosting service to see if they can increase your limit so that you can import your blog in one shot.)

5. Played with the look and feel of the new site

My new blog was then populated with all of the old blog’s content, including tags, comments, categories, and pictures. Easy peasy! I played around with the theme and cascading style sheet to get things looking how I wanted them. I changed some font colors, background colors, header pictures, and more. I experimented with plugins to add functionality to my blog. Ari Herzog has a list of 23 great WordPress plugins that he uses; there are thousands available.

(6. Repoint domain name server to the new site)

I didn’t have to do this, as this step only applies if you previously had your free WordPress.com blog at your own domain name (so if you were already using yourname.com but had it hosted at WordPress.com and were using the free WordPress.com software). This step involves repointing your domain name to the new site at your new host. You would need to go to your domain registrar (GoDaddy, Network Solutions, whatever you used) and repoint the site to your new host. Your hosting service usually has step-by-step instructions on how to do this that are specific to that host.

movingtruck7. Notified my friends that my site moved!

I asked people who had me listed on their blogrolls if they could kindly update their links to point to my new site. I placed a link at the top of the mengelmusings.wordpress.com site informing visitors that the site has moved and linked it to my new site. I inserted a sentence at the top of each blog post, since I didn’t have too many, that informed people my site had moved and gave a link to the same post at the new site. I published a final blog post at WordPress.com and let readers know where I moved. I also put a link to the new RSS feed for the new blog on the old site so people could find my feed and resubscribe.

A word on permalinks and redirects

If you have been blogging for a long time and have tons of posts, you may need to think about redirecting old permalinks so that they automatically trip to the new site if you change domain names. I didn’t bother with it because I only had about 15 posts on the old site. But if people stumble across a blog that has linked to one of your posts on the old site, you’ll want to make sure that they end up on your new site. Here is a document that talks about permalinks and automatic redirects. It is a big deal for people who have established blogs with lots of incoming links and thus, Google or Technorati ranking. Do some extra research on porting your blog if you’re part of this group. I figured that I was in the clear and didn’t really need to worry about permalinks with my whopping 12 readers and three incoming links.

This is meant as a very general outline of how I moved my site over. There are myriad resources on the Web that offer additional instructions and are specific for moving different platforms onto WordPress (LiveJournal, Blogger, TypePad, etc.). The main thing is not to be too fearful of the process, as it’s relatively simple. And if you are thinking of moving to a self-hosted site, I would do it sooner rather than later. The longer you blog and the greater the readership and links you build up, the harder it can be to make sure everything syncs up with the new domain and people find you! If I had it to do over again, I would have started with my own amymengel.com domain name from the getgo.

Here are a few more links to help you out:

Michael Martine offers an excellent analysis of  moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org
Problogger also explains moving from WordPress.com to WordPress.org
Digital Inspirations shows that it’s easy to go from a Blogger/Blogspot blog to WordPress
Foliovision offers a step-by-step for moving from Typepad to WordPress

Images from Flickr users koka_sexton and Custom_Cab