I'm an American expat living in the Netherlands, working as a social media consultant and writer. Wh...
Social media for expats: Blogging10 October 2012, by Molly Quell
Short for web log, a blog is a website where users can write on a variety of topics and, often, include photos and videos. Blogging is an easy way to keep friends and family all around the world apprised of the latest developments in your life. But what to write about and where to do it are problems faced by new and seasoned bloggers alike.
What to write
Some bloggers focus on specific topics (food or children) while others discuss any event that may touch their lives. As an expat, you’ve got it easy when creating content for your blog. Stories about grocery shopping, public transport, and work life will likely all be of interest to both your loved ones who want to hear about your new experiences and your new friends who want to commiserate over the same frustrations.
You can also use your blog to simultaneously update many people on your milestones, such as your child’s first day at school, buying a home, or finding a job. Discussing your life can help people feel close to you even though they are thousands of miles away and also help you introduce yourself to the new people in your life.
If your blog is public, anyone with an internet connection can read what you’re writing. Most blogging software allows the option of creating entirely private blogs well as individually private posts.
If you are blogging for only close friends and family, a private blog will allow you extra control over where your posts are shared. However, if you are seeking to engage with others or market yourself, your blog will need to be public. Don’t forget that anything you post on the internet is there forever and, even when set to private, can easily find its way to a public forum.
Most of the sites I mention below automatically create an RSS feed for your blog. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and allows readers to subscribe and receive your new updates. Your RSS feed can also be used to populate other social media sites, such as your Facebook and Twitter accounts, allowing you to more easily reach a wider audience.
Where to write
LiveJournal is more of an online diary than a blog. Set up is simple; just register for an account and start writing. But the customisation of pages is very limited and the layout isn’t conducive to displaying photos or sharing video.
However, LiveJournal encourages the development of "communities," or groups of people who share a common interest. The site has several active groups of expats around the world, as well as communities focusing on everything from cooking to knitting. If you want to find a community with which to share your experiences, LiveJournal is the place for you.
Blogger is extremely simple to set up and use as well. The site is designed so that anyone, even those who have no website design experience, can create an attractive, albeit basic, site.
Blogger is owned by Google, so if you already use Gmail, you only need to activate your Blogger account. If you’re an avid photographer, note that photos on Blogger are connected with your Picasa account, which limits users to 1GB of photos.
Wordpress has two options, Wordpress.Com and Wordpress.Org. The .Com version is basic blogging software. Wordpress.Com is entirely free to use but limits accounts to 3GB of space. You can upgrade your size limits for a fee. .Com does allow for more customisation than Blogger, though it is more difficult to use.
The .Org version can be used as both blogging software and a content management system (CMS) for a variety of websites. While the .Org software is free, its usage requires users to purchase website hosting services and a domain name. .Org is more suited for those who have some website design experience (or want to learn) and have the time and money to devote to such a project.
If most of your friends and family are already on Facebook, you can use their Notes feature to update everyone without the need to direct anyone to another site. Facebook also has the added benefit of allowing users to upload unlimited photos and videos. However, most content on Facebook is difficult to access for anyone who doesn’t have a Facebook account.
› Other options
If you have some website design experience or you want to create a more complex site, you could try Moveable Type, TypePad, Drupal, or Joomla!. All offer more flexibility but require more knowledge to use. While Moveable Type, Drupal, and Joomla! are free, they all require you to purchase your own hosting services. TypePad charges users to download its software and you’re also required to purchase your own hosting.