Simplified Introduction to Social Media

This brief research sheds light on the aggressive development of blogging as well as online communities, listing ways to run successful ones, and delving deep into live experiences of running effective and influential blogs. It also studies reasons and methods that impact blogs, exploring their real potential as an effective media sphere that facilitates reaching out to as many viewers across the globe as possible, let alone the long-desired platform for communicating and expressing all sorts of views weblogs initiated and developed.

Introduction:

From Jorn Barger’ “What’s New?” page in 1997 which used to publicize for and link to the latest websites and Marc Andreessen’s “What’s New?” page at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications, Weblogs, currently viewed as the fastest spreading trend in World Wide Web, evolved as the most effective media platform providing perfect medium for sharing knowledge and real communication without restrictions.

Internet Blogs have indeed emerged as a mine of information, linking the world internet users while making any message intended to reach far destinations easily and incredibly fast spread.

The interest in sharing knowledge and links to useful websites that carry favorable content infected many more people who followed the suit and began competing, each posting more useful links on his homepage. And in order to differentiate between such pages (Blogs) from normal websites. Jorn Barger, a writer, a user interface consultant and web designer, started using the term ‘wee Blog’ on the homepage of the Blog he launched. Later on Wee Blog developed into the term presently used; ‘Blog’.

Bit by bit, Weblogs emerged as, in the words of Jeff Jarvis, a news Blogger and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism, “the easiest, cheapest, fastest publishing tool ever invented,” providing people with the perfect medium for freely expressing and sharing views and knowledge without having to conform to a particular code or style, like traditional journalism.

Starting 1999, the world began witnessing a great number of emerging companies specialized in producing softwares that allow internet users to launch and regularly update their Blog pages without exerting much time, effort, or being equipped with sophisticated technological know-how.

Soon after their inception, Blog spheres or Blog communities began moving smoothly in the direction of becoming a more effective and contributive medium using several features that grant both Bloggers and knowledge more exposure, and accessibility.

1. WEBLOGS USABILITY AND FEATURES:

What is a Blog?
A Blog is a personal or a community Webpage, containing material that discusses, promotes, or criticizes particular views, concepts, personalities, organizations, policies, or countries, taking the form of a diary and written in an unsophisticated informal style, with most recent posts appearing on the top of the front page, each filed in their relevant categories.

Blogs can be launched, whether by a single person or anonymously, just for the sake of socializing and communicating with a larger number of people. And they can be particularly dedicated to serving and promoting one field of knowledge like literature, religion, alternative medicine, banking, business, arts, cooking …. Etc. They can as well be specialized in discussing and commenting on current affairs. A crucial factor impacting the success or the failure of any active and effective Weblog is the frequency of its updates.

Weblogs contain whatever material related to the main theme prevailing, so sometimes a Blog can include, besides text content, video, audio files, or images and personal photos, as well as links to related Weblogs, or affiliated Bloggers.

Among the features that helped Blogs evolve as a truly effective and influential media sphere, delivering the right information to the right people, and connecting like-minded people to one another; are the following

2. FEATURES

2.1.1.     Blogrolls;
Blogrolls is basically including in the Blog’s homepage a list of links to fellow Bloggers’ pages or other blogs a Blogger favors or visits regularly. Such feature, besides demonstrating the site owner’s interest in or affiliation with particular Blogs, also establishes good connection with fellow Bloggers, which a Blogger greater exposure and boosts his popularity. It’s sort of telling visitors “these are the type of people I sit well with, while telling owners of those other Blogs “I like your sites very much”.

2.1.2.     Permalinks;
They’re permanent URLs linking to Weblog posts, even after the post has already passed from the Blog homepage to the Blog archives. Permalinks, a portmanteau word made from permanent link, comprises of a number of characters identifying the date, time, subject and the original author of a Web post. A Permalink is of crucial usefulness to the Blogger, for it acts as a magic tool that keeps the Web Post accessible, whether it’s renamed, changed, moved into a sub-category or even deleted. A Permalink makes such post remain as frequently used as when it was first published. A Permalink remains unchanged indefinitely.

2.1.3.     Comments;
It’s sort of telling the Blog visitors “I would love to hear your opinion and perspectives regarding the theme of my Blog, posts, and topics discussed. The comments as a feature are inseparable from Blogs. For they ensure interaction, genuine communication, let alone the fact that they dig into the heart of the argument of all Blog posts, adding more depth into them and touching on other related issues. Whether comments are in favor of or against a Blog post, they add value to the Blog, for the more there are comments, the more popular a Blog becomes. They can be viewed as the scale measuring the success, popularity, and the level of influence of each Blog.

2.1.4.     Trackbacks;
This is a tool enabling Web Bloggers receive notification when a fellow Blogger links to one of their posts. Trackbacks help Bloggers keep track of who is linking to their pages. Trackbacks enable a site owner to automatically send an alert to a fellow Blogger telling him that a new post has been added to his Blog. It’s sort of inviting more people to visit one’s Blog to read new posts, thus driving more traffic to the Blog.

2.1.5.     RSS Feed (Really Simple Syndication);
RSS is a Web feed format used to reproduce updated headlines, summary and sometimes full content of Blog posts, news stories or articles covering a particular field and pulled from outside sites. It’s a way of notifying the user of up-to-date news and articles of his interest. It also alerts him when any post is added to any of his favorite Blogs. Such Content is syndicated in an automated manner, enabling users keep up with web sites and favorite blogs.

2.2.         WEB 2.0 Features
Web 2.0 features consist of a number of web tools and methods forming a new trend currently used as part of World Wide Web technology, ensuring that more creativity, knowledge sharing, and genuine communication among internet users is enact.

Such trend is best manifested in Blogspheres where users engage in real information collaboration and interaction, creating what’s now termed online communities. Web 2.0 features are further exemplified in other social-networking sites like wikis and folksonomies; such as Flickr and del.icio.us, two popular sites displaying user generated content.

So Web 2.0 features are not some new technological changes to the World Wide Web original tools but, as explained by Tim O’Reilly, the founder of O’Reilly Media (formerly O’Reilly & Associates) and the inventor of the term Web 2.0., they’re the “business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.”

Tim O’Reilly’s (The secret sauce of every web 2.0 company)
– Watch the Video Here

3.          TIME-TESTED TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL BLOGS

How can you make your Blog grow incredibly successful, famous, and influential, as well as profitable?

Blogs, the fastest spreading trend among internet users, can be hugely effective, in terms of enlightening people and providing them with required information in various fields of knowledge.

A common goal among all internet Bloggers is getting a particular Weblog visited more often and well-recognized to the niche market it’s promoting, like Islamic Banking, Organic Food, Modern Arts, Alternative Medicine…etc

3.1.1.     Any individual who seeks to launch and run a successful bog should first identify the niche market he’s targeting and have his Blog name consisting of keywords related to the very same market.

3.1.2.     Keep it frequently updated.

3.1.3.     Invite a popular speaker or iconic personality if possible to run a discussion and engage in real exchange of knowledge.

3.1.4.     Enabling comments, yet having a tactful but flexible moderation in a way that grants readers real freedom of expression, which traditional journalism generally lacks, while making sure the site is clean of any extremist or offending content.

Knowledge sharing and genuine interactivity is one vital factor distinguishing Weblogs from traditional media and Journalism, where readers seek to express their views freely without having their posts censored.
So engaging readers in constant discussions related to a particular topic or theme on one’s Blog is a factor inseparable from other Blog features.

3.1.5.     Regularly running opinion polls.

3.1.6.     Sending frequent newsletters.

3.1.7.     Credibility;
Always telling the truth and refraining from publishing rumors and news pulled from tabloid-like sources serves Blogs’ popularity and attracts more traffic and visitors, thus ensuring more interactivity.

3.1.8.     Mastering the Blogsphere usability techniques so as to make the best out of it and manage the Blog efficiently in a way that makes it eligible to win readers’ trust.

3.1.9.      Marketing your Blog
Using a unique, attractive, yet user friendly Blog design different from other old and traditional looks. Weblog softwares or Blogwares, are softwares particularly designed to provide Bloggers with a specialized form of Content Management Systems that facilitate creating and maintaining Weblogs, while giving room for the Blogger to set his preferred look and design.

3.1.10.  Search Engine Optimization
Using SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, on an individual’s Blog, helps promoting the site and attracting more visitors as well as scoring better ranking with search engines such as Google, which is something all Bloggers aspire for.

3.1.11.   Interconnectivity
Reaching out to other Blogs in the same market or field, exchanging knowledge and links with them will help giving your Blog more exposure and thus attract more traffic to it. So, the more interactive one’s Blog becomes, the more exposure it will gain, the more popular it will grow, and thus the higher ranking it will score.

Exchanging links and posts with top sites and Blogs in the same market would be an optimum.

3.1.12.   Pinging your Blog as frequently as possible to give it more exposure. Pinging your Blog will ensure, each time to add a post, an alert to Blog search engines “ping servers”, is being sent, informing them that you have made a new Blog entry, which will eventually increase traffic on your Blog.

Blog directories are constantly checking for recently published Blog posts, and add them to a list of blogs having new content.
Among many pinging services that provide multiple ping servers is WeBlogs which is absolutely free, there’s also BlogFlux and Technorati.

– Many websites provide the Ping service: King Ping, Ping-o-Matic, and Pingoat are a few examples.

3.1.13.  Having different title tag in the HTML code on each page renders perfect results and greatly contributes to the success and the popularity o your Blog . If you gave the homepage of your Blog the title of “A” you must not give the same title to other pages, for it might mistakenly send alert to Google that you are spamming that keyword, which might get them report your Blog URL for abuse.

3.1.14.  Having a variety of niche keywords in the Blog will attract more traffic to your Blog. For instance, not all Blogs promoting Islamic Finance have the word Rizk, and not all Blogs promoting Organic food have the keyword “Halal”… and so on and so forth.

3.3.15.1. Protecting your Blog: It can be done through;
3.3.15.1.1. Comments Moderation
3.3.15.1.2. Telling the truth and refraining from lies or rumors- only fact-checked material should be used.
3.3.15.1.3. Avoid publishing content extracted from other sites without outsourcing it.
3.3.15.1.4. Refrain from posting or allowing posts that promote extremist views or directly offend and insult governments, religions or ethnicities. This will save you facing possible unnecessary fallout with governments, religious institutions, or any powerful authorities that can get your Blog shut down.
3.3.15.1.5. Protection against Content theft by setting up your own Creative Commons license.

– How to identify the plagiarist?
One way of finding out who is reproducing the content displayed on your Blog is by running a search for random excerpts from your Blog content in Google and see if your search will lead to any typical results. Most plagiarists don’t have the time or talent to edit posts they grab from other sites. This might be some how primitive way to check if your content is being stolen, but it works in most cases. Other more specialized tools such as Sentinel and Copyscape yield better results, but they require premium paid accounts.

In case you find out that your content is being copied on other blogs or sites, you should take immediate measures to stop that.You should, as suggests Lost Art of Blogging:

  • Approach the plagiarist, warning him of possible consequences if he didn’t take off the copied content.
  • In case he rejects your warning, send a DMCA notice (Digital Millennium Copyright Act, an American copyright law which implements two 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization, WIPO, treaties) to the domain registrar
  • If no measure is taken to stop or punish the plagiarist, then send abuse and duplicate content notices to search engines
  • Work on defaming the plagiarist.
  • Contact the site or Blog advertisers and report the abuse taking place.
  • Proceed with legal action if none of the above worked.

3.3.15.1.6. Protecting your Blog against being shut down as a result of posting or allowing posts that contain inflammatory remarks, offending implications, or direct insults against religions, ethnicities, or governments;

Examples of troubles faced by bloggers:
3.3.15.1.6.1. Jeff Ooi was threatened by the Malaysian authorities because of a comment made by one of the commentators on his Blog. Jeff refused to just delete the troublesome comments off his Blog, deciding instead to moderate them, so as to not scare away readers. He immediately set up a new Chinese-language Blog called “The Ferryman” aimed at building a bridge between Malaysian and Chinese Bloggers.

3.3.15.1.6.2. Traffic-Power.com, an Internet company, previously sued Aaron Wall, who runs a Blog on search engine optimization, over charges related to defamation and publication of trade secrets that were exchanged among users who post comments on his site.

3.3.15.1.6.3. Also Erik Ringmar, a senior lecturer, was reprimanded by Sir Howard Davies, director of London School of Economics, for making defaming remarks while speaking to six students who were considering applying to the LSE, telling them that the experience of the school students was no better than they would get at the not very popular London Metropolitan University

– But like said: “Where there’s a Will, there’s a way…”
Blogs have indeed grown and are increasing becoming popular and influential, in a way tempting advertisers to approach them seeking more exposure….

The number of Weblogs is growing incredibly larger, let alone the fact that the content is becoming as important as that displayed on reputable online media outlets. Renowned publications like the Financial Times, CNN, Reuters and the BBC now provide Blog platforms which attract more viewers everyday, contributing to their exponential growth, and demonstrating one simple fact that online networking and Blog Spheres have become a vital part of our lives.

4.          BLOGS’ INFLUENCES

Bloggers are becoming increasingly powerful like never before, with many of them seeking to promote particular message or serve a particular mission which they consider a duty- using Blogs, the modern publishing tools, as their only means of getting their goals fulfilled and voices heard. Many blogging platforms are sprouting everyday, such as WordPress, Bloggers, Blogspot, and many more…

Bloggers are know considered an effective media voice that shouldn’t be undermined, and Weblogs have developed into a networked mass of linked internet users and sources of knowledge.

For example when the World Trade Centre in New York came under a terror attack in 2001, bloggers massed their sites discussing and exchanging opinions, conspiracy theories and information related to the nightmarish incident.

Also the illegal war on Iraq and the irreversible damage caused by the American invading troops triggered a new wave of blogging that added to both the number and quality of Weblogs worldwide.

Blogging is about sharing knowledge, experiences and links, making valuable information accessible to a wider range of people, something traditional media greatly lacks.

This makes Blogs the most influential media platforms as they are the fastest and the most effective in responding to a particular incident. They perfectly act as an online public store of information, something that’s best manifested in the high level media attention they have secured since their early years.

5.          MOTIVATIONS: WHY DO PEOPLE BLOG?

5.1.         For cultural interaction

5.2.         For exchanging knowledge;
Communicating with others that gives way for genuine collaboration between bloggers, which eventually develops into online networking wherein users and groups engage in real chances for interaction in the same sphere of interest.

5.3.         Blogging links together like-minded people, providing them with the long desired communication platforms and channels.

5.4.         Blogging provides people with unlimited access to knowledge and all needed tools to share and manage it.

5.5.         Blogs are also a great tool to store and manage useful links and organize information, sometimes they’re referred to as “notepads”.

5.6.         Blogs can be viewed as a trusted indicator of the level and extent of change and development of nations’ thinking trends, and thus they act as a bridge between cultures.

5.7.         Blogging boosts users’ ego, as they feel achieved by contributing to the worldwide knowledge society, one of the great benefits achieved by the inception of Web 2.0 features: For example the content of Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, is created and edited by the users.

5.8.         Blogs impact and influence a wide range of audience which makes them pursued by big corporations and advertisers who seek greater exposure.

5.9.         Blogs provide junior and even Non-Journalists with a golden opportunity to publish their writings and get read by a huge number of people.

5.10.      Blogging encourages honest viewpoints.
Weblogs grant users genuine freedom of expression, away from traditional media censorship and restrictions.

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