A blog is like an online journal where you publish individual posts, which are displayed in chronological order. Posts can include text, images, video and audio clips. Museums can use blogs in addition to their main website, or embedded within their website.
Most blogging platforms are free to use, but the act of blogging does take time, and you need to be clear about why you’re writing the blog, who you want to read it, and how you’ll share your blog posts once they are published. Finding an audience for your writing may involve using social media and email newsletters.
Blogging platforms offer basic analytics so you can see how many people are reading your posts, where they are coming from online, etc – and most can also be connected with more advanced programs like Google Analytics to give you more detailed information about your audiences and their behaviour.
A blog can be built in to your museum website to share behind-the-scenes updates, acting as documentation of the work that your team are doing. Because of the chronological nature of blogs, they can be used to tell evolving stories, for instance, about how you’re developing a new exhibition, or how your conservation team are recording and preserving collection objects.
Writing blog posts can help your staff and volunteers to develop their writing skills for a general interest or an expert audience of readers, providing more information for a wider online audience than you would be able to display on object labels for people who visit your physical venue.
Blogging can offer opportunities for your team to reflect on their professional practice, and show their opinions and personalities.
Most blogging platforms include social sharing buttons, and each blog post will have its own unique URL – making them easy to share. You can also use your blog posts to link to other content, such as events and exhibitions, on your website.
Blog posts that answer frequently asked questions which your audience might be asking online can help improve your SEO (search engine optimisation) – establishing your team as the authority on your organisation, and driving more traffic to your website.
WordPress – This popular content management system enables you to set up a free blog with wordpress.com in its domain name, but can also be used to design and manage your whole website by installing software on your server, without any need to learn coding. There are thousands of pre-designed templates to choose from, and a wide range of plugins to help customise what your site can do. Due to the millions of people using WordPress around the world, there are a lot of online support forums to help answer any questions.
Tumblr – Tumblr blogs are easy to submit content to from a mobile. Tumblr has an engaged, relatively young community of pseudonymous users, and like a social network, it’s easy to reblog posts from other users and add extra commentary. However, it’s not always easy to find your older content, and it’s most frequently used for personal sites rather than professional ones. Content such as gifs (moving images) and memes (viral in-jokes) are most popular.
Blogger – Google’s basic blogging platform, now less popular than it used to be, is still relatively easy to use, with a range of pre-designed templates that will give your blog a coordinated look and feel. Free blogs set up with this service have blogspot.com in their domain name, but you can also buy a custom domain name.
Medium – a simple, streamlined-looking site where you can publish your work, without needing to set up your own separate blog website. Posts include an estimate of how much time it will take to read them, and can be tagged to themes to make them easier for new readers to discover. You can join Medium for free using a Google or Facebook account.
Things to be aware of
Many blogs are started by one or two staff members, then run out of steam when those staff members leave, or that specific project funding ends – so when setting up a blog, think about your team’s capacity, the time commitment that will be required, and whether it’s worth doing the work to build an audience for your blog now if you may not be able to sustain it over time.
Blogs can make the work that museums do more accessible to a wider audience, sharing stories behind collection objects, showing what your team does day to day, and reflecting on your learning. You may want to establish what you intend to blog about, and how you will handle commenting on any controversial issues or provocative subject matter.
Blogging can be humorous and playful, showcasing personality and a range of voices beyond the official museum voice. The act of writing a longform blog post (over 1000 words) can offer a calmer opportunity for reflection, going deeper and analysing why your staff are doing what they’re doing.
National Museums Wales blog – many staff members and volunteers have been trained in blogging, so the blog presents a diverse range of voices from across these museum sites and all the projects they have going on.
Museum of English Rural Life blog post – Adam Koszary uses this post to round up and reflect on all the coverage his team received when a story about one of their objects went viral around the world.
Creativebloq – The 16 best free blogging platforms