As we explore our blogs and clean out the clutter in this ongoing series on WTF Blog Design Clutter, we’ve looked at the pros and cons of blog clutter with too many “friend” pictures and badges, calendar archives, and most recent comments and shout boxes. Remember that clutter is in the eye of the beholder – the visiting user – not necessarily the blogger. What we see when we visit and use our blogs is not necessarily what the visitor and return reader see or experience. We need to explore our blog’s design through their eyes to help them use and read our blogs.
The usability factor in web design is critical. We often add design elements (widgets and gadgets specifically) to our blog for fun or novelty. We’re flush with the excitement of the latest and hottest whizzbang goodie and we want to share the fun on our blogs. If your blog is getting cluttered with a lot of WordPress Plugins, Widgets, Gadgets, Scripts, and whizzbangs, maybe it’s time to analyze these design elements to find out which ones are most important to your blog and its users – and which one are just clutter.
Today, I want to explore the pros and cons of microblog clutter on your blogs. Are you microblogging?
What is Microblogging?
Microblogging is the use of “mini-blog” style programs and sites, often referred to as social networking or social blogging sites, like Twitter and Tumblr. They are called microblogs as you are usually restricted by a specific character or word count. Twitter limits the user to 140 character posts.
There have been a lot of debates over the past few months about whether or not Twitter is a chat or a microblog. While this is still hotly debated, the consensus is that Twitter and similar services are not chats but microblogs, though they continued to be abused as chats. There is even a “Twitter is not a chat” flickr image people are putting on their blogs and computer desktop wallpaper as a reminder to themselves and others on how they should really be using Twitter and other social networking microblogs.
In general, microblogs like Twitter and Tumblr are mini-blog posts to publish your thoughts or experiences in the moment, shrunk down to only a few characters of text, thus laser focused thoughts and commentaries.
Part of the problem of incorporating microblogs into your blogs is the technique used. Twitter has some WordPress Plugins that will easily incorporate Twitter posts into your WordPress blog, and FriendFeed creates feeds from Twitter which can be incorporated into your blog with feed widgets or Plugins, but Tumblr appears to have little option other than feeds through third parties or Flash widgets, a fairly unfriendly design element. Rose DesRocher has a guide on embedding Tumblr into Blogger and Sophistechate offers tips on integrating Tumblr’s feed into your WordPress blog.
Like the rest of the blog clutter we are exploring, if microblog posts benefit your blog, then highlight them prominently. If they don’t, and cause visitors to think WTF when they arrive on your blog, then maybe they should be gone.
Can Microblogs Benefit Your Blog?
Incorporating Twitter or a similar microblog babble Widget into your blog’s sidebar brings in conversations from outside of your blog, connecting your blog with different microblogging and social networking applications. It’s a great way of promoting yourself to others and combining all the different services available.
The words that sit there in the sidebar are important to creating a strong first impression. They should support and represent the content found within the blog and its purpose, just as recent comments and shout box chats should. Tweets that report on your trip to the grocery store, whines on the price of gas, the weather, the stunning realization that you just bought the same book you bought two weeks ago, and unkind comments about your mother-in-law are not helpful keywords or good first impressions if your blog is about real estate.
These words from the microblogs become content on your blog, thus they are scooped up by search engine web crawlers and stored in their databases, turning up in search results. The more closely related the terms, the better your ranking in searches. The more disconnected the words in your microblog content published on your blog, the more diffused your keyword concentration could be.
If they are your tweets, then you control the words that appear in your blog’s sidebar. If they are the tweets of those you follow, you have no control over the content. Is it important that the content within your microblogs represent the purpose and intention of your blog?
Some people don’t incorporate their microblogs into their blogs for those reasons. They serve as a way to communicate and interact with a vast community, and their microblog profiles reference their blogs, but they don’t want them connected.
Others want to combine everything they are doing on the web within their blog. It’s up to you to evaluate the benefits to your readers. So how do they benefit?
What do you gain from including your microblog content to your blog? Your readers see you are active on these social sites. It’s a chance to add content from more than one source.
Microblogs are a great way to drive traffic to your blog and offer your expertise in 140 characters to many people, but how do your blog readers and visitors benefit by seeing your microblog content?
If you are going to use such social networking tools on your blog, make every word count. Don’t let any one visiting look over and think WTF when they read that you are considering a trip to the store because you’ve run out of toliet paper or you need more cold medication to stop coughing and sneezing.