Sharon Villines, Takoma Village (Washington DC)
I love blogs and blogging. Blogs are supposed to be personal and unique. A blog post can be anything from a meeting announcement to a thought piece on "why is it raining again and what to do about it." Being a writer helps but every group must have some writers. If you don’t, find some. I’m serious.
Blogs started as “web logs.” Serious, personal, and frequent posts about many topics. Like a diary. Mommy blogs are huge now. Cooking blogs. But so are blogs about typewriters and antique musical instruments.
1. Wordpress is my favorite software because it will do everything. Wordpress comes in two versions. One that Wordpress hosts as Wordpress.com, and the .org version that is that you host on your own account with an internet service provider. Both are free. The version you host on your own account has the most options but the .com version works fine and is a good starting place. It requires nothing more than learning time.
Wordpress can also become your community's “content management system” — a place to store everything from minutes to pictures where it is accessible to everyone and never runs out of space. Sign up forms and calendars.
There are other programs to do blogs but this is the one I know and believe is the best. Everyone uses it from the New York Times to the ten year old down the street.
2. With Wordpress, members can email entries. They don’t have to learn the software. You do need one and preferably two or three people who know the back end. There are forums that will answer any questions any question. "Wordpress Beginner" is an excellent, huge site for beginners — a library that covers every detail.
3. One of the features that prospective members have liked forever is a page of pictures and bios of current members. It allows them to see if they fit in. A blog goes even further. It allows people to see what their interests and concerns are. Canning tomatoes. Donating time to sweep the streets. Life at the street festival handing out flyers and asking questions. Funny meeting stories.
All these are great topics to show members' personalities and interests. The key is personal. Even though the blog is also useful for information updates, the entries that show personality and uniqueness are best.
4. Unless you have a real weird person in your group who wants to blog about cohousing as the perfect window peeping opportunity, don’t set rules. Let the blog develop. Entries can be emailed to a unique blog address and will be automatically posted. A blog post is no harder to write than an email. And you don’t have to go to a meeting to interest people.
5. The worst thing you can do, however, is leave long periods with no entries. A blog is like NPR, not a natural history museum. It has to be alive and fresh and active. If the blog is dead for 3 months, readers may assume the group is defunct or not doing well.
6. Blogs are perfect ways to get attention with little expense. Understanding “Search Engine Optimization” (SEO) puts you in Google, Bing, Duck Duck Go, etc. You use keywords to attract people interested in many topics, not just cohousing. An active blog can rise in the searches and attract people who were searching for
“bocce ball” and find Happy Valley. People may have ideas about “I want to live in cohousing” as an abstract good thing to do, but reading personal accounts of activities and getting to know people can attract them in a different way.
Yes, there are a million blogs out there, but you would be surprised how easy it is to get noticed. Particularly if you have a variety of subjects and don’t push the marketing lingo or sound too “professional.” A few entries in realtor-speak is helpful in conveying useful details but the key to a blog is personality.
7. I’ve mentioned Prairie Spruce Commons blog several times. (Truth in advertising, I re-designed their site from a failed version. But they already had a blog.) I love it. I feel I know members of the group and I’ve never even talked to anyone on the phone. I email with one person about website details. And not all that frequently. Maybe once in the last year.
Examples of entries:
Marc is doing a photo essay on the construction. The 5 June 2017 entry includes pictures of the land before excavation begins.
Members are searching their yards for spruce tree seedlings one of their members will place by the public cross country ski trails to provide wind protection and to help with holding snow on the trails.
An anonymous post on how the person is adjusting to the group — who they have come to know and their personal experience with the process. There are 3 parts which are as much autobiographical as involving the process of choosing colors and cabinets.
An invitation to readers to come to a coffee party at a local coffee bar. No selling, just coffee at the Naked Bean.
One on the process of picking apples and canning apple sauce.
All these things show what living in cohousing is like—and they haven’t even broken ground yet. I have not a clue who the people are but I feel like I know them and I stop by to read their posts. It’s not likely that I will be moving to Regina Saskatchewan anytime soon or even visiting, but I feel like I have a community there. If they stop blogging after they move in, I will miss them.
If you can make people feel like that, how can they not move in?
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC