It seems that in today’s world, sharing things with people you know really is the name of the game. Over the past few months, apps and even whole operating systems have been changing to include those all important sharing features, and it seems like you can’t read an article nowadays without having to send it to someone you know.
Blogs are also a great way to share your thoughts with people out there on the Internet and previously unknown people have transformed themselves into big names on the Internet just via their writings and posts. Yet now there is a new approach to blogs, one that allows you to harness the power of social media on your own blog, or meeting fire with fire, and it comes by the name of OverBlog. It’s a European blog platform that has recently expanded into the US and boasts over 3 million active users with 34 million uniques, according to TechCrunch. But what makes it so interesting, and is it worth a shot? Let’s find out.
OverBlog works in a slightly different way to conventional blogs out there on the Net in that it is fed from all your shared content, no matter whether it is from Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare. All you have to do is connect your favourite social network to the service and OverBlog does the rest.
As it is a European blog platform, when you head over to their main page (i.e. overblog.com) the instructions will most likely pop up in French. You can change the language by scrolling right down to the bottom of the page and clicking on the minute flags in the right hand corner (you can choose between English, French, German, Spanish and Italian) or you can go to the English version of the page by default by heading over here (or en.over-blog.com)
Signing up takes but a second and is completely free – all you need to provide is your e-mail address and a blog domain (you can even sign up using Facebook – it is a social blog, remember!) and once you’ve verified your e-mail address, you are directed to the Admin page which, in my case, is a completely empty new blog.
Interestingly enough, the project is still in Beta 1.0 status across all languages, so some features may be missing (blog statistics, for example) until the final release comes out.
Connecting Your Social Networks
OverBlog integrates with most popular social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr (more are supported) and I found that connecting to them is an absolute breeze. You simply click on the icons and go through that social network’s authentication process to connect it to OverBlog. You can then choose how many posts from that particular social network you want to see on your blog and you can also choose if OverBlog should ignore certain posts (for example with Twitter, you can choose to ignore retweets and replies, or content with certain tags).
OverBlog will then take some time to poll all the social networks you’ve connected with it. However I connected both my Facebook and Twitter accounts and there were posts already on my blog within a couple of minutes – however the time obviously depends on how busy your Facebook and Twitter accounts are and how many posts you choose to download.
You can also filter the content on your blog via a series of checkboxes under the Sources label, so if you just want to see content on Instagram, then all you have to do is uncheck all the boxes apart from the one next to the Instagram label.
Writing and Publishing Content
Even the most dim-witted individual will realise that a blog requires content, so there’s a huge variety of content you can add to your OverBlog in a couple of different ways. The quickest is to click on the lightning bolt symbol in the toolbar (which looks extremely similar to our own AppStorm logo, might I hasten to add!) which allows you to scribble something down quickly and “flash” it to your blog (it could be a snippet of text, photo, short film or link with caption).
The most complete way to add content, however, is via the Publish button, which lets you add a post and choose its type. You can decide between a number of different sections, including a simple text post, a post with an image or embedded video, a quote, audio file or even a place on Google Maps, and you can combine sections together like building blocks.
You can either post instantly or schedule posts for later dates and of course you can choose exactly which social networks you want to share to and whether you want to allow comments on a particular post.
Customising and Administering Your Blog
Another fantastic feature about OverBlog is the customisability aspect of it. You can tweak the look of your blog with over 100 sleek, well-designed layouts and all are completely free. And it doesn’t just stop at the theme – OverBlog will let you define the layout of items on the page and the headings used for each one plus, if you trust yourself in either HTML or CSS, you can modify your blog even more.
Is it any good?
OverBlog leaves me in a bit of a pickle. The concept and execution of it are absolutely fantastic – the site is simply a joy to use and it is quick and easy to get your own blog up and running in minutes. But I feel that all this effort may have been put in for no apparent reason, though. If you watch the YouTube video explaining the concept of OverBlog on the splash page then it all looks very nice and fancy but I still ask myself the question, would people actually use it for this purpose?
As far as I know, there is really no other blog platform on the net that pushes the integration of social media as hard as OverBlog does, but I still find it a bit of a double-edged sword. If people really do use it like it states on its introductory video, then watch this space very closely, as OverBlog is really set to become the next big thing. But if it is used mainly as an alternative blogging platform to the big ones such as Tumblr and WordPress, then unfortunately I see it still hiding in the background, crying constantly for some much needed attention.
A European-based blogging platform with a strong focus on social media integration and customisation.9