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Your Guide to Using WordPress for Microblogging

Despite stiff competition, WordPress is rapidly gaining popularity as a microblogging platform. If you already know and love the world’s favorite CMS, there’s really no reason to use another service. There are many good microblogging themes available these days, which let you create a Tumblr or Posterous-style blog, but with all the power and flexibility of good ole’ WordPress.

Microblogging in a Nutshell

Microblogging is the perfect medium for sharing photos, videos, and short snippets of text. The emphasis is on small and frequent updates, rather than great big chunks of writing. It’s a stream-of-consciousness style of publishing that lets you share your thoughts as they occur, rather than saving them all up for that huge blog post that you never get around to writing.

Tweets and Facebook status updates could be considered forms of microblogging, but it was Tumblr that really got the concept off the ground. The service has become insanely popular, with over 46 million ‘tumblelogs’ created since 2007. Even President Obama is on Tumblr on these days.

President Obama's tumblog

People love Tumblr because it offers the path of least resistance to publishing content. The user interface is ultra-simple, and with a few clicks you can create an account and start microblogging your heart out.

Yet for all its sexy minimalism, Tumblr is a fairly restrictive service with limited scope for customization. Serious web publishers have begun looking for a Tumblr-style experience on a more advanced platform. WordPress to the rescue!

Why You Should Microblog on WordPress

WordPress is older than the concept of microblogging, and the software was originally designed for longer-form publishing. These days, of course, you can use WordPress for whatever you damn well please, including creating an awesome microblog. These are a few reasons to use WordPress instead of Tumblr:

  • Tumblr is known for downtime issues, which you have no control over. With WordPress you can choose any web host you like.
  • If Tumblr disappears from the face of the Earth one day, your content goes with it. A self-hosted WordPress blog gives you that extra peace of mind.
  • Using WordPress, you don’t have to worry about your content violating some weird Tumblr policy. When you own the blog, you make the rules.

WordPress Post Formats

Microblogging with WordPress has become far more practical since the introduction of Post Formats in version 3.1. Post formats are a theme feature that allow you to apply a defined style to different types of content, much like the posting options in Tumblr.

tumble post types

WordPress currently supports nine post formats:

  • aside (a note-style post, without a title)
  • gallery
  • link
  • image
  • quote
  • status
  • video
  • audio
  • chat (a transcript of an instant messenger chat session)

WordPress themes can support all of these post formats, or only some of them. The theme designer will activate the ones that he or she wants to include in the theme. But the overall list is fixed and it’s not possible to create your own custom formats at this stage. You can check out the Post Formats page on the WordPress Codex for more information, including help with adding post format support to your themes.

Choosing a Good Microblogging Theme for WordPress

There are no hard-and-fast rules to microblog design; you really just want a theme that gets out of the way and lets your content shine. These are some features to look out for:

  • Clean and minimalist layout; you don’t want a lot of distracting clutter on a microblog.
  • Support for WordPress post formats, preferably all nine of them.
  • Responsive design, because a lot of microblogging is done on mobile devices.

If you’re setting up a WordPress microblog for the first time, the popular Mi Theme is a good starting point. Micro is a powerful parent theme that you can customize to your heart’s content, but also looks sexy straight out-of-the-box.

mi theme


Migrating from Tumblr to WordPress

It’s a common scenario; you start your microblogging career on Tumblr, love it at first but eventually grow weary of its limitations, and finally decide to shift over to WordPress.

Naturally, you’ll want to bring all your content with you. You can do this using the WordPress Import function, which you’ll find at Tools > Export.

Import menu item

You’ll need to install the Tumblr importer plugin if you haven’t already. With the plugin activated, all you need to do is enter your Tumblr login details, and select the blogs that you wish to import.

Tumblr Importer

This process runs in the background, and can take a while, depending on how much Tumblr content you have.

And that’s it, you’re ready to rock! Welcome to the brave new world of WordPress microblogging.


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