In 2007, when Sarah Francomano’s son, Jack, was 2 months old, the Foxboro, Mass., mom realized she needed an easy way to update family and friends—many of whom lived hours away—on her son’s growth.
Francomano, 37, didn’t want to send photos via e-mail, because she thought that could be bothersome to some recipients. Her solution: Create a blog that relatives and friends could visit whenever they want.
A blog—the term is short for “Web log”—is an online personal journal. It can be based on whatever interests you—family, career, hobbies, pets or politics, for example.
Among Internet users, 15 percent of young adults, 11 percent of adults over 30, and 14 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have created their own blogs, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
“For the blogger, I think a huge part of the appeal comes from fostering a connection with his or her readers, interacting with them and learning from them,” says Paul Kim, vice president of user growth for WordPress.com, which hosts more than 15 million blogs.
Francomano’s family members love her blog. “If I haven’t updated the blog in awhile, they get concerned and want to know what’s going on,” she says.
Creating a blog is easy. All you need is an Internet connection and an e-mail address. “You can sign up for a free blog in seconds, and have your first blog post live a couple of minutes later,” Kim says.
In addition to WordPress, other popular blog hosting websites include Blogger.com, TypePad.com, MyFamily.com and LiveJournal.com. Photo sharing websites Shutterfly.com and Flickr.com also offer blog services.
The first step is to name your blog. The name will be part of the blog’s Internet address, so be sure to use a simple name to describe it.
The blog design can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Blog sites provide templates that allow you easily to select background colors, type styles and layouts. You also can add “widgets”—tools that can make your blog more fun or informative, such as calendars, polls or local weather reports. Francomano uses a traffic counter widget to track the number of visitors to her blog.
The information that you post can be anything from a single photo to a long block of text or home videos. “Sometimes I just let the pictures tell the story,” Francomano says.
You can choose whether to make your blog public—available for viewing by anyone with Internet access—or password-protected, which allows you to choose who can view your blog.
“Families should always be aware whether their photos and information are being shared amongst a select group of friends and family or whether those images are being openly shared across the Web,” says Jeffrey Housenbold, president and CEO of Shutterfly.
You can make your blog interactive by allowing viewers to add comments, and you can assign specific readers author capabilities, so they can add messages or other content.
Jayne Jaudon Ferrer, 53, a writer in Greensville, S.C., started a blog for her extended family 10 years ago on MyFamily.com. She says many family members contribute, sharing recipes, movie reviews and prayer requests.
“We also post memories of relatives long gone, big family gatherings that happened back when most of the original family members—our grandmother and her eight children—were still alive, and family stories that have been passed down,” she says.
It’s rare for more than a day or two to pass without someone posting news, a comment or a photo. “It’s a wonderful and easy way to stay in touch with loved ones that we may not get to see in person for years at a time,” Ferrer says.
The website has inspired the family to hold regular reunions. “The blog has been directly responsible for bringing third- and fourth-generation cousins into the fold, and many of them now actively contribute to the blog and attend the reunions,” she says. “With that first generation all but gone, widening our family circle has become more important than ever if we are to preserve the legacies of who we came from.”