WordPress as a Media Powerhouse

WordPress is a powerful blogging platform, this we know.  And blogging started as a means to distribute information quickly and easily.  Some might argue blogging changed the internet, and turned it into something useful to the non-nerd.  As both WordPress and the internet have evolved, they have become so much more than tools to disseminate text.  WordPress has evolved along with the web as a means of managing and distributing media.  If done right, WordPress can be as powerful as any custom-made or commercial solution for media management.  The following are tools and methods for building a media powerhouse on top of the WordPress framework.

1. Use the Core

WordPress has come with a pretty powerful media management tool built in since version 2.5 (and has evolved with each subsequent version, significantly so in version 3.0).  The media library lets you upload media, manage some of the descriptors and parameters, and attach it to content.  This is particularly useful for themes built around media display.

wordpress media library

2. Enhance the Core with a Plugin

The freely available Media Library Assistant Plugin artfully expands the functions of the core media library.  It adds some impressive features such as bulk editing, a powerful gallery, taxonomy support and other reporting.  This might be my next go-to plugin when building a media-driven WordPress site.  Some of these features could certainly be considered for a future version of the core, but in order to keep things slim, why not leave it to the plugin developers to keep it lively?

media library assistant

 3. Enhance with a Theme

WordPress themes have come so far over the years.  Head over to your favorite premium theme provider, we like Themeforest.  And pick out a premium quality theme that is built to manage and display media.  Some themes are built for static media like images, others for video and even audio.  Some select themes are good for displaying all types of media but choose them carefully to ensure they support your preferred media types.  Also be sure users with all different types of technology can enjoy your site.  (ie: tablets running safari vs. tablets running Chrome vs. laptops running Firefox)

wordpress media theme

4.  Integrate with media services

Most internet users manage, browse and share media from social networking sites like Facebook, and media sharing sites like Flickr.  WordPress has the capability to fully integrate with these services using third party plugins.  This is a two way street, if your site is focused on distributing media, you can use a plugin to share your media with sites like Flickr.  If your site relies on media from other sources, make sure it is easy to pull it in from outside.  The Media Manager Plus plugin lets you do just that, pull media in easily from sites like Flicker, 500px and Instagram.

media manager

5. Embed Media like a Pro

WordPress is very good at inserting static media.  Embedding videos and audio or streaming media can take more effort and not work consistently.  This pro plugin, called Cincopa, is built to make that process easier.  The basic version is free but limited, specifically around storage capacity and file size.  Cincopa lets you upload, edit (resize), encode, distribute, track and even skin video files via WordPress.  The company claims their easy to use wizard is intuitive and makes the process of managing video quick and easy.  They include support for the major media players which is nice to know.  They also let you display media in galleries easily, which WordPress does not do well (for video files) and does very well (for image files).  Cincopa comes prepackaged with 40 skins which should work for most, but not all.

cincopa

Did I miss some key media management feature?  Please share it in the comments below.  We read every one!

Creative Uses for WordPress

WordPress is most known as the world’s most influential and popular blogging framework.  However, it can be used in some really creative ways.  Ways that stretch conventional uses and, at times, push the WordPress core to it’s limits.  So why use WordPress to create something really creative?  It’s a blogging engine, not a blank slate for your wildest dreams.  I’ve found, it actually IS a blank slate.  Although it comes pre-packaged with lots of features as a powerful blogging tool, it is quite simple and versatile out of the box.

I have started multiple web projects that had very little need for a blogging feature, but I’ve chosen to build the application on WordPress because it makes creating and managing dynamic content very easy.  The following are examples of some creative and innovative uses for WordPress.  Have an example I missed?  Leave a comment below.

WordPress as a Wiki

Wikis were made famous by sites like Wikipedia, the community-managed encyclopedia.  They are essentially user-moderated content pages that can be used for any collaborative project.

Popular URL Aggregator

Some of the famous examples include PopURL and AllTop.  These are just RSS feeds essentially, aggregated and moderated for quality content.

alltop

WordPress as an Image Sharing site

A popular example of this includes ffffound, an open image sharing site that no longer accepts new registrations.

WordPress as a Contact Manager

There are lots of reasons to manage contacts with a WordPress site.  It can also act as a CRM.  I once built a contact manager for an agency with about 100 employees that wanted help keeping track of them.

contact manager

As a membership Directory

Similar to a contact manager, a membership directory offers some features designed to interact with members.  Such as signing up and managing one’s own profile.  This opens up a world of pay-for-membership opportunities.

WordPress as a Twitter clone

I don’t quite see the utility of creating a twitter clone.  But I suppose this could be useful for busy tech support departments or other situations in which contacts must be made quickly and publicly.

twitter clone

WordPress as a Forum

One of the most ubiquitous features of a web site is a forum.  A forum provides an organized way to discuss or ask questions while allowing others to see the content.  Forums were made popular with support services because they reduced call/email volume by allowing people to see the solution to their problems immediately.

As a News Aggregator

Be careful with news aggregators.  Some sites just compile content from other people’s sites and it makes for lame, useless content.  When done well, and tastefully, people can compile interesting news from their niche of interest.

news

WordPress as an Invoicing System

Run a freelancing business from your WordPress site?  Why not integrate your billing as well?  There are plugins that allow you to bill customers, accept payment and track outstanding invoices easily within WordPress.

WordPress as a Job Board

WordPress can do one thing exceptionally well: build community.  With that community you can disseminate information, gather information, or even publish job listings.  This works best if your website already has authority related to an issue.

wpjobboard

As a social bookmarking service

WordPress can be used like Digg, Reddit, or other similar social bookmarking services through which people can share interesting content and vote it up or down.  Again, hard to break into this service unless your site already has authority and ranking.

WordPress as an Auction Site

Yea, it can do that.  Some plugins let you turn WordPress into an eBay clone, or at least the major features.  Find your niche and become the vertical market auction site of your choice.

wpauctions

What did I miss?  I’d like to hear about other wild and crazy ways people are using WordPress to break the mold.

 

 

WordPress as a Public Relations Tool

Almost every business has (or should have) a public relationships strategy.  Closely integrated with marketing, a public relations strategy addresses how the public perceives the company.  This scales with the business market.  For example, a local pizza shop needs to address how it interacts with the local community while a national corporation needs to be concerned with local communities where it operates as well as the overall public opinion in the marketplace.

What some companies still struggle with, and many have learned the hard way, is that social media and new media are an vital to a good public relations strategy.  For example, I do not go to a restaurant that doesn’t have a website.  Period.  This is not because I want to punish the for being stubborn, but because I only eat out occasionally, and I’m not about to spend my limited restaurant budget on a place who’s menu I have not vetted as appealing.

Any good public relations strategy includes multiple platforms for user interaction.  Gone are the days when a business disseminated information on their product and brand while the consumer blindly accepted it.  Here are the days of the 24-hour news cycle, interactive communications strategy, and here-today-gone-tomorrow businesses that failed to recognize the changing tide.

These examples are perhaps the most poignant example of a business’s public relations strategy dying at the hands of a fool that was given too much authority over the brand through their social media accounts.

Part of a good communications strategy is a steady, professional, interactive blog.  Blogs are no longer plain corporate web-drones, spewing press releases.  They can now be fun, engaging and huge marketing tools.  Some well-executed corporate blogs include:

Zappos

Zappos, the web’s most popular shoe store, blasts mostly deals and promotions but also funny quips and behind the scenes looks.

zappos

Starbucks

Starbucks seems to use their blog platform for social and community messages.  But let’s be real, their widely publicized “responsibility” philosophy is as much a marketing strategy as it is a corporate philanthropy move.

starbucks

Whole Foods

Whole Foods uses their blog to help consumers use (and buy more of) their products.  A nice double-feature.

wholefoods

The most successful corporate WordPress blogs have the look and feel of a personal weblog, similar to the rants and raves that some CEO’s post.  At the end of the day, the web visitor wants to feel like they got something out of their visit, similar to a visit to a bricks and mortar store.

Good WordPress PR strategy

WordPress can be a powerful tool, used for good or evil.  A solid PR strategy can catapult a business into success, or topple it from the top.  The following tips make up a solid, but not comprehensive, PR strategy when using WordPress.

  1. Respond to consumers.  Comments are worthless unless people respond.  Nothing irks me more than writing to a business and receiving no response.
  2. Be cordial, kind and humble.  In this world, the customer IS always right.  This counts extra in the web world.  I tell my parents that email and social media communications need extra courtesy, more than normal discourse.  What could be a perfectly innocent comment in real life could easily be perceived as angry or rude online.
  3. Be honest.  Applebee‘s took major social media heat after a real life problem moved into the virtual realm.  And the ding-dong running their social media strategy lied, copied/pasted and backtracked in an attempt to get control of the disaster.
  4. Offer value.  As I previously mentioned, corporate blogs that simply distribute boring news and announcements and press releases are worthless.  Blogs should be dynamic platforms for engaging with consumers.  And they should demonstrate a businesses nimble nature, writing about topical issues that relate to their brand.

What is YOUR PR strategy with WordPress?