It might seem an obvious thing to say about using the internet, but if you don’t connect, then you might as well not bother switching the damn thing on.
A friend of mine once made the very sensible observation that making a webpage, putting it online and expecting people to read it is a bit like writing a book, sticking it in the library — and then coming back a year later only to wonder why nobody had ever checked it out.
Having a website is not a promotional strategy. If you’re going to have a website, you need to have a promotional strategy.
Your promotional strategy should generate traffic — and, more importantly, repeat business. In order to get people to check out your website, it can’t just be tucked away on its own little shelf in the world-wide-library (to stretch the metaphor).
You need it to connect.
There are three main ways in which your website must connect:
- 1) Your website must connect to other websites
In order for your website to be found, it must connect to a network of other interlinked sites. The more external links you have coming into your site, the better (and I’ll talk about search engine optimisation in an upcoming ‘Thing’) — but likewise, it’s important to have outgoing links too.
Having outgoing links (ie: links to websites other than your own) provides users with a sense of where you fit in with the rest of the world. It makes you part of something — and, if you’re lucky, to some of your visitors you will become central to that little world: a place to start when dealing with that conceptual territory. Perhaps not a ‘home’, but at least a base camp.
If you do it right, then rather than simply become a regular destination — which is good in itself — you’ll be the bookmarked leaping-off point. And that’s easily better.
2) Your website must connect with itself
Clear and obvious navigation is incredibly important. If someone has taken the trouble to find you, make sure that locating what they want is nice and easy. Your site should be searchable, the links within your site should be entirely obvious, and the structure of your site should be entirely intuitive.
If, when you put new content on the page, you refer back to something you said in a previous post on your website, then you must link to that. Don’t expect that all of your website visitors are returning to your site. Assume they’ve never been there before, and everything you tell them is new information.
Having said that, make sure that you do reward repeat visits. If your website looks exactly the same and says exactly the same thing everytime I go back, why would I bother visiting?
3) Your website must connect with other media environments
This is, perhaps, the most important connection to make, because it brings people who aren’t already hunting for you to your website, where you can give them the opportunity to engage with you in an economic fashion.
By other media environments, I mean anywhere else communication is going on: print, radio, television, posters, flyers, live events. Everything should cross-promote everything else (on which, more in the next post), and your web presence should be an integral part of what you do.
When you think about it in this way, you start to approach a lot of things differently. You start to think about how your band bio might look if cut-and-paste by a lazy journalist into a piece in the local rag. You wonder what it might look like if someone pointed a camera at a computer and showed your website on the telly. You think about the US college radio DJ looking for something interesting to say about one of your acts.
The most important thing is to have a story to tell. While the internet may be a world of information, facts in themselves — even gig dates — aren’t that interesting. People connect with a story — a real one with characters and development, plot and human interest. If you can work conflict and resolution in there as well, you’re on to a good thing.
People connect with stories. Fact.
In order to make these kinds of connections, you need to be clear about your story, be able to tell it in a way that suits the web environment, and present it in a manner that can be adapted for every other medium. Not the simplest of instructions, I’ll admit — but it’s certainly something to aim for.
Finally, there’s a fourth means of connection that needs to be considered — and it’s so powerful, it gets its own ‘Thing’ further down the line. It’s letting the people who come to your website do the connecting for you. That’s the whole viral thing, and if you can make that work, then you’ve moved to the next level.