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From a PR perspective, you are better off scattering yourself right across the internet, than staying put in one place. Memberships, profiles, comments, and networks are powerful online marketing strategies.

Who you are online — your internet ‘identity’ — needs to be distributed far and wide. There are many ways to make yourself visible — just as you might make yourself known in the ‘real world’ by turning up at events and networking meetings.

What follows are five of the best ways to distribute yourself online, so that you can be in many places at once, inviting people back to your place for a spot of music business.

Ze Frank once joked that the reason that MySpace pages are so ugly is that they’re designed to send people away. And, of course, he was right. Membership sites like MySpace provide an opportunity to direct traffic to your own professional website.

The return on investment seems to be diminishing in that respect (for a number of reasons, that I’ll go into at a later date) but it serves to demonstrate the principle: having a website is important — but it’s unlikely that people will just stumble across it, unless you’re finding those people in other places.

In marketing there’s a phrase that goes along the lines of ‘You’ve just got to get yourself out there’. That’s so much easier on the internet — where you can be pretty much everywhere at once. Try these strategies for a start:

    1. Email signature
    You probably send more e-mail than you make phonecalls, write letters and have meetings with people combined. If you have a website, and you want people to visit it, then at the end of your email is the ideal place to put the link. Email tends to go beyond your immediate network of friends, and expand to a wider, but related, community. Putting the address at the bottom of your mail won’t guarantee they’ll click the link – but not putting it there guarantees they won’t.

    Better still, write a short line that says what they’ll find when they go there:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for all your help. Much appreciated.

    Cheers,

    Andrew Dubber
    _______________________
    Advice for independents at New Music Strategies:
    http://newmusicstrategies.com

    Whatever email software or webmail platform you use, there’ll be a way of putting together an email signature file that will be automatically attached to the bottom of every email you send. Keep it short and sweet, give them a reason to click it — and get yourself in the desktop of everyone you ever write to.

    IMPORTANT: Don’t spam. Sending unsolicited marketing emails is not only rude and offputting, it’s also illegal. Put your links in the signature of legitimate emails that people will actually want or expect to receive.

    2. Blog comments
    Another way to get your identity out there is to leave comments in relevant blogs. Feel free to try it here. Most blog sites give you the opportunity to include your URL, and whatever you write in as your name will act as a link back to your website. Other people who read the blog, and then are interested in what you have to say in response to it will often click on the link to go back to your site and find out more about you.

    Again — the spam rule applies. Write something appropriate, interesting and relevant. People won’t click on the link of someone who just posts to get the link. Besides, most of us use comment spam filtering systems like Akismet.

    A related strategy is to link to other people’s blogs on your own site. Most blogs publish ‘Trackbacks’ – which are snippet quotes and links to other sites that have linked to their own. With WordPress (the blogging software I use), it happens automatically. If you link to this page from your blog, this page will automatically have a link back to your blog on it.

    3. Forum activity
    Another excellent strategy for providing links back to your own site is the activity of posting in relevant forums (actually, the correct plural is ‘fora’ — but I always feel self-conscious with that word, and want to follow it with ‘and flauna’).

    In a forum, you can build a reputation, get people genuinely interested in your contribution to whatever the conversation happens to be, and then want to look at your profile and head back to the page that you put in there to find out more about you and your interesting personality.

    Tolerance of time-wasters and spammers is especially low in this environment, and punishments for transgression are swift and harsh. Spend your time finding the right conversation, and contribute to it as you would if the people were in the room with you. Nobody likes a troll.

    4. Social networking
    This is where the idea of distributed online identity really comes into play. There are so many web 2.0 sites online, and many of them require that you construct and maintain an ‘identity’ or ‘profile’. You have a profile on MySpace already, no doubt, and it links back to your site. You can also have a profile on Mog, Last.FM, Flickr, Delicious, 43 Things, Facebook and more.

    There’s a list of social networking sites at Wikipedia. Go and hand pick a few, set yourself up an account and start using them.

    Do bear in mind that there’s a time commitment associated with the success of each of these. You can’t just open a MySpace page and expect people to read it any more than you can expect to launch a website and expect people to just find it. They are social networking sites. Be sociable. Network.

    Each of these sites has its own rules, culture and expectations. Get to know them, and the people there. Then there’ll be a reason to belong to those sites — and the effort will have been worthwhile.

    Above all, remember that becoming an ‘identity’ in each of these arenas strengthens your overall online presence. What do you want to project about who you are as an individual, a company, an artist, a group or an organisation?

    5. Multiple sites
    This one’s a bit of an ‘advanced user’ tip — and it can have its problems — but it’s definitely worth mentioning. Having more than one related website can really help your cause. This is particularly true of independent music companies that do more than one core activity.

    Let’s say you’re a promoter, a distributor, a record label, and you manage a handful of bands. Each of those should have its own website, and those are the sites that you should direct people towards in regard to those specific things.

    If your company is (let’s say) Plank Music, you should have plankrecords.com, plankdistribution.com, plankpromotions.com — and they should link back to each of the others, and have a simple home page (plankmusic.com) that directs outwards to each of the different branches.

    Those links between each of those pages strengthens the identity of each aspect of the business — and also the main brand.

    As I say, it can cause you problems — especially if it’s unclear to your visitors which of your sites they should be going to — but ultimately, with some careful planning, you can distribute your own identity under your own umbrella.

Each of these methods requires some work (though the email signature and the intelligent commenting thing could get you started in seconds), but there’s a great payoff for each of them.

In order to do what you do for a living, you need to be seen. Offline, you can’t be at every function, in every meeting or standing on every street corner with a sign. But online, you can be in several highly visible places at once.

Make the most of it. Distribute yourself far and wide.