by Kellie Lignitz-Hahn and Bret Pimentel
CREATING AN ONLINE PRESENCE
PART 3: CONTENT AND COMPONENTS
In the third and final installment of our series on how to create an online presence, we will delve into the components and materials that can help make your site stand out and attract more viewers. Regardless of the type of website or blog you wish to create, simplicity is one key to maximizing the effectiveness of your site and keeping readers engaged. Pages that are easy to read and navigate encourage viewers to explore more content and to continue visiting your site in the future. Organized and neatly arranged content will give your website a more polished look, and with the plethora of pre-designed templates available on the market, first time creators can construct professional looking sites with minimal expertise. Not sure what to put on your site? First, take inventory of what you want your viewers to see with consideration given to the sequence in which you to want them to see it. Menu bars are typically built into pre-made templates and will help with organization of content and direct viewers to your other pages. Common menu components include: biography, audio and video files, pictures, schedule of events and contact information.
Write your biography for your intended audience. Are you trying to attract private students? Sell your recordings? Connect with fellow scholars? What information will be the most useful and interesting to those people? In most cases, a good web biography is short enough to be quickly skimmed. For example, instead of listing every ensemble and artist you have performed with, consider limiting your list to a handful that best illustrate the parts of your career that you want to emphasize.
Audio and video recordings on your website are one of the best ways to establish your credibility as a performer. Prospective employers and students will be looking for these! While these recordings don’t have to be perfect, they should reflect you at your current best. In most cases, the easiest way to put recordings on your site is to use a service like YouTube or SoundCloud to host your recordings. The recordings can then be embedded on your site. Depending on how your site is hosted, it may provide you with an easy way to do this, or most audio/video hosting sites provide instructions for reasonably web-savvy users to embed videos manually.
Pictures and images can greatly enhance the appearance of websites. When choosing photos or images for your site or background, use high-resolution photos to avoid blurry or pixelated images. Many hosting services conveniently have photo editing tools that help with editing or cropping uploaded pictures.
Pages listing links to favorite web content were once a staple of personal websites, but these pages have become less useful as search engines have gotten more powerful and people have started sharing links on social media instead. Rather than a “favorite links” page, consider incorporating links into your content. For example, if your biography mentions a school you attended, you can turn the name of the school into a link to the school’s website.
A calendar of performances or other events might be useful for some clarinetists, such as those who have a large fan base or a particularly busy schedule of traveling and performing. If most of your performances are local, you may have better success promoting those events through local channels. Remember that a calendar that is blank or outdated sends a message that your website isn’t regularly maintained and probably not worth visiting again. Weigh whether the calendar is useful enough to commit to keeping it up to date.
SOCIAL MEDIA AND CONTACT INFORMATION
Trying to establish and maintain a wide variety of social media accounts can be exhausting. Stick to the social media outlets that you actually use. In some cases, it may make sense to create professional accounts (such as a Facebook artist “page” or a separate Twitter handle) that are not your personal accounts. Social media can also be a good way to drive traffic back to your site. If you have new blog posts, videos, etc., be sure to announce those through your professional social media channels. You may also wish to provide other contact information. Be cautious about publicly posting your phone number, address or primary email. Consider setting up a secondary email address through a free service such as Gmail and putting that one on your website. With a user-friendly hosting service or some minor technical skills, it is also possible to set up a contact form that allows visitors to send you email through your site without knowing your email address.
ADVERTISING AND DONATION LINKS
If your site features substantial and popular content, it may be possible to “monetize” your site to earn a little income through advertising or donations. If you are willing to dig into some technical matters, it’s reasonably simple to set up ads from Google AdSense or donation buttons from PayPal. Since income streams on most websites are vanishingly small, it’s worth careful consideration whether advertisements and donation links detract from your site’s professionalism. The need for having a presence on the web is growing quickly. Whether you are tech-savvy or a novice, we hope that our suggestions in this series help you create the best website to fit your needs.
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As always, don’t forget to send your ideas for future columns to firstname.lastname@example.org.