Website or Social Media: The modern writer’s conundrum
Kristen Harrison, The Curved House
If you’re considering developing your web presence you are probably wondering whether it’s better to build a website, start a blog, or join Twitter, Facebook and the many other social media platforms available today. If you are lucky enough to have the golden trifecta: time, ability and money, then by all means, do it all! But if you’re like most people and have limited resources in at least one or two of those areas, you need to think about the kind of web presence that you can manage on an ongoing basis.
For many writers, social media is an awkward fit. It takes time and tenacity so a low-maintenance website can be a really good way to secure an online presence without the pressure of daily, weekly or even monthly updating. Before we go on, I want to emphasise that this article is not about scaring you off social media. There are counter arguments for everything listed below, and if you can utilise social media then by all means do. But if you can’t use it then – for authors especially – a website remains a very valid alternative. Here’s why:
Maintain your comfort Zone
A website allows you stay within your comfort zone. You decide what goes up there, approve it before it goes live to the public, and then update it as and when you need to. Engagement with social media is much more active and immediate and it can be difficult for a variety of reasons: lack of knowledge or ability, lack of time, or most crucially a general lack of interest. Many of us are not, by nature, sociable creatures so the idea of joining Twitter is akin to being forced to attend every networking event on the publishing calendar, completely alone, and to emerge surrounded by a bunch of new friends. Online activity may be cyber, but it’s still real life and you are perfectly within your rights to maintain the same comfort you would in the physical world. A simple website allows you to be present, while only attending the parties you want to attend.
Control the content
When you use social media you are engaging with a network of other users and this effects your own profile. You can’t always control how other people behave and interact with you on a social media site but you can control the content of a website. And it’s easier than ever to do that. Nowadays websites are much more accessible and affordable. Almost all developers will build your site using a CMS (Content Management System) and this allows you to quickly and easily edit your site yourself, at no cost. If you can use Microsoft Word then you will be able to use a CMS and you will therefore be able to maintain control over the content.
Keep it low maintenance
Not everyone is tech savvy, just like not everyone can cook, or garden, or fix things. Creating a low maintenance website let’s you have a web presence that you can maintain as often or as little as you like. The more you can update your site and be present online, the more search engines will favour you, but this favouritism isn’t always so necessary for authors. Having a website that functions as a simple calling card can be enough.
The most effective way to present a complete picture of yourself is on a website. Unlike social media sites, a website gives people a single portal into your online world, rather than them having to sift through your tweets, posts and mentions to build a picture for themselves. Your homepage should carry all the key information people might need (and a link to where they can buy your books) and also give the reader a sense, within a split second of seeing it, of who you are.
Anyone can create a Twitter account and invent a persona for themselves, but a website is a bigger investment and it therefore gives validity to yourself and your work. It shows that you have made a commitment to your writing and that you are serious. If you have a well-designed and well-presented website it will also demonstrate to agents, publishers and readers that you know what you’re doing when it comes to your online presence.
Copyright and Intellectual Property
Most social media sites are free but they need to monetize themselves somehow. Often they do this by assuming ownership of the content (data) that you upload to their sites and using any social media site comes with the implicit understanding that this is how things work. When you build a website you retain the copyright of the content (be sure to make sure your web designer agrees this in writing) while your web designer will keep the copyright of the design and code base (assuming they produced both). You can ask for a backup of the data at any time to ensure your content is safe.
Finally, with a website you can track your web statistics and see, among other things, the number of visitors to your site, how long they stayed on the site, their geographic location and how they found your website. This can be invaluable data for understanding who your readership is and what you can do to engage them further. For example, if you find that 40% of visitors are coming from Germany it might be time to discuss a German language edition with your publisher!
It’s not nearly as costly or intimidating to get a website as it used to be and it can be a great way to start building your online self. Who knows, maybe you’ll get hooked and will want to join Twitter after all!
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The Curved House is a creative agency working primarily for publishers and publishing-related businesses. Its designs and produces books, builds and runs websites and comes up with great ideas to get writers' books noticed.
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