Two weeks ago at IBMA John and I, along with Brandi Hart of The Dixie Bee Liners, conducted a seminar, the official title being Establishing & Maintaining an Effective Web Presence. I thought I’d do a recap here of some of the topics we discussed during the seminar, as well as some we didn’t get to but had intended to cover.
The main point we focused on was the difference between merely having a web presence, and having an effective web presence. Now, effective means that it successfully produces the desired results. That means you must have some desired goals in mind to begin with.
As an artist or event producer or DJ or whatever, we all have the same basic goal for our web presence. We want to make a living at bluegrass music and we intend for our web presence to assist us in doing so. From that point on though, the specific goals will differ considerably. That’s your first task, decide what your goals are. Here are a few suggestions.
- gathering contact info
- maintaining communication with fans
- finding new fans
- selling merchandise or tickets
You get the idea. Depending on your goals, you go about developing your web presence differently, but some constants remain.
One of the main topics of discussion was MySpace. A point we kept trying to make was that MySpace is not YourSpace, it’s TheirSpace. What I mean is that you should not use MySpace as your primary website. It is a good road sign to direct people out of that network and to your actual site. John made a good point that if you don’t understand MySpace, you should ask one of your children or grandchildren for help. If you are running a business you might look into obtaining an intern from a local college to do your MySpace work for you. These young people will know how to work that network and will enjoy doing so for you.
MySpace can be good for building a network of people that you then direct to you main website to accomplish your other goals, like selling merchandise or festival tickets.
YouTube is another site that can be used for the same purpose. Uploading promotional videos of your band or festival can be a great way to let people get a look at you without having to travel.
A good bit of discussion centered around the idea of branding. Branding simply means that everything you do, from your .com website, your MySpace page, your YouTube clips, your printed material and promotional items, all reinforce your brand. Your brand is your band or festival name, your logo, whatever it is that people remember you by. Brandi was key to this discussion, as the primary mover behind The Dixie Bee Liners effective use of a branding strategy. We took a look at their website, and at some printed material and promo items she brought for show and tell. This is really something you should pay attention to, it’s important.
Another topic was graphic design and usability. We discussed how the average website visit is only 30 seconds. If a site is not pleasing to the eye and easy to get around, the surfer moves on. You should definitely spend some time working on your site to make sure it navigates easily and isn’t distracting visually. Study websites that you find easy to use and pleasant to look at, copy their ideas. Depending on your situation you may want to consult with an professional on the design of your site.
We also discussed the technical aspects of constructing a website. Tools we mentioned were FrontPage (don’t use it) and Dreamweaver (do use it). There are several free ones out there as well. The real decision you are faced with is knowing when you have reached the limits of your knowledge, time, and capability and need to hire a professional. You can teach yourself a great deal about html and building websites by doing online research into the topic. Brandi mentioned a site she used called htmlgoodies.com. This site is just one of many.
You may also want to visit validator.w3.org to check your site and make sure your code is valid html. I just checked Bluegrass Today, ouch! we have 152 errors at present. It’s always changing though since we update with new content each day. It’s hard to keep up with.
That brings us to the next topic which is content and updates. We stressed the importance of frequent updates and valuable content. If a visitor comes to your site for a second visit and nothing has changed, it will be a while before they return. Good ways to serve up content include: blogs, contests, giveaways, news, etc.
The most important aspect of all marketing is remark-ability. You need to be remarkable. If you are a band and you are trying to market yourself, you need to make sure you are playing music worth a listener’s time. If you’re not, they won’t visit repeatedly, no matter how cool your site is. The same goes for whatever it is you are trying to market online.
That about sums it up. There was a question and answer time, but I can’t remember all the questions that were asked at this point. IBMA did record the seminar and it will be available for purchase from the organization at some point in the near future. All of the seminars are recorded each year and made available on CD.