What’s Almost Better than a Free Web Site?

Wow! This will be the second week in a row that Writer’s Digest Magazine has recognized this blog for excellence. I am truly and deeply terrified…honored. I meant honored. Yes, honored. So thank you Jane Friedman for working your tail off to give writers the tools they need to succeed. And thank you, thank you, a million thanks for considering this blog to be one of those tools.

Deep breath. Ok.

Originally I was going to blog this week about Facebook—profile pages versus fan pages. But apparently Jane Friedman has better writer spies than I do, and she beat me to it (link to her blog at the end). I’ll do that another week. So what are we going to talk about?

MySpace.

Bet you didn’t expect that one. Maybe the title gave you a teensy hint. MySpace. Ha ha! It actually isn’t dead. In fact over 60 million active users as of March 2010 say MySpace is alive and well despite some setbacks. Will it fade away eventually? Probably. But Twitter and Facebook likely will as well.

Blasphemy, Kristen!

Yes, I am sorry to tell you that Twitter is not timeless. It has a shelf life. Hopefully, for us addicts, it will be a very long shelf life, but we do tend to forget our loyalty when lured by the new shiny thing. That is why a lot of what I teach has less to do with technology and more to do with application. Technology will eventually face obsolescence, but application is timeless. Branding your name (last week’s blog) was smart back when everything was done by snail mail and it was smart when Friendster was big and it is smart now with Facebook.

Back to MySpace. Until it blows up or is taken off-line for good, it is going to be a super-powerful tool to help you succeed. I hear too many authors say, “MySpace is so yesterday. I’m on Facebook.” Well, okay, but you are shelving a very powerful tool for promotion, and we aren’t on there for fun, we are there to build a brand.

Every writer should have a MySpace page, especially a new writer. GASP! Yes you read correctly. I do believe I am unique in teaching this technique that I am about to pass on to you. And there is more about this topic in my upcoming book, We Are Not Alone—Writers and Social Media Marketing.

Kristen! Why on earth do you want us to mess with MySpace? We can barely keep up with FB and Twitter for goodness sakes!

Well, first of all, my book teaches a method that will help you dominate the domains and command all the digital real estate you can. It takes a lot of work at first, but if done correctly, it will take minimal time to maintain. I recommend a presence on all three major platforms—MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. To what degree you participate in any of them is up to you. But that is a discussion for another time.

MySpace is one of your greatest assets, and more writers should take advantage. Why?

How many of you already have a customized, fancy, interactive website? If not, then…

How many of you have $10,000 to go drop on a customized, fancy, interactive website?

How many of you have $1000 or $500 for a regular, not-so-impressive web site?

How many of you, especially new writers, barely have money to eat, let alone THINK of building a web site?

How many of you want to pay some web guy every time you want to put up something new or change something?

I highly, highly, highly recommend MySpace pages as a web site. Why?

  1. They are free.
  2. They are easy to build. If you can right click, cut and paste, then you can build a killer MySpace page. MySpace is the friend of the technology-challenged writer who doesn’t have the cash to pay someone to build a fancy web site.
  3. MySpace pages are free, quick, and easy to modify (upload new pictures, blogs, links, etc). In fact, you can change the look of the entire page in 20 seconds.
  4. It is easy to post blogs.
  5. It is easy to link to your Twitter (embedded widget)
  6. Regularly updated MySpace pages score very highly with search engines. In English that means your name (brand) will rank higher on a Google search much quicker than you will with a static site.
  7. MySpace makes it easy to separate your personal life from your professional (without the awkwardness of multiple FB identities).  
  8. Can be easily synced to Twitter. Update Twitter, and it will auto-update MySpace.
  9. Is a great transition to a Facebook fan page. Face it. If you are an unpublished writer who isn’t even sure of what genre you want to write, you DO NOT need a fan page (yet).  
  10. Unlike a static web page, MySpace pages are already integrated into an existing network thus making it easier to gain a following.  There are some die-hard MySpacers who could be potential readers. Why alienate them? This is why I assert that ALL authors can benefit from having a MySpace page.

I taught this technique on Saturday to a group of Rotarians. Rotary is 105 years old. Like many service organizations, they must get plugged in and become relevant or face declining numbers. I built a MySpace page for my club and we use it for recruiting. It looks cool, has embedded music and video and best of all…it was FREE!!!!! And it took all of two hours to do and takes only minutes to maintain.

Now when I meet someone and they say, “What is Rotary?” I can send them to our MySpace and feel confident that it portrays the best about who we are and what we do.

Our club didn’t have to hope that some Rotarian in our club was a computer geek who would build a site for free (or at least give us a price break). We didn’t need to raise funds to hire a web master to build a nice looking web site. We didn’t have to allocate funds for web hosting.

MySpace allows us to get all the benefits of a webpage without the hassle and expense of a web page.

http://www.myspace.com/swfwrotary

If you aren’t already on MySpace, I recommend getting a MySpace page (using the name you wish to brand).  It will save you time and money better spent focusing on improving you and your writing skills. When you get business cards, print the MySpace domain on your card just like a web site (or along with your existing web site). Put your MySpace domain in your information section of your bios on Facebook and Twitter just like you would a regular web site.

You don’t have to do your socializing on MySpace if you don’t want to. MySpace might be annoyed at me for saying that, but it is their job to make interaction more fun and exciting than Facebook, not ours. They benefit off us being users who post regular content. Thus, they still profit when we use them for a free web site (we are sending traffic their way).

My MySpace page, I think, looks great, and it has had well over 30,000 hits (even though I was once dumb and went under texaswriterchik). My MySpace page has the links to my blog, my static site and even a nifty button to help visitors follow me on Twitter. Sounds a lot like a web page, right? Only this didn’t cost me anything but time.

And I know all the Facebook loyalists are groaning, but human nature is to be impressed with the shiny thing, and cool backgrounds trump uncool backgrounds any day of the week. If you love Facebook, feel free to invite visitors to socialize with you on your Facebook site. It isn’t social media infidelity if you do. MySpace will get over it. I am sure they would rather have you on their platform some of the time instead of none of the time.

I recommend MySpace or Yours for awesome free backgrounds. For those on Twitter, they also offer some amazing free Twitter backgrounds (even to match your MySpace background if you like). Freesourcecode.com is also a great place for amazing free backgrounds (particularly for fantasy writers). This site also has ways of helping you create a customized background with you photo or logo. You will have to mess with some pop ups, but I have always used both of these sites, and, in the past four years, have had no problems.

I recommend saving the code in individual Word documents and labeling what they are…Killer Dragon MySpace Background, Awesome Fairy Background, etc. This will make it easier to change backgrounds regularly and you won’t have to start over looking for a good background.  You will be able to change the entire look of your page in the time it takes to highlight, delete, copy, paste, and save. DONE!

Some tips…

  1. If you load music, make it appropriate and even neutral. We are there to build a brand, not upload every song we’ve liked since high school. We might love Hip-Hop or Norwegian Death Metal, but others might not.
  2. Limit adding flash. Photo slide shows are pretty, but they will slow down the loading time of your MySpace page and frustrate visitors.
  3. Keep it simple. Think of this like your web site. Bio, contact info (on all other social media sites) and your blog (feel free to use it to send people to your WordPress or Blogger). That’s all. Photo albums are extra. Games and Mafia Wars are for regular people, not professionals.
  4. Update regularly. Make an effort to log in and at least send out a status update at least once a day. Just comment on someone’s page or add a friend or two. Just have activity. It takes 5 minutes and will help you score higher with search engines.
  5. Make your page open to the public like a web site (cuz, well, it is like your web site). Make it easy for us to visit. Solving CAPTCHAs and making us cough up your personal e-mail, your real last name and the name of your first pet is annoying. We are lazy. We will go elsewhere and find friends who are not so high-maintenance.

Most of all HAVE FUN! MySpace is a great way to express your creative side and all that money you would have spend building a fancy website can now pay for you to attend a conference to make you a better writer.

Happy writing!

Until next time…

******************************************************

By the way! If you loved this blog and just want MORE? My book, “We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media” is now available. Buy one today and take charge of your writing career! My book is designed specifically for writers. I want to change your habits, not your personality. Harness that same creative energy used for writing and use it to build your platform.

Invest in your career.

I recommend you stop by Jane Friedman’s blog “There Are No Rules.” Check out all the other links that Editor Jane listed for their quality information. She works hard to gather the best of the best to make us the best, so take full advantage

http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/

I also recommend Bob Mayer’s Warrior Writer Workshop. This blog would have never happened had it not been for Bob and his Warrior Writer training. Bob works extremely hard to help writers be successful. Sign up for a WW Workshop near you or join his on-line Warrior Writer Workshop at www.bobmayer.org.

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  1. #1 by Jamie D. on May 18, 2010 - 5:16 pm

    *sigh* Really, Kristen? MySpace too? I was thinking about it awhile ago, but decided it probably wasn’t worth my time (ahem, as you addressed above). You’re just not gonna let us off the hook, are you? ;-)

    Okay, okay…but only ’cause you haven’t steered me wrong yet. And because you said backgrounds are easy to personalize, so I can make it look like all my other sites pretty quickly. Right? Alrighty then. I’ll work on that this week.

    Thanks for the clarification – I really had been pondering whether a MySpace page was worth it or not even with Twitter, Facebook and my static site. So this helps, as usual.

    • #2 by Kristen Lamb on May 18, 2010 - 6:06 pm

      In my book, I recommend that you try to command all the digital real estate you can. The bulk of your time really will just be to build it. After that, the maintenance can be pretty easy. Like I said, you don’t have to socialize on there to gain the search engine benefit. Good luck, and I will help this be as easy as possible. You will thanks me later, ;).

  2. #3 by Kait Nolan on May 18, 2010 - 6:20 pm

    When, WHEN is your book coming out? Because I totally need some additional information on how I can do this FAST. I already have all the available stuff (twitter, blog, facebook, myspace, goodreads) and I try to, as much as possible, have crap feed into each other (as in I like to Tweet and blog but hate the rest). But lord there’s just not enough hours in the day!

    • #4 by Kristen Lamb on May 18, 2010 - 6:24 pm

      I wish I could give a hard and fast date. Some time in June? I am finishing the technology edits right now. Don’t worry about anything right now other than just having the accounts with the name you want to brand. Keep blogging and tweeting. That is plenty. If you have them linked together and they are being updated, that is fine. People think they have to stay on MySpace for hours for it to be beneficial. Not the case. Just own the domain and make sure you are going by your name.

      • #5 by Kait Nolan on May 18, 2010 - 6:56 pm

        Oh yeah, I’ve snapped up my name at…everywhere. First 11 pages of google results are all me, save 1. I’ve got the real estate part of things rockin’. :D

  3. #6 by wmccaig on May 19, 2010 - 11:26 am

    Thanks for stopping by my site and for you post. I tried to find you on Facebook, but there a a zillion Kristen Lambs. Help!

    • #7 by Kristen Lamb on May 19, 2010 - 6:11 pm

      I am having a fan page built, so yeah, sorry about that. Long story. I often joke that I should name this book, “I Made All the Dumb Mistakes so You Don’t Have To.” Try this in the meantime.
      http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/Warrior.Writer?ref=profile

      Or look for a Kristen Lamb in Fort Worth, TX

      • #8 by wmccaig on May 19, 2010 - 10:25 pm

        Thanks…found you. Can’t wait to get your book. I think the lessons learned by making mistakes are the only really valuable one. I am pretty hard headed so unless you can describe the pain first hand, I am likely not to listen.

  4. #9 by Tracey on May 20, 2010 - 4:04 pm

    I’m beginning to wonder if there is such a thing as too much presence. Obviously it’s a great platform for promotion, but… at some point does it become too much? Thoughts anyone?

    • #10 by Kristen Lamb on May 21, 2010 - 12:45 am

      That is a good point and a valid concern. Building the MySpace page and commanding the domain is all I recommend. It is a free alternative to a web site, and many new authors don’t have the funds to build a web site at all, let alone with the features one can get for free with MySpace and two hours of time. It also will get a newrer author higher up in the search rankings quicker than a static page.

      Also, when I posted the last post about branding, many writers have spent a ton of time branding the wrong name or a moniker. MySpace gives an easy alternative to having to start all over on Facebook or even for people who want a simple way to separate who they are personally with who they are as a writer.

  5. #11 by Jamie D. (@JamieDeBree) on May 21, 2010 - 5:03 pm

    Tracey – personally, I think that it’s not too much “presence” you have to worry about, but rather whether that presence is irritating. I’ve known a couple authors that really have turned me off their books with very aggressive marketing techniques, to the point that I keep my involvement with them to a bare minimum (and haven’t bought books from them, at least not yet). Those people are all sales, all the time, everywhere, and it’s just annoying.

    I think if you maintain a *sincere* presence – even if you’re “everywhere” – wherein you’re not just talking about your “books/writing/buy-my-work” all the time, then branching out as Kristen suggests is a great way to connect with people you might not have otherwise. I don’t think you can sincerely connect with “too many” people…but you can certainly annoy too many people with aggressive marketing, IMO. Just my thoughts…

    • #12 by Kristen Lamb on May 21, 2010 - 6:01 pm

      Good point, Jaime. My goal isn’t to make you new kind a spammer, which is certainly a valid concern. My goal is to create a social media presence that considers your reader’s pereferences as paramount. Just because I LOVE Twitter, doesn’t mean that my fans do. They could be die-hard FB fans. I want to be able to befriend them, communicate with them, and connect. What I am teaching you to build is a HIGHLY optimized network. If you follow step-by step what I am helping you construct, then at the end of the day, the READER can follow you, your blog, wherever HE or SHE is comfortable. They can also converse and communicate with you everywhere…and vice versa.

      If you look at the really successful companies, they have ways their customers can get updates on all kinds of social media sites. Their goal is to make communication easy on the CUSTOMER. This is what ideally, writers will do for their readers as well using a MySpace page as a hub (cheaper and easier than an optimized site, though that is an option if you want).

      Thanks Jaime and Tracey for such awesome discussion!

  6. #13 by Tracey on May 21, 2010 - 6:26 pm

    I think you’re both right. It makes sense to go where the readers are, and it makes absolute sense that if you’re not obnoxious about it then there probably isn’t such a thing as too much presence. Long story short, I probably will do a MySpace page as well and link it to my twitter account. Why the heck not? Should be fun.

    • #14 by Kristen Lamb on May 21, 2010 - 6:58 pm

      Make sure you befriend me. I have a lot of great people you can befriend to get you established. This is what makes social media so GREAT. WE aren’t alone, and we can use our friends to help!

      http://www.myspace.com/texaswriterchik
      @KristenLambTX for Twitter
      http://www.facebook.com/Warrior.Writer
      (a Kristen Lamb fan page will be launched soon)

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and I look forward to helping you build your platform!

  7. #15 by Tracey on May 21, 2010 - 7:03 pm

    Sweet! Will do.
    And here’s the link to my fan page on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tracey-Baptistes-Author-Page/280250829007?ref=ts

  8. #16 by JRedmerski on May 21, 2010 - 11:55 pm

    This is a great post and let me tell you why. {Please, no one throw stuff at me!} I despise Facebook {~ducks~}. That site is way too cluttered and chaotic for my tastes. I’ve been on MySpace for a few years. I love almost everything about it and it suits my social networking needs better than Facebook ever could. The point is, there are TONS of people like me on MySpace who prefer the simplicity and unobtrusive nature of it as opposed to FB. It would be a shame to overlook us. ;-) http://www.myspace.com/jessicaredmerski My link is not a shameful plug to visit my page. Thought I’d include it only because it’s the topic! Besides, I’d love for all you writer’s to add me over there. I’m a writer too, of course.

    • #17 by Kristen Lamb on May 22, 2010 - 12:45 pm

      LOL…I love you…(cough, in a MySpacer-friend way). I love MySpace, too and have had a hard time adjusting to Facebook even though I do use it so that I am practicing what I preach. We aren’t alone. There actually are A LOT of people who just love MySpace. In fact, I outsource business to a social media firm and they have a ton of customer demand for MySpace pages, content, apps, etc. So thanks for the comment! Expect my friend request.

  9. #18 by Ashley on May 22, 2010 - 1:14 pm

    I get your point, but I completely disagree. The only person I know that gets on Myspace anymore is my 15-year old brother.

    With software like Dreamweaver and HTML tutorials, learning to build a site is not hard, and a .com still looks much better than a myspace.com/whatever. Personally, I don’t even bother going to people’s Myspace pages. This tells me they are not with the times and usually their pages take way too long to load. I’d rather
    go to a website.

    • #19 by Kristen Lamb on May 23, 2010 - 2:21 am

      Fair enough, but Dreamweaver isn’t cheap and not everyone is computer savvy enough to self-teach how to build a web site. That is quite a skill. And not to forget, there is the fee to command a domain, then fees for web hosting. Just these two components can run a couple hundred dollars. Then you have to have a computer with a processing speed and memory to be abke to even use Dreamweaver. The costs can add up quickly.

      MySpace is a free option for in the meantime. Also a static site isn’t already integrated into an extant network, so takes far more content effort to drive traffic and generate search engine interest.

      And how many authors are writing YA? Thousands! If they hope to be the next Stephanie Meyers, then they need to appeal to teens and generate interest in their writing. Not having any MySpace presence is just overlooking a key area to find readership.

      You are definitely correct about the load-time, but I feel that is because there is no instruction ahead of time. People get a page and upload every song and picture and gadget. If you noticed, at the end, I gave a list of dos and don’ts to keep that from happening…to make it more like a web site than a MySpace page. Bottom line? You don’t have to have a MySpace, but it is free, easy to build, and a great tool if you use it correctly.

      Best of luck.

    • #20 by Kait Nolan on May 23, 2010 - 2:21 am

      I’m not a fan of MySpace, but it is clearly popular with SOMEONE as it’s still huge. It makes sense to have a page as an author, just like you would on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. All supplemental to a more professional website. As Kristen says, it’s all about internet real estate. You should be wherever your fans are, give them a cahnce to connect.

      • #21 by Kristen Lamb on May 23, 2010 - 2:24 am

        Thanks, Kait. And to be clear, like I said, you don’t have to socialize on there if you don’t like it. There are more tools than ever to link these sites together. It is just a good way of appealing to your readership in THEIR comfort zone. THEY are the customer. We need to cater to them, not the other way around. What a great topic and thanks for all the feedback!

  10. #22 by Jamie D. (@JamieDeBree) on May 25, 2010 - 9:00 pm

    The myspace page I set up (jamie_debree) after reading this post is in addition to my static web site and blog, Facebook and Twitter sites…I think as far as setting up an actual web site, a free blogging service might be a better “hub”, only because it looks more professional (after playing with the MS interface, it’s not all that intuitive to use…a blogger template is easier to install, IMO). Plus blogs don’t generally have ads, which is a very prominent feature on myspace. I’m a professional web designer for my “day job” though, so I admit my perspective is probably skewed. Setting up a static web site through GoDaddy using templates was easy, and under $200 for the year, no special software needed. Just FYI.

    But, I’ve found that MySpace is easily linked to from Tweetdeck, which means in the evenings when I’m twittering it’s super-simple to send a status to myspace while I’m at it (along with several other social sites), keeping that site up to date with virtually no effort from the same program. And it’s worth it to me for the extra exposure for people who may not like Facebook – I’m all for making myself as available as possible. :-)

    • #23 by Kait Nolan on May 25, 2010 - 9:24 pm

      On my end, I went the super cheap route. My main website is my blog, which I choose to set up through WordPress.com and then forward to a custom domain. I’m out about $22 a year for a pretty clean and professional site. Once I make up my mind what direction I’d like to go with the look, I’ll be paying the additional $10 fee for the css upgrade that will allow me further customization. So still, $32 a year much cheaper than $200 and a good option for the budget bound.

      • #24 by Kristen Lamb on May 25, 2010 - 9:30 pm

        Good idea. And you can always install widgets so that fans can follow you on any platform–now that you have a presence.

    • #25 by Kristen Lamb on May 25, 2010 - 9:26 pm

      Actually for blogging (in my book) I recommend WordPress. If you go to my MySpace, in the blog section there is a link to this site.

      It’s funny you mention the ads. I have been on social media so long, I barely notice them (don’t tell the advertisers). It’s just white noise. That is one big reason that the relationship building is so important. Exposure is great, but without the depth of true networking, you are just background static.

      And I do recommend getting a web site eventually. I even have one (under construction right now). But if you are starting out and not even sure what to write or how to write, you can still start building a platform (you as an author) and can wait on the expense. Thanks for the comments and I am eager to hear more feedback on your progress!

  11. #26 by Lyn on June 19, 2010 - 3:40 pm

    Kristin–I’m so glad I found you. Need to bookmark you so I don’t have to keep going back to Bob’s site for the link.

    Do you think you’ll talk about writers’ names? This goes to domain control. My granddaughter has customized her birth name, and inadvertently picked the Greek word for “city hall.” She reads a lot of manga and fantasy (she’s 16). My sister made us all get Facebook accounts, but I really hate Facebook and generally disable it unless I just have to get a message to Facebook Sister. Sorry, but Facebook is ugly. Just ugly. I haven’t looked at MySpace in a long time, but will now. Thanks.
    PS: I don’t have a personal interest in networking, but I like to play with the Internet.

    • #27 by Kristen Lamb on June 19, 2010 - 8:05 pm

      I do in the book and I am with you on the FB thing. I really don’t care for it either. I don’t know what you are asking about the name. I would just have her add Author or Writer to everything and then she should command any search. So Author Kristen Lamb. Does this answer your question?

      • #28 by Lyn on June 19, 2010 - 9:12 pm

        Yes, thanks. I had seen that some authors use “Author” before their names, but never knew why.

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