So you want to make yourself visible to the masses of the Internet? Good choice. But if you’ve been living in a cardboard box stuffed with vinyl records most of your life, and still type on the first typewriter ever cast from the iron age, that’s okay. You can be fixed. We have the technology.
Easiest way is usually by wrangling a young, geeky family member who plays World of Warcraft all day, by waving a handful of cash before their eyes to get their attention. Ten weeks of their usual allowance should do it. Then tell them you want all of what’s written below. But there are enough marketing people you can buy out there to do this all for you as well. I think they’re filed somewhere under SEOs. If you want/can only afford the free route, I can give you few good places to start that are working for me. There is a ton of shameless self-promotion in this post as well, as I am also using myself as an example. There are a million companies out there that all do a similar things to my examples, but I can’t make this post that long. This post is also geared more to Indie writers, but can be utilized by all nonetheless.
Connecting to the Interwebs:
Figure out whether you want to do so with your real name, or under a pen name. Most will be taken when trying to sign onto the stuff below. “Wist” was hard to secure as mine. But if you happen to like “iamagoldfish” as a nickname for example, this part may be easier for you. If you’re trying to take on the world aside from just for the fun of it, “imaprofessionalgoldfish” might not work as well.
You will need an email. No longer can you get away without having one. Most sites (if not all) want the address of where you can be reached online. Such addresses are recognized by a “@” in it (like mine: firstname.lastname@example.org) If you have a street address, drivers license and birth certificate and are undeniably a real human being, certified by the mother who birthed you into this world, no one cares. Sorry. This is the ‘virtual/online’ equivalent of a mailing address.
Most ISPs (the cable or phone guy/Internet Service Provider that charges you a fortune every month) will give you one for free (so they call it) with their service. The company I use is Rogers, so I use the email email@example.com Lost/scared? Email me by clicking on that and put “help me” in the subject line. I will reply/email you back a fuzzy kitten. Only because I’m harmless and have the patience to continue to try and teach my mother how to use the VCR after 7 years of trying to no avail. If you want a better email, go to Google and get a separate gmail account. I’ve had a lot of email addresses in my life and so far I have had to send my dog after gmail the least often.
Twitter is an awesome and free place to head to then. I was right about my instincts before signing on to it, as it can be very, very addicting and is stalking at its easiest. Great for beginners. This can buy into lot of writing time while you read and surf all the never-ending links of Tweet coolness. But if you are one of those pulling the weight of the wagon of your books entirely by yourself, you’ve yet to learn that the ebook way of publishing is 80% waving and hollering at people, 10% writing time and 10% coffee/refusing to give up to sleep/stress/anti-Muse mace of all sorts and from all directions. Daunting? There’s still:
Facebook. Simply put, it’s a free, massive, Yellow/White Pages. It’s point and click enough to not flip through pages and pages for too long. It can get complicated if you don’t inspect all the random buttons you click close enough. Great for networking with others and finding other Hobbits around the world. Great for stalking people if you’re into that. Also works in reverse.
Facebook Fan Page
If you want to separate your family life, (aka as the people who think you’re nuts for writing about dragons and make your life appear incredibly boring) make a separate fanpage that Facebook will connect together–even if you don’t connect with anyone in your life. Then stab poke 20 people into liking you and it becomes an ‘official’ fanpage in accordance to Facebook’s rules. You can then go around “Liking” others on your fanpage account, even if they’re from the “I’m a Unicorn” cause, without getting reprimanded and grounded to your pension home for insanity. Or locked in your bedroom by your parents for all eternity for being a fairy. (Hey, I write about sparkly fairies, so don’t you dare twist that!) It might be 25 fans… I lost count after the blood frenzy. eg. I have a real name, but my pen name (S.J. Wist) & fanpage allows me to connect to people who can understand me better, while not scaring off my family and clubbing buddies with my fire-breathing dragons. Naturally, they don’t mix very well with their alcohol.
If you figured out all that without hitting your head against the desk, then you may be ready to make your own blog. Definition: An online journal/diary that is a free for all to snoop in. You’re reading mine right this moment. Some use it to make cash, some to promote themselves and some like myself like to do both and add in the occasional rant about their nightmarish day. So far I haven’t scared anyone screaming into the hills with my caffeine-crazed outbursts, so it works.
Personally, I love reading other people’s rants; they can be hilarious and just the reminder you need that you are not the only ‘human’ on the planet capable of punching a wall, or for writers, the keyboard. It’s also a lot of fun and keeps the creative side of your brain active. I was on WordPress for a long time, but I prefer Blogger now. That and WordPress is a wreck of horror to try and read on my iPad and iPhone. I follow dozens of blogs, so naturally I like reading on the go–not striking the closest subway passenger with my frustration and an iPhone in hand.
You still keeping up? Then you can handle a webpage. I used to code/build them from scratch, but there are so many easy ways to making one now that I rarely have to punch in anything that looks like raw HTML coding.
If you can read that, it sometimes comes in handy if you want to get fancy. I’ve messed around with programs both on the Windows and Mac computers, but nothing I’ve found so far comes close to the simplicity of iWeb for the Mac. Drag, drop, click. Type some words in a box. Give your site and pages a name and voila! A pretty webpage. And you didn’t even have to yell in frustration at your cat in making it.
There are even some ‘Flash‘ ways to make one now. Point of caution; Flash is usually the first thing to blow up a computer or turn it blue and iPad/iPhone won’t be able to see it at all. They are really cool looking though with UFOs flying all over the screen. The cool newness on the block though is HTML5, as most computers can read it. I’ll get back to you if I ever catch up to learn it…
Now find a host (aka someone who will store your webpage codes on a mother-monster computer that is constantly on and where the files to your plans to taking over the world aren’t on) or roll with MobileMe. Yes, it costs over $100 bucks a year, but the free hosts I’ve tried will let you down. I can assure you there is nothing more aggravating than having an agent want to check you out, only to send you an email that your webpage was not working. It’s an instant head-to-desk moment and will result in long-term bruises. MobileMe does a bunch of other cool stuff too. If you get stuck, Apple’s customer service is unmatched. They will stick it out on the phone with you forever if it takes.
For people to find you on the web, you need the equivalent of a phone number for their browser to ‘dial up’. When you go to http://www.google.com for instance, http://www.google.com is essentially their web ‘phone number.’
If you change the mother-carrier of your webpage, you can keep this name (like keeping your phone number). If you have to up and move your pretty webpage anywhere in the future (like if the mother-computer dies) this will prevent you from evaporating out of people’s bookmarks and from sites that link to you. All you have to do is change on the site you bought the domain from to the new ‘host’ web address (which is usually like a million characters long). It takes like a minute. Like call-forwarding. eg. If you go from a free host to a paid host and back to a free mother…who later dies…well, you get the idea.
It will also make you look professional and change that 38-character webpage address to something smaller and easier to remember. I go with Yahoo!’s. It’s about $10 a year. The catch is it goes up a lot after the first year. And I am only promoting their domain name service alone here, not their hosting. *gag*
Try Before You Buy and FTP
But the most important thing you can do is give the service you want a trial run. MobileMe has a 60 day one. Some other hosts do as well. I can only guess that codes uploaded from a Windows computer to a server host is more friendly, as not all of the ones I gave a test run to understood a word of the coding assembled by iWeb on my Mac. You will likely have to pull up a manual on FTP (File Transfer Protocol) uploading. FTP is when your computer connects to the mother’s computer and you then pass on a copy of the genetic/HTML code of your webpage’s existence. It’s a lot like punching in the sign-in to dial up. There are also tons of free FTP programs that will do this for you. To upload stuff to the mother without using MobileMe, you will have to go through the dozens of free FTP upload programs to see which one is easiest for you to understand. A lot of the paid/bigger hosts have some kind of embedded-version of FTP you can use.
Okay so you got through all that? Congrats. Now you need to test all of it to make sure that your efforts have worked. Every browser will have its tiff against your site. It was a pain in the past, but it’s hardly perfect now. The easiest way is to download and install all the popular web browsers there are and type in the address to your website. Most popular in no strict order are:
Chrome (Google’s browser. It’s not bad.)
Internet Explorer (This one can be a headache to dressup for–it hates like–like everything!)
Safari (This is the main browser for Macs and iPads etc. Sadly, a lot of the interwebs still haven’t caught up to this fact.)
Opera (This one is buried on my computer’s drive somewhere. It was cool once.)
Then use/borrow/steal from fellow family members or friends the following;
A Netbook (those cute mini-laptops that I’ve yet to get at.)
Punch in your website address into all that you can and dare to look. Nothing falling off the page or unreadable? You can stop reading this and go back to work now.
You can continue to reach out via these great websites;
Twiends (Warning: This one can be more addicting than Twitter.)
And last, but not least, fellow blogs. They are by far the best way to connect with others.
There was a lot of smaller, more complex details missed in this manual, so don’t be afraid to ask me in the comments below or email me until I get around to expanding this. Unless I’m scared of you, I always follow back. If you’re still stuck on the Twitter part of this all, I answer direct messages as well.
Now go brag to all who said you were too hopeless to grasp the complexity of technology and social networking, for you are now a Pro Geek! =)