What with all the different social media platforms, the dedicated blogging platforms and the free web hosting providers, why take on the cost and hassle of running your own website, under your own domain name?
- Social media is where your friends and fans already hang out
- Medium et al offer a beautiful blog experience, available immediately at no cost
- A website sub-domain on wix or weebly or equivalent is quick, cheap and simple
All true, but nevertheless...
You need your own website at your own domain
Why your own website? The social media platforms are not there for you.
1. The social media platforms are fast flowing rivers. Your material is quickly swept away, even if their algorithm showed it to your followers in first place. None of them are well designed for searching out older content. Your own website is the place where you save and showcase the very best of everything you’ve ever done.
2. Your content is just a momentary data point in the long-term business plans of the social media platforms. Who knows that their future is? Who will fail, who will be bought out and closed, who will change their algorithm in ways that shut down your voice. (MySpace, Friendster, LiveJournal….) Your website is the safe space for your content.
3. Not everyone is on social media, or on your social media of choice. Create a ‘base camp’ on the internet where they can find you.
4. You may be building audiences on several social platforms, each specialising in a different kind of content - your website is where you pull all those numbers together, showcase your range of content, and prove your overall reach.
5. You may change your focus in the future, leave one social network for another - having a website as a base camp lets you take (some of) your audience with you.
Why your own website? The blogging sites and sub-domains aren't there for you either.
6. If you are using someone else’s site, there is no guarantee of their survival, just like the social media platforms. (Geocities, anyone?) You are building your base camp on rented land, and they can shut you down at no notice. Your own website and domain name can move with you as the digital landscape changes.
7. If you are actively blogging, let that SEO bring your audience to your website. Don't waste it on your host.
Why your own website? It's your base camp, your safe space, your showcase of your best work and your future vision. It's under YOUR control.
8. Your website is a proof of investment in your vision. You believe in your idea enough to have put money into a domain name, web design and hosting. It sets you apart from the social media crowd. It’s a form of proof that you can be taken seriously. (That being said, if your website has a 90s vibe, or doesn’t work on mobile, those are signals that you’ve given up on your idea. Better to have no website than a badly neglected one.)
9. Your website can be designed to reflect your own personality in a way you can’t with social media. However, once you are looking for funding, getting your key information across cleanly and clearly, in a professional manner, is more important than being true to your quirky personality.
10. Your website provides a home for all the great work you’ve done for other people. You should link to your article on X major website - as long as that link is live. Contrary to popular belief, things can and do disappear from the Internet. Anytime you do work for someone else you should keep copies - screenshots, pdfs. (And back everything up in more than one place - words and images.)
11. Your website is your highlights reel. Adventure tends to be episodic in nature. It is harder to generate engaging content on a daily basis than it is for travel bloggers (and even for them, it’s not easy). Long periods are spent at home finishing up the last project, planning and funding the next one, having a rest, earning a wage and building a life. While away you may not be able to update daily - due to lack to connectivity, lack of time, not being somewhere interesting at that moment. Your website is where you highlight your very best work, and your very best adventure experiences.
12. Your website grows with you. The longer you are online, the better. Even if you aren’t actively working your SEO, by having a presence that you keep up-to-date, you are building credibility with the search engines. You may be doing small adventures now but you are also building the foundations for selling bigger dreams in the future.
Once you are consciously building your reputation online, you need to have a long term vision. It’s not just about the cheapest solution to get you going right now. It’s also about where you will be in 10 years time. It’s about keeping your audience, your web presence and your archive under your own control, and growing them steadily and thoughtfully.
BOTTOM LINE - you want a website under your own domain name + at least one social media channel (Top choices: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn).