At the end of the day, none of us own anything we do on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+. What we do own is our own properties. No matter how many hours I spend at the Java Shack or Peregrine Espresso, I am just a customer. Social media and its social networks may feel like a home to some of us, but they’re really just private public spaces, similar to coffee shops, the Politics & Prose reading area, or the conference or ballroom at the Rosslyn Marriott.
At the end of the day, none of this is yours. These places, while filled with amazing opportunities for connection and growth, they mean nothing if you can’t bring it all home, be it sales, self-promotion, networking, creativity, marketing, education, or brand-building.
What is home? Well, in a practical sense, your online home is your web site — maybe your blog; more philosophically, your home is your business and yourself.
I was installing a new personal consulting web site over the weekend and I was reminded of this. I chose to use Drupal, which is a Content Management System (CMS) which, I guess, is similar to WordPress, though known less for being a blogging platform than a content platform. I chose a database-backed web application instead of a flash-based or flat file site for several reasons, all of which had to do with making my online brand identity work as hard for me as possible.
Some of the core-functionality of Drupal that I like is how well it connects to cron, sort of like a server’s timekeeper. It allows my web site so things not just when I am available but it can work on my behalf even when I am on a plane or asleep.
What do I mean by this? Well, Drupal is Open Source Software and, as a such, there’s not only a lot of useful functionality built-in but also thousands of modules and plug-ins that easily and readily extend the functionality of my site out the wazoo.
So, there’s a built-in aggregator that I can set up to suck in all the RSS feeds of all the blogs to which I contribute, including Twitter. This allows me to write for Tumblr and other blogs and Twitter and have as much or as little of the content brought back into HQ, my business home site, and shoved into my own database for my own posterity.
Another thing it lets me do is add a plugin that easily allows me to offer all my visitors the ability to effortlessly share my content to Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and even Google+, reddit, digg, NewsVine — whatever. This makes it easy to add and remove different buttons as social networks go away (good bye, Google Buzz!) and add them as they’re introduced (hello Google+, for now).
And remember, it’s always better when other people share your stuff — just like compliments: it’s always better when other people say how pretty and smart you are. Also, every share will, be design, include a link to your content, to your brand, and to your contact info. It’s genius! And, you’re also not prohibited from sharing from your own site as well — nobody said not to.
Another reason why I chose Drupal — and I am not selling Drupal here, I happen to have years of experience with it, even more than WordPress — is because Google gets Drupal and Drupal gets Google. Unfortunately, too many people roll their own sites. These are generally speaking some flat file site, some bizarre proprietary solution some web guy peddled you, or a pretty minimal WordPress install, designed by a graphic designer instead of a coder.
The flat file and the proprietary solution are alien to Google, at least for a little while. While Google has seen a bazillion Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla installs, it might take a while for Google to suss out what you’re about on your proprietary or brochureware site, if ever, especially if you’ve also designed the entire site in Flash or a sliced-up Photoshop file.
On the other hand, Drupal is very aware of classifications, user-readable URLs, customizable title, keyword, and description tags. I have already installed a module that connects to Google Webmaster Tools via a dynamic XML Sitemap, to Google Analytics, and to all the Ping Servers (do people even use those anymore?) What more, I’ve installed an SEO module which will help me further explain myself and every page I make to Google.
And since The Drupal Community is so Bright White Hat, they even makes several modules that audit your site to make sure you didn’t do something evil that might be perceived by Google as being Black Hat, resulting in your site getting either Sandboxed (pretty darn bad) or De-Listed (devastating).
Since I have my own server, I have access to server logs, which are great ways to look deeper into how people are interacting with my site than even Google Analytics can go; that said, Drupal does a pretty good job of being able to actively and dynamically promote similar and popular content to my visitors so that anyone who comes in looking for Blogger Outreach Services because of one search will be offered all the pages that are similar to the topic that are available on the site, hopefully keeping folks on the site until they’re convinced that they want to hire me.
I believe that Drupal also offers in its core or as an extension the ability to autolink text. So, I can write my copy with abandon and without having to worry about linking text or whether those links will go dead or change over time. Every time my article explicitly says “Blogger Outreach” the server will turn that phrase into a hyperlink and that link will go to the page on Blogger Outreach — and if I change things up, I can change than point-to link to somewhere else and it will change every instance … erm, instantly.
Some other cool things that Drupal can do is offer dynamic meta-tag titles, descriptions, and keywords; it can connect directly with other web applications via XML, RSS, or ATM, both read or write, if you set it up correctly; it can also cross-post whenever you post something on your site — be it news, something bloggish, something sales or hiring, or something PR — out and about, automatically: to Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, or wherever.
And, if there’s anything you can imagine that might want to do, there’s probably an app for that (well, a module, really) and now that Drupal has been accepted widely and has matured over time, anything that may well be missing can be created for you (and, if you’re cool, for the Drupal Community, too) by extending an application that already exists (by either joining the team and adding features or by forking the code into your own thing) or my just hiring a Drupal Developer to do it for you — and since it’s “just scripting,” (PHP and MySQL, really), you won’t be stuck like you might be, behind that proprietary wall of opacity — there are lots of options and developers of all levels of talent, skill, and experience (back when I started, PHP-coders were rare and Drupal developers were like Unicorns).
OK, I am a total geek and I am so psyched to be elbow deep in Secure Shell (PuTTY), FTP (FileZILLA), vi, chmod, wget, and tar xvf that I would like you to forgive me for this article (I should be talking about social media marketing and digital PR, after all); however, I have been in the PR world now for 10 years and most of those web sites really suck — and still do — so I thought I would remind you that your own personal web site should be more than just a landing page for decision makers, it’s also your own personal platform for communication, engagement, sharing, and for square-dancing with lovely spiders and bots of Google, Bing, and the gang.
Take some time to become better than yourself. You make not be a geek like me, but you really need to take advantage of all the cool stuff I can do (and the setting up of all the back-end stuff only took my all-day Sunday, so it’s not rocket science because I am no genius).
Good luck and remember that all the work that you do and have ever done on social media in support of your brand is ephemeral and likely to go poof into thin air unless you spend some time capturing your work, your words, your creativity somewhere you can keep it and keep on using it.
It might as well be in your own online home: your web site.
- Zemanta now supports Drupal 7! (zemanta.com)
- Drupal 7.17 released (drupal.org)
- Why Small Business’s Need Drupal More than Any Other CMS? (itmashable.com)