Let’s start with something simple. Do you own yourownname.com? When I was in high school, I thought a good way to start making money was to buy the domain names of people I knew—firstnamelastname.com. I would purchase their domain for $12.99 a year. My hope was that I wouldn’t have to pay the renewal. I started with my immediate friends and bought all of the domains with their names. This was a $100 start up that, in my eyes, would make me rich, After all, why wouldn’t everyone want their own name online?
Well to my sad realization when I told my friends if they wanted to buy their domain name at $20 I was completely rejected. Not a single one of them made a purchase off of me. At first I thought I lost a $100 that day but with time I realized it was an investment into my education. It was a shock to me that no one wanted their domain. The reality is that a domain and a website is far more important than a tombstone. A tombstone is only visible at your gravesite. A domain and a website, on the other hand, is visible to the whole world. With your own domain and space in the web, you’re able to share your story, show your voice, and forever be able to be found with just a simple search.
A tombstone simply puts your name, a quote, the date you were born and the date you passed. This little snippet is all a tombstone can tell the world about you. A website can have say so much more. A website with a domain that is unique to your brand gives you the ability to showcase whatever you want to the world. A website is a unique and lasting way to display your presence to the world.
Myspace was really the first social media platform that shook up the culture. We had the ‘top 8,’ where others could see our closest friends and had the opportunity to make our profile page unique with themes and such. Facebook decided to take an alternative route. Facebook made everyone’s page look identical, making only the content within it customizable. This then went across to all social media platforms.
You are the only you, and there is no other you in existence. This notion seems obvious enough, but it is important to remember the uniqueness of your value. You are the one of a kind, and to know your value is to share it with others. Having a website gives you the opportunity to do that. Your website should be the center of your social media ecosystem. All your profiles should have your website linked in your bio.
Having a website opens up a world of endless possibilities. With it, you are able to tell your story, show your collaborations, explain your value proposition, and even open up a store for products and services. Web should always be first, and your social pages should be directing all your followers to go to your site. Your website is where you showcase exclusive content, products, or services. At the end of the day, you may get deleted off of these platforms and fear losing your position as an influencer. If your website is your center, though such a circumstance may cripple you, you are still left with a leg to stand on; your followers’ information is at your fingertips on your site, and you can easily rebuild.
Back in 2013, I had a store on Amazon that was making me a decent amount of money. My brother Jose and I opened up an online store based on travel items. We offered unique compasses, travel accessories, passport holders, anti theft products, and the like. Jose continuously told me that we needed not to be so reliant on Amazon because it left us at their mercy, as they could delete our store at any moment of their choosing.
My brother, a massive influence in my life, had the brilliant idea to offer a discount for a customer’s next purchase if it was bought at our online store rather than on amazon. This offer gave us the ability to build an audience more independently and not rely solely on Amazon. Our online store did not drive sales nearly as much as Amazon did. Eventually, Amazon releases Amazon Choice, where Amazon gives its recommendation on a product—of course whichever product is its own and not those of third party sellers. Amazon Choice was applied to about 80% of our products, recommending Amazon’s version of whichever product, essentially destroying our Amazon-generated business. Thanks to having moved the products off only Amazon and offering them on our our website’s store, we were able to generate an extra $1,000 a month. This continued profit would not have been a possibility if we hadn’t taken the initiative to cut the middle man and have full control over our own store.
With a website, you gain more control and options open up to you with seemingly unending possibilities. When I met Nicky (@nickygile) I noticed that she did not own her own domain or website name nickygile.com. I went to search for it and found that someone had already bought it. They attempted to sell it to me for $3,000. Instead, I searched NicoleGile.com, saw it was open, and rather purchased that instead for $12. This was a great decision. Doing this allowed us to expand her brand from her nickname—her instagram handle Nicky—and brand her as Nicole, something more than just an Instagram model.
At the time, Nicole had a link in her bio that was going to one of her sponsors, Bang Energy, that had a coupon code including. I made it so that when you visited NicoleGile.com it would be redirected to said link of the brand’s store with her coupon code. Within a week, Nicky looked at her analytics and saw that she officially broke her record of website clicks—the number of followers who visited the page she linked to across platforms, NicoleGile.com. This statistic was exciting, as it proved that her followers were indeed interested in seeing a Nicky Gile website.
To reiterate, she did not have a website available yet; if she did we would redirect the homepage to go to the main website. Instead we used the website as a promotion tool. NicoleGile.com redirected its visitors to the page of whichever product she was promoting. If her website was live and she is, for instance promoting Bang Energy Drink, we would simply make it so that whoever goes to www.nicolegile.com/bang will be redirected to the page we want. Perhaps you think this method sounds like using a link as clickbait, and well clickbait is a huge tool in marketing. Marketing is, after all, simply finding creative ways of bringing more people to a destination of your choosing.
Besides being able to create custom links for your users, having a website has a myriad of other benefits. As of right now, the majority of influencers are simply getting analytics from whichever platform(s) they are using, but how can you be sure that the numbers they show are actually the right ones? It is always best to have a third party reference to compare it too. Installing Google Analytics is arguably the best way to track metrics on any website. With the data provided by Google Analytics, you are able to see where your traffic is coming from and what type of content is performing best depending on the reception of certain posts.
Let’s say you did two posts promoting a brand. One has great content while the other has decent content with a clear call to action. Google defines a call to action as a piece of content intended to induce a viewer, reader, or listener to perform a specific act, typically taking the form of an instruction or directive. When you tell your follower to swipe up, for example, that ‘swipe up’ request is the call to action.
So, again, you have made two pieces of content for a brand partnership, one that is great and another that is alright with a decent call to action. After looking at the analytics for these posts, you see that the content that was not as great and had a call to action performed better. Wouldn’t this affect how you create content in the future? Real people in the marketing space reference this quote often: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” In other words, you need to know how your existing content is being received in order to then curate more successful content. The most common first addition to a Website is an opt-in form. We’ve all seen this and have perhaps participated in some variation of this. We have gone to a website and seen “put your email here for xyz reason.” That email request an opt-in form which allows the website’s curator to capture his/her audience data. This data collection is crucial for every website and to the building of an audience. We will expand on this in part three of the book.
We’re starting to dig a little deeper into the technical jargon but bear with me it will all be worth it. The next benefit of having a website is the ability to make custom pages available on your website. We call these custom pages landing pages. Landing pages have one sole purpose: to get a website’s user to perform an action. Said action can be anything from buying something, signing up for some newsletter or content updates, consuming certain content, or sharing posts/content with others. The opportunities for and purposes behind landing pages are endless.
You’re probably wondering how a landing page can help you as an influencer. Well, imagine approaching a brand with which you want to collaborate. Imagine then telling them that, on top of the social media content you will publish promoting for them, you will also direct the traffic from said posts to an online form on a landing page where you will gather information on each user that lands on this page. The information you captured is that of people that are interested in this product or service provided from your collaboration. This contact information is very valuable to a brand, so providing it will make them more likely to make a purchase.
With the process of creating a landing page for the collaboration you performed with this brand you created another sales channel. You are now selling audience data which is a very valuable industry. Just take a look at 2018 and how often Mark Zuckerberg has been in the news discussing data laws. The crazy part is what they are discussing on the TV is not even the tip of the iceberg. There is so much too learn.
You’ve made it this far, and we’re about to reach a lot of the technical jargon but just stick with me. I saved the best for last—UTM Parameters. UTM Parameters allow you to put better information to read from Google Analytics. A normal link will look like this www.yourname.com, while one with a UTM parameter looks more like this: www.yourname.com?utm_source=Instagram&utm_medium=Story&utm_campaign=Coachella
This link goes to the same destination as www.yourname.com. The main difference is that, thanks to the UTM parameters, we can get more information on from where the traffic originated. In the link seen above, we can tell that the source was Instagram, the medium was a story post, and that the campaign was Coachella. The benefit this link provides is that you’re able to see which post drove what amount of traffic. You can then cater future posts to better fit your audience’s needs and desires.
We’ve done it. We got pass a good chunk of the technical jargon. I warn you, though, there is still a bit more in store. With this new awareness of marketing you now have, whenever you click on a link, you might take a look at the address bar and start identifying UTM parameters and how they’re used. This book isn’t meant to make you a master these concepts but rather it is meant to give you the awareness and understanding you need to bring your brand to the next level. The journey of mastery doesn’t end here, it starts here.