Let’s say a visitor has come to your author website. Maybe he/she read one of your pieces in a lit mag and wants to learn more about you. Maybe said person is a literary agent who is deciding whether or not you would make a good client. Or maybe said visitor is someone you met on Facebook or someone who was referred to your site by a friend.
The problem is, when your visitors leave your site, they’ll be gone forever—unless you give them a reason to stay connected. Creating an interactive website is key.
First, decide what you want.
Is your goal to offer the equivalent of a poster—a cyber broadsheet of information about you and your writing that readers can pause in front of for a moment and then be on their way, with the understanding that they may or may not be back ever again?
If so, you don’t need to do much besides create and maintain your text.
If you’re hoping to turn one-time visitors into fans who will return again and again, then you’ll need to create some specific Web infrastructure.
Next, create your site’s interactive elements to support your goal.
Making a website interactive for the sake of making it interactive is nonsensical. You want the interactive features of your site to have functionality for you and a payoff for your visitors.
Here are seven fun ways to make your website interactive in order to convert visitors into fans.
1. Offer an EASY way for visitors to sign up for your email list. Reassure sheepish visitors by promising that you won’t send junk—only news or helpful information. If possible, specify how frequently your emails will arrive (once every month or every few months?). Also, forget the double opt-in option (when users must click a link sent to their email in order to complete signing up). You can find free email list hosting services as well as paid services with more functionality all over the Web.
2. Include prominent social share buttons. See how our blog makes it easy to Like our page? That’s no accident. Facebook helps us stay in touch with visitors (shameless shout-out to Facebook fans—you guys rock!). Twitter, Google+, and other social share buttons also make it easy to connect via social media. Visitors might not get back to your site again, but at least you’ll see them on your networks!
3. Be clear about what you want your visitors to do. When you ask your visitors to do something in a clear, stand-out way (such as, Like a page or subscribe to a mailing list), you’re making it easy for them to stay in touch with you. They don’t even have to think “How will I stay in touch with this person?” because you’re already there with the answer. So…you’ll want to…
4. Organize your author homepage to direct readers to take action. In other words, what do you want readers to do first? Read your writing? Sign up for your mailing list? Think hard about what you want from your visitors, and make that directive clear on your front page.
5. Integrate your social media feeds into your site. Let’s face it. Much as we’d all love to be updating something on our site every day, that’s not always possible. But you can integrate your Facebook and Twitter feeds into your site so that your latest tweets and posts show up. This means there’s always new content on your site, always something new for visitors to see. You’re more likely to get repeat visitors if you give them a good reason to come back.
6. Consider blogging. The great thing about blogging is that there aren’t any rules about it, especially for creative writers. Write about what you feel passionate about. Then, ask readers to respond. Show that you care about their opinions. Get people talking. Think of your site as a dinner party. As the host of the party, you want your visitors to feel comfortable, to join the conversation, to jump in the pool, to help themselves to the miniquiches. You don’t want them to feel like they’re staring at the wallpaper all night.
7. Make it easy for visitors to contact you. By creating a contact form (like the one on our site), you make it easy for potential fans to connect with you—and you protect your personal email address at the same time. Once a person has contacted you through the form, ask if you can add his/her name to your mailing list.
QUESTION: How do you connect with other people online?