Come on, admit it: sometimes you wish you were famous. In the old days, you had to be “discovered.” But now, thanks to the internet, you can become a star without even having to leave your comfy crib. Or maybe it’s not fame you’re after but friendship, companionship, recognition or just an outlet for your creativity. You can find these on the web, as well. So what are you waiting for, newbie? Here are the basics and some strategies for getting you noticed in cyberspace.
Do you have a lot to say but no one to listen? Maybe you need a blog. Derived from the word “weblog,” blogs have been around for “ages” (far longer than YouTube and MySpace, anyway—it’s all relative in cyberspace) and are the most basic means of self-promotion—sorry, “self-expression” on the internet. Basically they’re online diaries—although they’ve gone beyond “what I did today” to encompass news, opinion and analysis, satire, advice…you name it. There are niche bloggers who blog about anything and everything from technology to politics to tabloid gossip.
It’s All About Me
The first thing you’ll want to do is set up an account with one of the online blog hosts (see “Block of Blogs”). In a matter of minutes, you’re ready to blog! If you’re not sure how to begin, resist the temptation to start with your entire life history or, even worse, trying to explain who you are. Take it easy. Write a post about your day. The important thing is to get in the habit of doing it regularly. Write like you’re having a conversation with someone. If you write the way you speak, not only will it make your blog easy to understand but it also adds personality. People read blogs because they want to get to know the people behind them. (See “Blogging Do’s and Don’ts.”)
So, you’re writing—now it’s time to attract some readers. There are as many bloggers out there as there are stars, and a new blog is born every second. How do you get noticed? The first thing you should do is to list your blog in blog directories. Locally there is the farang-dominated www.thailandvoice.com (in English) or www.thaiblog.info (in Thai). Internationally, Technorati.com tracks millions of blogs around the world, and it’s much more advanced than the others in that it allows users to not just scroll through the list of blogs but also three different ways to search for specific content: by blog name; in the text of blogs; or in the list of tags.
Another way to build traffic is through search engines (Yahoo, Google…duh). If you’re blogging about something that is current or of popular interest, chances are your blog will come up in search engines.
To help you understand what people are looking for, you’ll want to equip your blog with a site statistic counter (try Sitemeter.com). These can tell you not only how many people visit your blog (or other site), but also give you profiles of visitors (what country they’re in, what browser they use, etc.) plus tell you how much time they’re spending reading your site, what parts of your site they’re clicking on, what they were searching for that brought them to your site and what site they came from (known as referrals).
Finally, just like in the real world, networking is key to generating traffic. Blogrolling, or trading links with other bloggers, can do wonders for your visitor count as well as your reputation. Aim high: Try to get yourself listed on popular blogs so you can ride their coattails.
In 2003, a self-obsessed Singaporean girl with a knack for descriptive bitching started posting her stories of her daily life and self-obsessed images online. Four years later, Xiaxue (xiaxue.blogspot.com) is now one of the best-known bloggers in Asia, with over 20,000 hits daily. Loved (and hated) by many, she now has her own TV show and sponsorship deals.
There are many factors that contribute to the success of a blogger. The quality of writing is important, but don’t overlook the look. Design, color and the use of images matter, too. When you sign up for a blog, you usually get a plain default template, which means that, design-wise, your blog is not going to stand out. If you don’t know how to design a website, there are number of tutorials online (such as www.csstutorial.net).
BK blogs, you know. Read our musings at blog.aziacity.com/bk
Networking sites are online “communities” of people who are known by their self-created profiles, which might contain things like interests, physical characteristics, marital status, education, profession and so on. On many sites, you can also upload photographs, music, videos, blogs and calendars. If this sounds more complicated than a humble blog, it is, but networking sites such as industry leader MySpace are easy to use—if you can send an email with an attachment, you should be able to use MySpace.
Ostensibly the goal is to make new friends with similar interests, but people also use them to find love, make business contacts or as a promotional tool for themselves or a product or service.
There are many networking sites out there (see “More Than MySpace”), but MySpace is by far the best if your goal is maximum exposure. No longer just a “place for friends,” MySpace has developed into a vehicle for self-expression full of budding artists, filmmakers, singers, actors and comedians.
Not only can they promote their work on the internet, but fans who add them to their “Friend lists” help expand their network—i.e., their fan base. Tools like messaging and chatting make are another way for fans to get in touch with their favorite musicians.
Lily Allen’s (www.myspace.com/lilymusic) chick angst hit “Smile” was originally posted on MySpace. Her link was passed from “friend” to “friend” until finally music magazines and record companies took notice. The world’s biggest entertainment companies now mine MySpace for talent; they are also posting content on MySpace to promote their films and bands. In addition to the arts, MySpace is being used to influence public opinion and to promote candidates for office—you can now befriend Hillary at www.myspace.com/hillaryclinton, for example.
Just like blogs, you will not get any attention if all you have are a bland description of yourself and boring photos taken with your mobile phone. You need to “pimp” your profile with colors, graphics and music. Don’t worry if you’re not a tech whiz: there are pre-made templates out there for you to just copy and paste into your profile (try www.pimp-my-profile.com).
Once you have a profile worth viewing, you can help nudge things along by placing clever comments in profiles of people you think might be interested in you (or your talent or whatever it is that you’re selling). A “soft sell” approach works best—if you’re pushy or too commercial you’re liable to get the kind of attention you don’t want.
Want to be our friend? Go on, head to www.myspace.com/bkmag and add us!
If you’re a decent photographer or visual artist, you have even more options for getting yourself noticed on the web. Starting a blog and posting your pictures on it may be easier, but these specialized sites cater to your specific, artistic needs and give you admission to communities of like-minded artists. While some are simply places to hang your work (online galleries), the best also offer the same kind of functionality as more general networking sites (user profiles, messaging, etc.) as well as added features such as forums and groups where members can interact with each other. (For more, see “Hang it Here.”)
The most widely used and accepted site is Flickr (www.flickr.com). Though the, er, “focus” of Flickr is photography, you can pretty much upload any kind of picture file. However, most of the photos on Flickr are by professionals or near-professional quality—so the snapshots of your neighbor hosing down the dog won’t attract a lot of interest.
When it comes to maximizing your exposure, the first thing you want to do is sign up for as many groups as you’re interested in: black-and-white, travel photography, Lomography, models, whatever. In these groups you’ll be sharing your photos with people who give a damn, and you can learn a lot from other members. Another cool feature of Flickr is that other members can attach comments to your photos. In addition, blogging is as easy as clicking “Blog This” on your Flickr page.
With Flickr, you are forced to tag each photograph that you upload—while this may seem like a pain, this is something you would—you should—do anyway. Because the more descriptive you are with tags, the easier it is for people to find your photos; and the easier it is to find your photos, the greater the chances are that they will find you.
Two years ago Hamad Darwish (www.flickr.com/photos/darwishh/) was a university student without any formal photographic training. Now, five of his pictures are featured as wallpaper in Microsoft’s new Vista operating system. How did this happen? He posted his newbie snaps on Flickr.
For photography that might not be chosen by Microsoft but but are still pretty neat, check out our Flickr album at www.flickr.com/photos/bkmag.
Are you an aspiring director? Or an actress wannabe still waiting to be discovered at Center Point? Well, if you have a video camera, or even a phone camera, you can upload yourself onto the web with the help of online video services.
For better or worse, now everyone (who has access to a camera and computer, that is) can be a reality TV star and posting your home movies on sites like YouTube (for more, see “‘V’ is for Video”) is one of the best ways to get your face onto the world wide web.
The most successful online video website is, of course, YouTube (www.youtube.com). Aside from giving a second life to movie clips and music videos, YouTube is also a tool for us commoners to get our 15 minutes of fame. All you need to get started is an account, a camera and an internet connection; also it helps if you have a thick skin and an active imagination, because it’s usually the most ridiculous, embarrassing and downright freaky videos that are the most popular, everything from how to fold a shirt Japanese-style to a clip of Saddam Hussein’s execution.
There you can create “channels” for your videos. Once you establish a fan base, your fans can “subscribe” to your channel to get updates whenever a new video is up. Another way to pull in viewers on YouTube is to leave “video response.” Instead of leaving wording comments you can post a similar video of your own to attract your potential audience.
Just like any other user-generated contents, you can integrate YouTube with your blogs and MySpace profiles by embedding your YouTube videos. This is useful if you have a blog related to your video project. And don’t forget to tag: your video is competing with millions of other videos out there.
Internet celebrities have sprung up all over the place thanks to YouTube. One of the most famous is a teenage girl named Bree, a.k.a. lonelygirl15. Her “videoblog” attracted fans all over the world—that is until the public learned that she was an invention of a talent agency, and Bree was played by an actress.
So does that mean the lonelygirl15 project was a failure? Far from it: the New Zealand actress who played Bree is now a celebrity in her own right and she’s been receiving numerous offers, including starring in a feature with Lindsay Lohan.
Who needs YouTube when we have BK TV? Get your weekly dose of BK episodes at blog.aziacity.com/bk/bk_tv.
Speak the Lingo
Just like any culture, cyber culture is equipped with its own language. It can be hard for commoners to engage with geeks at times, so study these terms and enter the third millennium—at last.
A blogroll is a list of links to the blogs you like that shows up on your blog. Blogrolling is the act of adding a blog to your blogroll.
To embed is to take the code (written in a language called HTML) to something you’d like to put up on your blog and include it so that the code will appear on your blog as a video, or a small music player, for example.
A host is a company that physically keeps your blog on a server somewhere. Some are free (blogger.com) but if you want to have your own address (yourname.com), you’ll have to pay up.
PageRank is like a web social status calculated by Google. It is calculated by looking at the number of links that are directed to your blog or website—and what their PageRank is. The higher the number of your PageRank, the more popular you are.
Each time you publish an entry in a blog, it will appear on your blog as a post. Old posts in a blog will usually get archived monthly so they won’t clutter the homepage.
RSS is a way to “feed” or send updates of new posts of a blog into a specific feed reader program. It’s like a way to subscribe for regular updates of your favorite news sources or blogs, the only difference is that the updates get sent to a feed reader (such as Google Reader [reader.google.com]) and not your email. So to be able to get updates, you have to also download a feed reader.
A tag is a word you attach to a post, image or video. These words are clickable, meaning that if you click on a tag, you’ll see every other item on that particular website that has that same tag. It allows for faster, more convenient browsing but, more importantly, it allows you to search things that contain no text, like videos, music or pictures.
Traffic is the number of visitors (or “hits”) you get on your blog. Some site traffic trackers also give information such as average hits per day and an average time people spend on your blog.
Blogging Do’s and Don’ts
Do post photos. It doesn’t have to be a photo of yourself, but it should be something related to you or what you are blogging about. Photos make blog posts look more appealing.
Don’t publish your personal information. You can go by your screen name or nickname but it’s best not to reveal your real full name. Same thing goes for phone numbers and street addresses—it’s no fun having a stalker.
Do post your email address. To protect yourself, you want a bit of anonymity (if your name is part of your current address, create a new one just for your blog), but you still want people to be able to contact you or comment on your blog.
Don’t use other people’s work without permission. It’s just like real journalism: copyrights matter. Never cut and paste without citing your source.
Do copyright your work. With the help of Creative Commons (www.creativecommon.org), you can post a little notice on your blog letting other people know how they can use your material.
Don’t over blog. Unless you’re a niche blogger or a gossip blogger where you have to constantly report about certain things, you don’t have to post 5-6 times a day. This only leads to blogger’s burnout, and your readers will stop reading also.
Do post in-text links. If you’re talking about something of your personal interest, you should also link to other sites so readers can click for more details. You can also link to other blogs, and it’s a great way to make blog friends.
Don’t spam. Don’t go around writing nonsense comments on other people’s blogs to draw attention to your own. It never works. Also, with some blog services, spamming can get you blacklisted.
Block of Blogs
Here is a list of free blog providers to get you started on the path to shameless self-disclosure.
Blogger (www.blogger.com) — The world’s most popular blogging program by Google, Inc. Super easy to use, and if you already have Gmail account, there’s no need to sign up. There are all sorts of pre-designed templates to choose from, so you won’t need to be able to edit in HTML (or even know what HTML is). But then, of course, you’ll be settling for the same ones used by millions of other people.
Windows Live Spaces (spaces.live.com) — Formerly known as MSN Spaces, it’s the big blogspot for MSN users. Totally idiot-proof with colorful click-and-view functions. Only members can comment, though, so not the best choice if you want to blog for the world.
Yahoo! 360 (360.yahoo.com) — Same as Windows Live Spaces, but for Yahoo! users.
Wordpress (www.wordpress.com) — Sign up here if you’re ready for some serious blogging. Recommended for more advanced users who know what CSS, blogroll, RSS, trackbacks and categories mean.
Bloggang (www.bloggang.com) —Thailand’s most popular blogging service (thanks in part to it being bi-lingual), run by Pantip.com. No space limit and you can even add other bloggers to your “friends” list.
More Than MySpace
MySpace is by far the biggest, but there are lots of networking sites out there. Here are a few of the most popular.
While the Americans are MySpacing, we give each other Hi5ives. Just like MySpace, you can customize your page and add music or videos. You can also give each other “5ives,” special badges for users who are “cool,” “swanky,” or “divas.”
Has all the basic features a networking site needs, but on Facebook, your profile can also be grouped into different sub-networks, making it ideal for, say, school friends or company employees to stay in touch.
Once extremely popular, this networking site has fallen from public favor. If you’re only going to choose one networking site, this is probably not the one you want.
Multiply has some features that other networking sites don’t have. You can upload videos and music onto your profiles, and you can group your friends into categories for easy browsing. If you’re a blogger, Multiply allows you to publish your blog to other blog sites such as Blogger or LiveJournal.
There are countless other ways to promote yourself online. Here is a sampling.
It’s a combination of blogging, social networking, and sms-ing. You set up a profile and all is left is to is just give quick “updates” about yourself—what you are doing, wearing, eating, whatever.
Well you know Friendster—only this one is for dogs. You can add dog friends, upload pics of your dog and even get your dog rated. (Yes, there’s also a Catster.)
Are you a girl, goth, and don’t mind a bit of nudity? Well sign yourself up to be a Suicide Girl. This social networking site is a little bit raunchy but if you want to see “hot punk rock girls naked” this is the place to be.
That’s right. Since this little online user-generated encyclopedia is free, why not add an entry about yourself? Finally your name shows up in Google.
Online classifieds is what Craigslist is all about. You can sell a house, find a job, find a date and of course market yourself online.
This site is like a chatroom but all are equipped with webcams. You log in, find the rooms you want and just connect your camera with the rest of the room. The idea seems dubious from the start, so it’s no surprise that people started broadcasting homemade porn on it.
Hang it Here
Gone are the days of performing on the street and drawing portraits of strangers. If you want your art appreciated, go online.
Hardcore artsy types can be found lurking here. If you love serious painting, drawing and illustrative art, get a profile here and get recognition.
Though the interface is on the drab side, this hasn’t stopped serious professional photographers from showing off their shots here.
The ultimate online gallery for Thai photographers and artists. Post photos of your work in the gallery, where people can vote on them. There’s also a forum where members can exchange tips as well as criticism.
“V” is for Video
Google Video (video.google.com)
The original Google production. With a Google account, you can upload, embed and download (some) videos.
This one is owned by MTV Networks, so you know what type of videos you can find here. Music videos, movie trailers and TV clips are the main attractions.
Not just a place for videos, but also for photos and audio clips. You can also create playlists and share with other members who have the same “meem” (area of interest).
The name pretty much explains it. If they won’t let us use YouTube…
Online videos for professional use. Not only you can upload and share, but you can also edit your videos and add effects to them.
Yahoo! Video (video.yahoo.com)
Yahoo!’s own online video service. Just like Google.
you tube proxy (www.youtubeproxy.org)
That creep who made and uploaded those films deserves a spanking, but we don’t agree with the government’s decision to block YouTube (voice your opinion here http://facthai.wordpress.org). If you, too, need your daily fix of Mentos-and-Coke fountains, you can still access the site via a proxy server, such as this one.