A few years ago I decided to set up a professional website on which I could share content such as my resume and other information; I later transitioned that site to a personal one in which I could share photos, write more casual blogs, and track concerts that I had attended. When I first created it, I registered a domain (geoffirwin.com) and obtained hosting services (where the website files are stored) through GoDaddy. Then, I used Apple’s iWeb product to create the pages.
While the site fit what I was looking for at the time, it is now outdated and no longer meets my needs. For example, it is not optimized for mobile devices or social media sharing, and I would be better off using the space for professional content. In considering redeveloping the site to take advantage of mobility and social media, and to develop a greater professional branding location, I have found myself asking a simple question: is it worth developing a new site, or should I spend more time taking advantage of LinkedIn’s features?
How does LinkedIn meet my needs?
LinkedIn content can be accessed via desktop and mobile devices, and because it is an integrated social media platform, blogs that are created on it are automatically shared with the blogger’s network. Other LinkedIn users can easily interact with those blogs and do not have to enter additional contact information (like an email address) in order to participate. LinkedIn also now allows sharing of work examples such as PDF and Word Documents, images, and videos. All of this functionality is free, with the option to upgrade, and without the concern of technical site administration. This solution meets most of my ideals for a professional online presence.
LinkedIn does not meet all of my ideals, however. While users can see who is viewing their profile, they do not have a detailed breakdown or summarization of who is viewing their blogs—only a number of views and any impressions that the blog receives. This means that it will be more difficult to determine whether my blogs are reaching their target. I have also found that LinkedIn blogs are not as easily found through Google searches versus posts on WordPress, which could limit the audience it is viewed by.
What will I get by creating and hosting my own site?
I have a subscription to services on GoDaddy, and until recently I did not realize how much that subscription actually had to offer. GoDaddy’s hosting service provides access to over 40 applications that can be integrated into a website, or used to develop one. There are multiple photo galleries; blog engines; content management solutions; ecommerce solutions; wikis and bulletin boards; and other applications. Using a combination of these tools provides individuals and organizations with much more branding control and more opportunities to customize the user experience. A personal website can also act as a central place to direct social media traffic from multiple networks when using a multi-network strategy. Lastly, it allows content owners to take advantage of Google Analytics in order to gain insights into who is viewing their content, how long they are spending on it, and how they are getting to it.
Of course, there are also downsides to hosting a site, as well including cost and time requirements for hosting, developing, and maintaining the site. This is true even when GoDaddy, and other sites like Wix, have tools that make it easy to create the site. Maintaining a blog on a personal site also may lead to more requirements to promote that blog through social media.
When I started looking into this, I asked a simple question: is it worth maintaining my own site? If I were running a business (ex. a professional photographer) or had a multi-social network strategy, maintaining a website might make sense. In that situation, I could move from GoDaddy to Wix, which is cheaper and has pre-developed HTML5 templates (suitable for mobile devices). However, I don’t have those needs right now, and given that LinkedIn meets most of my needs, and has tremendous recruiting and professional development potential, I do not foresee the need for a multi-network strategy right now. This may change in the future, but for now, social media trumps the personal website.