Why the Internet?
The Internet is a communication tool to exchange ideas, inspiration, information, statistics, pictures and drawings, and to find people and organisations. Using the Internet is quick, convenient and relatively cheap. Use it to communicate with existing and potential supporters to let them know about the issues you raise. The Internet has a number of parts and two of the most important are the Web and email.
The Web is short for World Wide Web (the 'www' that precedes web page addresses), a network of computers around the globe to which anyone can access by connecting to it with a computer. People began using the Web as a popular medium for communication in the mid-1990's. Basically the Web consists of millions of web sites, each of one or more pages where text, graphics and videos are set out for people to view.
Acquiring your own web site may be free, cheap or expensive depending on what you want and how you go about obtaining it (see Blog Animal Rights). Creating and managing your own web site is not difficult but takes a little time to learn how to handle it. Benefits of your own web site are:
- You can tell your web site viewers what you do and what you think they should do.
- You can display newsletters and other documents.
- It is easy to add, revise or delete information.
- It will give your / your group a sense of professionalism and enhance your / its reputation, especially if your web site is informative and good looking.
Email, short for electronic mail, was invented some years before the Web. You can use email to exchange messages, graphics and video clips within seconds or minutes with any Internet user anywhere in the world who has an email account. Email is so nimble that you will not want to send letters through the post any more and it is often better than using the phone, giving the email receiver time to organise a reply.
You do not need a web site to have an email address. To obtain only an email address you just need to get online using a computer and sign up with a company that provides email, which can be free or paid. You can then send and access email from anywhere on any computer that links you to the Internet.
You will need a computer to access the Internet. You can use a mobile phone, but using one for a long time can be a wear on the fingers and heavy on the eyes for some people. Having your own computer is handy because you will be in command of when and how long you stay online; alternatively, public libraries offer a good internet service.
Using your own computer you will need two things, first a company that will connect your computer to the Internet, and then a company that will store your web pages and send them to people who ask to view them. Either company might also provide you with an email account. Both kinds of company can be found online by searching the Web under 'Internet service provider' and 'web site hosting', respectively.
Get Your Own Site
The simplest way to get your own web site is to get a blog. Blogs evolved after web sites, the two used to look quite different, but many blogs nowadays look the same as web sites. Blogs are free and you can pay for a more specialised one. You build your web pages by designing the layout and adding text and images, easy to do on a blog because you do it ‘intuitively’ (ie without having to think much or learn much), so there is nothing complicated and it can be fun. Look up ‘blogging’ on the Web for details.
Now that your blog or web site is online, Google will automatically list it for viewers to find and read. You do not have to inform Google or any other web search engine. It may take days but they will find you.
Another method of acquiring viewers is to find relevant web sites (eg connected with animals or animal rights) and exchange reciprocal links with them. Email a relevant web site. All you have to say is, "Can we exchange reciprocal web links, please? The name of my site is *****, its address is www.*****, and it is about animal rights." It might spur them on if you place a web link to them on your web site before emailing them. Let them know which page it is on.
How many viewers see your web site? Which pages get most viewers? Register with a company offering web counters, software that computes viewer usage of web sites. An example is StatCounter.com, which is free and excellent. You will be doing well if you get twenty viewers a day. Get only one or two and you may want to think about how to make more people see your site. Do not be misled by statistics: about 75 percent of viewers to ordinary web sites (not popular national ones) click off in the first five seconds, having found that the site is not what they were looking for. However, your site is always worthwhile for projecting your group and its mission to prospective members, irrespective of how many people land on it.
With your site up and running you could offer viewers a forum on it (sometimes called discussion boards and newsgroups). A forum is a facility for people to hold discussions online by typing in (or 'posting') and reading messages about topics of interest to them. There are said to be over 100,000 forums online.
You, your group members and anyone viewing your forum can raise questions and answer them. Contributors can be anonymous and can email each other individually for more confidential discussion. Decide whether the forum is open only to your group members or is public for anyone to see (you will be able to reach more people if it is public), and whether you want to 'moderate' it (censor messages before you delete or display them online).
You do not actually have to have a web site to offer people a forum. You may be able to go to a specialist forum web site and set one up on their site. Setting up your forum can be paid or free and takes just a few minutes to register with a company online.
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