Personal Domains as Apps


I keep wondering what to do with this site.

For a long time, I’ve been an advocate for folks having their own domain and using that as a “blog” of some sort to share ideas, thoughts, creations, stories, writings, photos, videos etc. When I was a middle school teacher, I was especially insistent about this to the point of having all of my students set up blogs for their portfolios (many of which still use the domains they set up years ago according to my Feedly account, which is great to see).

However, we are moving from an era of writing-for-the-web first into a nascent ecosystem of writing for an app first. Rather than concentrating on their websites as well developed marketing vehicles complete with many pages, subpages, and temp landing pages, many of my marketing clients these days (at least the smart ones that listen to me) are focusing on the notion that the mobile web (and / or apps) is the more profitable place for focus.

We’re watching companies like Google, Dropbox, Yahoo, and Facebook break down their once monolithic web portals into divergent apps that separate out their photo, newstream, chat, and video components. Even companies like Twitter have Vine. It’s a fascinating phenomenon that will only accelerate in the coming months and years as the web continues to change and bifurcate its various evolutionary chains. The web that my four and six year old knows will be very different than the web I’ve known for twenty years because of this evolutionary path as well as the rise of wearables, the web in our vehicles, and the “internet of everything” that will continue to bring transformations to our human dwellings.

In the meantime, I’ve been wondering about the nature of this personal namespace. I still think everyone should have a personal domain that they call their own. I love and cherish the idea of a web that is federated and based on a model of flowing river that routes around problems rather than being a flow of syrup that is held up by any barrier that is put up by walled gardens and monolithic user experiences. However, that’s not in the schadenfreude of 2014. I’m constantly caught up in the ease and reliability of using Facebook or Twitter as my blog, Instagram as my photo sharing service, and GOogle+ as my repository for photos and videos that are for family only.

But what if there’s a middle ground?

What if personal domain blogs (or portfolios if you will) have the possibility to be “apps” that represent our own content and offer an experience of who we are to interested people? What if these types of personal blogs like what you’re reading is less of a blog in the 2005 sense, and more like a “sam harrelson” app that gives glimpses into thoughts that I want to communicate and share? It’s a matter of semantics, to be sure, but in this case words do matter.

The Trough of Disillusionment

For many businesses, attempting to put together an online marketing plan without including at least some aspects of social media is unthinkable. However, there was a time before Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram ruled our social interactions on the web.

Granted, the web itself has always been a social medium. Before the rise of what we’ve coined “Social Media” in 2005-2006 (along with the now maligned but important “web2.0” movement), there were plenty of forums, platforms, blogs, chat applications etc to keep us connected.

Yet the idea of social media as an entity has had a good run since the halcyon days of Twitter’s launch and Facebook’s ascendancy in 2006. Now, social media has grown up in terms of expectations, both for businesses and individuals.

What that means for businesses is that simply having a Facebook page or getting likes or trying to rack up retweets on your corporate Twitter account won’t pay for your social media manager. Instead, like all marketing, social media has to be done in a thoughtful manner if you want to actually see any long term productive results from the social web.

We might be entering a trough, but social media as a concept will continue to reap benefits if “done well.”

Harrelson Agency Featured in Shareist Case Study

We’re big fans of Shareist in our office and in the work we do with contractors and clients around the world. In a nutshell, Shareist is a way to manage all of your (or a client’s) social media and content creation accounts with a high degree of team collaboration under one umbrella. We use it alongside Basecamp as our company’s project management backbone.

I was honored to be asked by the Shareist team to do a chat on how we’re using the tool in our agency and for the improvement of our clients’ campaigns.

Here’s a snippet, but go read the full case study on the Shareist Blog:

Harrelson, whose clients including political organizations, religious groups, local retailers and services, brands, authors and more, says Shareist solves many of problems of how to communicate and keep in touch – for both his team and his clients.

Shareist ensures that everyone on his team has immediate access to add, share, comment, collaborate and manage their client’s projects – which run the gamut from affiliate management, social media marketing, event marketing, political messaging, to billboards and T-shirts.

I’ve been using Shareist since it first launched years ago and can’t recommend it enough if you or your team does any sort of social media or web content creation and need a tool to help manage all the disparate social web apps and accounts that you have to participate in to be truly effective in 2014 and beyond.

Introducing Project Willie and Project Waylon

I’m excited that we’re launching a couple of new services for clients and potential clients this weekend (gotta beta test, you know… weekends are the best time for that!). We already offer our clients some pretty excellent services from overall marketing strategies to website design and development to social media management to affiliate marketing management to product design and development to billboards to … well I could go on forever.

However, we’re primarily offering these services to people or businesses or groups or churches on a more limited budget that want to have the ability to work with a marketing agency but might not have the funds to do so in the capacity that most agencies require:

1) Have Your Own Company/Church/Group Website: We’ve been calling this “Project Willie” for a couple of reasons we won’t disclose (to quote Willie), but the idea is that for an one time payment of $499 and $50 a month for hosting costs, you’ll get a professional and responsively designed clean and unique website that will serve you well for years and years.

We talk to so many businesses/groups/people/churches who want a well designed site on their own hosting plan but can’t afford the thousands of dollars it can take to accomplish that.

This is my attempt to help with that.

So for $499 and the $50 in hosting, they’ll get a great site, unique logo, email addresses, a web host, etc.

2) Learn About Your Own Site (why aren’t people finding us? why aren’t we ranking better in Google?): We’ve been calling this Project Waylon, and the idea is that you’ll get a complete diagnostic of your site at a high quality level from the point of view of a marketing agency that works with Fortune 100 companies on these same topics for $199. Phone calls or emails…whatever is most convenient for you.

Not only that, we’ll hook your site up to Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools and make sure you have the tools and insights you need to have a site that people discover and share.

It seems like common sense, but there’s a literal ton involved in figuring this stuff out, and we’re hoping to share our expertise with you for a reasonable cost.

More soon!

Pride of a Husband

As someone who has spent considerable time inside of seminary walls, I know personally how challenging and gut-wrenching the process of discernment to ordination can be for anyone.

I can’t express how proud I am of Merianna in all that she’s accomplished in her time at seminary and in her time as a pastor.

If you need any proof of why “I’m amazed” (to paraphrase McCartney), go listen to her Easter Sermon from today at Emmanuel Baptist Fellowship.

It’s been an amazing experience to be able to share part of those experiences with her and I look forward to where her ministry takes her and our family in the coming years.

People like Merianna and the current crop of strong yet humble leaders coming up in the ranks of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship make me excited about our future as a group and the impacts that will be made on our communities as God’s Dream continues to be made real.