In this day and age, it still surprises me every time I go online looking for a specific artist, brand or business and the only thing that comes up is a Facebook page (or page on any of the other social media flavours like Twitter, Instagram, Blogspot, Medium, etc).
It’s hard to believe how so many people rely solely on social media platforms for their online presence.
You are not one of those, are you? You know that’s not your own turf, right?
Social networks, blog networks, marketplaces and so on, offer far too many distractions. You might have your own stand there, but so do others and they all have offerings similar to yours. It’s a busy place where everyone is begging for some attention.
So why would you send your audience to the middle of such a busy place? When you could instead just invite them into your own place. Make them feel comfortable. Listen to what they say. Help them solve their problems. Then they will likely remember you and come back to you directly, whenever they need help again.
If you can only reach your audience through the Facebooks and Twitters of life, then I’m sorry but it’s not really your audience. You’re giving away value and just increasing that platform’s value. That’s almost as good as if you’re working for them. For free.
Any third-party site (Facebook, Google, Reddit, Tumblr, Youtube, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc) are platforms owned by others. None should be the sole connection with your audience. Otherwise, your audience is just borrowed from them, never really “yours”.
Yes, you can use these platforms for “free”. In exchange for your time and energy. As long as you strictly follow their rules. And accept to be their product.
It may sound like a quicker and cheaper or even free solution. But the reality isn’t so pretty. Nor is it free. It can get quite expensive, especially when change happens. Change in their terms, their business model or their mind. And then they get bought out, close your account or just move away. And you get nothing.
If you’re anything serious about your work and business, then you should use these platforms only as tools. Tools that you use as leverage to support and promote your work to a wider audience. But remember to keep your work safe on your own place.
Set your terms
“Ok, so all these platforms are bad and I just need my own website?” Well, yes and no. As usual, it depends.
No, these platforms are not the devil. In fact, these platforms could really help you reach a bigger audience and promote you faster than you would on your own. The problem is that you have little control while using their space. They are the landlords after all.
And yes, you need your own website. Your website should the central hub for your online strategy with lots of satellites linking back to it, instead of some third-party-owned website. By satellites, I mean social media profiles, email marketing, mobile apps, search engines, e-commerce, local search, etc. All the sources that bring people to your website.
When you put it all together, you build an ecosystem. And your website is under your terms, but the satellites are only under your influence. You can direct them, but never fully control them, as they’re owned by someone else.
Your website (together with your brand and business) will be so much more powerful with all your satellites linking back to it. Your audience will know where to find you. And even if they forget, they’ll easily remember when you pop up on their feed or inbox.
As a general rule, I suggest a two-step approach for a better online strategy:
- first publish your work on your website;
- then publish it on other platforms and link it back to the original piece on your website.
Where to start?
Assuming you don’t have a website, that’s the first step.
You’ll need a well thought out website with your own domain name and hosting. A domain name ensures you own the digital address of your little piece of the internets. The hosting defines the size of your space and all the commodities that come with it (emails, databases and such).
Next, if you haven’t already, you should start an email list of people interested in what you have to offer. And make sure your audience knows it exists.
Lastly, you should focus on building a reputation as someone who delivers great value. Someone who helps others fill their needs and solve their problems.
Yes, any of these assets is still prone to risks. The hosting company may have to close down, same with the email list provider and your reputation might take a hit.
But at least these are now all under your control. You can move your domain name, website and email list to another hosting company, responsibly manage your reputation and continue delivering great value to your audience. I believe these are minor risks, comparing to having to start all over just because your landlord threw in the towel or got greedy.