How much will you pay for using Facebook every day? Some weeks ago, the internet was awash with rumors about Facebook’s rumored intention to monetize the use of the platform by the public. This eventually was announced to be a hoax but is not the first time the rumors will be happening.
It’s official. Social media as a platform may be free, social media marketing is not. Providing platforms for people to engage with their friends obviously has a business model and there is the need to make that plan profitable. While it is common that startups launch free services to gain publicity by providing free services, they later need to look for financial models that will ensure the investors are happy and the business continues to grow. Marketers have been complaining for some time that organic reach no longer exists on social media and that brands have to pay for adverts if they want to engage with their target audience. Twitter is not also left out of the profiting campaign. For long time, Twitter was making zero dollars in income while third party applications were making all the money for themselves. After the IPO, the business models were launched which included services like promoted accounts, tweets, posts and trends. While all these is not a crime, the other policies that may end up with you losing your account and user base is what should get you afraid
What is “Digital Sharecropping”?
Digital sharecropping is when you build your entire business and online presence on a single online platform (i.e. Facebook, Google+, WordPress, Joomla, Medium, Twitter, Blogger etc.) where you don’t actually own the property itself. The word was developed from Agriculture where sharecropping is a practice where sharecroppers would tend land owned by someone else in exchange for a share of the yield. The tenants do all the work while the landowner reaps a majority of the benefits.
It is great because you can focus on more important things like creating and delivering great products. This option is great because you are leveraging on platforms, software and technologies provided by others in which you do not have to think of technology issues, design, security and hacking issues – it is bliss.
As an entrepreneur, putting all your social media resources, efforts and dollars on a specific social media channel ensures you are limited by the policy, terms and condition set by the platform. Apart from the trends of most free platforms transmuting into paid platforms, there is the challenge of them coming up with new policies in order to meet up to the high standards of security and reliability they started with. That is why just because you can replicate functionalities of your website on Facebook does not mean you should invest heavy dollars in it. It is in fact one of the reasons I shy away from heavy and expensive Facebook applications. It is technically investing heavy naira on building Facebook’s property to which one reversal can throw every effort down the drain.
Here are my quick takes on how to avoid the pitfalls of digital sharecropping;
Social media is not digital marketing
There is a lot of money wasting when we approach social media with the same push marketing tactic we use when we try radio, fliers and TV advertising. However, there is a lot digital marketing has to offer beyond social network marketing. One of the ways to ensure your business does not suffer from digital share cropping is you have several platforms working to help and support your marketing results.
Separate Domain name from hosting
I once was consulted by an SME when there was a disagreement between them and their web designer which eventually resulted in them losing their company website. I always offer this free advice to businesses; take control of your domain name and hosting. It is also important to separate your hosting from your domain name registrars to ensure you are not affected by policies and unforeseen issues that can affect your service provider and hence your online assets.
Your Website, the Central Hub
To ensure you are able to track and monitor your several online marketing tactics, it is important that your website remains the central focus of your online efforts. Having your website as the central focus ensures you are able to lead your website traffic and to lead them into a lead management system.
Your website is not a static platform that needs to change every year, it should be active, alive and engaging. If you are going to post content online, it is important you link back to your website because you need to own your content.
Publishing your articles and images are ways of building a community around your website, rather than tapping into an existing community like Facebook. You therefore need to see social networks are places to use to drive traffic to you website and not a publishing platform.
Spread your Efforts across Channels
Depending on your organization, it is important to spread you efforts across at least two channels. You must not also fall into the trap of spreading yourself too thin on social media. You need to ask you self; are you committing time and effort to these other social venues because you have a clearly defined strategy with distinct KPIs? Or are you wasting time on Instagram when clearly it has no alignment with your business?
Your Landlord Might Not Be Here Next Year
Have you ever heard of second life? It was the most popular social networking website way before MySpace became popular. Second Life was a virtual world kind of soial networking that was extremely addictive because you literally have a body online that works, move around and interacts with others. Brands and businesses invested heavily in buying up shopping mall and spaces in them. Second Life still exists but the people have moved on. It later became MySpace, then Facebook and now Twitter and Instagram is enjoying that same kind of attention. If you are hosting all your content on a ‘.blogspot’ ‘.Wordpress’ or a social network, what happens if the people decide it is time to move on? What happens if your landlord decides that you need to pay for everything? If your Landlord moves on, what happens to all your tons of content?
There’s no reason to stop using social networks or engaging in digital share cropping, it is ensuring that if you are putting ll your eggs in one basket, it had better be one you are guarding with your life. It is ultimately important to maintain a balance between owned and rented platforms so as not to lose traffic, search engine rankings and ultimately long term profit.