I've said for years that you own nothing in social media - and that social networks WILL change the rules of the game to their benefit, not yours.
In the wake of changes in Facebook's algorithm, suppressing unpaid brand posts, some marketers are asking, "what options do we have?". Facebook - and other social networking services - have occupied so much mindshare for so long that marketers have let their other marketing skills atrophy. Let's look at a refresher of what we do own.
We own our websites. Top to bottom, as long as we pay the hosting fees, our websites are completely ours. We have total control over what's on the website (assuming proper marketing governance within our organizations). We have total control of what is published. In short, our website is our largest representation of who we are online for people seeking information about us.
How much time do we spend on the site itself? How much effort do we put into design, into functionality, into user experience?
If our company website looks like it's from 1999 (and your company isn't Berkshire Hathaway), invest time in making the site work better.
We probably have a blog. Many companies let their blogs atrophy in lieu of pithy, short posts on social networks. Our blogs are our newspapers, our way of sharing news, information, tips, entertainment, and education with the world. How much time does our company invest in the blog? How much effort?
Check the date of the most recent blog post. If it's over a week ago, it's time to start blogging again.
Audio podcasts may host their audio files on one service or another, but the feed - the subscription mechanism - is firmly under our control. Does our company have an audio podcast?
If not, that's an opportunity for us to literally be heard by our audience. Invest time building a podcast that's helpful, useful, and entertaining - and under our control.
As with audio, we might host our videos in one place or another in the cloud, but where do we publish and call attention to our videos?
Lazy companies just slap something on YouTube or Facebook and hope that audiences find their way to the content.
Active marketers publish and embed videos on the company website or blog and market them aggressive. Additionally, savvy marketers keep local copies of all their video files so that if YouTube/Facebook/whatever vanishes tomorrow, we replace our video content with locally hosted versions.
The Golden Rolodex: Email
I've saved the best for last. Our email list - our database of who has asked to correspond with us - is the original social network. It's also the one social network no one owns. No one will shut down email; compare this to how marketers felt after MySpace cratered. Facebook changed its rules? Fine. Those rules don't apply to our email lists.
We live or die on our database in marketing. Marketers who forsook email for social media are realizing the terrible consequences of that decision.
For social networks, we are the product for sale to advertisers. Social networks owe us nothing. Use them to attract people to our email list, to give permission for us to contact them directly and expect our content on our terms.
By the way, if you're not subscribed to my weekly email newsletter, Almost Timely, please do subscribe. Every Sunday night, you'll receive the best of the previous week's news in marketing, AI, and interesting items that caught my eye.
One last bonus note. When we focus on our owned media, when we build on land we own, we receive something else that social networks often deprive us of.
We receive data. Analytics. Insights. We see what's working, not in terms of likes or shares, but in terms of conversions and business impact we care about. We have far more tracking ability, far more data made available to us when we're using our owned media than when we rely completely on a third party service.
You Own Nothing in Social Media
You own nothing. You are owed nothing by social networks, which are private businesses that have no civic obligations. If you wouldn't turn over your business to random Facebook employees, why would you turn over your marketing to them?
Take charge. Take back control. Take ownership of your media once more, and start creating content on your own channels in earnest.
As the singer-songwriter Jewel says, "No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from". If you're tired of Facebook and other third parties dictating how you market, opt instead to create for yourself.
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