A friend of mine was having great success just over a year ago. He had a small event-based business, and his Facebook page was growing like gangbusters. Page likes poured in almost effortlessly, and his posts were widely shared and discussed. His Facebook page was where it was at.
“Hey,” I asked one day. “What’s the URL for your website?”
“Oh, I don’t have a website,” he told me. “With the Facebook page, I don’t even need one!”
“So how are you reminding people about your events, then? Are you emailing them?”
“Nope. People can just check out the Facebook page to see whats going on.”
I cringed. My friend was a digital sharecropper.
You might remember from history class that sharecropping is the practice of farming a particular piece of land in return for sharing the profits with the landowner. Seems like a fair deal at first, but the landlord holds all the power. If your landlord pulls the plug, you’re left with nothing to show for your work.
Facebook is kind enough to give a piece of land to anyone who requests one, in the form of a Facebook page. But as we saw through several algorithm changes over the past year, Facebook is requiring a bigger and bigger piece of your Facebook-related profits if you want anyone to actually SEE the brilliant content you’re posting.
According to Sonia Simone at Copyblogger, “Anyone can create content on sites like Facebook, but that content effectively belongs to Facebook. The more content we create for free, the more valuable Facebook becomes. We do the work, they reap the profit.”
If my friend wants people to see his posts today, he’s going to need to pony up some cash. But even that’s still no guarantee.
If Facebook decided my friend’s page was against their terms of service, it would disappear in an instant, with not even a greasy stain left to show for it. If Facebook were to close up shop tomorrow, my friend’s business just might go with it.
As a matter of fact, he posted this on Facebook not long after we talked:
So I keep pushing and selling and begging people to come out….And people keep saying, “Oh, we’ve been meaning to come by but the kids, the dog, work, my teeth hurt….” Please…try it! You won’t believe what you see and you will be hooked!
He’s depending solely on Facebook, a publicly traded website that he doesn’t own, to deliver customers to his small business. He refuses to pay for Facebook ads. And it’s not working.
This is exactly why every business should have a self-hosted, value-packed website, which encourages users to opt in to a high-quality, value-packed newsletter.
Yes, you can—and SHOULD—still make use of social media, but consider those presences as outposts that push traffic to your website. Your website encourages people to sign up to get your emails. Once you have their emails, you have earned a measure of trust, and can communicate with your customers on your OWN terms—not Mark Zuckerberg’s.
Luckily, I convinced my friend to see the light. Today, he has a well-designed website, and a healthy weekly email list. Sometimes he still pays Facebook for ads or promoted posts, but he does so with his eyes wide open as an intentional part of his overall marketing mix. He has diversified his online marketing portfolio, and his business is stronger for it.