If you have browsed through a few pages on this site then there is a good chance that you ran across the services page where I mention Facebook.
On the flip side, if you are a current or past client then it is safe to say that we have discussed your social media presence and I have explained digital sharecropping.
Although I may have not called it digital sharecropping when we discussed your current social media strategy, you do know what I am talking about.
Digital sharecropping was first coined by Nicholas Carr where he said,
One of the fundamental economic characteristics of Web 2.0 is the distribution of production into the hands of the many and the concentration of the economic rewards into the hands of the few.
Basically what this means is that networks like Facebook give you all the tools to create all sorts of content for free while they get rich!
As Sonia Simone of Copyblogger put it, “Digital sharecropping is building your business on someone else’s land.”
I don’t really care if Facebook gets rich, but what I do care about is putting your brand or business’s livelihood into their hands.
Think about it. You invest a good amount of your time and resources into building up your “likes”, or “followers”.
I have talked to many business owners who do nothing but praise their Facebook page, and say that this is their only means of communicating with customers. (And by communicating they mean constant-hard-selling.)
Some have even asked, “Why do I need a website when I have Facebook?”
Well, you are helping Facebook and Twitter drive people back to Facebook and Twitter.
You are not collecting valuable data on your customers (you may not even know who they are), and they are certainly are not going to your site. I wonder how many actually visit your page or see your statuses.
By building your business on rented land, your business becomes vulnerable and at any point these social networks can pull the plug.
Photos, Videos, and Comments OH MY!
But you say, “Jared, Facebook makes it so easy to upload photos, share videos, comment and interact with customers.”
Yes, you are right, but this also means that Facebook can do what they want with all of the content and they have the ability to shut you down.
Shut me down!?
Yep, not only can they do what they want with the content that you upload and share, but they can shut you down for whatever reason.
There are no “Facebook Rights” that guarantee that you can have a Business Page.
One incident or breach of their Terms of Service and you are deleted!
1,600 Followers Lost Overnight
Before you even say, “Well, this won’t happen to me”, let me share a real example with you.
Facebook recently shut down a thriving page because one party claimed the other was using their trademarked name.
Without hesitation, or warning, Facebook shut the page in question down.
The business that owned the page was shocked that they weren’t even contacted about the complaint, and we really do not know if any proof was submitted to Facebook about the trademark infringement.
All we know is that over 1,600 loyal customers were lost that morning.
All the images and content were gone and they are having to start all over.
Own Your Content and Customers!
So how do you avoid this happening to you and your business?
Well it is simple. Create content on your own website and stay in touch with your customers through opt-in email marketing. And a little sharing via social media.
Let’s say you listened to me and added an email subscribe form to your website so customers can get the latest info from you.
Now lets say you listened again and began creating valuable free content through your blog.
Well, you now have great content and a list of people who have given you permission to send it to them.
The chances of them seeing it in their inbox is greater than them seeing it in their news feed.
And the good thing is that it’s all yours! You own and control the content, and as long as you keep paying your hosting bill, your site will remain online.
Imagine if that business we discussed earlier had contact info for the 1,600 followers and then Facebook shut them down.
No biggie, right? Because we can set up a new page and email them the new link!
The good news for that business is that they were already publishing some content to their site so people were already getting used to the idea of visiting.
Did they take a hit? I’m sure.
Did business suffer some? Probably.
But are they coming back stronger and with a better long-term strategy? YES!
(Note: Did you know that you can upload photos and videos to your website? You can even interact with customers through comments on your own blog, as well. It’s like you have your own personal community or “social network”)
Do I Need Social Networks?
Social Networks are great! Please do not think that I am against awesome networks like Facebook, Twitter or even Google+.
I just honestly think that those places are for sharing content that ultimately gets customers back to your site.
Clients of mine do post images of new projects, ask questions, and promote upcoming sales. But ultimately it is to drive people back to the site or into their stores.
If Facebook deleted that content those clients would not be hurt because the bulk of their content can be found on their websites.
I encourage you to participate in discussions on social networks and even share content. They are great marketing tools to add to your mix. Just don’t build your business on there so much that you rely on them.
As you are now well aware of, digital sharecropping can be devastating.
Why rebuild when you can just keep building?
Think about the amount of time you spend growing your “likes”. Now think about how much great content you could create using that time.
Photo courtesy of West McGowan