On the importance of owning your own platform (or, declaring your independence from Facebook)
Today (Oct. 11, 2018), Facebook and Twitter deleted hundreds of their respective social media accounts in a seemingly coordinated action. The social media giants claim that these accounts engaged in a repeated pattern of unacceptable behaviors, such as spamming, or were "inauthentic" (whatever that means).
Many of these deleted accounts belonged to political opinion blogs and independent journalists, raising a concern about censorship ahead of the 2018 U.S. general elections.
Blogger Caitlin Johnstone correctly observes, "[I]n a corporatist system, wherein there is no clear line between corporate power and government power, corporate censorship is government censorship. You can’t have a system wherein corporate lobbying and campaign finance amount to legalized bribery of elected officials, wherein massive Silicon Valley corporations form extensive ties with secretive government agencies in order to eclipse their competition, and then claim this is a matter of private corporations enforcing their own rules on their own private property."
This censorship does not extend just to political organizations and speeches. If you are any kind of socially-conscious and value-driven entrepreneur, or if you are a social entrepreneur, you need to watch out as well. Since Facebook began its campaign against "fake news" and any contents that appear to "influence opinions on public opinions of public importance," many businesses have been falsely targeted by Facebook's algorithm and subjected to various barriers to advertising their businesses and products (for example, Penzey's Spices Facebook posts are now labeled incorrectly as "political ads.").
If you have been dependent on Facebook and Twitter for promoting your business and to maintain customer relations, it is time to get out now.
Today, hundreds of Facebook pages and Twitter accounts were purged -- and along with them, the list of followers who have come to depend on the social media channels for updates about their services and products.
Once again, I must remind everyone: You do not own data on Facebook or Twitter. If the social media giants decide to delete the list of your followers, it's gone forever. Even if they don't, access to the data (and therefore to your prospects and customers) is extremely limited.
Unless you pay every time, your post won't be seen by more than 1 or 2 percent of your followers anyway.
This means to you:
- Start your own blog and refocus on your own Web sites if you've been neglecting them because you think everything is "social" now. There is less censorship (I would not say zero censorship since Web hosting companies do still have their own terms of service) and it's good for search engine optimization.
- Speaking of SEO, keep in mind that search engines convert more than any of the major social media platforms; and leads from search engines are of a much higher quality, since they are actively looking for something you have to offer, unlike social media audience to whom your contents are "pushed" whether they like them or not.
- Start your own email list! Email lists are the most cost-effective way of managing customer relations and converting prospects. I recommend MailerLite (I am just a happy user, I'm not paid to promote it!) for its ease of use and free accounts.
- Be sure to back up your email lists frequently and cold-store (if you can) them ("cold storage" means storing files somewhere inaccessible to the Internet to prevent hackers from stealing data--it can be on a flash drive, with files encrypted, and the flash drive stored in a secure place). In case your email list provider goes down (or if they decide to censor you), you will still be in touch with your followers this way.
- Make RSS feeds available to your followers.
- Invest in a domain name that is easy to remember and easy to spell. These days, we've gotten too lazy because we've gotten accustomed to using the Facebook search box as a phone book.
- If you have money, time, and technical skills, consider creating a private membership site where you can develop an authentic community relationship.
- Additionally, you can create your own social media using open-source software such as Mastodon, Pleroma, PixelFed, and Diaspora. You can run them on your own server and make them "federated" with other servers that run the same software.
- If you cannot afford to start your own social media service, at the very least create an account on Mastodon, Diaspora, PixelFed, and PeerTube. These open-source services provide alternatives to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, respectively. As more and more people get tired of the Facebook-Twitter duopoly and their antics (now that Google+ is on death watch), these platforms will gain a more committed following.