After writing my earlier post about branding mistakes, I was listening to a Copyblogger* podcast and I was reminded how important it is to have your own domain name. More to the point, I was reminded WHY you want to have your content show up under YOUR domain name.
How many times have you heard about someone’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or other social media account being suspended? Just yesterday I read about a mommyblogger whose Instagram account was shut down over a minor terms of service violation regarding a photo. Right or wrong, all her content is no longer available. All her effort creating a page, getting likes, followers or whatever, and now it’s a big blank page.
The term is “digital sharecropping” and it applies when you put your content on any platform you don’t control. If someone else owns it, you’re beholden to them and subject to their whims. Without your own website – and your own domain name, you’re creating traffic for someone else. All that fuss you hear about SEO and Google page rank? You’re helping to build someone else’s reputation and traffic. Wouldn’t you rather have all of your effort benefit your own business instead of theirs?
Your Domain Name = Your Brand
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should abandon social media. Not at all.
First, sharecropping extends to free websites and blogs too. Anyone remember Geocities.com? They had tens of thousands of websites hosted for free. They all vanished when Geocities closed their doors. Today, sites like blogger.com, web.com, weebly.com offer ways to get a free website. Most of them offer a paid option that allows you to have your site show up with your own domain name instead of theirs. That’s critical in case you ever want to move your site to another service. You can take your domain name with you and your traffic and search ranking won’t be affected (ok, there’s a bit more involved, but we’re talking at a high level here).
As far as your readers are concerned, you and your site are one and the same. You are your brand. You are your domain name. Ergo, your domain name is your brand. As many, many marketing people will tell you; respect your brand. Always work to build your brand.
All Roads Lead To Your Website
So how do you make all this stuff work to your advantage? It’s really not that hard. Your website is where you put your best content. It’s where the long posts go. It’s where you want people to wind up. Why? Because it’s yours and you control it.
Once your visitors are on your website, there’s no other tweets or updates to distract them. You don’t have a captive audience; keeping them on your site is a discussion for another time, but you do have their undivided attention right now. So do what you’ve been doing: Write those interesting posts. Make your visitor glad their came to read your article. This raises the question, “How do I get them to my website in the first place?”
This is where social media comes into play. When you write a new article, don’t post it on Facebook. Instead, make a post that teases a bit. Use Facebook to announce that you have a new article and include a link to it. Tell your Facebook friends just a little, just enough to get them to click that link. The same goes for Twitter or LinkedIn.
Just sent out a newsletter to your subscribers? Don’t post the entire newsletter on your social platform, have the newsletter on your website and announce it, including a link, on your social channels.
Ok, a real world analogy to help make it clearer. Your own a boutique store. One way you promote it is by going to the Sunday farmer’s market where you have a booth with a small selection of what you offer in your store. There are also some other merchants there that only sell their products at the market. People visit your booth. Maybe they buy something, maybe they just pick up a flyer with a coupon on it and the address of your store. But now they know about your store and some of them will go there to see what else you carry.
What happens if the market burns down during the week? The booth businesses that used the market as the sole place to sell their goods; they lost all their inventory. You, on the other hand, lost some of your products, but all the good stuff, the bigger items, is still available at your store.
That, in a really horrible example, is how you avoid the pitfalls of digital sharecropping.
* Copyblogger is an awesome site for anyone with a website. Besides their Authority program and other great paid resources, they offer a series of free email newsletters and ebooks to get your blog on the right track.
Photo by ivanpw