I have been evangelizing my skepticism around the promise of any 3rd party social media or content platforms for years. I’ve been at this game long enough that I’ve seen may platforms come and go, and I just don’t trust any of them anymore. I just finished reading a couple stories about Facebook telling publishers tough shit, when it comes to the promises they made to them about the Facebook network effect. I was also just looking for one of my more long form posts to syndicate to Medium, where I cautiously repost relevant stories there to reach a wider audience. Making it a great time to talk about how we should all be investing in our own domains, while also sensibly taking advantage of the network effects that other 3rd party platforms bring to the table.
Facebook has never really been a big traffic driver for me, so I never really drank their publisher kool-aid. However, I have had regular waves of folks telling me how bad my website looked, and that they’d read it more if I only published to Medium. There were probably 2-3 of these zombies a month back in the early days of Medium, but is something that has all but disappeared now the promise of the platform has faded. The majority of my traffic comes from Google, after that it is Twitter, and LinkedIn. Paying attention to the value of 3rd party channels when it comes to distribution of my work is important, but it always plays second fiddle to making sure my work gets done, and published within my own domain. ALWAYS!
We all want more traffic, readers, and hopefully revenue around our work. It is always tempting to think the grass is greener on another platform. However, we should never lose sight of the importance of owning, operating, and cultivating our own domain. There will always be new platforms who come along and prey upon our desire for more traffic, and the magical network effects they will bring, but it will NEVER be worth abandoning our own domain. Platforms come and go, pivot, shift courses, and rarely will think of you as more than just a data point. Nobody will ever care as much about your content, data, and audience as you do, and I’m hoping folks are starting to learn their lesson after the whole Facebook bullshit.
We should always play with new platforms. However, we should never adopt one that doesn’t have an API, allowing us to syndicate there, and remove our data when we see fit. You should also avoid using platforms that don’t let you setup a subdomain, keeping your presence there within your domain, maintaining the lion share of the value for yourself. Otherwise you are just working on someone else’s farm for free, and as a small business, we can’t allow this to happen–no matter what the promises are. As the nature of work changes in this digital world we’ve created for ourselves, possessing and maintaining control over your domain will continue to play a significant role in whether we are doing well, or are just sharecropping on someone else’s platform. We won’t ever be able to maintain 100% control over all of our data and content, or always reach the exposure levels we always will desire, but staying the course within our own domain, will ensure we can stay ahead of the game, and hopefully stay afloat.