Don’t Throw Away Your Brand on Social Media Sites

Don't Throw Away Your Brand on Social Media Sites

Don’t Throw Away Your Brand on Social Media Sites

By Michael Cyger, Founder of DomainSherpa & Publisher of DNAcademy

Published: January 9, 2019

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If you use social media networking sites for your business, you face a huge risk of losing your company’s entire reach. Instantly, and with no warning.

Social media giants such as Medium, Facebook and Twitter are powerful tools for marketers. But you have no control over changes they make. When content display rules are altered, you risk wasting time, money and effort because you can’t reach your hard-earned audience the way you once could. You may not even be able to reach them at all.

Twitter, LinkedIn, Medium and Facebook have all significantly changed their rules in the past year, hurting thousands of businesses and making it less a question of “if” your business will be affected and more a question of “when.”

Understanding this is key to taking control of your audience and your brand.

Focus on what you own, which starts with your domain name.

The Pros and Cons of Social Media

Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter bring many benefits for businesses. They allow companies to reach millions of potential customers anywhere and anytime, through ads and content. With 2.23 billion active users per month1, sites like Facebook are hard to ignore.

Social Media Monthly Users

Businesses find millions of potential customers all in one place with social media. They’re easier to interact with too: users are in a comfortable environment, so following or engaging with your company brand is easy. It’s the reason why more than 70 million businesses have a dedicated Facebook page2.

Yet social media sites come with big risks. Businesses have no control over how interactions are managed. At any time, the number of people who see your branding efforts and the way in which they see them can be completely changed.

This is particularly true for businesses who ONLY have a business Facebook page, such as coffee shops and restaurants. By placing all eggs in one basket, you open up your business to a lot of risk.

Relying Solely on Social Media Makes You a Tenant

As Jay Baer says3, building your brand on social media sites such as Facebook is like “building your marketing program on rented land.”

Building your brand on social media is like building your marketing program on ‘rented land.’ – Jay Baer Click to Tweet

You don’t own it and have no control over when the landlord is going to raise the rent or kick you out.

Instead of building your business on someone else’s content platform, spend your time building a website and email newsletter list through your domain name, where you ALWAYS have control and set your own rules.

The Graveyard of Social Media Sites

Remember MySpace, Bebo, Yahoo! Buzz and Friendster? These social media platforms have ceased to exist. How are you meant to contact your hard-earned audience if the entire platform disappears?

Relying on third-party social media websites and networks to grow your reach makes you 100% vulnerable to losing your entire reach. Go ask MySpace or Second Life how that worked out for them. Click to Tweet

Businesses and public figures abandoned MySpace when they got better reach on Facebook, but now Facebook is slowly removing that reach and pushing businesses away.

Facebook Continues to Hurt Businesses’ Reach

Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced4 a huge shift in the way Facebook’s News Feed would work:

The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.

As we roll this out, you’ll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard – it should encourage meaningful interactions between people. — Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook used to allow companies to reach 100 percent of the people who like their page. In 2012, they restricted organic brand reach to about 16 percent5. In late 2013, they restricted it even further. Now, a recent Ogilvy study6 shows that as little as 2 percent of a brand’s Facebook fans actually see brand posts.

As little as 2% of a brand’s Facebook fans actually see brand posts. Click to Tweet

An advertising giant like Nike, which has spent a great deal of effort and money collecting over 32 million Facebook likes, is able to reach only around 640,000 people organically when it pushes out a post7. Companies must now pay to reach a fraction of the people who like them.

In response to Facebook’s dropping reach, many are waving goodbye.

Eat24 wrote a hilarious breakup letter8 to the company that detailed why it was deleting its Facebook page with 70,000 likes because fewer and fewer fans were seeing posts:

We’d love to say “It’s not you, it’s us” but it’s totally you. Not to be rude, but you aren’t the smart, funny social network we fell in love with several years back. You’ve changed. A lot.”

Actor Rainn Wilson tweeted9:

People like Rainn worked hard to build a following, often paying for ads to increase their likes. Yet now they feel robbed when they must pay again to reach those same people who indicated interest.

Who’s to say when Facebook will change the rules again?

Having direct control over your relationships with customers is the most important thing for your business. Your focus should be your own website, where you can set the rules and call the shots, using social media as a supplementary tool – just remember to bring traffic back to your website.

Whether through a lead magnet or otherwise, get customers’ contact details and own that relationship from the start.

Instagram’s Algorithm Stops Branded Content From Reaching Its Audience

Facebook-owned Instagram is, unsurprisingly, going down a similar pay-to-play route. Since Instagram made the switch to a non-chronological algorithm, small-business owners haven’t been shy to express the negative impact of the new update.

Sudden changes can cause “crippling” trouble for businesses, as was the case with @jordantbaker10:

Like parent company Facebook, the main goal of Instagram’s algorithm is to show more content from a user’s friends and family, not from brands. This change is having a huge effect on the organic reach of branded content.

Twitter Can Sometimes Do More Harm Than Good

While the ability to easily share information is one of the greatest appeals of social media, this can really hurt your company too. On Twitter, a tweet can very quickly go viral, whether good or bad, spreading across the globe in seconds. You have no control over how this information is shared.

Many fans recently blocked big brands like Pepsi and Uber11 to pressure Twitter to permanently ban controversial far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones “by choking off brands’ direct access to an entire bloc of consumers on the platform.” Pepsi and Uber had nothing to do with it, yet were still hurt as a result.

Twitter can hurt businesses in other ways. For example, in early 2018 the company culled approximately 6 percent of accounts12 in a bid to crack down on bots and spam accounts, which subsequently caused significant drops in follower count that hurt businesses across the world.

Medium, Too, Has Dramatically Changed Its Rules

Before November 201713, Medium allowed companies their own domain name on the platform for free. So, users spent significant amounts of time and money moving their blogs to Medium.

However, without warning, the company decided to suddenly remove this benefit, changing their rules overnight. Bloggers like Benjamin Dada14 from South Africa lost out on being able to create a custom domain because there was no notice before they starting charging $75 per year.

Ruby on Rails creator David Heinemeier Hansson had actually closed his entire private blog and moved it over to Medium. He wanted to let Medium handle the technical side of managing the blog.

But then Medium said they weren’t going to allow people to have their own domains any longer, even paid ones. @DHH was not pleased, creating a tweet storm to voice his opinions against Medium15.

Because of LinkedIn, Businesses Lost Access to Thousands of Customers

Once a week, iSixSigma — a community I publish focused on Lean and Six Sigma process improvement — used to email 27,000 “iSixSigma Network” group members through LinkedIn.

Linkedin Email from iSixSigma to Network

This valuable list of potential customers could be directly messaged to share the articles, news, discussions and job posts from the company’s website. But not anymore.

Without any warning, LinkedIn changed its rules16 and iSixSigma couldn’t email their list any longer. All the work and time spent gathering and moderating members for this group on LinkedIn is now lost after LinkedIn changed the rules without any notice and iSixSigma had no time to gather contact information from their group.

Don’t Place All Your Branding Emphasis On Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Medium and LinkedIn have all hurt businesses because of rule changes. The above case studies provide just a few examples – there are thousands more companies who have suffered.

All the big social media sites will almost certainly change their rules again.

What should you do about it?

While it’s easy to setup your business on sites like Facebook, at some point you need to take your brand seriously. This starts with taking control.

The one place that is constant and safe from unanticipated changes — that your customers can rely on AT ALL TIMES — is your own website and your own domain name.

Direct Relationships Are The Most Valuable

There is still value in connecting with your social media audiences. But you must be cautious of spending all your marketing time on social media.
Don’t relegate your responsibility to a third party because unless you’re paying them, they won’t have your best interests in mind. Take advantage of their reach but make sure to bring traffic back to your site, where you set the rules.

Have your own domain name so you can choose exactly WHO sees your content and WHEN, and foster direct relationships with customers through email addresses and phone numbers.

Build and control your own central hub rather than risking losing it all on social media.


1. “Dec 2018.” Discover Magazine, discovermagazine.com/2018/nov/the-life-death-of-social-media.
2. Cooper, Paige. “41 Facebook Stats That Matter to Marketers in 2019.” Hootsuite Social Media Management, 13 Nov. 2018, blog.hootsuite.com/facebook-statistics/.
3. “3 Ways Facebook Is Killing Your Website.” Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting, Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting, www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-strategy/3-ways-facebook-is-killing-your-website/.
4. “Mark Zuckerberg.” Katie Couric – You Can Watch #GenderRevolution Right Here,…, www.facebook.com/zuck/posts/10104413015393571.
5. “Facebook Business.” Katie Couric – You Can Watch #GenderRevolution Right Here,…, www.facebook.com/marketing/posts/10150839503836337‎.
6. Bernazzani, Sophia. “The Decline of Organic Facebook Reach & How to Adjust to the Algorithm.” HubSpot Blog, HubSpot, blog.hubspot.com/marketing/facebook-organic-reach-declining.
7. “Nike.” Katie Couric – You Can Watch #GenderRevolution Right Here,…, www.facebook.com/nike/.
8. “A Breakup Letter to Facebook from Eat24.” Bacon Sriracha Unicorn Diaries, 26 Sept. 2014, blog.eat24.com/breakup-letter-to-facebook-from-eat24/.
9. RainnWilson. “Turns out My @Facebook Is Kind of Worthless. I Used to Post & Reach Most of My 200k Followers, Now I Reach 5k & Have to Pay to Hit More.” Twitter, Twitter, 25 Mar. 2014, twitter.com/rainnwilson/status/448522571206893568.
10. Baker, Jordan. “@Instagram I’m Sure You Are All Aware by Now (Been 5 Days or so) That Hashtags Are Not Working for Many Users. This Is CRIPPLING for Small Business Owners. No Exposure at All. The Algorithm Hides Content from Followers, and Hashtags Not Working Takes Care of the Rest. #FixIt.” Twitter, Twitter, 20 Feb. 2018, twitter.com/jordantbaker/status/966079375358746630.
11. Schomer, Audrey. “How User Backlash over Alex Jones Could Put a Dent in Twitter.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 20 Aug. 2018, www.businessinsider.com/twitter-users-blocking-brand-accounts-alex-jones-2018-8.
12. Robertson, Adi. “Twitter Bans Bulk Tweeting and Duplicate Accounts in Bot Crackdown.” The Verge, The Verge, 21 Feb. 2018, www.theverge.com/2018/2/21/17036708/twitter-automation-rule-changes-ban-bulk-tweeting-bot-crackdown-election.
13. “Custom Domains Service Deprecation.” Medium Support, help.medium.com/hc/en-us/articles/115003053487-Custom-Domains-service-deprecation.
14. Dada, Benjamin. “Medium Now Charges $75 to Set-up a Custom Domain – Write – Medium.” Medium.com, Medium, 24 Feb. 2017, medium.com/benjamin-dada/medium-now-charges-75-to-set-up-a-custom-domain-54ab54117fd4.
15. Dhh. “I Would Not Recommend Anyone to Use Medium for a New Publication without Custom Domain Support. Medium Has Proven Themselves an Excessively Volatile Partner to Publications Already. Their Whims Will Change Again. You Need an Escape Hatch. Https://T.co/JFBDFm9nsf.” Twitter, Twitter, 4 Sept. 2018, twitter.com/dhh/status/1037101907972505601.
16. “LinkedIn Help.” LinkedIn, www.linkedin.com/help/linkedin/answer/350/sending-announcements-to-group-members-no-longer-available.

Comments 8

  1. In 2009, it was Google. We bloggers did all we can to break away from being a Google whore by reducing our reliance on adwords and Adsense income. Then come the moment of truth when Google did the unthinkable by mass culling all of our work through their Penguins, Pandas and dolphins…For a decade, bloggers switch to using Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and now Instagram. Blogging using own domain name seem to be dying off. But those who persevere will see better days ahead.

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  2. Great article, Michael. You’ve expertly expounded on what I have believed for some time. The downside of giving free content to social media (via pages and posts) and the upside of having social media send traffic to a website and domain you have total control over. Well done.

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  3. I think the stupidest thing the Social Media (FB & IG) companies did is start charging people to reach their own followers. especially after most companies have spent a lot of money with them, to get the followers. For e-commerce, FB and IG are still important, but not as much in the past. In terms of reaching customers and getting sales, good old Google Ads is still very effective and cost-efficient compared to FB and/or IG. As mentioned above, getting your customers, and more importantly, potential customers email addresses are extremely valuable. Once you have it, you OWN it (unless they unsubscribe of course). The ROI on email marketing (legit not scam) is better than any of the above and certainly better than Social media. Two things are important in business; if you don’t control the cash register and the customer, you don’t control anything.

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  4. Very interesting article, but have to say it might be a little over stated. It’s absolutely true you should invest on our owned properties. You can never go wrong with a good website and CRM strategy. Any brand not doing that and relying 100% on social sites to be their only presence is a mistake…don’t know of any agencies, media consultants or heck anyone for a brand that would recommend that.

    I also get concerned when media advocates blend content creators and publishers into the same conversation with brands that fall under retail, CPG, OEM, QSR, etc. verticals. They are fundamentally surviving in different ways and Rain Wilson is not selling a widget per se, he’s just mad that he once could put a thought (his widget I guess) online organically and it reached everyone. Good old days for sure, who wouldn’t want that?

    The reason of the shift from those simple times to now would be way too much to cover in this response, but a simple summary: It’s “pay-to-play”! AND for a good reason. Social platforms are profit making companies now and their value to the market is based on ads getting in front of their huge audiences, so if organic reach is dying off that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The other part of the story is the channels are not just about engagement. When social media channels first started, no one had a clue on how to truly monetize it. Can’t tell you how much time media people tried to figure out the “value of a like”. The funny thing is, Facebook didn’t know either. Fast forward to the last couple of years, they figured out you could do so much more and because it was digital, it was powerful. You can do full-funnel marketing on Facebook Inc. (Awareness, Consideration AND CONVERSION).

    That means you should as a brand spend ad money where people are and get them to you; your owned properties and that includes not only your website, but if you are retail, driving traffic to your location. That also means you combined the power to be where everyone is spending tons of their day, (google for stats) and getting them to your properties to transact. That is why you should spend SOME portion of your media on social channels. Test your way into ROI and send that traffic to YOUR site/location.

    I respectfully don’t buy the “remember MySpace” example. It’s a red herring and a false analogy due to the time period it existed in–pre understanding of how to monetize social platforms and overall immaturity of the industry. Doesn’t mean putting money and effort on a channel is bad, you had to buy your domain, pay someone for your hosting fees and for most brands, battle for people’s attention–marketing and advertising exist for a reason–it’s just the cost of doing business. For the MySpaces. Well that is just a form of capitalism. A company like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, WeChat, etc. found a better way to execute and customers/users went to that place. Does it mean Facebook doesn’t have issues or might eventually go away? Of course you should be mindful of trends and how those platforms perform. Nothing is guaranteed.

    Back to your first rightly presented principle, build a solid foundation of owned channels and own your message. But if you need to get reach or expose your brand to new people, you have to go where they spend time. Same reason why many brand still spend a lot of money to advertise when the Walking Dead is airing or it’s the SuperBowl. People are there watching. It just costs money on social now and the free reach is not as significant. Imagine if Facebook wasn’t making money, they would be gone.

    Whew, sorry long-winded, but it comes down to this. YES, buy solid domain names. Create awesome websites and content, give people what they need/crave. Create a good experience if you are selling things. Spend money on experts in SEO if you don’t have time to learn it so that your sites can be found. But remember, it’s crowded out there so you might have to spend some money to get at the top of the list or get seen in Google too. Good chance your competitor will be spending. If you do it right, you will make enough money to keep going. If you execute poorly…well, MySpace…Side note, Friendster lasted 16 years and only closed its doors last year. Not a bad run.

    Interesting almost every quote in this blog post has a “click to Tweet” or embed of a Twitter post? That’s a variation of doing organic and it seems to work on some level and validates investment in those platforms. Just IMHO. Thank you for the great article to get people talking.

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      I think this is the longest and most thoughtful comment I’ve had on the blog, David. 👏😀

      We agree on many points. Thanks for summarizing many of them so succinctly.

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