Don’t Throw Away Your Brand on Social Media Sites
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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.
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.”
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?
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.
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:
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.
— RainnWilson (@rainnwilson) March 25, 2014
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:
@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
— Jordan Baker (@jordantbaker) February 20, 2018
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.
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
— DHH (@dhh) September 4, 2018
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.
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.