Would you build a house on land you don’t own?
It can be done – it’s called a ground lease – but it’s generally not a good idea. You pay rent, you probably have restrictions on what you can build on the land, and at worst you could lose your building when your lease expires.
So why do people build their online businesses on social networks?
There are several reasons why, but I’m going to encourage you to have your own web site as your “home base” and use social networks only to drive traffic to your own web site.
First, the reasons why people start with social networking.
The simplest reason why people build their online businesses on social networks is because it’s “free”. On Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and other networks, you can create an account, even a business account, at no cost.
That’s seductive. You can get your business going at almost zero cost, setting up a Facebook page with your contact information and circulating it amongst friends and family, and then wait for the traffic to roll on.
Oddly enough, it doesn’t show up. Why?
My Customers Are There!
People host their businesses on social networks because their customers are on the same social networks.
Social networks like Facebook want you to pay for advertising. Their algorithms don’t encourage people to visit your page. Many people have noticed that they have thousands of people who “liked” their page, but each post only gets seen by a very small percentage of those people.
You can pay for advertising to boost posts or to run ads to drive people to your page – and these can be effective – but it costs money. The worst part is that you have to keep paying, because it doesn’t have a lasting effect.
There’s no free lunch.
Algorithms Can Change
Social networks can change their algorithms at any time, without warning. This can completely change how well your page is seen by prospective clients.
Facebook changes its algorithms frequently. It used to be that pages did well in searches, but those days are gone. People have moved to groups, which seem to do well at the moment, but those could be de-emphasized by Facebook at any time.
Instagram is emphasizing stories over posts these days. People have taken to including their posts in their stories in an attempt to get them seen, but I imagine the click through rate is pretty poor.
Basically, if it isn’t in your potential customers’ feeds, it won’t be seen, no matter how good your content is.
Social networks can shut you down at any time, for any reason. This has happened on YouTube many times, on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. It can happen with little or no notice.
They own the site and they set the rules.
So what can you do?
Build an Email List
You should consider building an email list. That way, you control when you reach out to your subscribers and you don’t have to limit what you write. See 7 Reasons Why You Need a Mailing List if you still need convincing.
Your subscribers may not read your email, but at least you have a shot at getting it in front of them. It’s still up to you to create compelling, useful content that people want to read.
There are plenty of email providers out there. I’ve used MailChimp for years but there are many others, including ConvertKit and AWeber.
Host Your Own Site
You should host your own web site. At a minimum, you should have your contact information and a few pages showing your valuable work and why people should engage with you. It doesn’t have to be complicated – a simple WordPress site won’t cost you much to set up and will establish a home base that you own.
I’ve used Pair.com since 2001 to host my web sites. They are rock solid and dependable. They aren’t the absolute cheapest, but like many things in life, you get what you pay for. If you choose to use them, use my referral code pairref-XPua3w79 to get 20% off your first bill.
Other host companies include GoDaddy, BlueHost and many others. I have no experience with anyone else besides Pair.
You’ll need to register your own domain name. I use Sibername (affiliate link) for most of my domain names, and they are friendly and inexpensive. There are many others in this space as well.
Start building on your own ground. You won’t be sorry.
Any questions? Leave a comment!