Don’t Build Your Social Media House on a Rented Lot

Twitter just announced a surge of new users and engagement. That could be good news if you’ve got something to say or sell, but there’s a major risk to consider.

Before the news, users and commentators alike were worried about a drop in user engagement. I think that’s still a valid concern, and it points to a larger issue.

Twitter’s sudden growth, much of it at least, came from World Cup fans who sent 672 million tweets of the event. Two thirds or more of the new users will disengage by the end of the year, according to one analyst.

The net effect for platform builders like us may be nil. And the long-term picture doesn’t look too great, so things might actually be moving backward.

What that means is that when it comes to your platform, you can’t afford to build your house on a rented lot. And Facebook continues to teach the same lesson.

Owners Make Rules, Not Tenants

Like Twitter, Facebook is an important part of my platform. But it’s not integral. It’s too fickle for that.

Money Saving Mom Crystal Paine recently shared here about how Facebook’s algorithm change upended her business. After growing her followers by over 200K in 2013, her traffic dried up overnight. “Only about 1-3 percent of my followers were seeing most my posts,” she said.

My friend Patsy Clairmont had the same experience. She went from having millions of people view her posts to thousands after Facebook changed the rules.

The change affected everyone. Following Facebook’s explanation to Madison Avenue, John McDermott of Digiday said it represented “one expensive and frustrating lesson that’s better to own than rent.”

And that’s the right analogy. Owners make rules, not tenants. And Facebook owns the lot.

Better to Own than Rent

A few years ago a friend was in the middle of a promotion for his annual conference. He used Twitter as the primary means for connecting with his tribe, but then Twitter inexplicably suspended his account.

The problem was eventually fixed, but it hurt his attendance in the meantime. That was the first time I saw a real downside to building a house on a rented lot.

I was an early adopter and advocate of social media. I still am. But I encourage everyone interested in growing a platform to begin with a home base that you control. Use other services to expand your reach, but build your house on your own lot.

Few things in life are truly stable, but some things are more stable than others. I bought in 1998. It’s been through a lot of iterations, but it’s always been mine. Ownership provides stability because you set the rules.

This means that you post your primary content on your own blog. It’s also why you want to convert social media followers to email subscribers.

Crystal Paine is working on that right now. “I’m now more convinced than ever of the need to make building a strong email list a high priority,” she says. “It might not be as hip or trendy as social media, but an email list is truly one of the strongest assets you have as a business owner turn one-time visitors into long-term and loyal followers.”

Why? Because it’s yours.

I’m cautiously enthusiastic about the new growth in Twitter. But I’m not banking on it to build my platform.

If you’d like to learn how to build a powerful home base that can help you get your message heard, I want to invite you to learn more about the premium online community I’ve created for people just like you. It’s called Platform University. Registration is closed right now, but will be reopening again in the early this fall. Click to find out more.

Question: How are you incorporating social media into your platform?