The dangers of driving audiences to social media properties rather than your own website

Outsource blog: The dangers of driving audiences to social media properties rather than your own websiteWhen I run my free, two-hour Orientation to B2B social media event every month in Sydney and Melbourne, I point out the dangers involved when companies focus on driving audiences to social media properties rather than their own websites.

There’s a simple reason for this advice. You don’t own your presence on social networks – and your pages can be taken off you, sometimes with warnings, sometimes with none. It’s a bit like building your family home on a block of land you don’t own – it’s not a good idea.

Social networks are a channel to market and a way to build and interact with communities (and lots of other very good things). However, companies need to keep in mind that the end game, in most cases, should be moving potential buyers from social networks onto properties they do own – like their website.

The problem with social media is that the rules can change quickly and the service is free. That means there’s no real guarantees about the service or experience you will receive.

Facebook (not really a B2B social network – at this point anyway) does provide a good illustration of what can happen when you over invest your marketing and even sales activities into a ‘free’ social media network. If you run competitions incorrectly, use other people’s images without prior permission or commit one of the many other infringements of Facebook’s usage policies (all which are there for the reading) then your presence can simply be turned off – and you don’t get it back again.

If you think this is to keep radical groups from inciting violence or so trolls can be booted, think again. In August, a very popular Facebook page (The Cool Hunter) was closed down for copyright infringement. It had nearly 800,000 fans which drove 110,000 hits daily on its affiliated commercial website. Facebook simply shut it down (although there were some warnings given) and the business doesn’t have the opportunity to ‘fix’ their mistake and start over. The Facebook page is gone permanently.

This article covers the story in more detail

While this blog is really about business-related issues, I think there’s also some good reminders here about the drawbacks of moving the ‘digital content’ of your life onto free social networks. You should always be asking yourself the question, “If I lose access to this network what would be the impact?”

If Picasa, Flickr, Facebook, WordPress or other ‘free’ sites decide to close their doors (worse case) or delete your account do you have backups of images, documents and blogs that, if you think about it, may be the only place they exist?

Just something to think about.