Many businesses, especially, independent entrepreneurs spend a lot of time and money on social networks in hope that the effort will lead to a steady stream of customers.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t work, because those who run social networks have a conflicting interest with yours.
Welcome to the Social Network Black Hole
Social networks primarily make income from advertising. In order to be able to sell advertisement placements, the social networks need a lot of eyeballs and that requires minions to generate new content all the time. Who are those minions? Well, it’s most of us…
Have you ever tried to find a post written by you or someone else from a few weeks earlier and you just couldn’t find it? Well, it’s because each piece of user-generated content has a very short life-span on social networks. It lives slightly longer if it generates a controversy and/or gets re-shared by many. But even that content disappears in a relatively short period of time. This is by design.
Even though, the older content is usually just as solid and relevant for years to come (a delicious shakshuka recipe anybody?), if all your followers have already seen that post, they won’t be excited to look at it and re-share it again, or start a new controversy, and therefore, it will generate no fresh eyeballs to display ads to. As such, the old content is pushed down to make space for a fresh, potentially exciting, content and thus to generate ad revenue for the social network owners.
Now, I hope you realize that your hard work makes money for the social networks. To which you may retort, but they sends me customers (if you’re trying to use social networks to create a customer flow that is). And I’d agree partially, and also tell you that this is an extremely inefficient way of accomplishing your goals. Let’s explore why this is the case.
If, tomorrow, you get sick and stop posting on your favorite social network, how long will it take before your customer flow from that network will come to a full halt? Usually, in 7 to 10 days of you “not contributing”, as far as the social network algorithms are concerned, you never existed, i.e. nobody will see all the hundreds or thousands of the earlier posts you worked so hard to create.
At least, if the social networks were to share profits with the content creators, but most don’t do that. The networks collect all the profits and you work for free.
Is there a way out? Yes, there is. You need to take the control back. You need to own all the content that you generate and have it hosted on your own website. You can pay $5/month or even have a free blog/website – just search for those and there are hundreds of great offers out there. For example many use free blogs like wordpress and blogger, but there are many other similar and even better options out there.
Some 10-15 years ago having your own website required either a hardcore tech expertise or one had to pay a ton to someone to build and maintain it. These days, even my grandma could probably learn how to write her own blog. If you can create a Word document, you can, with the same easy, write a blog. You can always create a free blog, experiment with it – it will take 1h of your time to get started – and chances are, you will find out that it’s a very easy task. It won’t take longer than, say, switching from an older MS Word to the Windows 10 version of the same application, and figure out the new interface.
I recommend investing the extra $10-15/year and getting your own domain. That way you may choose to move from one hosting company to another, but all your previously existing links will still work. If, however, you use a free domain like mygreatblog.wordpress.com, and then you decide you want to use a different platform, and now have mygreatblog.blogger.com, the old links to the original website will no longer work and the search engines will have to discover your website anew, meaning you will lose all that free traffic and you will need to start acquiring it from scratch.
If this article made you think and you decided to take control over your writing, start creating useful content, one paragraph or article at a time. Every time you create a new content on your website, do post a link to it to your social network. But you retain control over how, when and to whom your content is shown. And here are some other great benefits:
- Now, your content, instead of having a life-span of days, will have a life-span of years.
- Little by little search engines will start sending to you free traffic. And this will grow exponentially over time.
- You can also buy ads on other sites to send more traffic to your own content.
- If the content is interesting and unique, other sites and even social networks will start sending free traffic to you. wikipedia-style reference-type writing will guarantee a ton of traffic.
- You can make landing pages if you are into selling goods and services.
- You can publish content that otherwise won’t be allowed to be published on social networks.
- You own and control the comments. For example you can delete comments you don’t approve of and edit comments with bad grammar.
- You can revisit and enhance your content over time.
- You can even make money from your content by selling ad space on your own website. This gives you passive income.
And while you may not be able to live the The 4-Hour Workweek, you should be able to take a break from producing any time, and for example take a month off and go on a long well-deserved and badly needed vacation. Your website/blog will continue working for you 24/7, despite you being on some remote island with no Internet connection.
I was recently browsing Google Analytics for some of my really old sites and I discovered that there are some articles I published 20 years ago and they are still being read today. For example in January 2000 I published a summary Employment and Stock Options Plan Explained, and 20 years later it’s still being read.
Note that this is a long term investment. You just need a bit of patience, as it will take some time for your new website/blog to be discovered by search engines. Meanwhile sending traffic to your website via social networks is quick and easy and there are even tools that can do this automatically for you. But, you no longer need to slave for a company that gives you very little in return and forgets about you as soon as you stopped giving.
Another important subject matter to explore is measuring outcomes. As, Dan Kennedy, the most insightful practical marketing guru that I have ever encountered, says – if you can’t measure the outcome of something you’re putting an effort into – do not do it. Because if you do, you have no idea whether your effort/money amounted to anything good, and you have no way of making improvements, since you don’t have a base line to compare with. You could be getting your customers anyway, and most of your social network effort could be mostly wasted. I think this is the case for many entrepreneurs, who try to get the social networks to work for them, but who can’t measure the real impact of their efforts. But, this is a big topic, and I will explore it in another post.
I have just finished reading Cal Newport’s excellent books “Deep Work” and “Digital Minimalism“, and while both are somewhat related to what has been discussed here, in particular the latter book provides simple practical strategies to overcome the social media addiction. Even though I have been already “very minimal” on social networks, I have just learned some crucial patterns that I was missing before. For example, I’m going to follow Cal’s recommendation to completely stop upvoting/downvoting – I can see now that it has been causing some anxiety for me, as I had to find an internal justification for downvoting, which didn’t feel good at times and felt like I was engaging in cowardly behavior. And also feeling bad when someone downvoted my contribution. Completely eradicating the participation in up/downvoting process removes all anxiety and saves a ton of time. I still know what I like and what I dislike, but I don’t have to make an anonymous statement about it. Yay! Thank you, Cal!