I had an interesting conversation recently with a friend of mine. He’s a professional sportsman and working hard at developing a brand. We were chatting about some of the promotional things that had succeeded for him over the last twelve months plus as ever, the things that didn’t work. Including the website and relative lack of progress in that area.
Like many people early on in the task of personal brand building, he is working hard on social media interactions. And like many people starting out, he inevitably looks to what others are doing. Other sportsmen in his niche, other athletes in different areas, other brands he may be working with now or aspire to work with in future..
And he raises an interesting point. “Do I really need a website? Most of the ‘names’ I see, plus even the people I compete against, don’t actually have a website. They just do it all through social media.”
He’s not the first person to ask me this question. I had a similar conversation earlier this year with the owner of a golf driving range. Many of their enquiries came via Facebook, it seemed that very little came from the website.
And it’s a natural question – Do you really need a website with the array of social media channels available to build on today?
Indeed if you are a brand or a business with a reasonably successful Facebook page, you may well ask the same thing.
I would say yes you do need a website, more than ever.
For one very very simple reason. No matter what social channels you may be on, no matter how popular they are and no matter how big your following, this could all just vanish tomorrow.
Now, you may well think that I’m nuts.
This is Facebook we’re talking about, right? It’s simply huge. Twitter, mature but still as big as ever. Instagram? My favourite, even though it’s owned by Facebook. And as I write this we have TikTok making an impact too. Surely none of these platforms are going anywhere, any time soon.
How do you know? Here’s a mythical scenario, though one that could be not too far from the truth.
What if tomorrow, something happened that made people leave Facebook in their millions?
What if something was uncovered about the way that Facebook operates that people found abhorrent and they all signed out in disgust? It’s pretty unlikely, I agree. But it happens.
Mark Zuckerberg has made himself unpopular several times in the past few years. And we all know how the public and media love to see a public lynching or humiliation of someone like him. Anything for a bit of righteous indignation.
OK, let’s imagine that the above doesn’t happen. That Facebook and the other platforms continue to be popular. You’re building your business page on Facebook nicely, plenty of likes and interaction, things are very positive.
Then they decide to change the rules.
What do I mean? Why would they do that? Quite simple. It’s their ball, their rules. They can take the ball home any time they wish, change the rules any way they wish. What if the decided to demote your page in popularity and it simply didn’t appear on people’s feeds unless you paid? I sounds unlikely, yet it happens.
Darren Rowse of Pro Blogger calls it ‘building on rented land’. This article on the ProBlogger website describes accurately what can easily happen.
Plus as that article says, you’re putting a whole lot of value and effort into building someone else’s business. Trust me, they can and DO change the rules. They even decide you’ve infringed their rules, overnight. It all goes away and there’s nothing you can do about it.
So what’s the alternative?
You need your own website. If you own your own website, it’s yours. Period. I’m not talking about a WordPress hosted website, a Wix or a Google blog or a Medium page.
I’m talking about your own domain name, hosted on an independent web host, owned by you. No matter what happens to any social media platform at any time, your website will always be there, steadily gaining authority on Google, gaining in ranking and always under your control. That simple.
Except it’s not that simple, or everyone would be doing it. So the obvious question. Why isn’t everyone doing this?
Quite simply, because it’s hard work. Creating the content for your website day in day out that your fans will find engaging is hard work. It’s also a long, slow burn process that sometimes takes years. And for a long period of time, you will turn up, put the work in and get very little back in return.
Trust me, it sucks, I’ve been there. However it’s your asset, you’re investing in something that is yours. Freehold.
Here’s a second example – this one involves Google.
Photographer Trey Radcliff. Trey was very active in Google Plus. Remember that? If you don’t, Google Plus was the Big G’s attempt to take on Facebook. Then in 2018, Google decided to shut down Google +. Ok, so they didn’t just turn it off overnight. They gave everyone notice, quite a lot of notice, I recall almost a year. But they turned it off.
Trey had 8 million followers on Google + You can read his blog on the subject below.
Now, he’s not bitter about Google’s decision. Simply saddened that the community that had grown on that platform would be scattered across the other social platforms as they moved elsewhere.
However, his big ace in the hole is his website. Stuck in Customs is one of the biggest photography websites on the internet, with Trey making his living through helping people to become better photographers. Stuck in Customs has a particular specialisation on HDR images and tutorials.
So while he was saddened, it wasn’t the end of his business. Because he never became fully committed to any of them.
Now, this isn’t me pitching you for a website design gig. I still do some website projects, though not as frequently as I used to. If you only have a tiny tiny budget for some website work and you’re prepared to put in some of the work yourself, then my WordPress website setup service will be a help.
This is simply me reaching out to you to stop and think a moment about the potential vulnerabilities of some of your digital marketing. And if you don’t have a digital marketing strategy or presence, then signing up for me weekly newsletter might be a good idea too.
I’m not saying you should walk away from social media channels, far from it.
However, if you have three important things as the cornerstone of your online digital marketing, then everything else falls in behind.
Those three things are:
- A well designed website and your own hosting
- An opt-in email list using a high quality delivery platform
- A constantly growing reputation for providing value
They may not be as cool and sexy as social channels. They may look like hard work. They may not give you the instant ‘hit’ of likes and reposts. They may even sound outdated.
However, whether you like it or not, they work.