Instagram now says it can republish and sell the photos users post on the platform without paying them or even notifying them, and this re-introduces the perennial problem of social media: you do not own your own channels. So you created a Facebook page for your business or organization and have spent years building up thousands of fans and populated that page with tons of fantastic content? Well, it could all disappear in a moment…on a whim of Facebook. But it’s not just Facebook. Whether you’re on Twitter or Tumblr or Pinterest or Pheed or whatever hot new social platform – a change in terms of service or a glitch or outage or a perceived violation in user agreement and you’re thrown out in the cold, content-less, identity-less.
The author/software developer Reginald Braithwaite, in translating Instagram’s new terms of service, pretty much perfectly explained social media as a whole: “You are not our customers, you are the cattle we drive to market and auction off to the highest bidder. Enjoy your feed and keep producing the milk.” I’ve talked about this before, but every instance like this is a reminder of just exactly how little control we have over what might happen to channels that we work so hard to develop and engage customers through.
But there is an easy solution: use social media as channels to engage your audience, yes, but, more importantly, use it to direct them back to your actual property: your website or blog. Those are the only places where you have control over what gets seen and how it’s presented. Almost all the content you post or share on social media should have a home on your actual website. I’m in a band, so I’ll use that metaphor: Think of social media platforms as venues where your band performs. You travel to the venue, play your show, hang out with your fans, but that’s all. You don’t store your instruments and equipment there, you don’t live in the basement of the venue. You may go play the same venue a number of times – but, if it closes down, it’s really no substantial loss to you because the venue is only a means through which you send your message. The band still has their albums, their merchandise, their band image that they can then go share (sell) at any other venue.
So, in this (only semi-applicable) metaphor, here’s what’s important: Be a rock star. Wait, no, that’s not it. The point is to have the hub for your content, your reputation, your online brand image somewhere you can control it, where you own it. Use Facebook, Twitter, etc. to go play your rock show, hang out with your fans, tell them about cool stuff – but always send them back to the hub: your website or blog.