A cautionary tale: Putting your business in the hands of Facebook

cautionary tale

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

As I enjoyed a mega-popular Kebab restaurant on my street, I wondered about the “secret” of their success.

Certainly one factor is the kebab itself — a delicious jungle of salad, meat, and fresh herb sauce that melted like Angel cream on your tongue. Mmmmmm.

The other aspect of their success, and frankly the more interesting part for us, is their Facebook presence.

The young owner has built an impressive online audience. The fan page attracted thousands of fans from around the country who post pictures and stories about their Kebab experience. Wowzee.

The owners fuel their presence through the share of fun restaurant pictures (guests posing, entertaining quotes, food pics), unique YouTube videos, and sophisticated social media give-and-take.

For a physical food biz to rock the Internet like that, I was truly impressed and as I heard his story, I almost let the Kebab slip through my fingers because of the sheer astonishment.

But when I asked them about their business website, they just shrugged their shoulders and laughed.  “Why waste time and money on building a website when you can do everything for free on Facebook ?”

I frowned.

“Because you don’t want to put all of your eggs in one basket … and a basket that you don’t own.”

But the conversation was already over, because the business had placed its entire faith on Facebook’s free fan page which they’ve labored over for almost two years.  Argh.

A few weeks later, Facebook introduced the “promote your posts” feature.


Needless to say, interactivity and visibility of the restaurant’s fanpage dropped drastically. Now they are finally building their business website.

Lesson learned.

Now this is not a slap against Facebook, but it’s a mistake that happens all the time …

Every big online company wants to lock you into their platform…

…offering you free space and an incredible existing audience.

  • Amazon wants authors to mainly use their author’s page and discourages outside linking challenging
  • DeviantArt wants to display your entire portfolio on their site
  • Facebook “encourages” you to focus on building your fan page followers and marketing

And while their offers are all legitimate, they hide one important fact :

They make you totally dependable on them – and you’ll always be at their mercy.

Seriously, I cringe every time someone focuses heavily on building their online presence on a platform they don’t own.
Instead of worrying about getting email subscribers and customers, they obsess about getting likes and followers on Facebook and Twitter.

social media dangers

It may be accessible, free and powerful in the beginning, but what do you do if their platform rules change, which they eventually will?

  • What if the company changes from free sharing to paid promotion ? (*cough* Facebook *cough)
  • What if a big player platform loses out and becomes irrelevant  ? (Myspace is no space now)
  • What if a successful online brand creates a hyped platform that attracts more digital dust that visitors? (sorry Google)

No matter how much you luv a brand (and I like Google a lot), always be suspicious of their offers to rely on them for your business  infrastructure and marketing presence. It’s their game, and we all know you’ll never win by rules that have been set by someone else.

You can actually WASTE years of building your brand on someone else’s platform and then lose out when the tide changes. Nothing, nothing and I mean NO-THING is more important than channeling your audience attraction to your self-hosted platform. That’s why I focus the majority of my time getting people on MY site, instead of getting likes and followers somehwere else.

Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr … and sometimes even Google+ …  all help me extend my reach, but each of them could vanish in an instant and I’d still have my audience and profits.

The web is in constant flux. The big platforms of today could become the no man’s lands of tomorrow.

Placing your bet on an outlet you don’t own is the riskiest and dumbest thing you can do. Treat them for what they really are – marketing tools that attract visitors to your own online real estate where you’ll turn them into subscribers or even paying clients.

Don’t be a leaf in the wind – a brand whose long-term success you want to control is dependable on a platform you own. Agree or disagree?

mars dorianMars Dorian describes himself as a creative marketeer with a moon-melting passion for human potential and technology. You can follow his adventures at www.marsdorian.com/

Original illustrations by the author.


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