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I’ve just launched a marketing newsletter (whoop!). To encourage people to sign up, I’m giving a free ebook explaining social media for business (sign up here if you fancy it).

Towards the end of the ebook, I talk about not putting all your eggs in one basket when using social media for marketing.

The phrase you sometimes find on the Internet to describe this is “Don’t build your house on rented land”. This means don’t base your company’s entire marketing effort on a social media platform you do not own or have any control over.

This is possibly the most crucial piece of small business marketing advice I can give you.

Your list of YouTube subscribers? Owned by Alphabet (Google’s parent company). What about your Facebook likes? All are owned by Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram.

A very recent example of what can happen if you rely solely on social media to market your business is the story of Teatotaller Café in New Hampshire. Over seven years, the café marketed itself by building a large following on Instagram and Facebook, running free and paid promotions for specials and shows.

That was until one day in 2018 when Instagram deleted their account without notice or even a good reason.

They suddenly found themselves unable to connect with their audience, who didn’t know what had happened or even whether the cafe had gone bust. And dealing with Instagram customer service was a complete nightmare.

(There is a happy ending of sorts – the café owner sued Meta and won – but it took him six years to win not much money.)

I’m not saying never use social media. You will almost certainly need it to drive people towards your website. But your website should be the hub of your marketing efforts, not Facebook or YouTube.

Own your Own Marketing Channels

A second piece of advice goes with this: you should aim to own as much of your marketing media as possible. What that means is, at the very least, you should: 
 
  1. own your own business domain name, 
  2. host your own website, 
  3. maintain your own email mailing list of customers and potential customers.

Once you have those three things in place, you have the basis for a robust digital marketing platform that is stable enough to withstand the whims and sudden changes frequently occurring with social media platforms.

Let’s briefly talk about those three things in turn.

Your Own Domain Name

Buying a domain name for your business is very inexpensive. However, domain names are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. If you have a relatively common business name, someone else may already take your preferred domain name.

This is why many businesses have entirely random, made-up business names (e.g., Zoopla, Groupon, Zoho, Pixar, Keefomatic). Made-up words usually have available domain names.

There is nothing that flags a business as looking less than 100% professional like finding its contact email addresses ends in Gmail, Yahoo, or Hotmail. That may sound incredibly harsh, but using a freemail account for your main contact details looks amateurish, especially when considering that a co.uk domain name will cost you about £10 a year.

First impressions count, and if you are using a freemail email address (and a mobile phone number) as your only contact details, you are not making a professional first impression.

(The same goes for using Vistaprint business cards, which have “printed by Vistaprint” written on the back.)

Host Your Own Website

When I say you should host your own website, I’m not talking about running down to PC World to buy a dedicated server (although if that floats your boat, go for it!).

You should pay for independent hosting to avoid proprietary systems such as GoDaddy, Wix, Squarespace, Google Sites, or any other popular template-based beginner hosting platforms.

Rather than me give you a long list of reasons not to go anywhere near creating your website on GoDaddy, search “why you shouldn’t use GoDaddy” and choose from articles named: “5 Reasons Why…” or “The Top 6 Reasons…” or the “6+ Reasons…” – you get the drift.

In the spirit of owning your own media, I would avoid any web developer looking to tie you into a proprietary system, including GoDaddy, Wix, but also platforms like it’seezee and CMS systems such as Duda. They will sell you on convenience and simplicity, but the pain comes when you need to move your website somewhere else because you can’t.

This is one reason why a self-hosted WordPress website is a popular choice. The system is open source, it is relatively straightforward to transfer a WordPress site from one host to another, and there is no shortage of professional web designers and developers to choose from.

Build Your Email List

Finally, we come to your email list. This is simply a list of all your recent customer email addresses and a related but separate list of your current prospects.

The reason why this is important is because, over on social media, you may have 100 or 1000 likes or more, but those lists don’t belong to you, and you can’t export them away from the platform. The sooner you encourage people on social media to subscribe to your mailing list, the sooner you can maintain a conversation with those people away from social media.

It’s been a long while since Facebook, Instagram, etc, started to restrict the number of people who see your posts. It still surprises many people when you tell them that Facebook’s organic reach statistics can be as low as 1-2% of their audience. In English, that means if you have 100 likes, your posts may only be seen by two people.

However, you can email 100% of your mailing list with a properly configured email marketing system. Open rates vary from 20% to 60% (depending on how engaging your emails are), but that is a vast improvement on the 1-2% on Facebook.

And with your own email list, you can email them whenever you want to (within reason – no one likes spam).

Once you have secured your domain name, built an independently hosted website on a non-proprietary system, and started to create your email list, you are on the way to avoiding the kind of failure that happened to Teatotaller Café. Putting all your eggs in one basket – especially a basket you don’t own – is a recipe for disaster.

Want to Work With Me?

If you need help with marketing your business or building a professional website, please get in touch.