I have a friend who lives in San Diego. She and her boyfriend rented this lovely home outside of the city. They have tons of land, a great house. It was really a fantastic deal. Since they were in such a good place, the rent was cheap and they had no intention of moving anytime soon, they decided to do some minor renovations to the house. This became their "weekend warrior" project. They'd paint, tinker, plant and in the end, they had a great and slightly improved property. Then one day the owner stopped by for a visit. "Bad news," he said, "I need to sell this property and I have a buyer who wants to offer top dollar, in a market like this I'm sure you understand why I need to take it." They had 30 days to move out.
Now, you might think this is a very sad and unfair situation, but it happens all the time. And it doesn't just happen in real estate, it happens online too. It's a great thing, this social networking, but what a lot of people forget is that you don't own the sites you are populating. While Facebook owns the world (pretty much) right now, things could change. But more than that, sometimes a slight "uh-oh" from you and a slight violation of the site's terms of service can cause you a world of grief. We had a client several years ago who built up 5,000 friends on his personal profile. I kept cautioning him about doing promotion on that page as Facebook has rules against doing promotion on a personal profile. He continued to do promotion (though not heavy) and lost his page. He never got it back. His entire tribe of 5,000 people were lost in the minute it took Facebook to pull down that page.
Don't get me wrong, it's great to utilize these tools and promote yourself, but just remember: as much as you might feel "at home" on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, and Twitter, you don't own these properties. They do. Be smart and make sure you aren't making these sites the center of your success. Here are a few tips to help you own your real estate.
- Website: You should always, always, always have a website. I know some authors who use Facebook as their websites. Big mistake. I know other authors who get a website that doesn't belong to them, meaning they are part of a community of free sites they don't own. If the community decides to stop doing websites and goes away, guess what happens? So does your content.
- Smart Social Media: One of the things I really recommend is that you center all of your content around your website. That's partially why I suggest linking your blog to Facebook and Twitter. The content starts on your site and gets funneled from there, rather than in reverse.
- Other ways to promote: Consider other ways to promote your stuff that isn't social media centric. Interviews on (other) blogs, websites. Yes, you are still putting stuff out there on other sites, I'm not saying not to. I'm saying that you need to make sure that whatever content you put out there is reflected on your site as well.
- Duplicate content: There's a problem with posting huge amounts of duplicate content online, but unless you are pushing hundreds of pieces out a month, I doubt you have anything to worry about. However, the flip side is that you want to make sure you have copies of all the content you put out there. If you're uploading a video on YouTube, don't delete it off of your computer because you think it's "safe" on this site. It may very well be, but if you lose your page or YouTube gets bought (again) and morphs into something else, you're in trouble.
- Website... more: When I talked about having a website, I'm not just talking about having a one or two-pager. I mean have a robust site packed with content. Make sure that you have a blog, and you might consider adding a resource section, etc. All information about your books should be on the site (don't rely on Amazon to house this for you) and be sure that any ordering information is on your site as well. Wait! You might ask, is Amazon in danger of going away? Not likely. But as they've shown in the past by pulling down books and buy buttons without warning: they are Amazon and can do whatever they want.
- Traffic: So, the nitty-gritty of promotion is what? Sales, right? Sure, and exposure too (though I think you should target exposure first, then sales, but that's another article). If you're sending all of your traffic to social media sites, guess what? Your website traffic is probably pretty low or non-existent. If you send traffic to social media sites guess who benefits? Well, certainly you do in the way of exposure, but long-term this isn't a good plan. Let me explain why. If you aren't promoting your site as the center of the universe, and instead pushing people to social media sites, then your website isn't getting those super valuable incoming links from blogs, websites, etc. that you are promoting yourself to. As a result, your site will sink in Google rankings. That means if you lost one or more of your social media sites, you could certainly pick up the pieces and start sending people to your site, but that will be a long, hard haul. Better to focus on that now and gather that traffic, along with the buzz you create in social media, so you aren't caught with a zero starting point if anything happens.
You might think that the moral of this story is a slightly paranoid "trust no one" mantra but it's not. It's about protecting your stuff and being a smart and savvy author. You would never open up a store in a mall without a lease that locked you in for a certain amount of time, right? While there are no guarantees in anything, you need to be smart about all of these wonderful, free, not-owned-by-you social media sites. You might do a fantastic job of driving traffic, fans, and likes to various pages. But the reality is that you should focus on what you own, your website. I love my social media sites and yes, it's a widely known fact that I'm addicted to Twitter. Yet they aren't the center of my online universe, my website is. Yours should be, too.