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Why are we still investing in (social media) rentals?

Guys, huddle in.  We need to have a little ol’ chat about interwebs investment.  (And if you’ve somehow been misdirected here by Google, expecting some legitimate ‘grown up’ investment advice, now would be a really good time to leave.  Quickly now.)

Rightio.  So lemme set the scene.  I was in an airport terminal.  Me, the drinkable-but-still-pretty-average Virgin Lounge pinot noir and a stack of magazines, just biding our time, praying that the earlier flight I’d managed to talk my way onto wasn’t cancelled thanks to the Death Storm that was currently circling the city.  Flicking through the pages, I noticed an ad.

‘Looking for the next crop of up and coming online influencers’.

A fairly well known mag was looking for the next generation of blogging superstars, to win a stack of prizes, a glossy trophy and no doubt a savvy new stack of Instagram followers.

Except you didn’t need to have a blog.  Anyone, anyone, who had a decent influence – be it Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, heck even Facebook – was eligible to enter.

YEP.  You read that correctly.  Someone who hath no owned digital footprint, could legitimately be declared an ‘up and coming online influencer’.

Are you staring at the screen in shock yet?  YET?  Well…you very well should be.  If you consider yourself a Very Big Online Deal but you don’t have a blog/website, you’re basically in the same position as the person who admires the stack of casino chips on the table in front of them, musing over how rich they are.  Because like it or not, champ, the house always wins.

Here’s the thing.  A social media community isn’t your community.  I don’t give a rats if you know them all by name and you have 95% engagement on every post and every time you coin a new hashtag they have it trending within the hour.  You still don’t own those relationships.  Every time you want to party with them, you have to do it at someone else’s house.

Think about it…I’ll wait.  (I mean, at least until this glass of wine runs out.)  You have 50,000 fans on Instagram, let’s assume.  What if one day, you wake up, and Instagram is gone?  How do you reach those people?  How do they know what your #OOTD is?!?!  If someone makes an acai bowl, but they can’t post it on Instagram, then does it ever really exist?  And if you can’t mobilise your mobile army on command – are you still influential?

Like it or not, you’ve been playing by someone else’s rules for longer than you care to admit.  Remember when the aim of the Facebook game was to build as big as a fan army as you could?  And then they came up with advertising options – ways to build that army – for a fee, of course.  And now, we fast-forward to 2016, and suddenly Zuckerberg is all ‘oh, look, now you’ll now need to pay to reach those fans you already paid to recruit in the first place.  Soz about it guys, got a college education to start saving up for…’

And heck, he can do that.  You’re in his house and if he tells you to take your feet off the coffee table, you only have two options.  Take your feet off the coffee table, or leave.

Like it or not, if you’re relying solely on social media to build your online empire, you’re basically still in the relationship stage where you pass messages back and forth via your friend.  You’re not ‘official’ yet.  If your friend suddenly can’t be assed passing that note, all of a sudden you can’t tell them what time to meet you behind the bike sheds at lunchtime, and before you know it, you’re sitting in the dirt by yourself…

(That’s a really sad analogy, btw.  Don’t be the kid sitting alone behind the bike sheds…)

Guys, I get it.  A website is infinitely more work to maintain.  But here’s the thing.  It’s your own little universe.  Every time someone comments on something you’ve written – it’s yours.  That e-newsletter database you’ve built?  Belongs to you.  The folk who’ve subscribed to your RSS feed.  You own their ass, too….I think you see where I’m going here.

Yes, social media has it’s place.  I mean, I’m probs going to go out on a limb and suggest that’s how you got here.  (Not you, Mum.  I know you read this anyway, and that’s why I love you.)  It can amplify your auh-mazing little gems to the world, going farther and wider than you ever thought possible.  And yes, all of that is gonna need a little bit of dosh to make the magic happen – so go forth and promote, my friends.  But the good stuff?  Your best content, your witty words, your heart and soul?  That stuff is an investment.  So treat it like one.  Put it in a blog.  Build a website.  Own your own little piece of the internet.

Because at the end of the day, a social media site or page is simply a rental.  You have a land lord.  Invest the best in a place that you own.

Rant over, kids.  Now, as you were…

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