Own Your Digital Content
Are you giving away your digital assets for free? Providing free content for your target audience is an important part of building a following. However where you place that content is just as important if not more important than giving it away for free. In this article you will learn why you should keep control of your digital assets and how to do that.
Build Your Own Platform
When you use hosted third party services, such as Facebook, Medium, or Instagram you are effectively giving away control over your content. For example the Facebook terms of service (at time of writing this post) in Section 2.1 states:
For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.
Facebook Terms of Services 2.1
Essentially Facebook can do anything they want with any content you upload and you have no recourse. What happens to your content if a service changes the terms of service or functionality and you are no longer able to utilize the service in the same manner. Other examples include Facebook changing the algorithm that displays less content from brands and publishers, API Changes, and more algorithm changes.
All services make changes that both negatively and positively affect their users. If your business sales revenue and traffic is heavily dependant on these servers a change over which you have no control could put your business at risk, for example YouTuber ad revenue down: here, here and here.
A brick and mortar example of tying your revenue to another business is that of this watch repair businessman who's business is now in jeapordary due to Sears declaring bankruptcy. He's worried about be[ing] able to find a place to rent that’s as affordable or draws in as many customers as the small area off of Sears’ main lobby here.
Imagine Your Site is Deleted Arbitrarily
Even though on free WordPress blogs and other services you can write whatever you want you don’t own the content. WordPress, Tumblr and other free services can remove your content or delete your website at anytime. Imagine having 200 or 300 posts written and then all of your content has disappeared for some arbitrarily reason with no recourse to recover it. This is not illegal and does happen and without notice or explanation. If you own your own domain and host your content yourself this will not happen to you.
The Solution is to Own Your Content
Instead of having all of your traffic and internet presence hosted on third party services it's better to control all of your content by centralizing it in your own website with your own domain. Avoid hosted solutions such as wordpress.com, blogger, Wix, or Shopify. If these services close or change the terms all of your content and SEO is lost or held hostage. And both free and paid hosted services do shut down, remember: Myspace, Geocities, Posterous, Google Photos and many more shuttered services.
The best approach is to have your own website and domain. You can then use any of these services to host your content. If a service goes away you can move your content to another similar service or host it yourself. More importantly you are not losing any SEO juice and all your content is discoverable in one central location.
Get Your Own Link Shortener
If you have your own link shortener when you share content you don't have to worry about the link expiring or breaking in the future. If it does, you go into your link shortener and edit redirect.
Use a CMS and Backup Solution
By having your content on your own domain with a host that you pay for yourself, you control your content. Be sure to have a backup strategy in place in case the unexpected happens. Many CMSs including Craft CMS, and ExpressionEngine have backup options that will make it easy for you to backup all of your files and databases to another service or download locally. At a minimum you should ensure that your hosting company offers daily backups that are easy to access - most do.
Third Party Services
It's okay to use third party services, but don't depend on them for your content and discoverability. If you depend on a third party service and your account gets suspended or closed you may have no recourse and lose all of your content. There are 5,480,000 results for youtube channel suspended and 53, 700,000 results for facebook page suspended and 270,000 results for shopify account suspended.
If your business is overly dependent on one of these services you are at risk. It is much better to use these services and then display the content on your own website.
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