Marketers are inundated with news about the platforms they use.
Twitter advertisers are fleeing the platform in droves. TikTok users complain they can’t see posts from people they follow. The European Union and iOS are forcing social media apps to adjust their business models with their privacy measures. Every day there’s another news story about social media — and they all prove a point we made long ago:
If you want to succeed online, you must own your digital presence.
Owned vs. Rented
Why do we still believe that?
First you need to understand what “rented” vs. “owned” means.
If you own your content, you have full control over it. You decide how it’s displayed and who sees it. There’s no middleman between you and your customers. Some of the best examples of this are your website and your user email list (though today that might be SMS and not just email).
Renting is different. This is content where someone else has control over how it’s displayed, who sees it and who has rights over the content. That middleman decides what’s in their business interest (not yours), which includes who sees your content and how they consume it. All social media platforms are rented digital presences.
Now, more than ever, it’s critical to own and not just rent.
We can see the reasons to own your digital space everywhere around us.
Look at Twitter (or X, I guess. Old habits die hard.) It’s been changing its business model, moving features users took for granted behind a paywall. Look at Facebook and its algorithmic changes. All rented platforms will eventually change the rules of the game once they don’t benefit them anymore.
That’s the power of owning the platform: the owners make rules that benefit themselves. Customers who need the platform to reach an audience they’ve built have to acquiesce to the whims of that social media company. Social media platforms constantly change; they only care about your success to the degree that it benefits them.
Content marketing helps you cultivate an audience that’s resilient to those changes.
You’re trying to build your business, and that starts with your audience. Rented platforms provide access to prospects — they’re the gateway to more people you’d reach on your own, even with a significant ad budget. But you’re at their mercy. Reach isn’t something you have control over.
You can connect to your audience via social media and other rented platforms, but the best connection is being invited in. Email is still an incredibly powerful channel; 50% of people buy from marketing emails at least once a month, and 59% say that marketing emails influence their purchases. SMS, with its high open rates and immediacy, is powerful in its own right. These channels drive engagement and revenue, and you own that interaction completely. You have permission to speak directly to your audience, build a personal bond, learn what they really want and engage them with offers that make sense for them.
YouTube: The Exception that Proves the Rule
There is one exception where renting is superior to owning your digital presence: YouTube.
YouTube is a rented presence, with all the issues that come along with that. It changes its algorithm, making it harder for some content creators to be discovered. It controls your content and generates massive revenue on your work. And it has no interest in building your business unless it benefits YouTube. But there’s one thing that makes YouTube the platform of choice if you’re doing long-form video:
Hosting video at scale gets prohibitively expensive fast; YouTube is far more cost-effective than the alternative. In addition, you gain the benefits of discoverability, as YouTube is one of the most-trafficked search engines in the world.
So yes, owning is superior to renting space on someone else’s platform — but in YouTube’s case, the benefit of free video hosting outweighs all the problems.
One caveat: if you’re only using YouTube as a video host, and not for reach and audience generation, we suggest you consider a dedicated CDN or video host like Vimeo. These are paid solutions, but they also give you complete control of content presentation, and the only one benefitting from your content is you.
Own Your Own Content
Owning your digital presence is critical for business success and longevity. It’s a bulwark against platform changes and changing reach, and it allows you to speak directly to your audience without having to go through a middleman. That’s incredibly valuable.
So how do you speak to that audience?
Here are the critical components you need to use for your owned digital presence: your content marketing pillars.
- Blogs: The mainstay of content marketing for a good 20 years, blogs have a low barrier to entry — it doesn’t take a ton of specialized expertise to write and publish web content, as opposed to video or audio editing. They build SEO as well; proven expertise that Google can crawl is key to building your status on the results page. But they’re not as big as they used to be. It’s no longer possible to just publish blogs and zoom to the top of the Google rankings; what used to be a rocket ship is now more like the foundation of a house. For more on this, read our article “Do Blogs Matter?”
- Video: Video is the new kid on the digital block; most consumers have enough bandwidth for quality video now, and the advent of the iPhone and free or cheap video editing software has made high-quality video production possible for everyone. It can be time-consuming to produce, and you need a little bit more training and resources than you do starting a blog. Video is a big piece of most modern content marketing efforts, often in the form of long-form instructional videos, essays or vlogs. For more on this, check out our article “Getting Your Videos Seen.”
- Podcasts: Podcasts still matter, even though they have some overlap with video; many “podcasts” publish both video and audio. People who struggle with more structured video or blogs find their niche in the more freewheeling world of podcasts. Podcasts are often closer to a conversation than a presentation, which allows people with good interviewing skills or a lot of charisma to succeed. To learn more, see our article “Pick Up the Mic.”
And for all of these pillars, you need a way to distribute your content to your audience via owned channels. That means email and/or SMS. As we’ve mentioned above, email marketing still gets people’s attention, and SMS marketing gets a jaw-dropping 98% open rate. To learn more about using email marketing and SMS, check out our articles “Email Marketing for Everyone Else” and “SMS Makes Marketing Personal.”
Your Content is Your Asset
If you’re relying on rented channels like social media for your business and don’t own your own digital home, you’re putting yourself and your content in harm’s way. Social media platforms don’t have your best interests at heart, and any conversation you have with your audience on social media is dependent on the goodwill of the middleman hosting the conversation.
It’s far better to build an audience that you own with content that you control. Yes, you can use “rented” media — but you need a home to send people to. Own your own digital presence, and see how it can supercharge your business. Not sure how to get started? We can help. Just drop us a line, anytime.
Rainmaker Digital Services