The Perils Of Free Platforms

  I've said it before and I'll say it again. Free platforms can come at a much greater cost than just shelling out for your own web properties to begin with.

What free platforms?

Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, Blogger, Typepad, WordPress.com, etc. are all free platforms with their own rules and restrictions. What do they all have in common? They make the rules and their terms (which most people don't bother to read) clearly state: These rules are subject to change without notice. It is your responsibility to make yourself aware of changes by occasionally coming back to reread them.

What's the danger?

It's their ball, their yard, their rules. Anything you do is subject to losing everything you have there. And you never know when the rules are going to change or if you'll arbitrarily be found in violation. When the rules can change from one day to the next and what was not a problem is now verboten, you can end up like this guy. He had a free blogger account and google shut down his account erasing 14 years of work.

But Rob, don't You use these platforms?

I do use some of them like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and YouTube. But I do not rely solely on them. These are channels of distribution for me, nothing more.

How would you fare?

If one of these platforms decides to change the rules, or in this case, delete your account today, what would that do to your marketing? Could you just unplug that channel and plug in the next? What about all of your content?

How to use any free site

This isn't just about social media sites, but any website you don't own. Sites you don't own should only be built up for three main purposes. Those are:

  • Driving traffic to your site
  • Brand exposure
  • Social proof

Social media sites have one HUGE advantage over your website:

That is where the people are going naturally, constantly, and consistently. Conversion rarely takes place on social sites. That's why you want to drive traffic back to your website so you can convert that traffic to sales.

Have the home field advantage

Having your own site means you don't have to comply with strict, arbitrary, and ever-changing rules that can shut you down. Your own website gives you options when it comes to adding on systems that benefit you without begging or waiting for them to become available. And if you want to do something, it's just a matter of can it be done and finding the right person to do it. You don't have to then try to figure out how can it be done within their sliding scale of compliance. A few months back, I did a training session for a marketing automation company where I spoke specifically about the solution to this problem. Click the button below to see the training. 

28 Comments

  • Anthony

    Reply Reply March 27, 2017

    That is an interesting take on free platforms. When it comes to relying solely on the free platform, I definitely agree. I do think it is a rare occurrence for your site to be deleted, especially from G+. There must’ve been something negative about the site. Generally these platforms will send you a message first and give you opportunities prior to disabling your account. I use G+ to upload posts from my personal website. so if something happens to my account, I haven’t lost everything. I feel that is good advice. Thanks Rob.

  • Obaid

    Reply Reply April 14, 2017

    What do you think the best way to start on social? through facebook! or google+

    • Rob Calhoun

      Reply Reply April 14, 2017

      Obaid,

      The best social site to start with depends on where your target market is. If your market is primarily on twitter, kik, snapchat, instagram, pintrest, or linkedin and you’re trying to decide whether Facebook or G+ is right, you’ve lost before you started.

  • Dhruv Mangukia

    Reply Reply April 27, 2017

    really nice. This should help me finding the right social media to target my efforts. many many thanks

  • Abigail

    Reply Reply April 27, 2017

    Hmm.. That’s really a different point of view – I have always seen people suggesting to go all in on Social Platforms – good to see the alternative view point.

    • Rob Calhoun

      Reply Reply May 18, 2017

      Abigail,
      What good is doing many things if they bring little or no results because you’re doing the wrong things? Have a strategy before you start, and your chances of success go up exponentially over those who wing it and do what the crowd says or seems to be doing.

  • Debbie Gartner

    Reply Reply May 17, 2017

    Oh yes, I learned this lesson early on. I had a free wordpress.com site. It was not my main site (I used it more for backlinking to another blog). I had not spent a ton of time on it – maybe 10 quick blog posts. And, then poof, it was gone as somehow it was taken down because it was “commercial.” Thankfully, I had a main wordpress.org blog which I fully owned. This was a bummer, but a key lesson.

    I may now go and set up another one (to help one of my clients with his main site), but I will do it very differently. Lesson learned.

  • john

    Reply Reply May 21, 2017

    Free can cost you a lot.

  • Rahul

    Reply Reply May 27, 2017

    nice post. This should help me finding the right social media to target my efforts. many many thanks to you

  • Wallace

    Reply Reply May 28, 2017

    Great post Rob! Another thing to keep in mind with free sites is to never keep all of your eggs in one basket. That way, if one platform changes it won’t affect your business much. Thanks for the great post!

  • John Sheehy

    Reply Reply June 8, 2017

    Quite an interesting take on Social Media and Free Marketing.

  • hi,
    very nice article, keep up the good workd

  • Scott

    Reply Reply June 14, 2017

    Yeah, I have played that free platforms game too many times.

  • Adeniyi Badmus

    Reply Reply June 20, 2017

    Free platforms just as you noted are meant to just be channel of distribution to reach a wider audience. I can’t imagine someone doing some serious blogging on a platform like facebook

  • Victoria

    Reply Reply June 22, 2017

    I know a lot of people who were banned from advertising on Facebook because they didn’t read the rules. Now, they can’t advertise on Instagram, either. Amazon, a paid platform of sorts, seems to ban people indiscriminately as well. You have to read the rules!

    • Rob Calhoun

      Reply Reply July 10, 2017

      Victoria,

      First you must know the rules… before you can break them properly! But yeah, its best to read, re-read, and then read the rules again so you don’t lose the ability to use these tools. And like I said, don’t depend on them entirely so you’re not ruined if they do shut you down.

  • Neha

    Reply Reply June 25, 2017

    Exactly same thing happened to me 6 years back. I lost my hard work of 3 years, I have garnered enough courage to try it again but will shift to paid domain once I have enough money to fund for the same.

    • Rob Calhoun

      Reply Reply July 10, 2017

      It’s a painful slap in the face to realize what deep down you know you should have done to begin with. Glad to hear you’re getting back and not staying down.

  • Nyatichi

    Reply Reply June 29, 2017

    Free platforms tend to have a lot of advertisements and freebies attached. Tthey are a great way to start out but in the end, paying for a platform will ensure that you are able to reach your goal.

  • ashley

    Reply Reply July 3, 2017

    You have some solid points there Rob.
    I have this friend who was doing solidly well with “blogspot” free service. He grew very massively on his niche only to be pulled down by google on dmca claims which according to the guy seems to be the work of a competitor. To get back there, it will never be easy for him.

    • Rob Calhoun

      Reply Reply July 10, 2017

      Ashley,

      Exactly. Many times people fly under the radar of these massive platforms until somebody point them out. And in the case you mentioned, You don’t even have to be doing anything wrong. Just running afoul of some random person online or your competitor can file a false claim and the mechanized goliath will chew you up and spit you out with no way to talk to a real person for weeks, months, if ever!

  • Clint

    Reply Reply July 6, 2017

    When you say you use social media for distribution channels, how do you do that? Are you auto posting?

    • Rob Calhoun

      Reply Reply July 10, 2017

      Clint,

      I’m not autoposting. Whenever I create a post, I will post to social media because they are additional distribution channels for my post vs. just my site and search engines.

      Autopost doesn’t allow you to tag people. And if it did, would they really continue responding if it said “Posted by hootbot” at the bottom of the post? Let’s be real here. People aren’t so dim as to not notice if you are having your bot post to them instead of you. It’s a fine line between managing your time and building real engagement.

  • Ron Pickle

    Reply Reply July 14, 2017

    Could not agree with you more!!!! I also suffered at the hands of a so called ‘free service’ recently, they suspended my membership and all my work, reviews got vanished. So you are right about using these tools as a distribution medium and keep all your content in a place properly owned by you. Many thanks!!!!!

    • Rob Calhoun

      Reply Reply July 14, 2017

      I love it when someone else drives my point home! Sorry to hear it, but lesson learned.

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