I’ve been marketing on the web since 1998, first for my own business, then around 2002 to help other business people. Being around that long you see certain themes start to repeat.

In my opinion, the most important one lately is whether or not to start or continue a blog that you own, or to concentrate most of your efforts on publishing platforms like LinkedIn Publishing, Facebook (with Instant Articles), Medium, Quora and the like.

Why not a blog?

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At first glance, it probably seems like a lot of extra work to

  • create your own site,
  • set up blog software,
  • attempt to find a low competition, high traffic keyword to benefit from search traffic
  • commit to a content creation schedule
  • build an audience,
  • and keep blogging when you really would rather not.

Then you do all that work and you realize that unlike the blog-centric era gone by, people are searching for content that answers their questions, not specifically blogs as they did in 2004.

On the other hand they are constantly online – people don’t so much go online as stay online.

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So what are they doing? They still want answers to question and content to read. But they’re going to a social network like Facebook, often more than one.

There they find the content they want where they already are.

So I can understand why the notion of owning your own home base may seem illogical in the face of that.

Why build your getaway on a remote island, then have to build the roads to get people to come there as well, when you can set up your destination as a pit stop in a busy resort?

One answer – but by far not the only one – is distribution.

Whoever controls the distribution of your intellectual property, such as product, services, content, publication and/or access to them, controls your content and intellectual property.

In other words, the more someone else controls or owns your business, the less it is yours. What use is it to own something if, at any time, without warning, all the available access to it can be cut off?

Initially the taboo was “don’t build a permanent home on land you don’t own.” I know because I was among the people who started this expression in the early aughts.

And I said that because I’ve been on what we’re now calling the web since 1998, never mind its predecessor. I’ve seen it over and over – if you have a home base, you have control and retain your rights.

If you don’t, well. You don’t.

You own an illusion. And Facebook itself doesn’t have to fail for you to lose access or the ability to distribute what you own there.

Why is distribution so important?

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Besides the fact that whoever controls distribution controls your content?

If your marketing strategy includes content marketing at all, it’s important that you retain as much control over increasing, guiding and controlling the distribution of that content as possible.

Look at the recording artist. Without a thriving record label backing them, how can they reach a wider audience?

In the past, it was harder. Some artists did without wide exposure, and made their living playing local venues and burning their own CDs.

Then iTunes came along, CDBaby came to be and other tools cropped up on the internet for the independent artist. This made distribution accessible to everyone.

Now, they could have pulled a Facebook, and housed the access to the musical content. Instead they democratized distribution to music, benefitting both the artist and the consumer.

Can all recording artists pull a Beyonce and drop a chart-topping independent album? Without the support of radio and a record label backing them? Not yet.

But it’s much easier for them to make a living doing what they love. Of course, it’s also that much harder for them to cross the boundary from working artist to an artist whose work passively generates an income from them.

It’s the difference between the pop artist that can create an album and live off the proceeds for years or even decades and the independent artist who can make a decent living, but one that is full of hustle and long hours touring and booking gigs.

The reason the independent artist may not necessarily become a millionaire top-selling artist is distribution. They don’t have or control the means of distribution to get the wide coverage they need to be an option in every home in America or the world.

And that’s part of the difference with Beyonce. She has built a distribution system for her content.

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Between a following big and focused enough to support a well-timed social media album drop and Tidal, a way to give access to a focused audience that pays monthly, she can afford to lose access to all her Facebook followers.

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If you can’t afford to lose all your followers on a social platform, you can’t afford to have your content exclusive to that platform.

This has all happened before, and it will all happen again.

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You might think it won’t happen to you, but I doubt any of the people affected by this already thought it would happen to them either.

In truth? It could happen to Everyone, not just anyone. As Joe Pulizzi said in a recent interview:

… tomorrow Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and YouTube could all make the decision and say. “Uh, I’m sorry. I know I gave you access to that audience, but I’m not going to give you access to that anymore.”

If you think about it? Facebook has already limited our access, several times, unapologetically.

Facebook Pages used to let you access far more people for free via the Newsfeed. How many times have they changed the way the news feed works, making it ever more expensive for you to reach customers you already connected with previously?

Now they can’t make up their mind about something as simple as layout. Facebook advertising used to be priced more fairly and is constantly changing.

Certain applications such as Notes are on and off. You used to be able to import a feed- now after several iterations we have Facebook Instant Articles.

Bottom line: Facebook has changed its functionality several times a year over the past decade, with the net result of the cost to access existing users that you’ve already paid to connect to going up, not to mention the price of attaining new ones.

And they aren’t the only ones.

If you’ve been on the web more than 3 years, you have seen it, though you may not realize it.

This change happened with MySpace, it happened with Typepad, it has happened with Facebook repeatedly, and it’s happening with Amazon right now.

First, Independent business owners or creatives willingly flood a platform with free content. The smarter they are, the sooner they do it. And it is smart to do this — when the cost of doing so makes sense.

When the monetary cost is free, and the marketing is effective, it’s pretty foolish not to take advantage if you have the means- the trick is to know when the ground beneath you is changing, and respond accordingly.

Second, the platform gets popular and starts so slowly charge for additional access to its audience – which by hosting your content there, you’re helping them build.

A service you’re now paying for instead of charging for, incidentally.

Third, the cost-to-benefit ratio goes all askew at some point- you’re able to expand your audience less and less at a higher and higher cost. But now you’re stuck if you depend on that audience to pay your bills.

Fourth, at some point, trying to cut costs, save money or resources, someone in the company poses an idea that no longer sounds crazy – why don’t we just host our content there instead of paying for this AND a website?

So what’s wrong with that?

You may be thinking, hey, with our advertising budget, this still works in our favor. So we pay a little more. Costs change.

The problem with that thinking is that some change is so slow, you can be fooled into thinking things will always be the same, that conditions will always be the same. Or that the price you pay will always be worth the expense.

Remember when the recession first hit?

First thing to go for a lot of companies was the advertising budget.

It’s great for people like me – businesses of all sizes will suddenly remember that they can take from the advertising budget and move it over to marketing, getting the same job done with a lot less money once the system is in place.

Others will not come to that conclusion, often with the result of closing their doors.

You don’t have to wait that long. You don’t even have to completely leave all the places where you remotely host your content.

How do you use platforms like Facebook instead of them using you?

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Here’s what most people miss. You’re not choosing between doing your content marketing on LinkedIn OR having a blog.

The answer isn’t either publish on your own site or on LinkedIn, Slideshare, Facebook – it’s not an either/or situation.

It’s an and/also situation. It’s both.

It always has been- there are just far more platforms and outlets then there were before. It will continue to be this way until or unless one of these platforms swallows the Internet whole.

(And if that platform is Facebook, get used to losing a lot of the rights and privileges you previously had, as well as sharp increases in the price of visibility that you may not be able to afford.)

People may not look for blogs, but most of them do read them, some not even knowing what a blog is.

And search still continues to beat social as a driver of traffic. Sure, you can lose access to search visitors just as you can your social following.

But unlike social, you can get search visitors to all the various carriers of your content, not just your blog. And you can regain access to rankings you lose in search.

If you lose your social media following, you have to start from scratch – unless you were smart enough to convert those followers to email subscribers outside that platform, (as I’ve advised from the start).

You need both

You need to have a blog you own and control to be your content hub – unless you’re creating a blog as a business not to market your business.

(If you’re creating your blog as a money maker, look at the option of creating a software tool or app. You may be better off creating that or something that facilitates community as opposed to being dependent on it if you want to profit solely from access to eyeballs.)

You can still use any or even all of the other platforms as long as they are well suited and cost-effective in your effort to widen your distribution to new audiences.

But to own and control your own business, distribution and the ultimate destiny of your business empire, you need a home base that will help

  • get whatever search engine traffic advantages you are eligible for
  • allow you to reach your audiences repeatedly before they buy
  • give you total control over the hosting, style, layout and content of your landing pages and analytics
  • demonstrate to your clients that you won’t disappear overnight
  • establish you as a thought leader
  • be a place where others can quickly reference your body of work
  • allow you to smoothly segue into sales conversations
  • be represented in mobile and local search access points

and countless other things that are advantageous to your marketing. At present, the most versatile platform that can meet all of these needs is self-hosted blogging software.

How do you achieve this and/also approach?

That is the real question. And our next conversation.

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