Digital Sharecropping: The Most Dangerous Threat to Your Content Marketing Strategy
Many times we feel pretty smug about our online presence that we are always quick to rant out the websites where our contents can be found; search engines that rate us high, and social media platforms where we maintain our presence and have outstanding share numbers. Apart from the fact that these platforms share our contents and the tremendous multiplying effect they have in propagating our contents, they are a way of showing off our superior sophistication in internet technology. On the other hand, we never think of the side effects of what our tenancy on these borrowed locations may be.
Before I highlight the risks of sharecropping, I will like to emphasize that it will be a disservice to deny the positive impacts of these platforms in marketing our contents. They really do well by us making both our contents and personality household or ‘webhold’ names, as the case may be; but there is a legitimate source of worry about what will happen to the hours of brain racking, the financial resources we put into researches, the time put into researches, the hours of keyboard clicking, attempts at share gatherings and other efforts just to come up with contents we can lay claim to as our intellectual properties if these platforms decide to make changes that will affect our condition of tenancy or they die a natural death and take the key to our apartment straight with them to the grave. That calls for serious meditation.
Often times, we are swept off our feet by the testimonies that support proliferation of contents on social media sites but we do not take seriously the demerits of sharecropping. Share cropping! I bet you just asked what a system of agriculture has to do with content marketing. Sharecropping is a system of agriculture that allows a tenant to farm on a landowner’s land with getting a share of the crops in exchange. In this landlord tenant relationship, the landlord, which in most cases is an unscrupulous one is at the superior end while the tenant slaves away with little or nothing to show for it. Negative factors like high interest rates and unpredictable harvests make it worse for the tenant.
The same concept is transferred to digital sharecropping which is when you create and put up your contents on social networks and sites that are not yours without receiving direct compensation for such contents. This definition might not strike any somber note until you realize your contents immediately changes ownership once it appears on a social media or website that is not yours. We come across a plethora of contents on Twitter, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Pinterest and their likes but it doesn’t occur to us that the posts put up on these spaces are valuable assets of some people who take no credit at all for such contents. Does it mean we deserve something in return for the contents we put on Facebook? Yes we should; unfortunately we don’t get such, and the more contents we create for free on these sites the more valuable they become.
Let us look away from better accessibility, great user experience, effect on online traffic, and the other perks that come with the use of social media to the more pressing but most often not discussed issues about how they might affect our contents now or in the future. There is no need to mince words here, there is a great risk in making our businesses depend totally on other businesses, such dependence is simply an invitation to failure and there is no sharp distinction between someone who puts his content on a social media, search engine or other websites that is not his from the tenant who plants on someone else’s land in a sharecropping system. They both sweat a great deal but don’t take credit for their yields of their sweat rather the landlord reaps all the benefits.
This makes most professional content makers tenants in a sharecropping system. The more content we propagate on other people’s platforms the more we take the likeness of subsistence farmers. That metaphor is condescending, you might say, but we need to make a reality check because sharecropping can make you vulnerable to all sorts of risks. The first is, your landlord might change to a tune you might not be able to dance to and when you try, your dance might irritate your landlord. We know many of these media platforms create easy access, they create both local and international audience, signing up is free and it gives your business a cutting edge. Those are the bright sides but if the sole media that propagates your business is Facebook or Google, you might be running at a risk.
Over the years we have seen Facebook reel out new terms and conditions from those that affect business promotions to the right to use your information in a bid for improvements, to age consent and other terms. Let’s check the dull sides. Just like the changes that have been made before what if something changes? What if they review their terms and conditions? Facebook particularly is a platform that is growing in bounds, with its growth lots of things are changing. One of which is its terms of service. Anytime tomorrow, you might use Facebook in a way that contravenes its terms of service, the next thing you know, your account is deleted.
I must agree some of us are compatibility robots , we read terms and conditions no matter how lengthy or voluminous they are, then we tag along if it is beneficial or we break ties if those terms won’t work for us; but what if changes set in. Anytime tomorrow, changes in its terms and conditions could totally change or limit how you relate with your customers. The same thing applies to Google and the others. We wake up to different terms every now and then. Bottom line! Don’t just get comfortable with solely depending on platforms that are not yours to propagate your business your landlord might not be comfortable with you after today.
Also, something can make your landlord go away. Over the years, digital media platforms have come to stay, come to go and come to lie idle. Sharecroppers have put tons of valuable contents on sites which are no longer virile like they used to be before now. Those contents still exist but how much traffic drive through. Digg and MySpace are obvious examples. They were once the one stop shop amongst other digital media platforms, they still exist but they have lost their virility. They no longer bring traffic like they once did. What do you think will happen to the contents on these sites? The present popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and the others may still continue to stay vibrant for decades to come but only time can tell. We can only keep our fingers crossed.
Bottom line! Share cropped lands have the potential to lose fertility in the long run, the end result is your crops will go bad and harvest will be poor. In fairness, social media platforms help our businesses, they are very efficient tools but nothing beats buying your land and working it out for prosperity, there your success stays yours and your failure stays yours.
The solutions to gaining independence from share cropping landlords are owning a well-designed website, solely yours, an opt-in email list with a high quality auto responder and a reputation for providing unequalled value. We know every Tom, Dick and Harry has a website but the impression that a website creates is still not totally lost on us. When we see a business with its personal domain name, it paints a picture of professionalism and success, your prospects and customers can have lots of information at a convenient cost for you compared to the cost of disseminating the same information on television, radio or print. Having these three assets makes you your own landlord instead of a tenant. These assets can still suffer from external influences, your site could be hacked, your email account may be closed down and courtesy business plunderers, your reputation could be soiled.
But being the landlord makes any crisis easy to manage as repairing your asset will be under your control. You can get your hacked site fixed, you can promptly export your email list to another provider and you can take effective steps to mending your reputation. It is however better to take more proactive steps to avoid problems than mending the problems when they come. Learn to take website security seriously, avoid spammy or dodgy practices with your emails and build a loyal audience that can vouch for your authenticity as a business that doesn’t cut corners. Start making efforts to building on your own land rather than managing the risks that come with building on rented land.
You’ve put a lot of time and effort into your business — don’t put it all at risk by building on rented land.