There is danger in letting any vendor have too much control over your life. That warning applies doubly so to software and double again for social media.
I have five different ways to tell this story.
A simple change in rules or pricing can devastate you.
That big ol’ company can dump a software that doesn’t have enough customers for them to bother with but is mission critical to your operations.
If some of those little things happen, you will suffer.
Don’t let your marketing be controlled by Facebook or MySpace or anyone else that can wipe you out with a rule change or by fading away.
Discussed this in my previous post Don’t let your social media platform control you.
Mark Schaefer explains the danger of putting all your marketing effort into one platform, such as Facebook.
A simple rule change can wipe out your marketing efforts.
Own your domain name.
Watch out for who actually owns your domain name. Be very careful if your web host provider owns your domain name. It might be expensive to move. If you get into a dispute, they may just keep the name.
I gave a vague description of a real situation in my post, On being trapped by your technology provider – 1.
The solution is to transfer your domain name to one of the domain registrars. I use GoDaddy and am quite pleased with their service and low-cost. There are many other registrars out there in case you can’t stand their off-color advertising.
There are some minor technical issues to resolve but the cost would be very low.
Gain control over your domain name while there are no disputes. It’s your name – you really should actually own it.
Own your blog address.
The same concept applies to your blog address.
I set up my first blog with the name www.ulvog.wordpress.com. Have since changed the visible URL to www.nonprofitupdate.com but that address merely points to the WordPress address.
The issue is that if my blog ever gets to the point where I want capabilities that don’t exist on the basic WordPress platform, there will be a huge hidden cost in moving to a more capable platform.
The cost would be losing all of the links and search history to my blog. The internet traffic would shrink.
The solution? Very simple if done when starting a blog.
Buy the domain name you want to use and have that domain registrar direct all traffic to your blog platform.
I’ve done that for the other blogs I have. For example, Outrun Change is hosted on the free WordPress platform. The domain name is www.outrunchange.com, which I own. The GoDaddy software points all traffic from that domain to the WordPress site www.outrunchange.wordpress.com, which I control but do not own.
If I ever want to move the Outrun Change blog, I can change a setting at GoDaddy and have the domain name forward all traffic to www.outrunchange.yetanotherhostsname.com. There wouldn’t be any visibile change to readers and I’d keep all my search engine recognition.
Don’t be held hostage by your software vendor.
In my post On being trapped by your technology provider – 2, I discussed my experience with the vendor who provided a mission-critical software.
They had been warning they may discontinue the product. If they did so, the transition to the substitute software would increase my cost by a factor of 10. Regulatory requirements say I must maintain access to my electronic workpapers for 7 years, which means I’d have to keep that far more expensive software in place for 7 years after I change.
That’s a bad place to be trapped. I changed my software before their changes hurt me.
Look at your technology providers to see if you are essentially being held hostage. If so, make a change while you can.
The alternative is to make sure that other vendors have the built-in capacity to import all your data into their system.
Your social media provider could close your account if they simply feel you broke their interpretation of their rules.
Break the terms of service and your provider can close your account.
Who writes the rules and can change them on a whim? Take a guess.
Who interprets their rules? Guess.
Who unilaterally decides whether you broke their rules? Guess.
It is their platform, so it is legal and moral for them to enforce their own rules as they see fit.
Just remember that leaves you in a precarious place if you ever get into an argument with them.
They could close your account whenever they want to and you would have little way to change their mind.
I discussed this in my post On being trapped by your technology provider – 3.
Don’t let your social media or technology vendor control your life.