The perils of building a business on Facebook

An article in today's newspaper makes me contemplate the risks of building a business on Facebook.


Social media has become a monster. Back when I first used the internet it didn't exist and the internet was a much freer and decentralised place. The downside, of course, is that it wasn't mainstream, it was difficult to get on the internet and generally, you had to be technically savvy to publish content on it.

Social media's advantage was it made it easy for normal people post and share content. One of the earliest websites I created was a travel blog that my wife an I used to keep family members informed as we travelled the world in our mid-twenties. It was a lot of work for relatively little gain and as people migrated to Facebook, I eventually gave up and joined the masses.



Facebook wasn't the first by any means, but it's certainly been the most successful, maintaining its dominance thanks to its network effect. For a great many of its users, Facebook is the internet -- it's their means to communicate, share content, get their news and so on.

It's also a business platform for millions of people -- myself included. Thanks to its global membership and guaranteed eyeballs, it's become a powerful means by which business can build their brand and advertise their wares, or push their message.

When you use something for free, you are the product!

Today though, Facebook's in damage control thanks to the fallout of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Although the outcome was terrible, it has served two important purposes. Not only has it exposed weaknesses in our democratic systems but it was a much-needed wakeup call for the hundreds of millions of users who don't seem to understand that their content, and Likes are Facebook's property to make money with as Facebook saw fit. When you use something for free, you are the product! But I digress.

Part of the damage control includes a crackdown on businesses, particularly those who advertise, promote or share anything that Facebook deems inappropriate. A few weeks ago, my cousin had her business banned several times. Then today, I read an article in The Age, about a popular but crude Australian Facebook Pages with 2.6m Likes, was taken down.

Facebook doesn't care if your business fails.

Both cases underpin the same fundamental risk of building a business on a platform you don't own or control. It's a recipe for failure. A change in their T&Cs could render you non-compliant without warning. Facebook is not your platform, it's Mark Zuckerburg's. Facebook doesn't care if your business fails. They have the power to arbitrarily shut you down with little avenue of appeal or redress.



Of course, it's not just Facebook. Other platforms such as YouTube and Twitter have the same power and they've demonstrated the willingness to use it.

Remember this no matter if you are creative -- or you're selling soap. Use Facebook by all means -- you'd be stupid not to -- but have a Plan B. At the very least you should use more than social media network -- there are lots of them to choose from.

Most important is to build your own platform. Today, this means having your own website. It's cheaper and easier than you think -- in fact, I'd suggest it has never been as easy as it is today.

My own website costs me nothing to host, but I'm a nerd and I have the technical means to do so. Otherwise, if you're not particularly technical, there's Wordpress, Wix, Squarespace, Ghost to name just some of the popular choices. Best choice for complete control is a self-hosted Wordpress site -- no one will ever tell you what you can or cannot do (within reason of course). But even hosted options like Wix or Squarespace are generally much more tolerant and permissive with what you can write, post or sell.

So, if you're eggs are all in the Facebook basket, do yourself a favour and spread your risk.

Comments

Avatar
J.K. Riki

Posted on

I'd say make Facebook your Plan B (or C or farther!) and put more of the eggs into other baskets, ha ha. Good article! Advice we should all take to heart.


Avatar
Chris Rosser

Posted on

I couldn't agree more! Thanks, mate!

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