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November 6, 2012

Don’t Build Your Business on Borrowed Property

In this article you will:

• Learn why your small business website should be the center of your marketing universe.

• Learn how to protect your marketing from social media changes beyond your control.

• See how to manage and control the flow of information to any number of external channels (blog, social, etc.).

With all the amazing “free” marketing channels available to small businesses today, it’s easier than ever to set up social profiles, engage with customers, and run marketing campaigns across all types of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and Pinterest. However, there’s one thing that many small businesses tend to forget – all of these “free” social media sites are built on platforms that are owned and controlled by others.

For instance, if your small business has invested a lot of time, design work, and/or customization on your Facebook page, you could see these efforts wiped out the next time Facebook decides to change its page layout, its publishing guidelines, its features, or any number of other variables over which you have no control.

A few months ago, there was an e-mail going around encouraging Facebook users to post a “copyright disclaimer” on their Facebook pages. It concluded if users posted this disclaimer on their Facebook pages, it would legally protect them from unauthorized use of their information.

Of course, this turned out to be a hoax. The fact is, the information published on your Facebook profile belongs to Facebook. Whatever information you added to your Facebook page was information you voluntarily uploaded to a public platform. You no longer have control of how that information is used, copyright disclaimer or not.

So how do you protect your small business from online changes that are beyond your control? Simple, focus on your website, the online entity that you own.

By making your small business website the “hub” of all your online marketing initiatives, you can use as many external marketing channels as you like, as long as they all lead back to your website – the web destination that you own and can control completely.

Consider this diagram:










In a healthy small business marketing mix, you can see the website is at the center of it all. The other online channels feed into and out of the website, but if any of your social networking channels were to go away, the website would still be there providing critical business and marketing information for users, regardless of what happens externally.

That’s not to say that external marketing channels aren’t important – they are very important. Businesses can benefit hugely from taking advantage of social media and other free platforms that provide extra visibility and engagement with customers. But putting too much of your time, effort and marketing dollars into a social site that you don’t own or control can be risky. Instead, consider an integrated, website-centric approach:

• Use your blog (self-hosted on your domain) to post social information, then auto-publish those posts to your external social sites (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).

• Make sure your social profiles link to your website and vice versa.

• Use campaign-specific landing pages on your website for e-marketing and social initiatives.

• Integrate all online channels so a consistent message is delivered regardless of the user’s device, and include plenty of links back to your website.

By keeping your website at the center of your online marketing hub, you can easily manage and control the flow of information to any number of external channels. Of course, these external channels will continue to change and evolve, or may disappear completely. Make sure you have built your marketing foundation on property that you own – your small business website – and not on a borrowed platform over which you have little or no control.

Lauren Hobson is president of Five Sparrows, LLC Five Sparrows provides professional website and marketing services to small businesses and non-profits.