Written by Beth Downey

Recently, the UK’s Guardian published stories detailing the activities of Cambridge Analytica and what actions it took to mine user data from Facebook in order to influence the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. Today, the FTC announced it would be investigating the social network over privacy practices. Meanwhile, Facebook is losing millions of users.

For years, I’ve touted the importance of individuals and businesses owning their own web properties, rather than relying on social media. I’ve never actually detailed the various reasons in writing. Until now.

You Set Your Terms of Service
How many people actually read the Terms of Service of a social media account? Judging by pure observation, I’d say not many. Keeping up with the changes can be a full time job. When a business owner publishes photos and thoughts on their own website, the content can be protected under copyright law. According to quite a few Terms of Service of some favorite social media, your photos uploaded to their platform can be used for advertising purposes without citing the source (you) or providing compensation. Take Facebook, for example:

“You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition:

  1. For content that is covered by intellectual property rights, like photos and videos (IP content), you specifically give us the following permission, subject to your privacy and application settings: you grant us a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook (IP License). This IP License ends when you delete your IP content or your account unless your content has been shared with others, and they have not deleted it.”

Ah, so you own your content, BUT Facebook can use it until you delete your content UNLESS you’ve shared it with others still on the platform. Cheeky little devils.

With your own website, you make your rules and you set your Terms of Service. For example, say you’re a photographer and you place original photos you took on your website with a copyright. You’ve carefully written a page withTerms of Service that state that none of your copyrighted photos are to be used and/or published elsewhere without your permission. If someone visits your website, takes your photo(s) and prints it/them in their magazine, you have grounds for a lawsuit and your Terms of Service will back up your case. Those lawsuits can be expensive for a photo thief.

Better Design Experience
Let’s face it: social media can be ugly and cluttered. You can choose the look of your own website. Whether using a purchased or custom coded theme, a website can be a much more elegant web experience than all those other places people congregate. Also, by using a platform that allows custom coded solutions – like WordPress – you can have a completely custom-themed design unique to your website.

Better Long Term SEO
When users are sent to an individual’s or company’s social media page, that social media company reaps the rewards of SEO. SEO is Search Engine Optimization, i.e. whether your web page lands on the first page of a Google search query.  When I google my name, I see my website with my vanity URL on the front page. However, Facebook, because of its size and reach, beats my vanity URL in a search. Yet, because I have my own vanity URL, Facebook supplements traffic to it. Do I like that Facebook ranks higher? No. But traffic from other websites enhances my website’s SEO rank.

To summarize, if you’re relying on someone else’s platform to build or promote your business, you can expect to play by their rules and reap fewer rewards. A website domain is affordable and once you control your data, your message and your design, you maximize your ownership and your brand reputation.



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