When Spreading the Word Online, Remember to Own Your Own Content

Own Your Own Content

Getting the word out about what you do is vitally important in business, and on The Startup Finance Blog, I’ve previously written about mechanisms for doing so. Working with the press to get your story in the news is an excellent way to receive widespread attention – assuming you’re fortunate enough to get press coverage. This can – and should – be augmented by focused social media efforts.

There is, though, a danger of losing control of your own content – and also your brand message – and so you need to be aware of the pitfalls, and how to avoid them.

The medium and the message

medium and brand messaging

I increasingly see professionals – especially in the technology and creative sectors – writing lengthy essays on sites like Medium and LinkedIn. Whether such people want to be branded innovators, thought leaders, or just jolly clever, it’s pretty clear they have mastered the art of storytelling and have a wealth of knowledge and expertise, and a great many ideas they want to share with the world.

These ideas of course form part of their brand. The aim is in part to build confidence and trust. Readers will decide this person clearly knows what they’re talking about, and reason that their product is worth exploring. And so traffic heads towards whatever the writer is selling, potentially leading to conversions.

You might have done this yourself – if not on the aforementioned sites, then perhaps on Facebook, or by way of lengthy Twitter threads. And at that point, you might wonder if your own content would have been better placed on your own blog. The smart move, though, isn’t so much deciding which is ‘better’ in terms of placement, but to consider things like readership, content ownership, control, cohesion, and longevity.

Someone else’s playground

Content playground

Anything you place on someone else’s site or service means it’s ‘owned’ by them in some manner. That doesn’t necessarily mean in a literal sense – social media services occasionally make audacious land-grabs for content that’s uploaded to them; but by and large, they’re not going to snatch, co-opt, and make a ton of cash off of a series of your blog posts.

However, when you don’t own your own content and you post to the likes of Medium, the result is your content becomes a part of their offering, and that can overshadow your own brand. You may experience this yourself, remembering you’ve read a great article on a site or publication, but not necessarily remembering specifically who was behind it.

There’s of course nonetheless a major benefit in taking advantage of the existing readership of online giants. It’s possible to spread your message wider and far more rapidly than you could ever hope to do with your own corporate blog. But it’s worth being mindful that branding issues are not the only problem you might face.

Social media can be prone to attacks from bad actors. This is especially common on Twitter, where accounts can be wiped out when bad apples get cohorts to gang up on someone they’ve decided they don’t like – for whatever reason. And on any one of these sites, content and entire accounts can be removed at a moment’s notice, even if you’re not in the wrong.

Home sweet home

Publish your own content

Even if that doesn’t happen to you, posting to a range of services fragments your efforts, and means there’s no central location for accessing everything. The solution is a two-pronged approach.

Continue posting to existing channels you’re using, especially if you’ve found success. If you’ve built up a big following on Medium, and find your articles are often shared widely, it would be nonsensical to end a good thing. But look at setting up a blog on your own website as well.

When deciding to publish something elsewhere, first post the content to your own blog. Then mirror it on the third-party service, and link back to your own site. That way, you may get more traffic, and also people subscribing specifically to your site via RSS.

When you own your own content, you’ll benefit from having a repository of your writing that you and others can search, and where each piece of content remains online for as long as you want. Particularly interesting insights can be surfaced elsewhere on your website, and – importantly – will keep people there, rather than sending them somewhere else.


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