There are two types of platforms (digital real estate) online. Just like the offline world you have rental properties and owned properties.What distinguishes a rented online property from an owned one? Do you have access to the contact information of everyone you interact with on that platform? If that platform went down today, would you still be able to connect with your contacts? If the answer is no, then that’s a rental property. If the answer is yes, it’s a property you own.
A few examples:
|Email Service Provider or Autoresponder service||It wasn’t always this way. At one time you could download the email addresses of your contacts. But not anymore!|
|LinkedIn (kind of)||LinkedIn is a gray area because, for now, you can download the email addresses of your connections.|
|FourSquare||Self-Hosted Blog (not Blogger or Tumblr)|
|Blogger.com (to an extent)|
|YouTube (to an extent)|
Notice you rent the experience and interactions on your favorite social media platforms. The list can grow depending on which service you use. Whereas the owned column contains three platforms. There are a couple of platforms that are in the gray area. As there are always gray things in life and in social media. Blogger, YouTube and LinkedIn can be rigged to become owned digital properties. But you need a bit of know-how to make that happen.
Why does it matter whether I own or rent?
Renting, just as in the offline world, means you are at the whim of the owner of the digital platform. The glaring example would be Facebook. It has raised the “rent” many times on its billion-plus users. Since FB is now a publicly traded company, the focus is most definitely not on you or your needs. When FB was building its audience it was a bit about you, but now the decision makers could not care less about you. They care about adding value for their shareholders, just like any other public commercial enterprise.
How much is your social media rent?
I thank God my father taught me this at an early age.
“Nothing is free, Lis. Nothing. You may not pay money, but you’re going to have to pay something,” he said.
It’s the same with online platforms that claim to be free. Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, and the like, want your information. It really is more valuable than gold and it’s gaining value every day.
For an offline example, check out Charles Duhigg’s, “The Power of Habit.” You will never look at your shopping experience at Target the same way ever again.
Online, Facebook uses your information to provide you with ads and other sponsored content. The company often tests out ways to leverage their biggest asset, your interests, your likes, your dislikes, your income, your location, your education. They want to know all about you: Just like the guy hitting on you at the bar, feigning interest to draw you in. Just like that guy, FB wants to take that information and use it to get something of value from you. This is all in an attempt to make their status go up; just as the smarmy guy at the bar wants another notch in his belt.
I mention Facebook so much because it is the bellwether for all the social media platforms to come after it. This is similar to politics where certain states can make or break an election. They’re called swing states. Facebook is the swing platform to which all others aspire. Their formula:
- Create a “free” platform.
- Make the platform sticky.
- Stand for something.
- Collect user data
- Encourage users to share more data about themselves.
- Cut off ways users can take the FB experience elsewhere.
- Monetize the platform with ads of some kind.
- Increase real or perceived value of platform.
- Generate buzz inside and outside of the online community.
- Go public.
- Make a billion dollars.
Twitter has been trying to do this for eons, while still maintaining the authenticity of the platform. As Facebook goes, so goes Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare and the like. Foursquare can be a bit more squirrelly because its platform depends heavily on geolocation.
LinkedIn is a hybrid through which all major social media platforms create a nexus.
The free social media platforms actually charge you rent. It’s a lot more than the money you would pay to host your own blog or use an email marketing service. The rental platforms charge you emotional and experiential rent. What do you check first when you wake up in the morning? Email or Facebook? How many Facebook friends have you met on the service? Do you have contact info to reach out to them outside of Facebook?
Without Facebook, would you have as robust a social life as you do now?
How do you find out about events in your business and social life?
Where do you keep up to date with things going on in your extended or immediate family?
How much would you pay in currency for those experiences and that information?
At home alone watching Scandal? Now you can watch it with millions of other people following the #scandal hashtag on Twitter.
Emotional Capital vs. Monetary Capital
What’s so bad about renting anyway?
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with renting Facebook,Twitter, Tumblr, and Foursquare. Absolutely nothing. In fact, I am a Pinterest addict and I don’t apologize for it. I have my habit under control. I don’t miss work. I connect with my family and friends. I even go out every once in a while. Pinterest only has a momentary hold on me. Or, at least that’s what I tell myself.
Just know that rental platforms are out for themselves. Whenever they launch a feature making it easier for you to use the platform, it’s really not about your ease of use so much as building more value into the platform for their own revenue purposes.
What to do about it
Look out for your own interests, just as the rental platforms look out for theirs. Constantly collect email address, telephone numbers, and any other contact information you can use outside of the rental platforms.
Commit to doing this every single day, without fail. Make it a part of your daily life with scripts such as, “Message me your number and I’ll call you about it.” or “What’s your email I want to send you something.” or “I started a new email newsletter on content marketing. Join it and I’ll give you a cool downloadable report on putting content on autopilot.”
This is one of the most useful ways to look out for yourself on rental social media sites.
Also, keep your blog and email newsletters as consistent as possible. This keeps your audience engaged and excited about who you are and what you do in your life and business.