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Why You Probably Don't Own Any of Your Social Channels

Are you a social media landlord or renter? Do you own your Twitter account or Facebook page? You don't. 

Chances are, most of your social media activity happens in rented enviroments and somebody else is making the rules. Hence, one of the trends in social media marketing in 2015 is a turn to truly owned vs. rented social channels.

Evidence #1:

In a debated reportNate Elliott, a Forrester Research analyst, stated that:

“Facebook will become nothing but a repository for display ads”.

What caused him to make such a pessimistic statement?

According to Mr. Elliott, top brands’ Facebook and Twitter posts only reach around 2% of their fans and followers, and less than 0.1% of fans and followers actually interact with each post on average.

And recent FB tweaks have made it even less likely that brands' unpaid posts will actually be seen by users.

As a result, Mr. Elliott says, marketers hoping to interact with consumers online might be better off investing in social features that exist on their own websites, or in smaller, more niche social networks. 

“It’s time for marketers to start building social relationship strategies around sites that can deliver value.”

Based on Forrester’s research, Mr. Elliott urges marketers to think carefully about the ways they’re spending their money on social efforts, and to recognize that Facebook and Twitter are not what they used to be from a brand perspective.

”While they’ll continue to collect billions in display ad revenues, they’re just not the most important sites for social marketers anymore,” he wrote.

Evidence #2:

In 2014, Eat24 wrote an infamous letter to Facebook to “break up with them”.

The reasons stated were similar to Nate Elliott’s: Facebook changed the rules of the game along the way. It’s their prerogative as the owner of the platform. Still, it left a bad taste...and caused East24 to close their page.


…companies are getting tired of renting social media channels. While Twitter accounts, LinkedIn pages and FB pages are often called “owned media”, they are really not.

In the HBR blog, Making Sense of Owned Media – published in October 2014, Mark Bonchek writes:

“If social media were truly owned, brands would have control over the experience, access to their fans, and full use of the data.”

Let’s be honest, the reality is quite different:

Public social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter don’t enable brands to access their own data. And "Facebook now charges brands to reach their own fans and followers.”

What Are Your Options? 

Think about what you CAN own and try to own it. Mark Bonchek says, "Think Content, Community and Context".

1. Content

Examples include your website, catalogs & newsletters as content channels. Also, your stores and mobile apps.

2. Community

Communities emphasize the connections your customers have with each other. Yes, it takes a huge investment to establish a flourishing community, but long term, you are your own landlord and control the terms.

3. Context

Earned and paid social media create a purely transactional relationship between you and your audience. How can you turn these isolated interactions into a connected experience? By turning the data you capture into value for the customer.

The key word (and huge buzz word) here is Customer Experience. You can shape it much more easily when you truly own vs. rent the real estate. Examples here are loyalty and reward programs for B2C, and Influencer programs for B2B companies.

The bottom line: you don't own accounts hosted on external social networks, you only rent them. And access to data is limited.

If it meets your goals and you have the resources, consider creating your own social media community, one where you have access to and can analyze all the data (and content and context), without fear of you landlord changing the terms.

What are your views on owning vs. renting social channels?

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