By Princess Jones
It’s common to use sites like WordPress.com, Facebook, and Tumblr to host certain parts of your web presence. You might use Etsy to host your craft shop or Blogger to run your website’s blog. Easy setup, free or low operating costs, and no need for technical knowledge are all reasons you might decide to go with using one of these sites’ instead of building it into your own. But the thing you have to remember is that’s not your website.
Digital sharecropping is a concept that describes when a person or business contributes content to an app or website they don’t own. It mostly happens because the website is bigger and has more resources than the business. For example, Amazon has a bigger audience than your book website might have. So, you benefit from selling your book there.
Anyone can set up shop on the Internet, but today’s customers are savvier than they have been in the past. In a sea of competitors, you have to stand out for the right reasons. Sometimes your web presence is the first and only impression of your business. Leaving it in the hands of someone else’s website is a risky move. You’re giving up some pretty important things.
If you don’t have a real business website or your own and are using something like a Tumblr or WordPress.com website to host your web presence, it gives the impression you haven’t been around long or don’t plan to be around long. I don’t want to give my money to someone who isn’t committed to their business and neither does your target customer. By using someone else’s website, you’re losing professionalism points right off the bat.
Design and branding are often out of your hands altogether. When there’s an option to design your page on these sites, there are always limitations. Even in the best case scenario, you have someone else’s logo or name appear prominently next to your product, next to your ideas or in your domain name.
You’re also limited by someone else’s terms and conditions which can change at the drop of a hat. Tomorrow, Facebook can decide that purple is against its new terms and there’s nothing you can do about it but smile and take it. Well, actually, if your business is built on selling purple socks, you’d be too busy scrambling to move the bulk of your business elsewhere to have time to smile about anything.
Small changes can make a big difference in the way your business is perceived by your customers. Does your business URL end in .wix? You can keep the website and just buy your own domain name. Is your website hosted on WordPress.com? You can switch to a self-hosted WordPress site and host your website for a just few bucks a month, improving your brand’s image along the way. Are you selling your dresses through Instagram or Facebook? You should also have your own home where you make all of the rules.
This isn’t to say that you should throw the baby out with the bathwater. If Facebook, Amazon and Etsy are revenue streams for your business, continue to use them. Just remember that they are tools for your business and not your entire business.
Make sure you’re directing customers to your own properties whenever possible and your own website is setup to sell and display your products, too. And when someone asks to see your inventory, you shouldn’t be giving them someone else’s website address.