Sharecropping is a farming term for growing your crops on someone else’s land.  The land owner gets paid for the use of the land, and you get all of the risks and rewards that come along with the crop itself. It’s an ancient tradition, and it usually benefits both parties. However, as the share cropper, any investments you make to the land are ultimately to the landlord’s benefit. If you take really good care of the land, and make it more fertile, the landowner can raise your rent the next season, or change the terms of your lease.

The same is true in the digital world.

Growing content on other people’s websites looks attractive at first glance, but on closer inspection, the cost may be too high for what you are getting.

Building content on sites like Medium, Tumblr, Facebook and Linked In gives you certain advantages. You don’t need to host your own content and maintain your own website. You get the added benefit of being on platforms that are easy to share and that have sharing encouraged. Building content on those platforms is easy, the tools are robust and simple to use.

The problem is that you don’t control those platforms, you don’t have control over your content, and in most cases, your content is living in a roach motel, you can get your content IN there, but you can’t get it back out.

The people who control the platforms can decide to change the rules however they like. Facebook has made several changes to its platform that have been made for the end user, not for you, the business owner.  When Facebook first started marketing business pages, they offered you the ability to pay for advertising that would encourage others to “Like” your page.  Once you did that, your posts would show up in peoples news feed.

That was a great deal, you were essentially paying once to have your content continually show up in users feeds.  Facebook soon changed their algorithm so that only a percentage of your users would see your content, but you now have the ability to “promote” an individual post.  So now instead of paying to promote your brand, you are paying to promote your content…on their platform.

This is a fundamental shift in the way that business was done on Facebook.  You’re not paying to increase your own time on page on your website, and potentially increase your lead or opportunity volume, instead you’re paying people to stay on Facebook and be exposed to other ads that aren’t for your property.

So what should you do?

Your website should be the corner stone of any content strategy you define. Your website should contain the lion’s share of your content, while social media channels should all contain links to that content.  Those links can have significant pieces of content themselves. You might use a video summary of your content on Facebook, encourage a conversation on Twitter, or a chart on LinkedIn to promote people to your page.

Once on your site, you’re now able to properly market to your users. If you’ve got an ecommerce website, show them similar products, if you have a service based business, show them similar services.

Now is also an excellent time to encourage them to join your mailing list, or execute the other parts of your digital strategy that made you invest in that content in the first place.

Wait…you DO have a digital strategy don’t you?  Talk to me if you’re not sure.

What do you think about digital sharecropping? Share your thoughts with us on Twitter – @northiq, or send us an email.

The NorthIQ Smarter Business Guide