You finally found the “promised land.” Your friends told you how amazing this land was, so you joined them.
You loved what you saw. Everyone was building tiny houses, castles, and everything between.
You got to work building your castle. It started small, but you built it up. You staked off your land, leveled the terrain, then worked on the foundation.
One-by-one, you placed a brick, spread the mortar, then the next brick…until you built your castle. It took time and effort.
You invited friends to your castle. You found people who loved the art you created and the events you hosted.
Everything was going well until the lords of the land showed up to condemn your castle. This came as a horrible surprise! You were having fun in your castle. Your friends were having fun. The news was devastating.
You asked why these benevolent lords would condemn such an amazing castle. They pointed to convoluted terms of service policies. They mentioned the neighbors who filed noise complaints on everyone in the land.
That’s what those neighbors do. They hate everyone. Don’t take it personally. But they’re effective.
And then the Google, Meta, Microsoft, Amazon, and Apple lords rode away on their horses. Your castle dissolved into digital zeroes as they disappeared over the horizon.
That’s the danger you face when you build a castle on someone else’s land. But nobody warns you about that.
The recent takedown of Parler by Google, Apple and Amazon is one example of this terrifying power. Whether you agree with Parler’s philosophy isn’t the point. The ownership and the expression of data is under threat.
A less extreme example: Facebook and Instagram tweak their algorithms to favor addictive video content. Users’ shortening attention spans demand this move.
Artists have been getting pissed about this. Instagram was a photo sharing site! Where does this leave visual artists?!
Google’s SEO algorithm can choke a site’s traffic to nothing in hours.
The gatekeepers control your castle if you build it on their land.
Let’s say you’re ready to build your list of 1,000 True Fans. How can you make sure they have a castle to enjoy with you?
Build your castle on your land.
Taken to an extreme (think: digital doomsday survivalist):
- Set up your own servers
- Hoard your data in a vault
- Invest in a hypersonic, stable internet connection.
You would have complete control over your castle. You could visit other lands and funnel your friends and fans toward your castle, slowly, patiently, and persistently.
That’s a lot of overhead — in money, time, and knowledge. But you would be insulated from the whims of the lords of the internet.
The middle ground that I’m exploring is akin to leasing land. I pay monthly for a web host and space on a separate high-speed Linux server. I don’t OWN the land (yet), but I’m also not relying on Meta, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, or Apple.
I still visit other lands to direct my friends to my castle. I just don’t try to build on those lands when I visit.
Facebook and Instagram are places where I direct the right people to my site.
My physical interactions with clients are opportunities to invite them to my email list.
SEO becomes a valuable source of traffic instead of the foundation of my income.
This takes longer.
It takes much longer to build an audience like this. You visit Facebook, Reddit, Quora, or some other social or forum platform and help someone. Then you invite them to your castle.
Once someone arrives at your castle, you can talk to them with the group of people there.
You start with one-to-one communication. Then you can communicate one-to-many if they like who you are as a person.
It’s an intimate way of getting to know someone.
It’s a distinct approach from traditional social media. The current thinking on social media is “If I can get the right #hashtag I can go viral.”
It’s praying for a blessing from the gods for your little post to go one-to-many before you’ve built one-to-one relationships.
I say, “Go slow.”
Make friends. And let those friends enrich your life. One at a time.
Enough with the metaphor.
Castles, blessings, lords…what does it all mean?
It means that social media isn’t the place where you should try to get famous.
If anything, you shouldn’t try to get famous.
You should make friends, build relationships, lead with value, and invite people to support your art.
And you should do this in a way that gives you the most control. Or the most control within your budget.
If you have the time and money — build servers.
Until then, find a way to build a website on a web host and start being as valuable as you can on that site.
Use social media to direct people to your website.
Collect contact information on your website.
Own your data. Save backups.
Don’t let tech giants control your success.
Now, build your castle on your land.