Steve Rubel has a thought provoking post today asking the question – should you rent or buy social real estate?
In it he explores the idea of using a service like Twitter (where you ‘rent’ and build up a community on someone else’s property) versus having your own blog on your own domain (buying).
My immediate reaction to the post was that it’s not about renting OR buying but for me has always been about renting AND buying (something I think that Steve really is arguing for also as he embraces both philosophies).
I hear bloggers who argue strongly for only building your own web properties (building a blog on their own domain on their own hosting on a platform that they have complete control over) and while I completely agree with their reasons for taking that approach (ultimately you have complete control and flexibility) I have found a lot of life in building a presence in other ‘rented’ online spaces also.
Twitter would be the primary example of this (and more recently Plurk). While I understand I have less control and flexibility with both of those social messaging services they have been invaluable for me and have helped me achieve things that I’d never have been able to do by solely focussing upon my own online properties.
I’ve talked about some of the benefits of Twitter for Bloggers and some of the features that I like about Plurk so won’t rehash them all here (many of the same benefits apply to FriendFeed also) – but wanted to make a few extra points.
3 Tips for Renting Social Media Properties
I think the main tip that I’d give with exploring any sort of ‘rental’ approach to social media is to enter into it with clear goals, realistic expectations and balance.
I explored the common criticism of Twitter in my post Twitter is a Complete Waste of Time! and shared how unless you work out WHY you’re using it you will often be wasting your time. For me I’ve played with many types of social media and in every situation had little idea what I was doing in the early days. However my goal is always to quickly work out what it’s strengths are and to find ways of using them to achieve my overall goals as a business person.
I guess what I’m saying is that you don’t need to have strict and formal goals written out next to your computer – but don’t just aimlessly wander around social media sites with no purpose. Take the time to identify what you want to achieve and work towards that.
2. Realistic Expectations
It is well worth keeping in mind that there is no perfect medium or platform and that each one has it’s weaknesses. When your expectations are too high for anything that you invest time into you could be setting yourself up for a fall.
Recently I spoke with a blogger who six months ago had quit blogging to put all of his efforts into Twitter. He made a big bet that it would be the next big thing and that he was going to position himself for that. Over the last month or two of Twitters growing problems with their architecture this blogger has come to regret that decision. It’s not that Twitter is bad or finished – it’s just that his expectations of that service were too high.
The retrospective advice of the above mentioned Blogger Twitterer was to not give up on one medium to focus upon another until you’re absolutely sure that the new one will work. He wishes he’d worked hard to build his Twitter presence AND his blog and had used each one to grow the other. I think a lot of bloggers could learn from this – I see many bloggers running from one thing to the next to be a part of the latest big thing. The result is that they really don’t build a presence of substance in any place.
Sure explore different social spaces – but don’t put your eggs all in one basket AND don’t spread yourself too thin (no one said that ‘balance’ is easy).
My approach to using ‘Rental Properties’ to Build My Own
Let me say up front that my approach is not the only one that works – but here’s the way I am using Twitter, Plurk, Facebook and other social spaces:
Steve makes a good point in his post – “Twitter has community built right in.”
The thing with successful social media sites is that they are where people are gathering – in numbers. The numbers are way beyond what most bloggers could hope to interact with on their own blogs.
I’ve written about my philosophy of finding readers for your blog many times. The first three steps in that process are:
- Define Your Target Reader
- Identify Where and How they Gather
- Join their Established Gathering Points
When I do step 1 and 2 on this process when thinking about my blogs I come up with a target audience who are gathering in social media sites like Twitter and Plurk. This leads me to step 3 – joining and participating in those space.
Now this is relevant for my blog but not everyone’s. You see not everyone has a target audience who use social media. However the same principles can apply….
For example – I was chatting with a craft blogger recently who was struggling with growing her readership. I asked her to go through the above three steps and she defined a group of readers who were gathering in craft forums. When I suggested she should go participate in them she asked whether it was a good use of her time to participate in other people’s online properties instead of building her own (sound familiar?). I suggested that she do both – participate where your potential readers are already gathering but also work hard to build your own properties.
My take home advice is that there’s nothing wrong with rental properties and there’s nothing wrong with buying them. In my own personal experience with actual real estate I’ve done both at different times in my life. In fact I always treated renting as a good stepping stone to getting into the market myself. We found properties that were affordable enough that we could save a deposit for our own place.
Perhaps there’s something in that for us all – participate in the social space and other people’s web properties in a way that gives you a leg up to build your own.