Last week was an exciting week in marketing (and life in general) as most of us were affected by the great Instagram/Facebook/WhatsApp blackout of 2021.
Thankfully both platforms came back up but what if they didn’t? What if both of those social networks were just lost forever?
You’ve seen a million social media posts advising you not to build your brand on someone else’s platform. But what does that even mean?
Credit: CBC via Giphy
You’re (probably) not a developer who can build your own social network, and even having your own website will be on “someone else’s platform” unless you host it on your servers. So how can you build your brand on your platform when you’re not a developer + IT professional + website registrar?
Technically you can’t.
What people really mean when they say not to build your brand on someone else’s platform.
In order to own your own platform, you need to have your own website and a mailing list. If you’re fancy, you can even have a podcast.
When you own your platform, you can talk about whatever you want without fear of the algorithm suppressing your content or violating a platform’s policies.
Remember that even on your own website, you shouldn’t post content that breaks the law. And your words can be used against you. For the purposes of this email, we’ll assume that you’re not posting content that can get you canceled or put in prison.
Even though your website and mailing list will be hosted by a third party company, you own your domain name and can go host it anywhere you want.
These days, it’s pretty easy to set up your own website, even if you’re not a developer.
Although Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and a few others, are great platforms popular among non-designers, I recommend you use WordPress.
Credit: WordPress.com via Giphy
WordPress is not platform-dependent.
You can take that website to any host that supports WordPress. You can’t take a website built on Squarespace, Wix, etc, and move it to another platform.
I’ve been working exclusively with WordPress websites for over a decade now. Here’s the setup I recommend that allows you to own your own platform without running your own servers.
How to build your brand on your own platform
Register your domain name from GoDaddy.
I register all my domain names with GoDaddy. I usually don’t get any add-ons.
Get website hosting for WordPress.
My favorite WordPress host is Flywheel(that’s an affiliate link. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission.)
Flywheel is fast, easy to use, and support is very helpful. Plus, you can connect your GoDaddy account, and it’s smooth sailing from there.
Note: My old podcast site resides on a Hostinger account that I got as a Black Friday deal. But I’ve had bad luck with them as a host, and once my personal site launches (soon), I’m moving to Flywheel.
Install a WordPress theme that’s easy to work with.
I only use the Divi theme (that’s an affiliate link also.)
It’s technically a theme, but it includes over 100 different themes within. It’s not too complicated to use if you stick to their pre-made themes and truly makes WordPress as easy as using one of those other platforms that come with pre-built templates.
WordPress also has a vast library of free templates available directly through your Dashboard.
I don’t recommend you spend lots of time trying to find the “perfect” theme when starting. Find something you like that can fit your content, and you can change it later or hire someone to do it for you (that’s the beauty of WordPress.)
Download your website backups.
If you host your site on Flywheel, you have daily backups available as part of your plan. But it’s a good idea to download those backups at least once a month in case something happens. That way, you can easily take your site elsewhere.
Get email hosting.
If you already have a domain, you might as well start using it for emails. It’ll make you look way more professional if you’re truly serious about building your brand, whether personal or a company.
I use Google Workspace for my email hosting. They have plans that start at about $7 a month. Or you can set up free or super cheap hosting at Zoho.
Note: It can be weird to have firstname.lastname@example.org, but you can make your default address something like hello or email@example.com.
Get a mailing list provider - not to be confused with email hosting.
You need a mailing list if you truly want to build a brand and stay connected to your audience.
I use Substack to send these emails to you every Sunday, which is completely free for me to use. However, Substack is only for non-promotional emails.
If you plan to use email for promotional purposes, you need to be on a platform such as Drip if you have an eCommerce shop, or ConvertKit if you don’t. ConvertKit offers a limited free plan which is great if you’re just starting.
You can also have both a Substack account for these types of newsletters plus Drip or ConvertKit for your promo emails. Just make sure to include a way for people to subscribe to your mailing list on your website.
Download your email subscribers regularly.
As with your website, it’s best practice to download an export of your email subscribers regularly and save them on your hard drive in case anything happens to your mailing list provider.
So how does social media come into play?
Once you’ve set up your website and mailing list, you can use social media to bring your audience to your website.
But keep in mind that social networks can be here today, gone tomorrow (think MySpace.)
Algorithms and rules change as well, so be ready to adapt your social strategy or move onto a new network if the things you were once doing no longer bring the results you were looking for.
When you have your own platform, it’s super easy to send an email to your list and let them know to check you out elsewhere.
Questions about setting up your own platform?
I know the steps I mentioned above sound intimidating. But I promise you it’s not as complicated as it seems. If you need me to go into more detail with anything I mentioned above, please respond to this email, and I’ll try my best to explain things in an easy-to-understand way.
Eventually, I’ll be putting out in-depth guides on setting up every step I mentioned above.