Online, it’s all about real estate — and the cost of rent keeps going up

Editor’s note: The largest content and social marketing event on the planet, Content Marketing World 2016, will take place Sept. 6-9 at the Huntington Convention Center.

For years, John Batelle, entrepreneur, technology innovator and the founder of Wired, drilled into media and marketing professionals the idea of NOT building your content house on rented land.

He stated that “if you’re going to build something, don’t build on land someone else already owns. You want your own land, your own domain, your own sovereignty.”

What does this mean? Simply put, once you publish digital content on someone else’s platform, you do not own the subscribers or assets associated with that content. Even if you build followers or fans on that platform, it doesn’t give you the right to communicate with them.

That goes for Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and all the places you are distributing content to. Since your customers and prospects are there, it’s tempting to publish to those platforms. You can and maybe you should, but today, the cost of rent is going way, way up.

Rent is skyrocketing

We’ve seen the effects of building on rented land. Brands of all sizes built their content houses on Facebook, amassing, in some cases, millions of followers. Where once Facebook allowed brands to reach their audiences directly, organic reach has now plummeted to all-time lows.

In the chart below from author and influencer Jay Baer, Facebook organic reach continues to spiral downward while Facebook’s stock price continues to jump.

Baer states that “Facebook encouraged businesses to build and reach audiences for ‘free’ on their platform (until that free ride ended), and that should be no surprise whatsoever. Clear-eyed business observers have been raising the alarm about building your house on rented land for years, but Facebook has still been able to pull off the greatest Gillette scam ever (you give away the razor, and then sell the blades).”
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Once Facebook “decided” they wanted to make money, they squeezed out direct communications to fans, in the hope that businesses would pay to reach them. They were 100 percent correct.

The rent was once free, and all was right with the world. The new networks — Facebook, SnapChat, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter — want to make more money (and it’s their prerogative to do so). The question is, can you afford to make the rent payments or is there a better way?

You are in real estate

Like many individuals, my Aunt Patty (currently residing in Florida) wondered what I actually do for a living. As background, Patty was and is a whiz in the real estate market.

To save time with the answer, my wife astutely answered “Joe is in the real estate business, but his ‘land’ is on the internet.” Brilliant.

The point? Renting is fine, depending on what your goal is. But it needs to be known that every successful publishing operation at one time or another owns and has access its assets.

I’m all for leveraging as many social media networks as makes sense for you to accomplish your marketing and business goals, but make sure you know what you are getting into.

Joe Pulizzi is the founder of Content Marketing Institute. His fourth best-selling book, “Content Inc.: How Entrepreneurs Can Build Massive Audience and Build Remarkably Successful Businesses” is now available.