Marketing lesson #7: own your platform and your followers

Many photographers and artists don't have their own website. They rely solely on Instagram or some other social media platform.

Erik Kim has long promoted the idea of owning your own platform and why it's important.

Indeed, being dependent on someone else's platform poses many problems. I use Instagram as an example here, but it applies to any social media platform.

First, imagine that Instagram disappears one day. If you have spent years building your following on that platform, then you would have to start that all over again on a new whatever popular platform at that time.

We think it's unlikely that Instagram disappears. True, it probably won't fade in a way that e.g., Myspace did, but it might happen some other way. Everything is in constant change, and social media platforms come and go. Something else could quickly become more popular than Instagram at any moment. Flickr is an excellent example of something popular falling into obscurity.

Second, you are a guest. You don't own the space; you rent it. And you pay rent. You pay with watching ads and providing data about yourself so that Facebook can sell it to advertisers.

Since you're a guest on their platform, you can be thrown out, and you won't even get a month's notice. You have to be politically correct and behave nice, otherwise you might upset your landlord. That means if e.g., your art is to make erotic photos, you're censored. You can't express yourself freely. Instagram has the final say so, what is allowed and what is not.

On your own platform, you can do whatever you want. It's your little corner on the Internet. You own it; you control it, you choose what and how you curate it. It offers freedom and believe me, freedom is worth paying for.

Third, your customization is very limited. You can't choose how you present your work. Once, a photo is uploaded, you can't simply delete it, change it, and reupload it the way you can do it on your website.

Fourth, Instagram controls your photos and your followers. It can delete photos if it wants and ask you money if you want to reach your followers. There's nothing you can do except to protest. Protest with the equivalent effect of yelling at a wall.

Fifth, your followers are not really your followers. They're Instagram's followers. There's no real way to interact with your followers directly. You can post a story or a picture, but only a fraction will see it. So you have to beg for people to enable notifications.

Also, if Instagram disappears, blocks your account or restricts your access to your followers, you are done.

This doesn't mean not to use social media. I believe social media is a very powerful marketing tool but a poor choice for your platform. It's a good idea to spend your energy on your own platform.