One day, fads will change and today’s popular social media platforms won’t exist at scale.
New ones will.
This is a guarantee, but the timeframe and specifics are unknown.
How much time and money will it cost you to switch platforms and build a new audience?
Now, 15X that.
Best case, this switching will probably happen 2-3 times over your career, on 3-5 platforms.
You’ll always be in a battle to grow your audience, again and again, instead of spending that same time getting better at your craft and creating stuff that matters.
This removes all chances of exponential growth, long term.
It also steals your most valuable asset, free time to make things that only you can create.
If you never have time to create, you never get better at your craft.
No one is interested in bad creative work. It has no value.
These hidden back end costs are massive.
You also have no clue when these costs will hit, because you have no control over the social networks.
Even worse, it won’t happen all at once.
Your platform-specific social traffic may slowly decline over a few years.
- How will you know when it’s time to jump ship & move to the next platform?
- All of these “open loops” suck up mental energy that could be used for creating.
Building a large social media audience, which your brand depends on, is similar to renting space and building a popular retail brand, on a busy street in a busy city.
The value of your brand depends on the location & your visibility to new customers.
One day the owner might sell the property, forcing you to move locations.
You have no control over this. It’s a huge risk.
Finding you will be much harder without your popular storefront.
It will take the 10 extra minutes that no one wants to give up.
It’s too much work. There are too many other options to choose from.
They will forget about you.
Now, you have to start all over again, repeating the same steps you worked so hard on in the past.
You’re strapped for cash and back at square one.
Rebuilding your social media audience also takes a massive amount of time and energy.
You need this time and energy, more than anything, to create things that only you can create.
Scarcity is one of the most valuable assets on the planet.
When there isn’t much of something that’s needed, the value skyrockets.
Anything you create in your mind and build in the real world is scarce.
There is only one of you.
If you keep making these scarce bits of creativity, day after day, year after year, you will become world-class at it.
When you become world-class at something your work markets itself. People will find you!
Constantly creating new things will be hard work, producing endless self-doubt and mental torture.
It’s part of the game. It’s what we sign up for.
This is a good thing. It ensures long term scarcity.
The best part is, hardly anyone is doing it.
Anyone can build a social media following.
Currently, it’s one of the least scarce things on the planet.
It’s so easy, that almost everyone on Earth is doing it.
Build Someone Else’s Brand or Your Own?
Every time you create something new on your website, it will work for you, until you remove it.
There are articles which I wrote years ago, that still pull a few thousand views a day, each, without any added work from me.
This scales quickly over time, as multiple traffic sources from multiple website articles, add up.
A website, where you pay for the servers, is a piece of property that you own, forever. You even own the address (URL).
- No one can take it from you when fads change.
- People always know where to find you.
- Make your website into a place that others trust as a valuable source of content and creativity.
- Build it long term because you love doing it. Not for quick gains in followers and likes.
This is how to build a strong, long-term brand, in the internet age.
Websites might not be as popular as social media right now. This is a good thing.
No one is looking.
Buy cheap. Start building.
It’s a great investment.
Social media isn’t bad. It’s just being used as private property when it’s actually a public tool.
It might be a good place to invest 10% of your time, business & creator dependent.
Social media can be a cheap and easy way to drive traffic.
BUT… It’s not a piece of private property. Don’t design your company to depend on it.
Even depending on social media for 20-30% of your traffic is a huge risk.
Would your company survive if the traffic went away?
Invest in the long term game.
Buy your own website property. Start building.
This is the one guaranteed way to spend your life creating, instead of constantly rebuilding your audience.
You owe it to your ideas, your brand, and yourself.
Dave Morrow says
I’d like to hear what you think about this topic.
If you have ideas that oppose mine, that’s great.
If you are to put an idea forth, just make sure to respect others and back it up with some sort of logic, then we can have a good conversation about the topic.
John Green says
I like the analogy of a social media presence being like renting an office space. I agree with most of what you say.
But I dont think social media is going anywhere anytime soon. I think at some point there will be many more different platforms.
But I think the whole idea of having a platform like that abstracts actual life into a more measurable form of misery. In terms of needed to have a certain amount of likes. Or in terms of minimizing dislike. You are essentially a slave to the rules of the platform.
I used to use social media but my company is at a point where I need to care about different things. I think having a website is a good idea – which I am in the process of cleaning up now. And you dont have to follow as many rules when you have a website as you do with having a facebook, for example.
But I think what you’re getting at is opportunity cost. Why use social media when you could do something with a better rate of return for your personal or business life. Maybe an idea would be to hire someone to keep a small presence on social media networks for you so the only thing you are spending is money. I would rather spend that than my actual time – not taking into account my income.
But thats my rant. I like talking about stuff like this. Keep the blog posts coming!
Dave Morrow says
Thanks for commenting. Much appreciated:)
I don’t have any problems with the actual platforms. I think they are great tools.
My biggest concern is the switching costs from one platform to the next, as a new popular platform comes to the forefront. It’s always a huge gamble and a risk.
In terms of having a social media team. It’s a great thing to do, IF, you are a creator that wants to spend time managing a team.
Another time-intensive task that removes us from creating.
Personally, I never want to manage, so it’s out for me.
For others, they may really want to manage and create, so a great choice for them.
To each their own.
But the goal is to know all of the costs, backend and upfront, to make the best decision.
stefan condik says
I agree with Dave – we all remember the VERO thing or how was that platform called. I remember photographers announcing on their orher social media that “btw I have new account on this rising platform etc…”. It was dead very soon, but I believe that each of users wanted to be an early adopter, invested the time and needed to think about next steps in terms of strategy with accounts on older social media channels. Keep them? Treat each of them the same? is Instagram dead during next days? remember how FB changed the policy of pages and very limited content was pushed to followers to force you to pay sponsorsed content?
so yes, social media will be here and I believe Dave does not question this fact. The problem is that you never know if the next platform will be the new hit, or not and the consequences may be that each of us will spend more time/money uploading stuff to potential platforms and not growing as expected.
Evan Fitzer says
Smart and thoughtful. Dave, this makes a ton of sense. Good advice, indeed.
Dave Morrow says
Thanks for letting me know.
I’ll write some more stuff along these lines, dealing with different thought processes, in the future.
Have a good one,
Tom Vaughn says
I understand your concerns on social media and the time it takes.
Do you plan to have a discussion on how to best build your website and ways to draw people to visit your site?
Thanks for all the information you provide.
Dave Morrow says
If I was world-class at teaching website building and SEO I would.
There are resources online (Google how to build a website on WordPress or SEO How To 2019) that will do a much better job at explaining these things than I could. These teachers also stay up to date with the latest stuff.
I understand how to do this stuff, but my time is better spent explaining the thought processes which lie behind decisions. I am not world class at web design or SEO, nor do I want to be, so teaching it would be a bad use of my time.
The best way to draw people is to create really high-level content that only you can create, then keep doing it, long term.
You’ll only find out what this stuff is from creating stuff that interests you each day. I explain here:
The goal is to pick something you’re really interested in and invest into it long term.
You’ll slowly build a following doing this.
I’d recommend building an email list as soon as you have a website. Another google topic for you:)
You’re assuming that people with large social media followings are putting a large amount of effort into them though. I have a reasonable amount on social media and spend zero time on it. It’s like you having your own private property and house (with a modest garage attached), but then someone coming along and saying, “Hey, here’s an apartment you can rent for free as well”. Could I be more successful on social media if I spent more time on it? Yes of course, but it doesn’t interest me. Doesn’t mean I’m going to refuse the free city centre apartment with mezzanine bedroom area and open plan kitchen.
I can see your points and agree, but I think the title should be more along the lines of, “The hidden costs of SOLELY RELYING on social media (for creators)”. Albeit, that’s not as catchy.
Dave Morrow says
I’m not assuming that. But it did take them a lot of work to get there.
A social media following only has value, because it gives you the ability to reach a large number of people. If the social network declines or changes it’s algorithm, you lose that. It’s not in our control.
Intellectual property such as knowledge and craftsmanship always has value and the value gets higher and higher the more you create and learn. No one can take this from you.
You can’t transfer the hard work you put into one social platform into another, with 100% efficiency. There will be some loss in time and effort, which you can’t get back.
If you spend most of your time & work on the actual intellectual property of getting better at your craft, it will transfer anywhere you are, or onto a website.
I’m assuming that they will have switching costs and built-in risks which they can’t predict.
They are building someone else’s platform instead of their own.
Social isn’t bad, it just isn’t a good place to build leverage into your brand, long term.
Hope that helps.
Simon Pierce says
Thanks Dave, great article! Given that you’ve got a lot of experience with YouTube, do you think that’s been worth the time investment?
Dave Morrow says
I think Youtube is well worth your time.
True social media doesn’t index in search engines, meaning you can’t go in google and find a social media post via search. When you post to Facebook or instagram you get a traffic spike, then the traffic goes away to that specific post.
Google search, then Youtube are the largest search engines on earth. If you search a topic in Google, YouTube videos will come up. This scales well.
When you make a YouTube video or write an article on your website, someone can find it via search engines, now or in 20 years, it makes no difffernce. The goal is to build content that is archived like a library.
This is how to get your work out there over time.
It’s impossible to find someones Facebook post that I liked from 3 years ago.
For a YouTube video or webpage, I can just type something close in search, or the person’s name, and the content will appear.
Check out my first video up top, it explains all about YouTube.
Take care & thanks for the comment,
Brian Jones says
Great article Dave,and I agree with your vision whole heatedly. I can not fathom why so many creatives (among other businesses) rely so much on Social Media. I try and get it to sink into others as well. Why follow the pack when you can lead it?
It is good to see others, as yourself, believing in improving in your craft!
– I am printing new tshirts with the slogan “Chasing the Light, Not The Like”
-I have also bought the domain growyourownplatform.com, (not exactly sure what I am going to do with it ye)
-Tshirts with the slogan #GrowYourOwnPlatform are to follow
It is exciting to see you grow. Keep up the great work!
Dave Morrow says
Thanks. I really appreciate the kind words. It means alot.
My guess would be that a lot of creators don’t see all of the hidden costs, so they think social is a good investment of time.
It’s hard to see long term switching costs and zero-sum trade-offs, without being taught to do so. Hopefully, these articles will help.
Awesome domain & idea. I’ll be excited to see where you take it. Let me know!
Buying domain names is a fun past time.
This is powerful Dave and actually the truth. It has saved me from making a huge mistake. I have some immediate photography knowledge and have been thinking i need to get on social media to start building my work. This article has saved me that error. Thanks
Dave Morrow says
Thanks. Glad you enjoyed the read.
It’s not bad to use social to spread your work, just make sure that you spend most of your time getting better at your actual work. This is where the real value lies, long term.
Thank you so much, Dave Morrow, for your excellent content. You are a huge source of inspiration.
Dave Morrow says
You’re welcome, Neon. Happy to hear that and that you found it helpful.
Feel free to share anything you create, over here on the blog.
Barbara Hayton says
This makes sense and has me thinking that even though I had a website with Zenfolio that I used social media to promote, it didn’t seem to increase traffic to my site, so, I let it go. Now I see how fickle social media is and wish I had m site back. Good advice. Thanks!
Dave Morrow says
It could be an array of different reasons why your traffic and social following didn’t increase. Really hard to tell. None the less, keep building your site !
Austin Kirkland says
Great article! Keep them coming! Very useful for a new photographer trying to make a name for himself
Dave Morrow says
Thanks Austin. Glad to hear it.
This is very good advice. Thank You. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but you are right.
Dave Morrow says
You’re welcome, Rhonda.
Hearing you say, I hadn’t thought of it that way, is my reason for writing.
Thanks for letting me know!
Philip Culbertson says
I agree with you in concept. My problem has been finding ways to entice people to my web site. As you say, everyone is doing SM and getting people to visit my web site has not been successful yet. So much so that I just remembered after reading your blog that I’ve stopped updating it at all. I know adding new relevant content is the first thing I need to do but beyond that, I admit that I am not sure what comes next. I really dislike the social media game. I hope you are right and that the fad will evolve again.
Woody Carr says
I completely agree with your advice, Dave.
I’ve been around long enough to watch many social media “platforms and services” come and go. Posterous, FriendFeed, Google Wave, Google Plus, Vine, and MySpace are just a few that I wasted time using. When they disappeared, my time and energy when with them.
I look back and regret putting resources into them. I still have a presence on some existing social media services but limit my time spent there.
It is true about ownership, but don’t you think that website is kind of previous version of social media platform? Later will be something different anyway. And is treated like a “old-school” by young people? There is a risk you will never reach them…
Dave Morrow says
A website URL is a simple way to visit an IP address. It’s what the entire internet is built upon.
Facebook is a website, it’s a great business model for Facebook, the company that owns the property.
Google is a website, so is YouTube.
The same goes with all other social platforms.
The goal is to build on a website you own, not spend your time building someone else’s for free.
Richard Pate says
Thanks, Dave. An interesting article — short and to the point. Future articles that go into more detail on aspects of this topic for creatives would be helpful.
For me, after investing a year of study and work building a Facebook Biz page presence for my photographic art, I gave up after I realized that my “paid” posts promotions were being manipulated by Facebook in ways that I had little control over. For instance, a targeted seven-day paid promotion period yielded about 100 views per day, for four days. Then on day 5 there were 0 views! Same for day 6. When I called Facebook support to ask why, I was directed to read several articles on how Facebook can promote your business (for $$$). No help at all.
Dean Henthorn says
Excellent. Period. I will go so far as to predict the end of social media platforms in general. Usage is way-down and the main ones are changing the rules – as you have stated several times – because they need to generate engagement to survive and drive revenue. I built a following of almost 30,000 on FB and can’t even reach 1/10th of them anymore unless I pay again. After all that investment and time spent – GONE.
Great advice – good thing is I still have my content..
Stacey Moore says
This just happened to artists using Etsy. They changed the shipping policies and how artists are found on their website. A few creators talked about it on You Tube and are now in the midst of making their own sites. They mentioned the difficulties involved as their entire customer base is tied up with Etsy and they will lose tons of time and money making the change. F-stoppers just put out an article about Instagram deleting some accounts off their platform which had millions of followers.
I agree with you Dave about having your own space to build your work and grow your tribe. However, just as with your real estate analogy, no one really owns their property because the day you stop paying taxes on the land, it belongs to the government. It’s no longer yours, just the stuff in it. You’ll still have to find another place to put your stuff. I’m just sayin’.
Nice article Dave!
Barbara Livieri says
I think you are 100% correct – if you have a business. Or if you’re building a business.
I think a lot of people who follow you and support you are relative beginners in photography. Still learning, maybe not ready to jump into building a website yet. Lets face it, social media is visibility and its relatively free. For someone just learning, I think it could be a good tool.
Now if you’re ready to break out into starting a business, I think social media can also be a great tool to get people over to your website. Build the website, and then do like you said. Route people to your website for more info. Blogs, images, videos etc. And then sign them up for emails.
Personally, I’m not really building any business. I’m not “there” yet, but I do have a website for those few people who want to see what I do. The more I work on it, the better off I’ll be if and when I decide to make money off of my photography.
But thanks for this new forum. I’m going to like this. Even if I’m not ready, I’ll at least have the tools to build it when I am.
Dave Morrow says
It applies to anyone creating. Not just building a business.
Improving at your craft is what the article is all about.
Dennis Love says
I really liked the article, I don’t use Facebook but I do have a Flickr account that I don’t use very often anymore. I’ve been kicking around the idea of a website, do you have any suggestions as to where to start.
Ken Reynolds says
Another excellent article, and something that I certainly feel strongly about. Thanks, Dave! I agree in full with your thoughts on social media. They couldn’t be more accurate. Another reason I strongly dislike social media is because what you post on social media sites is easily appropriated by others who can easily pass it off as their own work. In the same vein, social media sites also have usage terms that allow them to use anything you post for whatever purpose they see fit. Definitely not good for a creator who wants to make a living off of their own creative and intellectual property!
Great points there Dave. Thanks for the tips, I’ll keep them in mind when setting up everything.
Savinder Singh Aurora says
Thought provoking indeed and very relevant.
David Dick says
Great article David and very thought provoking. Keep up the great work!
Used to be on quite a few social media platforms but cut it right down. Looking to relaunch my website as I did find more benefits with one. It is easy to get sucked into the social media as a great place to grow. Likes on your social media accounts doesn’t necessarily generate into any business.
Tiago Pereira says
I live in France, and I love photography, videographer and graphic design. Currently I do all this freelancer. For many years I pushed my self, and struggled, for making content in return of audiences. And at the end I give up doing what I really like. For many months I put aside the photography, videographer, and graphic design, until last year I founded your YouTube channel. I started to watch your videos and content, and I made a decision to live all social platforms. Until now it was a wise decision. I still struggle for making stuff. Examples, what I am shooting, what I want to make, and the things I do, its really good?
The past few months I made content without showing anyone, without comparisons.
So I want so say thank you, for all your hard work, writing this blog posts.
And I have one question.
In your opinion, what’s the best platform for making/buying a website?
Another thought provoking article and your comment about changes to SM platforms is timely with Instagram announcing their are removing the facility for users to see how many likes a said individual has gained from a posting. Will be interesting to see how this affects those who crave the dopamine effect you discussed in a previous vlog.
I also think with regards to some SM platforms there is the question of “what is the value of a large following if all they do is generate voyeurs, persons who have no interest in investing if your talent, time or skills?”
As a relative late comer to social media, I quickly realised how easy it could be to become sucked in to the habit of feeding the machine and your previous comments on this subject reaffirmed the need to stop following the herd and focus on developing my skills and knowledge and to push myself to become better at what I do for my own satisfaction first and foremost. For me that sense of achievement will always outweigh the number of acknowledgments on any SM platform.
Alan Recktenwald says
Good points Dave. The recent uprising of social media bending results to their belief has some scary implications. Not the best arena to stake your future on.
Mike Cotton says
I have to agree wholeheartedly Dave. Anyone remember stumbleupon? You used to be able to get huge traffic from SU but it wasn’t quality traffic, it would look at that one page and very rarely click through. Then it went and closed and traffic nosedived.
Another good article, and for me your timing is perfect.
So many other you tubers are sponsored by websites, a blog on good website providers would be helpful from someone not already bought by the company.
William Bassin says
Is it possible or desirable to use social media simply as a gateway to a linked website?
Very much enjoy the focus on scarcity and how we can create it for our individual selves.
I think a middle of the road solution could be the best approach. While you don’t reach world-class status, you’ll need the exposure social media may give you.
By keeping your own website with gallery, store and blog, you take matters into your own hands and keep everything on your own domain. Which is great, but until you reach said status, people aren’t going to get out of their way to visit you.
(Being honest here, I found out about you through your YouTube channel, and got to this article today through the mailing list).
How about keep the website and use some sort of social media aggregator that can automatically post to every social media network under the sun? Whenever there is a new network, that could be added to the aggregator.
The downside of that might be people thinking they can reach you easily through social media, but the point is not to waste time there (posting and responding to comments, etc).
Anyway, just a quick thought.
Love your tutorials, articles and photos and keep up doing a great job!
Stay safe out there!
Lisa Kievit says
Yes, I agree that the website is a great place to be, however, it’s only good for as long as you are paying for it. so, if something should happen and you can’t pay, it’s gone as well.
You should always keep a backup copy of your own.
That way if the website is attacked, you stop paying or something happens to the host company, you can easily restore your stuff and don’t lose any data.
Dave Morrow says
Lisa, You’re using scenario that might happen 1/10000% of the time, to justify not doing something that will let you create & improve for the rest of your life, with a 100% return on investment.
It would be like staying in bed every day so I don’t get hit by a car…
The cost of cheap servers is so low that you should always be able to pay. I’m assuming anyone that owns a camera and lens can afford 3-5$ a month since it’s 1% of the cost. This is usually 3-5$ a month, max.
If you have a high traffic website and need really good servers, then that traffic will drive enough money that you can easily pay for them.
Like Ricardo said, always back up a hard copy. Your entire website, less the attachments like photos or PDFs is simply text, nothing more. These are really small file sizes.
Sandra P. Bassin says
Hey there Dave,
I’ve followed you for years with complete enjoyment! Your way of thinking inspires me. I attribute much of my professional satisfaction to following your advice several years ago and stopping social media for marketing. I’ve spent the majority of my creative time practicing my craft (psychotherapy) which brings true fulfillment and no time on social media. Thanks to you!
My question is – I will be moving across the country soon. How do you suggest that I build up a new community of followers?
Photographer and psychotherapy are understandably quite different; however quite similar in the way we’re both aspiring to bring clarity and contentment to people. Any thoughts are guidance on this question would be helpful.
Thanks for your concise, encouraging and practical writing!
Bruce Rawlinson says
Excellent thoughts, but am wondering how one is able to consistently drive traffic to the website. I cannot remember how I found yours; probably at YouTube since I don’t use social media. (Maybe YouTube is somewhat social media because of comments. ) in any event there is truth to what you say because I bought one of your courses.
Dave Morrow says
YouTube videos index in internet search engines, so the views can actually increase over time.
True social media doesn’t index, so you post something on facebook, the post traffic spikes for a week, then it’s gone forever.
You get no exponential return creating content that can’t be found in the search engine index.
PS: I hope you enjoyed the course:) Thanks for buying.
Chandra Jahnke says
I tried the website thing. I spent a couple hundred dollars a year with Squarespace, and Google to no avail. I got one order. Recently, my family and I hit a hardship and I couldn’t renew. I know there has to be a better way, low cost to no cost, or maybe higher cost but without renewals every year. What are your thoughts on this?
Dave Morrow says
It takes a long time (5 years ish) to start seeing any profits unless you’re running a startup.
What was your plan to drive traffic?
If something is cheap and easy, everyone does it, therefore it holds zero value.
Hope that helps,
ken symon says
how did you pick your website provider and what parameters do you look for in choosing one. I took a quick look and there are a lot, and everyone seems to have a different favorite. what or who do you think right now is a good deal for content , layout, perks, etc. I know you don’t like doing specific recommendations, but can you do a blog on what factors you need to consider when choosing one or the other, since I have never had one, its tought to figure out from scratch which is better for my purposes. thanks. bye the way agree fully on this blog. social media is a trojan horse. ken.
Dave Morrow says
I usually don’t look for deals, but for what’s the best tool to suit my current needs.
Currently running the following setup:
WP Engine Professional for Hosting. Cost depends on traffic.
Studiopress Themes running on WordPress. Comes free with WP Engine or you can pay for themes without WP Engine.
Bluehost is fine for hosting needs when you’re just starting out.
Wordpress + Studiopress is solid either way.
Sue Rakes says
Right on! For the last 20 years I have been a landscape photographer doing business as a wedding and portrait photographer at suerakes.com (which was recently lost). I’ve begun working on landscape work again and learning how to create videos camping and hiking (which surround/support my photography work). Ive been teaching photography and have led some weekend long workshops. Deciding on a new name campingcamera for that work since it’s totally unrelated to the professional portrait and wedding work. Your suggestion is always to keep things simple. You are 100 % correct to say that making things complex is a killer of creativity. I want to do the camping, hiking photography (and workshops) as my main “focus” … . I can’t turn my back on all of the money making work I did for the last 20 years, but you are right, why spend my time rebuilding all of that by rebuilding suerakes.com with wedding and portrait examples when I will suffer most from losing energy and time creating anew towards my new goal? Any light you could shed ?
great article. just the ‘nudge’ I’ve been needing to push me towards decisive action, and taking ownership of my need to invest more judiciously towards my (online) marketing. thank you!
Md. Amdadul Haque says
Dave is the best writer and dedicated person. I personally thank him to share the great ideas on business and photography. The social media management hidden cost will give us a pain while perform our business or services in the professional life. I think this post content’s helping guide will give us to more professional and help to save the social media hidden cost.