Why you need your own Independent Platform

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If you are a creative — a photographer, artist, musician, writer, anyone that makes something — you need your own independent platform. As temping and easy as it is to use Facebook and Instagram, those platforms are not made for you. They don’t have your best interests at heart. They are in the business to use your content to capture eyeballs for themselves. And, you have no control over what they do.

We all know what happened to MySpace, right? Or maybe not; perhaps you’ve never heard of them. MySpace was the big platform before Facebook and it’s effectively dead. How about Google+? Surely such a big company like Google will be around for a while. Yes, Google is around but not Google+. With over two billion users, Facebook is here to stay, right? Perhaps, but just in a couple of years, the once invincible Facebook doesn’t look nearly as solid, facing attacks from multiple sides. Most of their issues were self-inflicted, by the way.

Even if Facebook and Instagram (owned by Facebook) is around for the long haul, they can change the rules at any time. Their job is not to promote your content, they promote theirs. Use to be, when you posted content to those places, all your followers saw it. Not any more. Their AI algorithm selects just a subset of posts to be shown to a subset of users.

What you need is a home of your own. Your own website or blog. Use WordPress, Squarespace, or Wix, if you like. Photographers can use Smugmug and other photo hosting sites too. I use WordPress.com for this blog and Smugmug to host my photos. WordPress.com even has a free tier, if you can live with the limitations, which are quite reasonable, actually. I pay $5 a month which gives me a custom domain and removes ads from my site.

WordPress is good for another reason. It’s open source. While WordPress.com is a service which runs the WordPress blogging software, WordPress.org is an open source organization which writes the software that you can run on your own machine for free. So, in theory, if WordPress.com ever stops their service, I can download my entire blog contents and run it on my machine or a 3rd party hosting service using the free WordPress.org software.

The point is, use social media to promote your content, but you need your own internet home for your creations.

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8 thoughts on “Why you need your own Independent Platform

    1. Hi Kirk, I’m glad you found it useful.

      I believe you use blogger, which is owned by Google. Unfortunately, Google has a good track record of killing things when their particular product no longer aligns with their priorities. That’s one of my concerns with that platform.

  1. While it may be worthwhile to have a platform independent of the social media giants, there is something to be said for aligning your platform with a larger community as you have done with WordPress. I’m on Squarespace as you know and my site is a tiny remote island that few people visit in the vast Internet ocean. I chose ease of implementation over integration into a community that could potentially bring more eyes to my site. Now, I’m not too proud to admit that a lack of traffic may well be due to uninteresting content (gad, I hate that word) on my part. I’ll choose to believe it’s due to the fact that people might only stumble on my little corner of the web in an errant Google search.

    I’m glad you brought this up. I’ve got renewals for hosting coming up soon and it may be time to change things up. This has me thinking. Lately I do more of my rambling on Medium than my own blog. It’s starting to make me question whether I “need” my own dedicated blog site. Writing for me is more of a cathartic sharing of life lessons than being art oriented so I’m not sure I need the platform for art’s sake. I am not “a creative” (Still cracks me up that this word is used as a noun these days!). Do I really need a dedicated blog site showcasing…what exactly? I’m just a guy who snaps photos of things that interest me and dumps them on the Internet. The reality is so does virtually everyone else.

    We all want to toss our work out there into the stream but feeding the social media giants is less than appealing. WordPress is a smart move on your part but I’m not sure I want to go that route at this point. I’m also starting to focus on curating small meaningful-to-me collections of my work rather than trying to maintain a steady stream of “content” (ugh, like nails on a chalkboard, that word). If my Squarespace site stays, it will certainly be changing face and focus. I’m looking at other options too. Medium has appeal for a writing component separate from my personal site in community of like minded people. It may be evolving into a social media giant – I don’t know. A pay wall shows promise for keeping it focused on quality and there is an interactive community. Ah, decisions, decisions. Smugmug won’t go anywhere for me any time soon. Gotta have that photo warehouse in the cloud. The whole blog site thing…it’s under consideration.

    Thanks for jarring my brain. 🙂

    1. Hi Mike,

      I love Squarespace for their beautiful designs and integration, but you’re right, they don’t have a community around them. They are more of a website builder with a blogging feature. Still, I think there is value in their platform as an independent place, especially if you want a beautiful site to feature your work with the option of selling things.

      I have issues with Medium. They are certainly geared towards longer form posts and much better for blogging content than Facebook and Instagram, but fundamentally, they are still a walled garden — not an independent platform. And maybe that’s okay with you, but go into it knowing the pluses and minuses.

      Andy

      1. Yes, Medium has some drawbacks. I’ve been quietly doing some writing out there for a while and have been enjoying it. It isn’t strictly photography oriented stuff for me there. There is a built-in audience, whereas my independent site has none. I’m leaning toward moving away from the portfolio style site that features my work, which is apparently not so interesting given the faint trickle of activity my site sees (probably just Google bots). It’s certainly not enough to justify a monthly expense to keep the lights on. My needs are really just a gallery site (i.e. Smugmug) that I can use as my own archive as well as a place for bands and other people I shoot for to pick up images. Maybe I’d showcase some images but it would be a carefully curated and small selection. The writing part is more for me, kind of a journal open to the public. I’m thinking it may be more suited to something like Medium where there is a better chance that someone might read it and get something out of it. Contributing meaningful stuff to a curated pool has some appeal to me and relieves the pressure of trying to keep fresh and regular “content” (ick!) on a dedicated site that…oh yeah hardly anybody ever sees anyway. It’s something I’m kicking around. We’ll see where it goes.

      2. If it works for you and you’re enjoying it, that’s great.

        Once in a while there’s a link to a Medium post that I’m interested in, but I don’t get to read it because I don’t want to sign into the platform.

        I get it though. It’s a lot of work to do all these blog posts especially if you get very little traffic.

        It’s really the entire publishing industry, from the big guys, down to the lone blogger that suffers from the same issue. Too much noise, too little time and a site like Facebook sucks up most of the available oxygen.

  2. Interesting bit of information. I did not know that WordPress material could be downloaded from the service and run independently via an open source platform. Not that I have anything worth preserving or presenting, but for those who do – a real consideration.

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