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What is Digital Sharecropping?

Writing by Nick Stamoulis in Content Marketing


Back in August 2011 I came across this post on Copyblogger about digital sharecropping and it has stuck with me ever since. In a nutshell, digital sharecropping means you create content but then publish it on a site you have no control over, such as Facebook. You may “own” the content as the original author, but the site you published it on (the landlord, so to speak) is the one that reaps all the benefits. As Sonia Simone of Copyblogger said in her post:

In other words, anyone can create content on sites like Facebook, but that content effectively belongs to Facebook. The more content we create for free, the more valuable Facebook becomes. We do the work, they reap the profit.

So what does digital sharecropping have to do with your SEO campaign?

I’ve read more than a few blog posts and articles over the last few years that suggest it’s better to abandon the traditional website (which some say is nothing more than an online brochure) and focus the majority of your online marketing efforts into building up your social profiles. And while there is no denying the power and impact of social media marketing and social networking sites on a company’s bottom line, I firmly believe that choosing a social profile over a company website and blog is the wrong way to go and digital sharecropping is the reason why.

The Landlord Sets The Rules

When you publish your content on a platform that you don’t own 100% you are completely at the mercy and the whim of your digital landlord. Right now any company can set up a brand page for free on Facebook (and many have) but what if one day Facebook decides to make brand pages a paid service. It’s not that unreasonable to assume now, especially since the company went public. Let’s say Facebook creates a pay-to-play system and you can’t afford to pay—what happens to your online presence then? All that content you created, all those connections you created and all that traction you built up will vanish in an instant.

Digital sharecropping means the landlord (be it Facebook or another 3rd party) sets the rules and you have to play by them even if you don’t like it. I wouldn’t want me entire online presence and brand resting on the whims of someone else, would you?

Facebook Promoted Posts

Did you know that when you publish a piece of content on Facebook there is no guarantee that it goes out to all your Fans? Yup, all those hard-earned and valuable fans it took you months (or years) to get and they aren’t even seeing your updates. But wait! You can Promote your posts (for a fee of course) to ensure that all your Fans see your content. A blogger did the math and in order for her blog posts to reach all 90,600 fans she would need to pay $500 PER POST. I don’t know about you but I don’t have $500 to spend on promoting one blog post. But if that content only existed on Facebook and you had no other way of getting people to it you’re pretty much stuck with it.

You also have to realize that even when you promote your content on Facebook there is no guarantee that all 90,600 fans will check it out. And even if they do what happens then? You just paid $500 to get people who already Like and interact with your brand to interact with your brand again. Yes, it’s possible that those Fans will share your content and introduce your brand to their social network (one of the most valuable things about social networks) but I’d much rather take that $500 and invest in a company blog that I can control 100%.

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