This is an abstract from my book How to Start a Blog
Your blog is the operational center for your future. Your platform, your headquarters. Everything else should bring you to your site.
Your Facebook page, YouTube channel, Twitter, Medium, your guest posts on other blogs, and the content you stream – all are tools to connect people with the content of your site on the Internet.
The website can be made with any technology you want. It does not really matter, provided that it’s on a domain that you own, and that you can change as desired.
You should have complete freedom over it: you have to be able to contact your users whenever you want, you must be able to extract all the data from this platform. Also, whenever you want to, you should be able to move away to a different platform with all your content.
Lastly, you do not have to be at the mercy of other people decisions.
The platforms of other people
There are many ways to sell online. For each type of product, there are a number of options, and while sometimes you can sell things in the way you want, sometimes you need to work with a platform managed by someone else.
For example, if you sell digital books, you will, of course, sell them on Amazon Kindle, which probably represents 80% of the market.
Do you sell physical products? In addition to your own e-commerce, you will want to sell them on Amazon too, as it’s a huge market opportunity.
Do you make mobile apps? You will need to sell them on the App Store if you target Apple users, or on Google Play for Android.
Here, in some of these examples, it is clear that sometimes you have choices and sometimes you have to take a mandatory road to actually sell something.
You can’t distribute iPhone apps through your site. If you build desktop applications for Mac, on the other hand, this is possible, but you might also want to join the Mac App Store, which in this case is optional. Apple sets the rules, but it gives you some visibility that you would not get without being in the App Store.
All these great distribution systems such as the App Store, Amazon, Kindle, and many others like Etsy or Alibaba, are platforms. Other people’s platforms.
Benefits of using a platform managed by other people
There are, of course, benefits to using a platform managed by other people. It provides a virtually limitless user base, customers visiting the platform already have an account, and in many cases they just need to press the buy button.
In general, not managing your own platform saves you worry about having to manage a huge number of things.
Disadvantages of using a platform managed by other people
But there are disadvantages of using a platform, as well. You have to comply with the rules the owners impose, and the customers are not yours – they are the platform’s customers. So you might struggle to create a relationship with your customers.
You also have little room for your branding, as everything could change from one day to the next. In some cases you have little control over your prices, and you’ll have to pay commission to the platform for each sale you make.
The platform sets the rules
A platform is not just the place where people turn into customers, but it is also the place where you can find and interact with them. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are platforms, phenomenal platforms, but still platforms built by others.
A few years ago, having a Facebook page with 10,000 fans and writing a message on the page was enough to show this message to a vast percentage of those people. Unfortunately, this has changed today because the Facebook platform has changed. Now we are lucky if we reach 10% of our audience.
The only way to reach more people who like your page is to sponsor posts. So you have to pay Facebook to communicate with your own fans: this is an example of what it means to build on another property.
This is not to say that you should not have a Facebook page, that you don’t have to invest in Facebook Ads, or that you do not have to interact with people on Twitter.
You should do these things if you’re trying to build an audience. The market imposes them on you, because you find people in these places. But always try to use these large containers to find people and bring them to you.
And it’s important to always have a way out of a platform, and not to be completely dependent on it.
To do this, you have to push users to come to you through all the channels you can take advantage of.
You have to create your own platform.
Use your own domain name
Your domain name is very important. I use my own name for the domain: flaviocopes.com.
Your domain is like your address.
Except that a real-world address changes when you move somewhere else.
Your domain, on the other hand, is yours forever, regardless of your physical location. Like your email address.
When you publish things on your own website, under your own domain name, you are building virtual real estate and generating value that can last for years if not decades.
The way things work for search engines, now and for the foreseeable future, is that quality links pointing to your website make the domain more valuable.
If you publish under a domain name that’s not yours, you are effectively working for other people, in exchange for something that might appear convenient for you, like a nice way to create the first page.
But if you take the time and put in some work beforehand to set up your own site and get your own domain, it can pay you a lot more in the future