by Will Rogers
You care about your content. You care about who owns said content. And, maybe you also care about certain views about where your content lives.
Here’s the deal: if you’re looking to engage a community, and you’re concerned about social media platforms and their control over your content and information, it’s not easy to find and build an audience on a platform that isn’t called Facebook.
Have you looked? If so, you quickly found that it’s tough to connect with an audience outside of the big social channels.
Whether you're an author or leader with a community, Facebook seems to own the world and therefore, own all of your friends and followers—and your information. We all know the stories of Facebook being caught exposed for what they are doing with every little piece of your information and behavior online. I’ll try NOT to get into that here.
If all of that wasn’t enough to consider, there’s more. What if Facebook no longer supports your point of view? Could your entire site be removed? Whether you ever get off of Facebook or not, you should know there are options out there. Here’s the thing: you may, after reading this, decide to ride Facebook as long as you can. But, for you who’s reading and want to jump ship, what are your options.
I know, not really an "alternative" here. But, listen. As I mentioned earlier, it’s certainly one of your options to get from Facebook what you can. There is something to the fact that your friends—and yes—even your parents are there. So, when it comes to connecting and getting your message out there, it’s one of the best in a lot of ways. Maybe for an intentional amount of time and growth, you may still want to utilize Facebook.
The big strength of Facebook is the sheer number of people there. But, you must understand, you’re at the mercy of Facebook’s tools and changes. Don’t hear me say you should jump off of Facebook. But, for this who are bothered or interested in other options, or trying to monetize your blog more, let’s at least a peek at what’s out there.
Now, maybe you’re done with Facebook. Believe it or not, you can launch your community in some other social platform or build out a private community. You can try doing something similar on another social platform like YouTube or Instagram. I know, Facebook owns Instagram, so there’s that. But, point is, it may be worth it if you haven’t tried—and depending on your followers—you may be able to get what you need out of another platform entirely.
If you want to get away from Facebook entirely, consider YouTube, LinkedIn, or even Twitter. Again, it depends on your most important issue related to Facebook. But, you’re reading this post, so, you’re at least interested in checking out other options.
With the platforms I just mentioned, aside from LinkedIn, there aren’t a ton of options for groups, building community, or connecting all types of people in general. Sure, there are sites like MeWe and Parler popping up, but they aren’t yet super comparable to Facebook’s audience size. So, how can you build a community that’s also private? Great question. I have some ideas.
This isn’t as difficult as it may sound. But, it’s no cakewalk either. Yes, you would have to start from scratch. But, maybe you already know how to create content Google ranks you for. And, this would mean having to find a software tool that allows you to do have your community access. When it comes to building your private community, there are at least three things you need to get right.
First, some cautions. Building your private community takes time—a long time. You’ll need a plan and have to set several things like preferences, branding, site structure, membership plugins, and so on.
Again, most of this isn’t impossible to complete. But, you’ll need to have plenty of time to start. Then, you’ll have to re-train your audience to use a new tool instead of Facebook!
Second, the things you’ll need to do. You’ll need to start with a plan. For example, you will need to find a tool that meets your needs now and allows you to grow. You will need to find a tool that’s easy for your members to use. And, you’ll want to consider on the front end—if you need to hire someone to get it set up, help with branding, and get started may be the right decision.
Third, benefits. If you can jump all of these hurdles, there are great benefits, or trade-offs, to keep in mind. Everything from security, to access, to knowing user behavior, and so on. You’ll have almost total control of your community. You’ll have a much higher sense of security and privacy—because you’ll be the decision-maker for what you do with your content. You control the direction, message, and engagement of your community. There is power in your audience not being “sold” only what and when Facebook wants to sell them.
I don’t mind telling you, I’ve helped dozens of communities figure this out - if you want to learn more, hit us up, as I understand the deep need for having a private and secure community site. I’ve walked many others through this process. And, I happen to have created a platform, a strategy, and a team to assist.
You want to have a dynamic and multi-dimensional community that thrives. In order to do that, you need a strategy of both online and offline engagement. This guide will help you think through your approach to engaging a virtual community. Download the free eBook: How to Take Your Community Digital.
About the author: Will Rogers is the Founder and CEO of CauseMachine. Will’s career has been spent leading organizations and helping to mobilize communities to a shared vision. He has served in various leadership roles to build community engagement and movements teaching him valuable hands-on skills and experience. Will has developed business and community engagement strategies for dozens of organizations in nearly 50 countries. He and his wife have two sons and now live in Kentucky after two decades in Colorado.