Why You Should Avoid Digital Sharecropping

In the bad old days, some folks were trapped in a poverty-inducing cycle, farming land they could never own. Rich landowners allowed (“allowed” !) tenant farmers to work the land in exchange for a share of the crop. The rich landowner, simply because he owned the land, received a share of the crops as well.

The sharecropper could never make enough to buy the land. The system was designed to keep the rich rich and the poor poor.

Eleven times a week I hear questions about “the best blogging platform.” And I read recommendations of, not only various free blogging tools, but even folks who consider their Facebook page or other social media presence to be their online marketing.

If you don’t own the land, you’re sharecropping, building someone else’s empire.

Sharecroppers can be evicted at a moment’s notice, becoming homeless wanderers who can’t even carry along what they thought they owned: furniture, books, etc. because they don’t even own a cart to put them in.

I have four decades’ experience with computers; I tested computerized calculators for a company my Dad worked for when I was in my teens, and I’ve owned personal computers since they were a rarity. I’ve worked on the web since before most folks ever heard of it, and formed my own web design company, Spinhead, in 1999. That’s some context for a bold dogmatic statement:

The only platform for your website and blog is self-hosted WordPress.*

I mean it.

The only platform for your website and blog is self-hosted WordPress.

If you’re using a Facebook page as your primary online presence, you’re sharecropping, building Facebook’s empire. Yes, it’s unthinkable that Facebook would ever disappear. I grew up in a world where it was inconceivable that the USSR would ever break up or the two Berlins would ever combine, so forgive me if I’m willing to consider any possible future. Except flying cars. Flying cars aren’t gonna happen.

If you’re using Wix, or Weebly, or Square, or any of those easy-to-use (a good thing) sites where you don’t own the hosting (a bad thing) you’re sharecropping.

If your Twitter feed and LinkedIn comments lead folks to your Facebook page, you’re sharecropping.

Everything you do or touch or have online should be one end of a thread that leads back to your (your!) website. The more direct the better. Don’t Tweet folks into visiting your Facebook page, Tweet them into visiting your website.

Links to buy your book? Sure, let folks know it’s at Amazon or Smashwords or whatever, but fer cryin’ out loud, sell your print books direct from your website. A $12 book will earn you $3 at Amazon but $6 if you sell it yourself and drop-ship from CreateSpace.

The age of the job, the age where we could depend on someone else, some institution, to care for our basic needs, is over. Don’t perpetuate the past’s poverty.

Own your land. Build your own empire.

* Two ways you can use WordPress: let them host it at WordPress.com, totally free, with an address like http://somedaybox.wordpress.com, or get web hosting (please consider the finest hosting company on the web, Charlottezweb) and have your own copy of WordPress installed (that’s the “self-hosted” part.) The free version of WordPress is still sharecropping, only it includes a cart to carry your belongings when you’re ready to move to your own land. As a result, it’s the best free option out there, bar none.

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