Occassionally I’ll read an article that simply makes me mad. This was one of them: Is Facebook Stealing From the Pockets of Small Business Web Designers?
When I read an article that I dislike this much, I can’t comment on it, because I can’t think of anything good to say about it.
That’s like me accusing Apple, Droid, Canon, Sony…any smartphone or camcorder maker of stealing business from me by making affordable and accessible HD camcorders. I have Photoshop and an inkjet printer, yet I’ve never put a Professional Printer out of business.
The article’s comments make a sound argument, listing reasons why businesses should not use Facebook as their website. The only one I really cared about was “You don’t own your content, Facebook does, and they can sell it or do whatever they want with it. They can change things on the site without your permission.” (paraphrase.)
While that makes sense, I don’t really care. When you’re buying free, you get what you pay for, and many many people are fine with using Facebook as their business website in spite of not having overarching control or owning the content. Even in our own Tuesday bloggers group, discussion has come up about commenting on each others blogs during the November Blogarama, and the fact that we aren’t notified when someone else comments on a thread that we have commented on (Scott commented). Maybe it’s buried somewhere in the hopeless mire of WordPress settings…who cares. With Facebook, it’s already there.
Facebook is easy. Building a website is not easy.
I will couch my rant by saying that I’m quite lucky to have Zaifworks as a web/IT partner. I know it’s hard to build a website, because I did build and rebuild my website 3 times before my partner stepped in to put something nicer together. All of that said, I never did go solely the free route, because “free” never gave me what I wanted.
Good friend Don Burrows likes to remind folks that a business is worth nothing if it’s only You working your ass off. Or some such words. A rough example is: if the only way that you make money is by personally doing the work and personally handling every aspect of the relationship, if you can’t go on a 2 week vacation and continue to make money, the value that you would get for selling your business is nothing, because YOU are the entire business. YOU are the entire product.
I imagine that’s the case with these small business web designers whose pockets are being picked by Facebook.
Instead of complaining about it, look at the opportunity. No, not the opportunity to educate people on how awesome you are and how evil Facebook is. You’re a web designer. It’s time for you to create an easy-to-use utility that will let you copy your Facebook content and automatically publish it to your own domain.
Of course this will involve code, so if you are just a web designer, you may not be able to pull this off. But I bet you know someone who can.
And once you and your partners pull it off, you’ll have a product. A product that is a lot more than YOU.
Will you get your pants sued off by an evil corporation? Maybe. Or maybe your utility has an interface where you type in your updates / photos / videos / notes and they automatically load to Facebook and your own domain. Like ping.fm, but more robust. Then you’re not taking your content from Facebook…it becomes the one way your content gets to Facebook.
There are probably a lot more kinks than just that in my little idea. But you might get the point. Facebook is easy and free, so small business owners use it. Building a good website is not (or rarely) easy or free. Where is the market going to go if you’re a small business web designer? Away from you, unless you create a positive alternative to “designing” with benefits and ease of use that exceed Facebook’s.
Going back to the Biznik article, Nando Caban-Mendez posted a thoughtful comment: Facebook, Google+, et al are not stealing our money. We’re letting them have it if we don’t educate clients.
…I agree with part of it. The key to this type of survival for web designers isn’t going to be so much in education as it will be in innovation.
Please feel free to disagree with me. But pleasepleaseplease don’t even think of using WordPress to support a disagreeing argument.