Deb here, I’ve been helping small businesses with their online presence since 2006. One of the most frequent observations I’ve had over the years centers around folks understanding what it means to “own” your business’ digital assets. Few really understand what it means to own it. Now, as we see folks threatening to move off certain social media platforms to others, this is striking fear into the hearts of some who’ve built their business primarily on a platform that is losing favor with their customers. Big tech like Facebook, Google, Shopify, GoDaddy, Wix, Amazon, SquareSpace, etc. offer products that most definitely appear to help small businesses launch their online presence quickly and with much automation and ease, no doubt. However, what some fail to realize is that these types of solutions are RENTALS at best. You don’t own the underlying platform. You don’t have full control, there is risk it can go away or the climate of the usage model around it can change and most likely will over time. At the end of the day, here is what I believe business owners should consider:
Do I have stable “base” platform for my business that I control entirely?
Do I have a back up plan to keep in contact and in business with my clients should some of my digital conduits (like Facebook) change or go away?
Do I have a plan or backup plan to continue to take payments should a payment method/conduit change?
Am I saying to not use Facebook, and other online solutions for e-commerce? NO. What I am saying is this, have a back-up plan. Control your most important data which is:
- Your customer list (orders, contact info)
- Your product list (inventory, imagery, vendors, stock)
- You ability to take payments
If you are not sure, here are some suggestions:
1. Have a website that is built on a platform/system that is INDEPENDENT of a vendor. What are these? WordPress self-hosted is the one I recommend 100%. There are other solutions but this is the best one with the most support across the web development industry world-wide in my opinion.
2. Use a payment system not tied solely to a website solution. This means use something like PayPal, Stripe, Square, or your bank or other merchant service provider. There are 2 types of these (Aggregators and PayFacs). Aggregators (PayPal, Stripe, Square) typically work best for monthly sales < $8K. If you’re above that, you should consider a true merchant service solution (PayFac) to save you on overhead costs. The benefit here is that an independent system can be used standalone or plugged into any number of other systems.
3. Use your social media platform accounts to drive traffic to your website for sales. Driving traffic to your website is one of the best things you can do to boost the reputation of that website digitally and force it higher in search results.
4. If you are already using a website, track your stats at least 2 ways. Google Analytics is probably the industry standard, however, you also don’t really own the data. At least download the data to a place you can store it offline for review/use. With WordPress there is also another method of tracking stats through WordPress(dot)org (JetPack plugin).
5. Domains and Email Accounts — Make sure you have registered your domain name through an account you control. If you’ve used SquareSpace or Wix, etc. to register your domain, it’s going to be a long process to get it transferred out to an independent registrar so you can control it should you move away from that platform. You definitely should do this, however. If you’re site has been around a while, your domain has developed a reputation that is an asset to your business that would be impossible to replace should you lose it.
6. Businesses – stop doing business email through your Gmail or Yahoo accounts. Again, you don’t own those and unless you are downloading your emails that are important to keep to your computer, you could lose them. Plus, it is not professional looking to use a non-branded email account. Even if you don’t have a website, you can still register a domain to create email accounts at the domain name. There are a host of options for creating business email accounts. While some big tech giants are also those solutions, at least there are contracts for service you have with them regarding the account itself. With a free account, you don’t have even that.
At the end of the day, no one solution fits all and you get what you pay for. And if shopping local is important to you, have you made sure that your business shops local for it’s needs?
If you have questions about any of these, please reach out via phone or email or private message.