Facebook Strategies: How to promote your own content and stop promoting Facebook (or how to USE FB instead of FB using YOU)


While Facebook continues to be the most used and important social network of all time, an increasing number of users are getting disillusioned or fed up with some of the changes that the site has been implementing recently. Whether it’s their dubious privacy policy, increasing number of paid ads, or other features that users find annoying or objectionable, many people are outright quitting FB and deleting their profiles.

Don’t just look at the negatives. I think the question people should be asking isn’t “Why should I let FB benefit materially from me?” but rather “How can I benefit materially from FB?”

I don’t deny that FB has been pulling a lot of stupid and annoying tactics on its users,  but I do question the logic of completely shutting oneself off from such a useful social network.  While FB might be doing a lot of things turn off its customer base,  simply quitting the site on the logic that FB is “evil” is kind of self-defeating for anyone who uses the Web to promote themselves or their business.  My take on this whole issue is that it’s better to use FB in a way that benefits YOU rather than in a way that FB benefits FROM you. I think the question people should be asking isn’t “Why should I let FB benefit materially from me?” but rather “How can I benefit materially from FB?”

I first joined Facebook around 2008 and it didn’t take long to become totally addicted to it as my primary social media outlet. During those first early years on FB, I was on an extended walkabout through Europe and parts of North America and it was a great way to keep up with family, friends and newly-made aquaintances all around the world no matter where my physical location. FB was the perfect way to stay in touch with friends and keep up with the latest news, photos, local events and gossip from around the world, all right there on my laptop screen. It was THE place to aggregate my entire social world in a quick and easy to digest way. It was also my address book, appointment calendar, birthday reminder, chat service, email client, matchmaker, etc., etc.

To date I have just over 1,100 friends and acquaintances on FB in a couple of dozen countries around the world, many of whom I would have lost contact with were it not for FB. But I don’t need to convince people about the addicting nature of FB; I only want to remind people that FB –at least parts of it–provide incredibly useful and worthwhile services that actually bring people together. Anything that brings people together is valuable and desirable in my opinion. FB’s privacy policy and annoying ads non-withstanding, what FB does best is provide a real social network. What you do with that network is up to you, but the tools are there to connect with people, to promote yourself and what you do, and to make new friends or just stay connected with old ones. This is incredibly valuable.

Whether we like it or not, FB has 839 million active users a day, or 1.3 billion users per month! It is the biggest social network in the world and therein lies its greatest value! Professional bloggers, businesses and marketers know this. For example, up to 20% of all traffic to news sites is driven by Facebook!

Part of what makes the site an immensely useful service is the mechanics of how it works, but what REALLY makes it a great service is the user base. Most of your friends and family are on it, along with more than a billion other people. Each one of those people contribute their own content each day, making FB history’s biggest social gathering point, by far.  Because if this it also provides an ENORMOUS potential audience for you. Do not ignore the opportunities to reach this audience!

Despite FB’s great achievements, many people still hate them, often with a passion. Lately, loads of my friends have been leaving, or cutting back on their activity and reducing their profile. Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t angrily post on their timeline that they’ve had it with FB and are deleting their profile and moving somewhere else.  “Find me over at Twitter, or Instagram or Ello – I’m done with FB, feh!”

Incensed by FB’s privacy policy, plethora of insipid ads or their draconian naming policy, among other things, FB-haters focus on its negative aspects (yet ironically, more often than not, the haters return after leaving…). Again, I’m not denying the bad stuff about FB and I’m certainly not apologizing for them, I’m only pointing out that in addition to all the negative crap, there are still very valid reasons to keep a profile there. And there are still ways that it can enhance your social experience as well as professional life substantially if you know how to “work it”. My goal here isn’t to convince you that FB isn’t “bad”, it’s to show you how to leverage FB and filter the good stuff from the bad because the good stuff is worthwhile. I also think that the best way to deal with FB is not to delete your account and give them the finger, but instead use FB to “sell” yourself instead of selling yourself to FB. It’s easier than you think and you don’t have to kiss Mark Zuckerberg’s ass to do  it.

The most important thing I can convey in this article is to NEVER upload your content directly to FB, but rather use it as a medium to promote your content hosted OUTSIDE of FB.

The BIGGEST reason for FB’s success, as I have already alluded to, is its user base and the valuable content that its users contribute each day. I say valuable because it’s content posted by YOUR friends and family – people who you know, love, admire and share many common things with! It’s content that is of real interest to you, personally and often intimately. Aside from personal data, most FB users post their personal photos, videos, recipes, quotes, funny pictures, interesting articles, etc.  800 million + users per day keep adding content to the FB files, keeping it fresh and interesting, but it’s content that is forever owned by FB. People complain about FB owning their data, yet they continue to upload photos, videos, add notes, contribute personal info, etc. Most people don’t connect that FB is using and owning their content to generate $6 billion+ in revenue each year. What’s worse is that so many users continue to give them that content FOR FREE! If anything makes you mad about FB it should be that most of those 800 million people give them a free blood transfusion every day which FB then sells back to them through ads and other gimmicks.

It’s a clever system, but does that mean you should quit FB? No! What if you could turn the tables and use them instead of them using you? What it all boils down to is ownership of content and as the old adage goes “content is king!”. The most important thing I can convey in this article is to NEVER upload your content directly to FB, but rather use it as a medium to promote your content hosted outside of FB.

What exactly do you mean and how do I do this? Well it all boils down to WHERE you host your content (and by content I mean photos, videos, quotes, recipes, sayings, reviews, notes, code snippets, artwork, etc. – any media you might add to your timeline). Now I’m not just talking about trivial content, I’m talking more about valuable or personal content, especially for people who are in the business of making and selling their content or media – particularly artists, photographers, videographers, programmers, bloggers, etc. Anyone whose content could potentially make money or be used for self-promotion. When you post a picture, video, etc. to FB, simply host it elsewhere and put the link in your timeline instead of uploading it to FB.

I have a friend who is a successful professional photographer who is constantly uploading photos from her shoots to FB and tagging her clients. Yes she gets a lot of comments and promotion via these posts, but guess what? – she’s giving her content to FB for free and she’s also giving them ownership of the images she uploads! She did eventually start putting a watermark on the photos at least, but her photos are still contributing to FB’s ever expanding database of images which in 2013 numbered over 250 billion!. She’s not getting any traffic herself, instead she’s giving FB traffic. And who knows what their plans are for those charitably donated photos? No wonder Mark Zuckerberg is smirking! So what to do? Should you stop uploading your photos on FB? YES!

Once again, it’s all about ownership of content. The way to post your photos or content to FB WITHOUT giving them ownership is to host them somewhere else, like a dedicated photo gallery or blog, and only post a LINK to the photo in your timeline. Sounds simple but many people forget this basic advice. Never, EVER upload valuable content directly to FB! By simply posting a link to your external site, users can still see the photo in the timeline preview, but clicking on the link will send them over to your site. Wouldn’t you rather get that traffic than give it to FB? Wouldn’t you rather that when people share the link on their timelines, other people will end up back on your site and give you the chance at self-promotion and monetization instead of FB?  Wouldn’t you rather keep ownership of your content rather than FB owning it and doing god knows what with it?  It’s your content and promoting it is all about getting traffic and views. If you have any aspirations to make money from your content, or simply make a name or brand for yourself or your hard work, keep it OFF FB’s servers, but by all means use FB’s timeline and/or fan pages to promote it.

Most modern blogs and photo galleries support Open Graph meta tags, which allow a link in your FB timeline to automatically display the main photo from that link within the timeline post. Open Graph tags also allow the display of a brief synopsis or paragraph from the linked article, so it’s almost like uploading it directly to FB.  In this way you are still using FB to promote your content without actually giving it to them (btw, other social networks like the new Ello don’t support these kinds of previews, yet). Now some photographers might say – “but you can’t tag people’s faces unless you upload the photos – I want to tag them!” Well true, you can’t tag faces this way but you can still tag people in photos or other posts when you add an outside link in your timeline. If you take a picture of a group of people, post it on your blog and link to that blog post in your FB timeline, you can still tag everyone in it, you just can’t tag their faces (face tagging was big about 2 years ago, but now it’s passé anyway…). Not only can you tag people but you can also add a time/date and location to your link.

So how about monetizing your content? This is really what I’m getting at because it’s the crux of the problem with FB. There are numerous ways, once you stop donating it to them A new website that cropped up recently which seems to address this very issue is Tsu. Tsu is a new social network that looks and acts a lot like Facebook, but content contributors (ie anyone who posts something to their Tsu timeline) get cash payouts based on the popularity of their posts.  And of course it’s easy to create a post on Tsu and share it to FB. This is a great way to monetize your own content instead of giving it to FB! What’s the catch? There doesn’t seem to be any, other than it’s a very new site and you’ll need a “short code” and invite to join.  You can use mine by clicking this link: www.tsu.co/transmit.

But what about posting links to content hosted on Tsu, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, Wordrpess, and other third party services, don’t those sites also own your content when you upload it there? Well it depends. In the case of services like Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, etc. they may have less-than-ideal terms of service, so you need to check the fine print. It’s probably better than FB’s but still may not be ideal. In the case of Tsu, you retain ownership and get paid for traffic you generate so this is a model I like.  Ultimately, what I am mostly concerned about though is preventing FB from owning my content because I trust them the least. To what degree you avoid uploading to other sites depends on your goals. Ideally, I recommend a service that you can host yourself on a domain that you own, or at least a site with a domain that you own so that you benefit from the traffic coming in and create your own branding experience. Then it’s about marketing yourself and your content and using FB to promote it. Currently I’m experimenting with the Tsu model and will report back on how that goes but so far it looks good.

This blog uses the WordPress blogging platform, but I host it on my own server (not WordPress.com), so I’m sure that the content I upload and write always belongs to me. I host most of my photos on 500px a nice commercial photo gallery site, but the traffic going there benefits me and brings visitors to MY portfolio site even if technically 500px is physically hosting the files (their terms of service is pretty favorable to photographers btw). I can share a photo from that site to FB, but the photo stays on my site and doesn’t get uploaded to FB. I get traffic and backlinks to my portfolio site, all of which benefit me both in the short and long term.

• Don’t forget you can easily download an archive of all your Facebook uploads and posts from day one….

What if you are just a normal, non-professional person who uploads cell phone photos and an occasional video or pic to your timeline? Do you really need to go to the trouble of setting up a blog/portfolio site, or linking to another third party site? Well it depends on whether or not it matters to you that FB will own your content. I still recommend making a blog or external platform, even using Flickr, Picasso or some other free and easy-to-use service to host your photos outside of FB. WordPress is an easy-to-use blogging platform and you can build a following and keep an independent record of your posts. The important thing is to never UPLOAD your content to FB because then you are just giving it to them for perpetuity. Ultimately the goal is not only to prevent FB from owning your content, but also to use FB to promote YOUR content and website/blog/gallery by bringing you traffic. If you are a professional media or content creator, this is particularly important as we need ways to promote ourselves and monetize our content instead of letting FB monetize it. I don’t really believe that FB is evil, I just think that it’s a far more useful tool when used to promote yourself and your assets outside of FB than it is to donate your content to them. FB is still the largest and most important social network in the world and better to leverage that than to ignore it.