Social media has transformed the way every business shares on the web. With indie websites, you can embrace this social transformation without losing any ownership over your brand, your site or your audience.
Picture the scene
For years, you’ve poured time, money and energy into building a following for your business on social media. You have a loyal fan-base that comes back for every single thing you post. Your business and your career are seeing the benefits. Maybe you’re an individual; perhaps you’re part of a larger organization that has turned to social media to reach a modern audience.
And then the social network you’ve poured so much of your heart and soul into just goes away — poof! — taking your content, your profile and your hard-earned fanbase with it.
It’s not temporarily down. These aren’t technical difficulties. There isn’t a team of engineers on call, sweating behind workstations until everything is back to normal. It’s gone for good. Perhaps the startup behind it ran out of venture funding, or the team was acquired by a larger company, or they decided to pivot their business to something else. Either way, it’s never coming back.
But a social network doesn’t need to go out of business in order to interfere with yours. As networks push to maximize their revenue from advertising, they are constantly adjusting their algorithms to show content that they think will keep users looking at ads the longest. Publishers suffer: on some networks, a subscriber to an account will only see as little as seven percent of its content, unless someone pays to increase its reach. For an individual, that’s disappointing; for businesses, it can be catastrophic.
The web vs. social media
Your online identity is your business, your career and your reputation.
The beauty of the web is that you can create a space that is uniquely yours — something that represents you or your business completely. You don’t need to adhere to someone else’s idea of what that should look like, and your page doesn’t need to look like everybody else’s. The only real limit is your imagination — and your creative work can be seen by billions of people, automatically.
But social networks have something the web doesn’t, by itself: easy, free-flowing conversation. You can follow your heroes and have conversations with them. You can learn about the world, find new friends — maybe even your soulmate.
The internet is really just a network of people, spanning the globe, and social media makes it easier than ever to reach out and talk to them.
You don’t need to install anything or learn what HTML is — just write. Social media allows anyone to publish and be heard. New businesses can have an equal platform to the largest corporations in the world, and if they’re smart about how they build a following, maybe even outpace them.
Yet it’s a double-edged sword. The limitations of modern social media include:
If all the online conversations in the world are run on platforms owned by a small handful of companies, and revealed or hidden through decisions made by their algorithms, they have a disproportionate ability to control whose voices can be heard. For businesses, this represents a huge risk — particularly as some networks use this near-monopoly power to charge you to increase your reach.
Every business needs to own its relationships with its customers, its followers and its users. On social media, a lot of that information is hidden away. You know if someone subscribes directly to your account, but not if someone visits or for how long. You might know if someone clicks on a link you share, but nothing else about them or where they were.
You can’t make money on your own terms. Social networks sometimes have ways for your to make money directly, but more usually it’s subservient to their own revenue needs. There’s no way to personalize your account to make money in exactly the way you need to. Your business is subject to the design decisions of the social network’s product team.
And yet social media has transformed lives, empowered millions of businesses, and even kick-started democracies. What if you could combine its ease of use and connection with the independent freedom of the web?
You can. That’s what the IndieWeb is.
The IndieWeb was made by some of the brightest minds on the internet — and is available for your business right now.
The IndieWeb emerged as a community of open-source developers, researchers, writers and creatives who wanted to make a more independent social web. What started as a single gathering seven years ago has become a worldwide movement to add social networking to the web itself, with meetups and conferences taking place across the world every single month.
From there, it’s easy to boost the social capabilities of your indie website. For example, you probably want to keep all your content on your own website. By making sure your business’s domain is the focal point of your public online communications, you can boost your search engine rankings and find new business organically. But that doesn’t mean you have to lose that social media following — indie websites can help you bridge your own domain with social networks.
As Johannes Ernst recently wrote, indie websites allow you to get the best of both worlds. You can publish on your own site and syndicate to the social networks you care about. In his words:
“Your site will automatically publish the same post — adjusted for formatting — to all the social media sites you configured earlier: it will show up on your Facebook page, your Twitter account, on Instagram, etc. […] Some people will Like the photo on Facebook. Some might comment on Twitter or Instagram. As soon as they do, their content is fed back to your website.”
It’s not just about social networks. Anyone with an indie website site can participate in a conversation with anyone else who has an indie website — and anyone on the IndieWeb can follow anyone else on the IndieWeb. No social networking site is required, no company acting as gatekeeper. Just the web itself and some clever technology.
Switching to indie websites
Or, you could use another platform. Dries Buytaert, the founder of the Drupal CMS, recently started experimenting with the IndieWeb:
“As a majority of my friends and family communicate on Facebook and Twitter, I still want to share updates on social media. However, I believe I can do it in a more thoughtful manner that allows me to take back control over my own data.”
Just like with the web itself, you don’t have to use a particular CMS to get on the IndieWeb. All you need is a domain name and some web hosting.
If you’re a developer, or if you have developers, you can get started with the underlying IndieWeb technologies in an afternoon. It’s been designed to be incredibly easy — nobody has weeks to get to grips with a new, complicated API, so IndieWeb technologies are all based on HTML.
But you don’t need to be a developer. WordPress, Drupal, Known and more offer support, either natively or through plugins. Just upload to your web hosting, switch on the functionality, and start sharing from your own site. Either way, you gain the flexibility of owning your own space — you own your reach, your relationships and your revenue.
Every business depends on its social presence. With indie websites, you don’t need make yours subject to the whims of another company. Just install, publish, and share.