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I read this article, “Your brand vs. social algorithms: The conundrum of 2018” by Blaise Lucey and it made me really think about how reliant we are on these third party sites for data storage and to get our messaging out. I agree that they are very effective in automating that process and, quite frankly, I use them. My concern is how one change of the algorithm can be the difference between success or failure and there is really nothing we can do about it.

Who owns the data?

In every proposal I write I include the following line “We will be using third party websites. Because of this, we will be bound to their terms of agreements, fees and whims. We will make you aware of any of those that come up but there isn’t much we can do about it.” Why? Because it is true. I have written in the past how even a well regarded and useful product shut down for whatever reason leaving me scrambling to export the data before they shut down, not disrupt my business workflow and to come up with a replacement.

I am old enough to remember a time when these products for came out how it was a big concern for people losing their data. There are ways now to export your data from sites like Facebook and Google but it wasn’t always like that. Think about online only applications like Salesforce and Hubspot? We enter in all our contacts and lead information into their systems but one change of the terms of service and you don’t agree to it, you could lose all that data because they lock you out.

What happens when the cloud disappears?

I love the cloud, don’t get me wrong. Right now I am writing this on my Chromebook in Google Docs and I can easily switch to my Macbook to continue if I want. The cloud is awesome but what happens when the internet is gone? I’m not saying gone forever, just a few days. How would that disrupt your business? I experienced this not too long ago where I had no internet service in my office for three days. The only access I had was my cell data which I used sparingly as not to use up all my allotted data since we are on a shared plan. Needless to say my productivity suffered.

What if they don’t like what you’re saying?

Let’s face it, we are a divided country. There is hatred on both sides and some of that hatred goes way too far. There is a fine line between free speech and hate speech. I understand that it wouldn’t be prudent to get political as a business person but some do. They stand up for what they believe in and others try and sometimes succeed in shutting them down.

Think about the baker, Jack C. Phillips, who refused to bake a cake for a same-sex couple that is now before the supreme court. His business was ruined because of his views were against the popular view. What if a group finds your product or service offensive? You could lose your ability to market to your customers. I actually know of a case where one complaint of spam shut down a colleague’s email marketing account. He lost the ability to market his business because of one complaint. He was left scrambling for a solution all while trying not to disrupt his business.

Is there any hope for us?

First and foremost, this is not all gloom and doom. Many businesses use these services, are very successful and never have a problem, however, to be safe, you need to diversify your distribution and not rely on one or two sources. There need to be contingencies if a distribution source shuts down. The old not putting all your eggs in one basket theory.

My point in this is to make you think about protecting the data you have taken the time to create and acquire. I heard once that nothing is truly backed up unless there are three versions, the original, a local backup and an off-site backup. The same should be true with your contacts, your data, analytics or whatever makes your business run. You shouldn’t be one disaster away from complete loss. This holds true in any aspect of your business, not just loss of “stuff”, but loss of distribution as well. Going unexpectedly dark is not good for business. Also, keep this in mind as well that technology will fail you when you need it the most. You have been warned.