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Most business owners know that the brick-and-mortar market is more vulnerable than it used to be. We’re officially in the age of e-commerce, and it seems that no one – not even giants like Toys”R”Us – are immune to the threat of extinction. However, there’s a bright point in all the doom and gloom: Millennials, who represent the largest portion of buying power in the country, love supporting small and local businesses. One study of Millennial buying behavior found a few compelling pieces of information:

  • Millennials tend to support the businesses their peers rave about
  • They disfavor traditional advertising and like informational forms of engagement
  • They prefer to engage with brands over social media networks

If you’re reading this, you might be thinking that it’s best to pour all of your advertising and marketing dollars into maintaining your social media network. In fact, some businesses skip creating a website altogether and use Facebook or another social media outlet as the sole form of communication between their brand and their customers.

This, however, is a colossal mistake.

If you operate a small brick-and-mortar business, a diversified digital marketing toolkit is the key to your success. Here’s why.

What Is Digital Sharecropping?

Digital sharecropping is essentially the practice of building your business on someone’s else’s digital land. It’s a term first described by Nicolas Carr when he wrote a series of blogs about Web 2.0 and how it shapes businesses, thinking, and the modern world.

One of the guiding characteristics of Web 2.0 is that we collectively produce a lot of content. In fact, one study found that we produce as much as 211 million pieces of content per minute. That’s a lot of information, flowing from the minds of many businesses and consumers on the internet to your screen.

But who owns this content? Under digital sharecropping, only a few own and enjoy the economic rewards of this enormous amount of content we produce.

It’s a subject that hits close to home, and the subject of many a Mark Zuckerberg lizard person meme. Anyone can create content on Facebook, but under the Terms of Service, that content effectively belongs to Facebook.

If you’re making your content empire and building a brand on someone else’s land – what happens if you accidentally violate their terms of service? The landholder – in this case, Facebook – can effectively pull the plug on your operation. And there’s little you can do about it.

Under the rule of digital sharecropping, the landowner has all the power. If you’re putting all your eggs into one basket, you run the risk of deleting your entire web presence if something goes wrong.

“I Just Won’t The Violate Terms of Service”

If you run your business solely on Facebook, now you might be the point where you think, “It’s OK, I’ll just be careful.” But consider some of the ways Facebook could technically shut you down for violating its advertising guidelines:

  • Uploading an image with content that’s more than 20% text
  • Producing an ad or content that offends even one user. This might seem like an easy thing to avoid, but if a single person flags your content, even if it’s an accident, Facebook could shut down your page
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The Facebook terms of service are vague enough that you could get your page shut down for something completely innocent. This highlights the importance of creating a diversified web presence. In the event that something bad does happen, you’ll have more channels to fall back on.

How You Can Diversify Your Web Presence

Now comes the important question: How can business owners effectively avoid the negative effects of digital sharecropping? The simplest way to accomplish this is to make your digital presence available on multiple channels. If, for some reason, you get shut down by Facebook, you’ll still have your other tools to use in the meantime. Here’s how to do it.

  • Start a business website if you don’t already have one. This might sound like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. You can create your website through WordPress, Squarespace, or another building tool in just a few hours. Best of all, many of the basic templates are free, and you can customize them according to your business needs.
  • Set up your social media presence on several social media networks. Secondly, don’t put all your eggs into one social media basket. Consider other options like Instagram, Twitter, and even Snapchat depending on your consumer demographic. A simple way to manage all of these networks is to syndicate your blog content to publish on your social media sites.

Dynamic content is an essential aspect for the success of your brick-and-mortar store, and so is diversifying your digital marketing toolkit. Digital sharecropping presents a potent threat, particularly to small businesses. Follow these tips to avoid a potential disaster, and don’t forget to tune into our next article, in which we’ll discuss the importance of online reviews and how you can use them to drive the revenue of your brick-and-mortar business.