The removal of the social media network Parler from Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Amazon Web Services in the wake of the January 6 insurrection caused much consternation. While the company eventually found another hosting provider, significant damage already occurred and their reach and audience were vastly diminished.
Whatever your opinion about Parler, any community group – no matter its politics – runs a risk of being de-platformed when relying on a social networking site alone. This is especially the case for groups focused on community building on a singular social network, most notably Facebook or Twitter. If a registered user or community member makes a post advocating violence, the network might decide to simply delete the entire group due to a violation of their terms of service.
What type of community can be built when there are so many platforms in the world but no promise of longevity? Even a popular social network that has a billion users that may seem safer really isn't.
Ultimately, don’t expect de-platforming to go away any time soon. In fact, Reddit recently joined Facebook by increasing its use of the practice. In this environment, it becomes critical for organizations to own the online platform where they grow their community.
Let’s take a closer look at a few reasons why.
The Risks of Not Owning the Online Platform for Your Community Organization
Sure, a Facebook Group is great for building membership and is easy to set up. However, this puts you at the mercy of another company which may change or remove your ability to interact with your audience. And once it's gone, rebuilding that sense of community through social media marketing is a major task.
Your membership site also largely serves as a mechanism for Facebook to display targeted ads while gaining actionable insights into the likes and dislikes of your membership.
We already mentioned the risk of de-platforming due to posts like photos or videos from your organization falling outside of a social network’s terms of service. In addition to Parler, other organizations, like Louis Farrakhan from the Nation of Islam and conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, were also de-platformed from social media.
However, these two examples are slightly different than Parler’s situation. In the case of Farrakhan and Jones, the de-platforming largely stemmed from controversial posts by those personalities themselves as opposed to their community members and user base.
Additionally, there’s a strong possibility for Facebook to make their Group's policies more restrictive in the future. This is another critical consideration for not hosting your community group on a “free” social media platform. In the end, this lack of control serves as reason enough to worry about the future of your community management efforts.
Ultimately, your organization doesn’t own its own content when focusing its activities on large social media networks. This lack of ownership and control makes self-hosting your community organization a wiser approach. So let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons owning the online presence of your community group makes perfect sense.
The Significant Advantages of Owning Your Online Community Group
Crafting an online community for your own organization offers other advantages that go beyond the risks of de-platforming. For example, it’s a great way to foster engagement without having to rely on social media news feed algorithms that exist largely to benefit a social network’s advertising revenue. Again, this approach also gives you more control (and responsibility) over the content.
You also gain a measure of flexibility when it comes to the format of your community. Simply adding an online forum to your organization’s current website is one valid option. This also makes it easier for you to monetize your paid membership site by adding in paywalls and other membership benefits.
Of course, moderating comments and other posting activity becomes important in either case, as with all popular social media platforms.
Owning your own online community also provides better control over your organization’s branding. Doing so on your own website gets your message across without having to compete for attention from other similar organizations, like on Facebook or Twitter. Of course, this issue is probably more important for commercial businesses as opposed to non-profits. Nevertheless, it’s a critical consideration when deciding on a strategy.
When you want a more advanced online presence, this becomes possible when using your own platform. Interesting options include adding gamification activities to drive engagement or deeper analytics to make your company’s marketing efforts more effective. Creating a private online space for interaction is another option for your community.
Once the decision to own your organization’s online community is made, your next steps involve determining its form and functionality. We already mentioned using a blog with commenting or an online forum. Perhaps a fully-functional mobile-friendly website or app makes more sense for you? Additionally, your team needs to consider following a cloud-agnostic architecture approach to prevent the kind of de-platforming that effectively deleted Parler from AWS.
If these questions seem daunting or confusing to you, reach out to the team at 923 Digital. As experts in crafting digital ventures for our clients, we provide the knowledge and insights your organization needs when building a robust online community. We also understand the principles of cloud-agnostic architecture and can help ensure your new community stays protected from the risks of de-platforming. Connect with us as soon as possible!