1) You own the address -
First and foremost, you own your .COM address. As long as you maintain it, it will always point to your website. This is powerful -- you are guaranteed to own that little slice of the Internet. Even if you switch companies that host your website, your .COM can be transferred, so your fans will always be able to find you.
This is not the case with your social networking profile. They can get bought out, lose out to competition, or simply become un-cool. Thousands of bands relied on their MySpace page as their home base, then switched over to Facebook (after printing their Myspace URL on their merch... ouch!).
This isn't limited to MySpace. Those of you who've been online since 2000 will remember sites like Garageband and MP3.com. Who knows what will happen in 5 years? Will Facebook still be around? Twitter? Google+? It might be an entirely new social networking site that will be "THE" place to have a profile. Your best bet is to make sure that you always have a place where fans can go to find out about your career.
One last point about social networks: if you're really unlucky, you may wake up to find your social network page repossessed. There have been many examples of MySpace doing this. Time will tell if this also happens at Facebook or Twitter. And although his page was not repossessed, one Montreal artist had his Facebook page (with 80,000 fans) hijacked by someone, who then spammed his fans. It can take a while for Facebook to sort out situations like that, and it's a great example of how you can lose control of your social networking page.
2) You Own the Experience -
With your website you also own the experience. You can control what your fans see, when they see it, and the messaging that you send to them. This means:
- No Distractions - Unlike with social networking sites, on your website there are no ads to distract your fans, and there also aren't dozens of other links vying for their attention. You're able to really focus on your music and your brand. And since you have your fan's full attention, you can then direct them to your call to action to deepen their connection.
- No Design Limits - With your own website, you don't have any design limits or restrictions. If you want to add a blog, or put a hi-res press kit for download, or even a special "fan-only" page, you can. Your website gives you the opportunity to make a deeper connection with your fans, without the limits of the one-size-fits-all social networks.
- A Better Buying Experience - If you sell music or merch, your own website is even more critical. Social networking sales tools force fans to interact within a tiny widget, or redirect them to another website altogether to complete the transaction. Having your own store on your own site allows you to give your fans a seamless buying experience, and full control over what that experience is.
3) You Own your Data -
On your .COM site, you can get far more detail on your fans than what you can get on a social networking site. Stuff like:
- How many people previewed my track last week?
- Which ones downloaded it?
- Did they skip ahead to a specific track?
- Where do those fans live?
- What site brought them here?
More than stats, you also own your fan list. You probably noticed that you can't move your old MySpace fans to Facebook. That's because you don't own that fan list, MySpace does. Same thing could happen whenever the next hot social network appears. There is no easy "export from Facebook" option!
Remember, your list of fan emails is gold. It allows you to always maintain contact with your fans, regardless which social networks they might be on.
Social Networks Are Still Important
This is not to say that you shouldn't be present on social networks -- they clearly have a place to interact with and find new fans. But what's even more important is to have a home base to bring your fans back to that you own, where they can always find you regardless which social networks are popular at the time.
In an upcoming post I'll talk about the "hub and spokes" method of driving fans from your social networks ("spokes") back to your website ("hub"), and list some of the best ways you can do that.