There are good reasons to save yourself the stress of having your own website and use a third-party service instead. Rather than having a WordPress blog, you could use a site like Medium or, instead of a shop with WooCommerce, a seller account on Amazon. Relying on such platforms does, however, carry some risks. In this article, I’ll explain exactly what these disadvantages are.
For me, nothing beats your own website. At the same time, I understand very well why third-party platforms are so tempting. For example, if I blog on a site like Medium, then I don't have to worry about the technical issues. Not only that, the service is free to use and in this case I can even earn a little extra through their premium program.
However, the service is only attractive as long as I don't keep coming up against the limits of what's possible. Because if technical issues are not my concern, I also have no direct influence on what is possible. When a site like Medium one day decides my content is no longer interesting or even violates a new rule, I’m equally left high and dry.
Own website vs Facebook page
Let's take a look at your own website in comparison to social networks. Today, hardly anyone would argue that you should abandon it in favor of a Facebook page. In the past, things were quite different. In the euphoria over Facebook's enormous growth, many people abandoned their own web presence and relied entirely on the social network.
I still see smaller and local providers today relying on their Facebook page. Their websites may even still exist and contain more or less up-to-date information. But if I want to make sure the information on them is actually correct, I'd better double check on Facebook.
Why is Facebook site so popular in these cases? It is - with little technical understanding - easier for some to maintain and keep up to date than their own website. With the latter, the company sometimes first has to ask the service provider if a link needs to be corrected. Who wants to constantly change opening hours or update their own offers? With Facebook, this runs partly by itself, is very easy to understand and costs nothing extra (at least not directly). Paid advertising via Facebook Ads can also be effective.
However, when looking at their Facebook statistics, some people eventually realise that each post only reaches a fraction of their own fans and followers. This is a trend that has been apparent for years: Commercial content is having an increasingly difficult time on Facebook. This is no wonder, because people prefer to interact with people and not with brands.
Guides: How to successfully distribute content
Yes - you can do something about it. I’m sure there are still some Facebook pages out there today with decent reach. Examples are welcome in the comments! But that doesn't change the fact that Facebook could bring in new rules tomorrow and these pages would suddenly have no reach at all.
As the owner of a Facebook page, what happens when you want to use a different social network in the future? It’s not going to be easy to take your fans and followers with you when you leave.
Newsletter vs Messenger
Email probably seems outdated to a lot of people and, for some target groups, it’s not the best medium to use. But in many cases, it remains the perfect channel to reach interested people.
Messengers, as "modern" communication tools, have the same problem that Facebook and other social networks have. The rules are made by someone else and you can’t take your contacts with you if you leave. The different messenger systems aren’t even compatible with each other. You can’t send a message to a Twitter user from WhatsApp, for example. Only Facebook wants to link its various services. The providers aren't interested in having a uniform standard. Instead, each provider is determined to beat the competition.
By email, on the other hand, I can reach anyone, regardless of where the email address is hosted. This is so self-evident that it is hardly ever mentioned. Then, for example, if I no longer like MailChimp as the service provider for my newsletter, I can unsubscribe migrate . I did this a few years ago when a MailChimp auto-freeze froze my account and support didn't see fit to respond to me. I now send my newsletters instead using WordPress Plugin Mailster via Amazon SES. I am currently very happy with that.
If I ever changed my mind about the plugin, I would simply look around for an alternative. As it happens, I do check out other services on a fairly regular basis. I greatly appreciate my freedom of choice here.
WordPress vs Medium
The situation is quite similar when it comes to blogs: Should I run my own WordPress installation or rather use a site like Medium? As mentioned at the beginning: Such an installation is not only free of charge, but can even earn me money directly.
At least that is the case right now. Medium has changed its business model and conditions several times over the years. At one point, it wanted to be a site for well-written texts, then a platform for publishers, and now a service for paid content. Some businesses shut up shop on their own site and moved to Medium when the startup promised them the sky and the stars. When things didn’t progress as hoped, Medium suddenly dropped these previously valued "partners”.
No wonder some people vent their frustration in a very public way. With WordPress , on the other hand, I can even have both and start my blog on WordPress .com first. Then I don't have to worry about anything at first. If I want more later, I move site to its own installation. Specialized host like RAIDBOXES make this very easy.
WooCommerce vs Amazon
Even those who want to get started in e-commerce are faced with the question: Build up something yourself with WordPress and WooCommerce? Or follow Amazon's success? For the first option, see our e-book Onlineshops mit WooCommerce.
After all, it's easy to get started at Amazon. But the devil, as so often, is in the details. Because you'll soon find out: There is a lot of potential audience, but also a lot of competition. There are more than 240,000 sellers in Germany alone. And they are all jostling to be listed by Amazon as the first choice in the "Buy Box". Because that's when the cash registers start ringing. By the way, almost 30 percent of the "Top Sellers" on Amazon.de do not come from Germany, but from China.
At the same time, you should never feel too safe here when things are going well. Account suspensions happen all the time. It doesn't help to be the second largest trader on the German marketplace, as Rebuy experienced earlier this year. Or the prices for important services suddenly increase.
Moreover, it can always happen that Amazon itself becomes a competitor. After all, the retailer has almost 150 private brands on offer - sometimes more, sometimes less obvious. According to its own statements, these products only make up one percent of its own sales. But compared to small retailers, that's obviously a lot, and the numbers are rising fast. It is not surprising that Amazon is so successful on its own marketplace: The company knows exactly what is wanted and what sells.
Amazon has publicly denied looking into the data of its retailers in order to then offer its own products. Officially, this is probably also forbidden internally. As it turns out, it was nevertheless common practice.
Why not both?
To forestall a typical objection: Yes, of course you can do both at the same time. You can both start a blog on your own WordPress site as well as write on Medium. You can have your own WooCommerce shop and be present on Amazon at the same time. And of course it's a good idea to be active on the appropriate and relevant social networks. All this can complement each other wonderfully - if you have the resources.
My main point with this post is to make the case that your own website should always be there and well maintained. It should be a priority, even if it doesn't inherently have the (potential) reach of offerings like Facebook, Medium, or Amazon. See my article on content hub for more on this. There you'll find more ideas on how to make your own website the central hub.
Why is it worth the effort? Look at it like this: It’s the difference between a rental apartment and owning your own house. Owning your own home certainly entails more work and carries more responsibility. But you can decorate it when and how you please and can plan for the long term.
Furthermore, there is no tenant protection on platforms like the ones mentioned above: Facebook, Amazon & Co. can remove you from the platform at any time, with immediate effect and without giving any reasons. Sometimes it is even an automatic that blocks your account - as it was for me with MailChimp. Only in exceptional cases will you be able to defend yourself against this, with the corresponding effort.
For such large companies, you’re just an insignificant number. If your account is suspended, usually your only option is to move on and start again with your project elsewhere. Have you ever tried to get a real support agent on the phone at Amazon, Facebook or Google? It's virtually impossible as a small operator.
What are third-party platforms great for?
There’s one fact I’m not going to deny: third-party platforms are ideal for certain situations. I've already mentioned the built-in reach that a small business wouldn’t normally have. You should use external platforms to build up your own long-term relationships with fans, prospects, and customers – via email, for example.
Also, the platforms I mentioned are great for experimentation. See my post Testing content ideas in advance. You can gather initial experience here and also learn from the competition. You don't take any risk at first and your effort remains low. This fits the "Lean Startup" idea: Find out as early as possible how well your idea works and what you need to improve.
Third-party platforms sometimes provide features that cannot be easily replicated by other means. You have the chance to engage with your fans and followers on the social web, for example. This often works better here than on your own website. It's a chance you should use.
Or they offer features that you would struggle to implement. For example, think of a platform like Udemy for online courses: To find out if you want to offer content in this format, you don't want to set up a complete learning platform first. While you can do all that with WordPress . I use Sensei LMS here and there are quite a few alternatives. But I only implemented this after I gained experience on Udemy.
Your presence on Facebook, Medium, YouTube & Co is only borrowed. You don't own it. You can achieve a lot of reach here and be very successful for a while. But tomorrow it can already be over.
It's even better if you have created your own platforms and channels in parallel, such as your website, a blog, a podcast and your email list. No one can take all these channels away from you so quickly.