Platforms and Channels

As you think about the use of social media to promote your business, it’s helpful to make a distinction between Platforms and Channels. Platforms are foundational. You build upon them, using the tools they offer to implement your communication strategy. A channel is a means of communication or distribution. You need to be much more careful about the services you use as platforms compared to those which are simply channels. So what does this mean in practical terms? Let’s take Facebook as an example.

Krogh_120514_5025Sometimes you see a platform, sometimes you see a channel.  Chegdu, 2012

If you use Facebook’s email system to communicate with your clients, and you use Facebook’s servers to store your portfolio, then you are using it like a platform. It becomes a foundation of your business marketing efforts. The longer it goes on, the more “married” you are to the platform. It may be difficult or impossible to disentangle yourself from the platform if the service goes away, or becomes objectionable.

You could also use Facebook more like a channel. You could use your own email address, and upload your photos to your own website and then link them to your Facebook page. This strategy takes advantage of Facebook as a great viral marketing tool, without giving the company so much leverage over your business. And it lets you develop other channels with much more control. You can move to Google Plus, or Twitter or PhotoShelter or some future service that’s not even developed yet if it suits you. This prevents lock-in, and alows you to create a reach that’s even larger.

As we have cranked up DAM Useful Publishing, we’ve used the distinction between platforms and channels and the concept of Lock-in to help understand other decisions. The Amazon platform is the most powerful retail force in the world. They have a turnkey publishing platform that makes getting to market really easy. But that power can work against you. The percentage that Amazon demands and their well-documented bullying practices make them a poor choice for a platform partnership. Instead, we’re looking at them as one of several retail channels.

As with all technology choices, it’s helpful to play a little “what if?” If leaving Facebook or Amazon is unthinkable because of the way you are using it today, then it’s time to start using it in a new way. Develop a strategy that enables you to own as much of your platform as possible, while making great use of any available channels.

This post was adapted from one first published on ASMP’s Strictly Business blog. It was written in advance of the panel discussion I will moderate at PhotoPlus on Safe Social Media Practices.

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