Tuesday 2¢: Building on rented land? You have to pay the rent

This Tuesday 2 cents, conflates two ideas, the first is advice that as a content marketer, you shouldn’t build on rented land, and the second that if you do, it seems you have to not just build, but pay the rent as the age of organically building an audience on social seems over.


The popular refrain of content marketers is that you shouldn’t build on rented land. Meaning that you should build your own platform, not rely on the big tech platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, as they could change or go away – Google Plus anyone?

But, not just as a place to host content, but the audience you are building, for example, Joe Pulizzi, author, speaker, and founder of the Content Marketing Institute rates newsletter subscribers as being of way higher value than social media followers (you can read about that in his free Corona Marketing eBook). Newsletter subscribers are your owned contacts, not the rented audience you have on social media.

Of course, if you do build on “rented land”, you do this because you want to shortcut the audience building process, the people are not reading your newsletter or coming to your blog yet, but they are on LinkedIn, Facebook, or TikTok right now.

The widely understood quid pro quo for building on their land was that you feed your content to these platforms and you get eyeballs. But it seems this deal is not that straightforward; your content is not covering the rent; you have to pay as well.

Listening to The Marketing Book Podcast, the host Doug Burdett interviewed Neal Schaffer, social media author, and speaker talking about his book “The Age of Influence” and it was interesting to hear that he doesn’t accept clients unless they have a paid social media promotion budget.

Which makes sense, social media channels generate a chunk of their revenue promoted posts, and of course, what you get to scroll through on your feed is driven by their algorithms.

It’s not just Neal or Joe, it now seems widely considered that the days of quickly growing a decent audience on social media organically are over, you have to not only build on this rented land but pay rent too.