A community for business owners and freelancers who don’t want to rely on Facebook, Google or surveillance capitalism.

About

Lots of small business owners use Facebook, Google or other tech giants in some way. For various reasons, many businesses don’t want to rely on them.

Facebook and Google remove barriers to entry and help small businesses get online for free, but we pay with our and our customer’s data. And the longer we use them, the harder it is to disentangle ourselves.

There are business pages to consider, communities, ads, newsletters, stores and more. How do we reduce our reliance on these huge companies and surveillance tech?

Below Radar is a space to help freelancers and business owners come together to help each other out.

Why?

There are plenty of reasons to feel conflicted about using these platforms. Here are some reasons business owners might want to leave.

It’s good for business

Building a business that doesn’t rely on the business models of other companies is good for business.

When Instagram change their algorithms, Amazon hikes their cut or Google pull the plug on their latest service, there’s little that independent businesses can do. Relying too heavily on one or two big companies means we’re only one feature change, policy tweak or price increase away from a big upset.

When we own the spaces our businesses operate in, we benefit in two ways:

  1. We’re less reliant on third-parties

  2. We have more control over our brand

We’re also in a better position to pull together the services we need, rather than being forced to use whatever we’re given.

Ethical conflicts

Many of us don’t want to be tracked, yet run businesses that rely – at least in part – on tracking our customers. What’s more, we’re only starting to understand the damage that surveillance capitalism causes to society.

Lots of businesses have some form of ethical focus. We might choose a green website host, plant a tree for each sale or commit to other ethical business practices: we can extend this by reducing our reliance on platforms that invade our customer’s privacy and use that data against us.

Tracking is problematic

Tracking customers plays some part in many businesses. Like using Facebook or Google Ads that rely on behavioural profiling, following users with tools like Google Analytics or tracking where and when customers open their emails.

Almost always, this tracking happens without a user’s consent or an easy way to opt-out.

As nefarious as some of that might sound, this data isn’t always collected because we need it or use it. It’s often just part of the service or what we’ve been told we should use.

Setting ethics aside for a second, the data we collect is often flawed. For example, cookie-based website analytics won’t detect all traffic, spy pixels in emails don’t accurately report open rates and online ads are subject to fraud.

On top of this, Apple is heading down a privacy track. Recent iOS changes have significantly impacted the effectiveness of app tracking and their recent Mail update could impact how ‘open rates’ are reported for 30–40% of email recipients.

And then there are the companies who have shunned personalised ads, opting for non-tracking contextual ads with great success.

It might be time for us to challenge our assumptions about the data we collect and why we collect it. What are the metrics that matter? Can we collect that data in a privacy-friendly manner?

New directions

Stepping away from platforms we’ve built our businesses on or around is not for the faint-hearted. It might mean changes in marketing methods, experimenting with new techniques and refining old ones.

There are lots of unknowns:

  • What happens if I don’t use personalised ads?

  • How can I market effectively without a Facebook page?

  • How do I measure the effectiveness of email campaigns if I turn off tracking?

  • How can we stay in touch with our existing audience or reach new people?

  • What are the alternatives? How much do they cost?

  • How much time and effort is involved in migrating?

Every business has different needs so the answers aren’t the same for everyone.

Below Radar is a space for business owners and freelancers to help each other take a different route. By sharing our experiences, we can forge a path that breaks free of these platforms, leading the way for others.

Let’s take that first step together.

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