Twitter™ announced new rules this past week that left Tumblr™ employees and fans quite upset. Tumblr joins Instagram (aka Facebook™) as the two major social web properties that have gotten road blocks from Twitter. Tumblr’s “Twitter finding privileges” were revoked meaning you can’t search for your Twitter friends via Tumblr anymore but you can still share a post to Twitter…go figure. Some insiders are saying the highly popular social magazine app, Flipboard™, is next in line to have Twitter search privileges revoked. Besides being quite scary for tech entrepreneurs who rely heavily on the open source access of information flowing from the major social networks, there are some lessons that all business owners should consider in light of these recent activities. Below our team has come up with 3 ways in which unilateral decisions like this coming from large mobile and web companies can stunt and prevent your company’s growth:
1) The big boys can change the amount of unique visitors to your website drastically if you rely only on them, so do your best to DIVERSIFY your incoming traffic sources for your sake and your advertiser’s. Think about how your marketing strategy can reach different niches of people through few sources and also how can reach the same niche of people from different sources. If more than 1/3 of the visitors to your website originate from the main social networks you should seek other web properties and strategies to generate traffic. This may include boosting your organic search engine optimization, allocating a larger paid search advertising budget, more professional emails sent on a more regular basis, an increase in PR efforts and more.
2) If your application/website starts getting too big, large competitors don’t want you competing with them for advertisers and will change the rules in order to stop sharing information or traffic to your site. Or they might buy you. While an acquisition can usually be great, they are quite rare, so it’s hard to plan a business with that in mind. These social giants can usually change their developer rules to pretty much whatever they want and this usually is in the form of more frequent and stricter regulations. Will we see the Federal Communications Commission step in for an investigation of this lack of competition that is being created?
3) That “iphone app” that you wanted to create just got that much harder to make and commercialize. Many real-time apps that we have come to love gather info by aggregating dating or pulling in users form the largest social networks. Just think how many websites now use Facebook Connect to gather your contact info. What would happen to your new user sign up rates if Facebook revoked access to that feature? If your idea involves drawing user info and status updates from Twitter, Facebook or any of the other giants, you might want to do your homework on API rules before investing a lot of sweat or dollars: Twitter API, Facebook API and LinkedIn API. Interesting enough, Pinterest has an API already written but they don’t want to release it because they don’t want to build a developer community like Twitter did in its early days just to crush it later. Also, sources say they are more like Apple than Google regarding design and control of their platform.