BuzzFeed recently reported that Twitter may roll out a major change to the way users' timelines are ordered. Instead of tweets appearing chronologically, they'll supposedly be switched to an order determined by algorithms, thus hiding new updates in favor of popular or trending ones, as Facebook now does.
In spite of Twitter's CEO Jack Dorsey's reassurances to the contrary, rumors of a possible change highlight exactly why authors need a website, blog, and mailing list: Because anything else, including all social media, is subject to change upon the whims of those who created it.
Take my current struggles with Facebook over the name appearing on one of my Facebook accounts. I want to change the account name to "C.D. Watson" from one of my pen names and use it to interact with my author peers. Facebook's recent name policy updates require a legible photocopy of a legal, government-issued id card to be submitted prior to making name changes on an account. I don't have a single piece of policy-compliant identification with that name on it. Facebook's customer service, through a mind-numbing series of vague and unhelpful form letters, therefore refuses to allow me to change my name on that account, even though the initials are the first letters of my legal name.
It could just be me, but that's taking a policy a little bit too literally.
Regardless, Facebook is a private company, as are Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and all the other social media sites authors rely on in order to connect with readers. A single change to any policy, however minor, can lead to devastating results for an author who does not have control of her platform.
And by "platform," I do not mean all the social media sites on which an author has a presence. I mean a planned, organized online presence that is completely within an author's control, namely one's blog, website, and mailing list. These are the only pieces of a platform that can be completely controlled. Building a presence reliant solely on social media sites outside of this triumverate is like building a pyramid on sinking sand: Sooner or later, the sand's going to disappear and with it the pyramid, a nightmare for any author, let alone one who's built her entire platform around someone else's space on the web.