What you have done or what you have built has value and there are people all around looking to profit off the work of others.
I know this is a somewhat negative way to open an article but this is more of a PSA than anything else. This article also stems from a real life situation I am going through right now. I purposely left out major details to not shine any light on the products involved.
Back in 2013 I had my first child. This brought about a whole new schedule for me. Typically I am somewhat of a night owl. I enjoy relaxing after dinner and going to bed a bit later than some. However, once we had our daughter my wife was required to be in bed starting at 8 or 9 as we co-slept and newborns like to nurse CONSTANTLY. Although she loved the time with Ali, I could tell my wife was a bit upset about being in bed so early every night. So not to leave her by herself each night I would get into bed at the same time. Not being one for going to bed early I had to find something to fill this time that I could do in bed. For this I turned to Twitter.
My first few days on Twitter I found that there are these massive accounts, some with over 1 million followers, that seemed like they could be created by just about anyone. I thought to myself, what stops me from doing this? I have the time now, lets try it!
My first few accounts didn’t get much traction. But that all changed once I created an account with the goal of gaining followers and a cute animal logo. This account started to pick up a bit of steam. Once I hit 1,000-2,000 followers I pivoted the account to a comedy account with the same cute animal logo. My plan was simple – follow people for the follow back, provide good content to get retweeted, gain organic followers from those retweets. As I got bigger that happened more and more. I became consumed with this account as I watched the followers grow…10,000..20,000…30,000…40,000. At around the 40,000 follower mark I decided to expand to a website. With very little knowledge on building a website it was a real trial by fire. It too a lot of hard work to even get something presentable up. But I had it. I had my own domain and a Twitter account with close to 50,00 followers (a few short of the 1 million mark but it’s a start). It was a great feeling but there was no money in this, just a lot of really hard work pulling me from my family. I kept the site running and the Twitter handle growing for about 6 months.
At the peak we hit 75,000 followers then life hit me. I changed jobs and the family schedule changed so I was left with less time for my site and my followers. I kept up with Twitter but the site was dormant for another 6 months. Then it came time for domain renewal. Here is where I screwed up. I let the domain lapse. I never thought about the consequences of that move until it was too late. My thought was “No one was paying me for what I was doing, why would this be valuable, no one will want this.”
Fast forward 2 years, I had since stopped providing content to my Twitter account as work pulled me completely away. I always thought I could just pick it back up one day. That day came and I decided to go back and see where I left off. What I found was that someone else had been posting on the account. There were about 20 unknown posts in all and they were all attempting to sell a product! It was time to get back into this account and delete these posts. Come to find out, the person that logged into the account had changed the password. No worries, I can correct that. Then even more bad new…I left my associated email to the Twitter account as an email from my domain! Uh…oh. This isn’t good. I decided I needed to buy the domain back, recreate the email, send myself the change password request from Twitter and we would be good. Wrong! Turns out that worthless site was worth something to someone.
I quickly learned that when sites go dormant, instead going back to the available market, they are auctioned off by their hosting companies for additional revenue. My domain was no longer available. My site I worked so hard on was replaced by blanket site posted by the company while the squatted on the domain. This was a big, big, BIG hurdle. But a shimmer of hope, the site is available for purchase…for $500. Now the site that lead me to nothing but tired days at work and long hours was going to cost me another $500 to recover so I could regain my Twitter handle that I worked so hard to build. I put in 1.5 years of my life into a hobby and have to pay to get it back.
I built my site and my Twitter followers from scratch with no corporate backing or established name recognition to build off of and now someone else is benefiting from it? It is my own fault and I understand that. If I had put in place the safeguards that Twitter provides I would not be in this situation. I would not be contemplating shelling out $500 just to get my own audience back.
The bottom line is be smart about how you handle your business at all times. I truly believe the world is good and just but there are people out there looking to get ahead with the least amount of work. That goal most often leads to benefiting off the work of other around them. Protect yourself and your creations. Look out for yourself and those who matter to you while being a good person. Not every action is underhanded and sneaky but do not set yourself up for others to take advantage of you. In this new age of social media and online shopping it is easy to get caught up in something you are not prepared for or do not expect.