SOCIAL NETWORKS vs WEBSITES
We are all very aware that e-commerce is capturing and influencing a greater share of sales then ever before. Whether this through an actual online transaction or a consumer making an off-line decision based on information found online.
In recent days some have doubted the value of websites over business pages in Facebook, LinkedIN, etc. Pages in these networks allow one to create a simple and feature lacking presence on the web, without the potential offered in the expansive options of a professional website. The attraction of these simple business pages is clear and they have many favorable aspects. They are easy to use free and allow one into a network where sharing and passing on information is the culture, if positioned right they can do a lot of marketing wok for you. We are big fans of social networks and consider them a valuable tool for every business. However it is a mistake to think a social network page can single-handedly uphold your business online, for a number of reasons.
The first glaringly obvious one is a double edged sword. These social network pages are free, Fantastic. Free however, I’m sure anyone in business knows this, almost always comes at a prIce. You have no ownership or rights to this presence. At the wave of Mark Zuckerbergs finger, which is waggling more and more often of late, your 10,000 times liked business page could just disappear, be sent into the ether or undergo major changes that may severely damage your traffic and content. Facebook and its peers may be easy to use but are none the less time-consuming, a lot of time goes into building a large audience on facebook, so If you have limited your business to this network and do not redirect them from this page to a site that is yours, all that hard work could at any moment just fall of the face of the internet. It’s free, you have no control, if you are business dependent on these networks that should concern you
Number two these networks are often described as digital labyrinths, designed to keep an audience captive and locked in the labyrinth with added features and functionality. This might not seem like an issue but it is in fact an inherent issue for effective business promotion. Holding a visitors attention, having them absorb any information from your page or importantly remembering your brand is difficult as they are so easily able to flit form one thing to the next. Quick short term sales may work but brand longevity will not. The goal of your facebook page is to as quickly as possible redirect potential customers to your website so gain full control over their attention.
This leads on to number three nicely, on facebook you are branded by Facebook. That will be the first word of association with your business. To compare, let’s say I bought some beautiful furniture through donedeal.ie I would then mention, I had found this lovely furniture on donedeal.ie, not from Sarah the craft furniture maker in West-Meath, whose details I found on done deal . Done-deal hosted and made possible whole exchange so it’s their brand I remember and it’s their brand I pass on. This may not be as critical on facebook but is still an issue. Your website brands you, facebook brands facebook. Facebook does allow some small customizations and you can have your own imagery there, but at the end of the day it still looks like facebook not your brand, hence people will forget it if they have not been redirected to an actual site.
Fourthly and this is major, if you don’t have a website no one looking outside facebook can find you. I personally represent this large percent of the market. I use facebook for my own business and for staying in contact with people, on a personal level I do not search for services or make purchasing decisions within facebook. I travel quite a bit and the first way I go about searching for a service or business in a new place I take out my phone and google it. If no website comes up I assume the business does not exist or is not established enough to bother searching any further for. It is imperative you have a website if you want to grow your brand beyond your immediate locale.
I could go on but think that is enough to get the message across. Do not get me wrong social networks are an amazingly powerful marketing tool, but that is what they are, marketing tools not a home-base for your business. Your website should be a mini representation of your in-store experience online. And you can’t really do that with Facebook. Website have a notorious reputation for being expensive and difficult to manage but that is absolutely no longer the case, you can get your own hosting package with your own domain name for as little as €60 through hosting sites like www.register365.ie. which include WordPress which allows to to manage and maintain your website in house. You can invest some time into learning the basics of WordPress, there are free tutorials everywhere, and with a little effort its really not that difficult, or if you don’t have time or patience you can modestly invest financially in some professional help to set up.
Facebook is a great channel to engage with your fans and drive traffic to your official websites and blog but don’t get caught up in the hype and ignore your other online properties, integrate and optimize all your digital assets and the new energy will surprise you.
Want to read a little more on social networks check out What your profile picture says about you