Despite its ubiquitous nature, there are still millions of businesses that do not have an Internet presence. The average business owner investigating how best to promote their business on the Internet will be struck by some curious statistics.
They will find that there are currently nearly 1.2 billion websites and roughly 4.7 billion people using the Internet in one way or another. When you think about it, that is an enormous wedge of mankind engaged in the singular pursuit: visiting websites.
Given these figures, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that a website is an absolute necessity for any business to reach potential customers. However, look further into the matter and another equally staggering set of statistics emerges.
Facebook is the globe’s leading social network. It reaches 1.84 billion users every day and every month its reach extends to 2.80 billion active users. Put another way, that is more than 60% of all Internet users interacting with what is a single website.
Look further into the matter and there is even more to consider. Unless you are prepared to use free web hosting and accept its limitations, setting up a website costs money. However, nominal the amount, there is a cost.
Of course, you can use Joomla or WordPress to set up a site, but there’s probably going to be a cost related to the time spent learning to use such free Content Management Systems (CMSs). And to do something half decent you might need a web developer to help. Beyond that, to get your website noticed you need to spend money on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) or search engine advertising. Compare this to Facebook.
A Facebook business page is free of charge, easy to set up, and every day it seems the social network adds more tools designed to help businesses target potential customers. Everything is there to establish a credible Internet presence for your company in 30 minutes or less.
So, the question comes to mind: Does a business need a website these days? And our answer is a resounding ‘Yes’ – you need a website. Just having a Facebook page is not good enough. Here are some of the reasons we believe this to be the case.
You get what you pay for using Facebook. It is free and, unlike a website, you don’t ‘own’ your Facebook page. You are allowed to use the platform free of charge, but to do so you must agree to a voluminous set of conditions nobody ever has the time to read. If somehow your step over a boundary you were unaware existed, you can wake up one day and find a space where your page used to be. Your competitors use the same tool, and it is sometimes in their interest to report pages to Facebook, get them suspended (or even removed completely), and enjoy the benefits of YOUR potential customers visiting THEIR page instead. Running a successful business through a page that could disappear at any given moment because of a single complaint puts everything you work for in jeopardy. Although you have to register a domain annually, a website is yours to do what you wish with (so long as you comply with the terms of your web host).
You don’t control what people say about your products and services on a Facebook page. While Facebook has resisted the idea of a ‘DISLIKE’ button, it of course has a ‘LIKE’ button and users can leave comments. Too few ‘LIKES’ can leave people wondering about the quality of your product or service. Likewise, a single negative comment can undo years of hard work. And again, it might well be a competitor’s interest to add something disparaging to your page. You can control what comments people are allowed to leave on your website.
It will prove extremely time-consuming relying solely on a Facebook page to develop a customer base. While it is great for branding, constant effort is required to keep a potential audience engaged. That means adding content daily. Keep in mind that your presence on other people’s newsfeeds is transitory – countless other companies will fill any gaps you leave on people’s newsfeeds. A website is constant – people who want to find your website do so through Google and other search engines. You can pay for advertising, but it is not a constant battle to ensure your website reaches your audience.
Facebook utilizes an algorithm that changes regularly and dictates how many followers, etc. will see your posts. It depends on whom you ask, but the ‘organic’ reach of a post is extremely limited. Some suggest your content will be received by only 6% of the people whole ‘LIKED’ you page – others suggest that it is a lot less than that.
There is only so much you can do with a Facebook page. You can add some pictures and text, and that is about it. With a website, however, the sky – and budget – are limited. You can make a website stand out in ways that are just impossible to achieve on a Facebook page with its uniform design layout.
Although Facebook has two-step authentication and other such measures, being in control of your website account means you can make a website as secure as your budget allows. This means it is possibly more likely that someone can hijack a Facebook account than a website.
Rightly or wrongly, it is difficult to run a credible business without a website. While anyone can set up a Facebook page, a website looks like a genuine extension of a company. There is a sense of permanence about a website that is difficult (and expensive) to achieve on Facebook. This is not least because with a website you can use an email address that carries your website’s name: ‘yourname@yourcompany’sname.com’. Custom email addresses go a long way towards giving people confidence in your company.
While people can recommend your Facebook page to another potential customer, people who are impressed with your products and services are more likely to want to recommend your website. While a Facebook page provides a decent snapshot of your business, a website is an online brochure that provides the depth of information many might need to want to purchase what you are offering. A website will benefit your branding activities even more than Facebook can.
There is no doubt that Facebook represents the ultimate marketing tool. You can target advertisements with pinpoint accuracy. You can send adverts to only males or females between the ages of 30 and 35 who only speak English but live in Paris - it does not get more targeted than that. However, whether you reach your target is open to debate. With a website, rather than speculating who might be interested in your goods and services, you can view a wide range of data related to your visitors. You might find that rather than people who live in Paris reaching your site, your visitors are predominantly in London. With this information, you can change your marketing approach. With Facebook, you are essentially testing a market every time you determine the criteria for adverts to reach your audience, and you might spend a lot of money before you ultimately reach the people you need to.
Keeping it local
The Internet is something of a ‘Yellow Pages’ as far as a business is concerned. Finding a specific business in your locality is much more difficult on Facebook. People looking for a local business are likely to hit Google to find what they are looking for. To rank effectively in Google, you need a website – period.
Facebook relies on your being able to put your company’s information in front of unsuspecting people rather than cater to those actively looking for what you have to offer. A Facebook page is a great tool to drive visitors to your website. If they are happy with what you offer, these visitors could very well refer your site to another potential customer by sending a link in an email. Driving people to a website through Facebook increases your SEO, improves your position in Google Search, and makes it more likely that others can reach your website. However remote, as there is the potential for Facebook deleting your page, running your business through a Facebook page alone could prove a very risky strategy.
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