Does Your Business Really Need a Website?

I’m seeing more and more businesses, especially small businesses, bypassing traditional websites in favour of Facebook pages only. But is that a good idea? Personally, I think there’s room for both, but in the name of self-disclosure I do make a living creating websites for others. So what’s a budding entrepreneur to do?

Think of it this way. Your website is like a book all about your business, while Facebook and other social media tools are like chapters within that book. With a website you can hire a designer to create it and look after the details/updates or you can create a content management site that allows you the self-sufficiency to make changes on your own, provided you have the time and are open to the learning curve associated. A Facebook page can also provide self-sufficiency, but here are some things business owners should think about before deciding.

Part of the reason many small business owners start our own business is because we want to be the boss and have complete control over our own brand. With a website, you completely own your brand and how you position yourself in the market. A website also allows you to cast a wider net and reach more potential customers while Facebook may limit you to other Facebook users. Granted, Facebook is popular. According to their September 2013 stats, that’s a potential audience of about 1.19 billion monthly active users but with a website, you can reach 7.1 billion people online.

Another thing to keep in mind is that while you own your website, you don’t own Facebook. At anytime, Facebook can make changes that significantly alter the appearance of your page or delete items as they see fit, and they don’t need your permission to do that. With a website, nothing changes unless you decide to change it. And with new social media tools being created every day, there may also come a time when Facebook is not top dog and fades into the shadows. Or current users might fall out of love with Facebook as they court the newest social media shiny object. If that happens, where does that leave you? You lose your marketability. With a website, you don’t have to worry as much about the ebbs and flows of social media trends.

With Facebook, you lose control over your own content. According to Facebook’s terms of use, they can use any pictures or video you post as they see fit. If they want to use that photo of your client or staff, they can. Facebook can also give others the right to use your content. Even if you deactivate your account but some of your former fans are still using your content (e.g., they still have an old tagged photo), your content remains in play and is free for others to continue using. With a website, the content remains your intellectual property.

Facebook also has specific terms of use. If you violate those, on purpose or accidentally, you could find your page has been removed. Or if someone makes a claim against your page and you get red-flagged, your page could get suspended until the issue is resolved. With a website, you don’t have to worry about that because you make your own rules. Of course, you might still run into issues with hosts or servers, but if you have both a website and use social media, you’ve got a back-up plan to ensure you always have a web presence, even if one goes down.

A number of my clients rely on (SEO) Search Engine Optimization to move them from the back of the store to the front window. Google simply doesn’t give Facebook pages the same attention it does to an individual website, meaning you can more easily climb in the rankings with a website than with a Facebook page. But using a traditional website, supplemented with social media can also provide a real promotional edge.

As a small business owner, we rely on advertising to draw in new business. With your website, you can decide how to advertise or who you allow to advertise on your page. With Facebook, they make their money off the advertisers and are accountable to their shareholders, not you, the user. That means you don’t have control over what ads appear on your page. Imagine opening up your page to see your main competition promoting their business to your online community.

Both a traditional website and Facebook are great tools for promoting your business, depending on your needs. One allows you complete control of your brand, while the other is a great tool for helping promote your brand, provided you’re willing to play by someone else’s rules.

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