There's a new trend hitting the business landscape, and you need to ignore it.
You know, there are always new trends emerging on the Internet, especially within the realm of social media.
And chances are if you own a small business, you have already turned to social media platforms in an effort to get the word out about your product or service, and rightly so. Social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, are undoubtedly sophisticated tools for reaching an audience – especially if you want to nurture a local following.
But are social media pages a complete replacement for websites? After all, why do you need a website if you can create a business page on Facebook for free?
Well, there isn't an easy answer to that question, because websites and social media pages each carry their own strengths, weaknesses, and nuances.
Today we're going to take a closer look at the pros and cons of each type of marketing platform and analyze their pros and cons.
First Let's Look at Social Media Pages
Social media platforms are not without their fair share of advantages. From a small business perspective, the largest advantage is likely the fact that social media platforms are free to use. Small businesses almost never have wiggle room in the budget to launch a marketing campaign that will keep up with industry leaders' digital advertising. As such, having a free and effective way to reach an audience is a massive advantage.
In addition, you don't have to sign your business up for any long-term commitments or contracts. If ever you are dissatisfied with the performance or rules of a social media platform, you can leave at any time.
Oh, and let's not forget how effective social media can be. It's a much more effective way for a business to interact with leads and customers, and promotes more engagement from the audience than a website. Likes, shares, comments, and other actions prompt other members of social media circles to interact with content in real-time.
Furthermore, social media allows a better opportunity to brand your business and establish trust, credibility, and a positive rapport than websites. Interactions with customers and potential leads is a lot more personal than a blog post that was written for the masses, and you'll have a much more personal channel to interact with users and build a name for your business.
But there are several downsides, too.
The first downside that throws up a warning flag is a lack of control over the platform. On social media pages, you have to adhere to the rules, terms, and conditions set forth by a social media platform's army of lawyers. Maybe the rules inhibit aspects of your business, and maybe they don't, but make sure you don't break the rules. Doing so could mean that your page or account gets banned, shut down, or temporarily disabled, which is terrible for business.
Another downside to social media pages is that you lack control over the design, look, and feel of the site. While some social media sites offer rudimentary templates, on platforms like Facebook you're more or less stuck with the same design as everyone else, which makes it harder to differentiate your page from the competition.
Also, you don't have detailed metrics and analysis data like you'd have on a website, which makes it hard to analyze visitors' behavior. You really only get to see the reports and data that the social media platform wants you to see.
The last disadvantage to social media pages is that it's typically harder to rank high in the SERP's. While it is possible for Google to index Facebook pages (and other social media sites) when a user searches for your brand name, it's harder to rank, especially for your target keywords.
And remember, most people aren't searching for your brand, they're searching for keywords and keyphrases that related to a problem you can solve. You can't build those custom pages in most social media platforms.
In summary, the following outlines the pros and cons of social media pages:
Social Media Pages Pros:
- Typically free to use
- Elicits strong engagement
- Great way to build personal rapport with an audience
Social Media Pages Cons:
- Terms and conditions apply, which you have no control over
- Your account can be banned and shut down at the drop of hat
- Needs constant supervision
- Trolls and negative reviews need monitoring
- Less flexible reports and analysis data
- Harder to rank in SERPs
Now Let's Compare Having Your Own Website
Websites, on the other hand, tend to offer the complete opposite advantages and disadvantages of social media sites.
First and foremost, you'll have complete control over your website. Not only can you post whatever content and information your heart desires, you can also design your web pages and use keywords as you see fit, as opposed to being stuck with a standard design template on social media sites.
And even though search engines have guidelines regarding the types of sites they'll index, you're not nearly as encumbered as you would be by the terms and conditions of a social media corporation. Some social media sites have deleted and censored content in the past because it was deemed inappropriate for reasons outside of the control of the original poster.
Plus, your business looks a lot more credible and legitimate when it has a website in addition to a social media page.
But the best advantage, in my opinion, is the ability to automate the process of selling goods and services online. That way your business can receive and fulfill orders 24/7, regardless of the time of day or holiday schedules.
There are, however, a few drawbacks.
First off, note that websites and hosting providers typically cost a bit of money, though the fees are pretty nominal and inexpensive. Our web hosting, for instance, is $19/month. Not going to break the bank, but it's also not free.
Additionally, websites require maintenance. New code updates need to be patched, availability issues need to be dealt with, and Google updates need to be accounted for. This is a large drawback for small business owners, because they are typically so pressed for time that it isn't always feasible to give the website the time and attention it deserves. Paying for an ongoing web maintenance package is a very smart move, as it can keep your site from looking bad, having errors, or worse - being hacked.
Some of the inner workings of the website can be tricky, too. While WordPress is extremely user friendly, some of the code running under the hood can be intimidating, and there is a small learning curve as you discover the WordPress dashboard.
And last but not least, it can take a while to start seeing large amounts of organic traffic. On a social media page, it may feel more instantaneously gratifying when you get a share or like on your first post. But for relevant rankings on a website, it's going to take a lot more time, effort, and hard work.
In summary, the following outline the pros and cons of websites.
- Full control over the website
- Flexible designs
- Not limited by terms and conditions, and your website isn't as easily banned as social media accounts (Google can de-index your website, though your website will still exist)
- Websites make a business look more legitimate than a business that only has a Facebook page
- Enables you to sell goods and services online, independent of a brick and mortar store
- Cost money, but can be obtained inexpensively
- The website needs to be maintained
- More complex than a Facebook page (code, plugins, extensions, etc.)
- Takes more effort to build organic traffic in the long run
So Which Should You Choose?
The bottom line is that even though it's tempting to try to make do with only a free social media page, your business really does need a website to do well. The amount of control you have to make your brand shine outweighs the confined space of any social media network.