November 28, 2016
Lets face it, in today’s world, you have many choices about how to get a presence online. You can easily set up a Facebook page, Linkedin profile, Twitter profile or Instagram profile in a few minutes for free and these are just a small fraction of the available options. As a result, a growing number of brands and businesses opt not to own a website because they have an idea that using only social media to promote their business will suffice.
The consequence of this is that many have handed over the keys of the kingdom when it comes to protecting the integrity of the brand, the relationships created, and optimum return on the investment in social.
Should brands make the website the ultimate destination, rather than leaving engagement and relationships to reside on social media platforms?
First, lets consider the pros and cons of website versus social media.
|Cost effective – options vary from free to expensive.||Quick and free|
|Full control design and content||Low-commitment – you can easily switch to another platform|
|Credibility – Consumers expect companies to have websites today. They trust a business more if it has a website.||Engagement – Social media encourages back and forth interaction, and tends to be casual and humanizing. This allows you to easily communicate and build relationships.|
|Better marketing – With your own website, you have more leeway to communicate with and sell to your customers.||Branding – Customers will learn more about the business’s values, mission and purpose, through your updates and how you respond to them. This builds loyalty and your brand.|
|Maintenance – Depending on the size of the site, keeping content up-to-date will require some time and effort.||Limited design – you cant change their layout.|
|Increased complexity – The more sophisticated the design and functionality, the more money and time it will take to design and set up.||Open forum – the public can put comments (good or bad) on your social page or their profile referring to your profile. You’re not in complete control.|
|More marketing effort – You have to work to get traffic to your website.||Limited reporting tools – You only get the information the social site chooses to give you.|
|Lack of ownership – The social media provider control what content and promotions can be presented. Also consider what happens if the provider shuts the site down and if this is your only online presence.|
It is easy to see from the pros and cons that a website is more essential to your brand or business. However the solution is not to replace your social media tools with your website but rather funnel all your sales and leads generated through social media into your website where you are in complete control.
1. Credibility – To a small business, trust and credibility is key. Yes, it’s easy to create a Facebook Page for your business, but this low barrier to entry means that many scammers can also setup fake business pages. A website is a step further in credibility. It involves purchasing a domain name and putting thought into content that accurately describes your business. This added depth can’t be matched with just a social media presence.
2. Value – Sure, it’s fun and rewarding to own a business, but what if you want to sell it someday? Part of what businesses look for when making acquisitions is a brand with assets. If your business doesn’t have an established website with traffic, leads, a blog, and inbound links, your business will likely be less valuable.
3. Full Control – Have you ever changed the paint color of your house? When you own a house, it’s easy to make improvements. On the other hand, if you are renting, it is either difficult or prohibited. The same principle applies to the web. When you have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, you are essentially “renting” space from them, and they have all the control. Your website, on the other hand, can have the features you want and the design is completely unique to you, which makes you stand out. Just like retail stores design their storefronts in specific ways to attract attention, a website is a virtual store front so should be treated with the same mindset.
4. Owning Transactions – Do you sell anything online? Do you want to follow up with potential sales leads? Having a website makes it easy to sell goods online or collect sales leads from interested visitors. Trying to perform these activities on top of a social media platform is not only challenging, but requires that you follow that specific platform’s rules. Because data is worth its weight in gold, many of the benefits reaped from an on-site purchase experience are lost when the transaction is moved to the social platform.
5. The Marketplace is No Longer Static – Customers have unprecedented control in how they interact with information and brands. Ninety percent of daily media interactions are screen-based as sequential or simultaneous sessions on smartphones, laptop/PCs, tablets, and televisions; with the remaining 10 percent via radio, newspaper, or magazines according to Google: The New Multi-Screen World. Think of your online marketing like a wheel. Your strategy should have several spokes that connect back to one hub in the center. A website is the hub of your online marketing. It serves as the one place to which you drive prospects and leads for information and business transactions.
6. Analytics – Do you want to improve your inbound marketing? You should. The problem is that most social media platforms provide very limited or no data. In contrast, many website analytic tools like HubSpot and Google Analytics can provide a wealth of data and insight. Analytics allow you, as a business owner, to improve your marketing and, ultimately, grow your business .
7. Communication – Communication is at the heart of social media. The problem is, how you communicate is dictated by the social platform you are using. What if you wanted to send your Twitter followers an email? You can’t. A website allows you to collect information from visitors and choose how you want to communicate with them, whether it’s via email, Facebook, Twitter, or that old fashioned telephone.
8. Social Platforms Are Businesses – The wonderfully “free” social platforms that society has embraced to connect on a personal and professional level were designed to make money. Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Foursquare, and other social platforms are continually developing features to improve the user experience. The core purpose of most of these features isn’t always driven by making the platform work better for users. It is often grounded in the fundamental need to aggregate specific data and revenue streams to support the goals and objectives of the platform. How well the platform works for businesses and brands is secondary. It is important to maintain this perspective throughout the relationship with each platform.
Social media can definitely simplify your digital outreach, especially if you’re a new company. However, if you want to have more say in your branding, your content, and your priorities, keep that website going; use social media as part of your online strategy, but not your only tool. You need that website now more than ever especially to serve as the hub for your online marketing and sales.