Do you really need a website for your small business given the popularity of Facebook business pages? Based on the perceived hassle of owning a website, I can see why some small business owners have opted to focus on a Facebook presence only. I get it! Facebook is free, easy to use, and insanely popular. However, are you limiting (and perhaps negatively impacting) your business marketing by relying alone on Facebook? Is a Facebook business page really enough?
Well, let’s break it down. Facebook is an excellent way to interact with your potential customers (as long as they want to engage with you). What happens after they “like” your page?
If a Facebook visitor gets tired of seeing your posts, doesn’t continuously engage, and stops visiting your page, Facebook will begin to eliminate your activity from your previously-engaged visitor’s News Feed. Then, you will need to start paying to promote your posts to those that “like” your page, which by the way is not free.
Think about it... How many unique visitors are you REALLY engaged with via your Facebook business page?
Now let’s consider how having a business website (in addition to a Facebook business page) can have an even greater impact on your small business growth.
1. The control is in your hands. Anyone that has used Facebook knows how frustrating Facebook policy changes can be. Ultimately, Facebook makes decisions that best suit its own business objectives. With your own website, you have full control of the content and its presentation to best serve your clients, customers, and business objectives.
2. Facebook is big, but Google is bigger. Google processes 3.5 billion user searches per day. And the best way for those users to find you is through your own website. Google does not do a good job indexing Facebook pages. Business owners who go the Facebook ONLY route are limited regarding Google keyword searches, compared to finding a website using Google. Here's why.
While it’s true a Facebook page can be found via a search engine, it doesn’t provide the same comprehensive Search Engine Optimization (SEO) control of a dedicated website. A website enables you to tailor your content to the exact kind of phrases and keywords your potential customers are searching for. Showing up as highly as possible in online searches is a critical component of any business’ acquisition strategy.
3. Never to return again. Keep in mind that once a Facebook user visits and likes your business page, most likely they will NEVER come back to your page again. Their interaction with you and your business will solely happen via your news stream. So all the infrastructure and information you build into your Facebook page will be largely unused.
From our experience, when the average Facebook user wants to find out more information about your business, and in order for new customers to take a business seriously, they look to visit your website. This bears itself out in Google Analytics, where we see Facebook consistently as a top referrer back to the business website. Of course, there are things that Facebook does brilliantly, but Facebook ONLY isn’t a solution for your web presence. The best strategy is ALWAYS a multi-channel approach anchoring all your efforts with a well built and informative website.
4. Your Brand Is Your Business. Another limitation to a Facebook business page is a lack of brand control. Yes, you can put your choice background photo on Facebook, and yes, you can have your logo as the profile picture. Your posts can have your voice, and the photos show off who you are and the services you provide. But it’s still a “Facebook” page. Your business branding on Facebook is subordinate to the blue Facebook brand, and it will never give the complete brand experience that a dedicated website will.
Additionally, valuable information isn’t always readily available right when a user lands on a Facebook business page. Your address may be there, along with your phone number and maybe a Yelp page, but that isn’t necessarily enough. Many potential customers want to learn a little more about who you are and what your business is about. In comparison, a dedicated business website enables you to completely promote your brand and acts as a main hub online where interested, potential customers can visit for all the information and products they’re looking for, not just the most recent posts.
You can certainly create brand awareness on Facebook without a website, and you can certainly leverage Facebook sharing without having a dedicated Facebook page, but often they work best together.
5. Facebook Has Limitations. Yes, a Facebook business site has limitations. Those limitations don’t exist on your website. Unlike Facebook, you can break apart you content into multiple, easy-to-use pieces using a website and do so in the way that promotes your brand the way that it deserves to be shown to the world. On Facebook, you’re competing within the same space of users. In order to stand out, you have to have an active presence that offers an on-going conversation. How much productivity is being spent by a small business owner in one place? In addition, you don’t have lots of real estate to be creative with on the screen. Facebook limits the width of your Page content to just 520 pixels wide. That’s not very much room to be creative with. Hence
I am 520 pixels wide.
Not only is the space in which you have to promote your content extremely limited, Facebook controls it. You can create a great user experience through a business website that you completely control. In addition, you are able to fully display your content and/or products in a way that fully represents your brand and capabilities in a rich quality format, not just what is posted near the top of your Facebook business timeline.
6. Facebook Dependency Is Not A Best Practice For Business. Inherently, there is a basic business problem with depending on a big company to do your optimizing and updating for your business. There is both a lack of control and a lack of accessibility. When you pay a small firm, like BridgeBuilder Education & Investments, to help build and maintain your website, you have primary input regarding the look, the content, and your site’s priority features. When you experience technical issues, you have access to a dedicated expert, that works for you, to help you solve problems.
When you depend solely on Facebook, you have little, if any, input on priorities and decisions made with each new update or improvement. And you have no direct person to call when Facebook is down, when an upgrade doesn’t work, or when there’s any sort of technical issue with your Facebook page.
Facebook may be the best tool for your online efforts, but it pays to understand what you give up in exchange for an easy-to-use, popular platform. If you’re comfortable with the dependencies and lack of control, Facebook can definitely simplify your digital outreach, especially if you’re a new company. However, as a business owner and entrepreneur, you should always be thinking “big-picture” as well as ways to separate yourself from your business competitors. With that said, you want to have more voice in branding, content, and priorities (your way); thus using Facebook as part of your online strategy, but not your only tool.
To summarize, I often recommend that people create a staged approach – those willing and able to create an active Facebook presence, with content that's easily shared, with an aim to creating a community of people to follow their project(s) should start with Facebook, and move on to a website for marketing benefits. A prime example is a small business owner with lots of content, the desire to blog, or has a need to break up their site into branded, digestible sections with various calls-to-action should start with a website, and utilize a Facebook page to help promote their projects when they’re ready to dedicate the time to community-building.
So, should you have a Facebook page for your small business? Yes, absolutely! It’s free exposure. Is it enough? Probably not. To create the kind of digital presence, sustainable growth, and legitimacy that is required for a small business to succeed in today’s world, a dedicated website isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity.
DeWayne Johnson, PMP (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Co-Founder and Business Management Consultant with BridgeBuilder Education & Investments, which provides consulting for businesses interested in ways to improve process, strategy, leadership, and staff development. For more information, please visit www.bridgebuilderinvestments.com.
You can ‘like’ the company on Facebook: www.facebook.com/iamabridgebuilder and ‘follow’ them on Twitter: @BBEInvestments. You can also connect with DeWayne Johnson on LinkedIn.