With the planet conquering dominance of social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram, you could be forgiven for thinking that you can get away with not having a website in 2017. Social media is free, it boasts massive audiences and everyone you know uses it. How can you go wrong? Well, let’s break it down.
On the web, you’re one of a kind
When you have your own branded website, it serves just one purpose – to promote you, your company or your brand. However on social media you are just one of, quite literally, billions of competing identities. While you are trying to get through to people and push your message, Facebook is serving up adverts, sponsored posts, sidebar carousels and a hundred other attention-grabbing distractions to your potential customers or clients. Even on your own Facebook page, visitors will get many other marketing messages delivered directly to their eyeballs. With the attention span of the average Internet user in the modern era, the odds aren’t great that you’re going to make much of an impact.
Design is King
One of features of social media that attracts business owners, particularly non-technical business owners, is the ease with which they can set up their stall. But, apart from sticking a photo in the cover area, and choosing an avatar, what actual design choices do you get? The answer of course, is none. You get stuck with the same old crappy linear timeline based design that everyone does. On a website, however, you have total and complete freedom to create any design you wish, from a clean and simple business-card design, all the way through to a full blown multimedia extravaganza.
The signal to noise ratio ratio in most people’s social media newsfeed is off the scale. On Facebook the chances of your posts making any sort of an impact, given the vast number of items that appear in most people’s timelines, are miniscule. Think for a second about how many times you’ve clicked on something in that timeline that wasn’t an update from a friend or a group you’re active in? I’m prepared to bet it doesn’t happen very often and when you do click, you’re often left underwhelmed and disappointed. Moreover, there is no clear separation of ‘brand’ and social content such as friend updates – your important marketing message sits right alongside news about birthdays, deaths in the family and all the other things that people discuss online.
If it’s free, then you’re the product
There is no such thing as a free lunch and there is no such thing as a free web presence. It might not cost you anything to set up a Facebook page, but that is because the product that is being sold is you, not your services. Facebook is analysing the habits and clicks of everyone who visits your Facebook page and they are selling that information to other advertisers, most of whom are in competition with you.
You don’t own anything
When you set up a social media presence, you are totally at the whims and demands of the owners of that social media site. The effects of anything they do are out of your hands and can be catastrophic. When Facebook decided to destroy ‘organic’ reach, all those folks that had painstakingly curated Facebook pages, saw their engagement levels tank. And once everyone had been bled dry, they ramped up their ‘sponsored’ advertising offers, making business owners pay for an online presence already undermined by the issues we’ve already mentioned. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. When you have a website, however, you own everything – all the traffic, all the lists and all the visitor data.
You index far better in Google
Go ahead and search for your company, brand or service in Google. The odds are that your Facebook page will appear somewhere in the list, but all that will appear as a direct link. When you make a website right (and here at WDNSW we make websites right) then all facets of your website will index well. Your phone number, your address, your services, your promotions – they will all appear in Google whether searched for directly or obliquely.
Websites are far more flexible
If you’re planning to run any sort of online shop, then a website is hands-down your best option. Yes, there are some ‘off the shelf’ ecommerce solutions on sites like Facebook but they’re not very flexible and force you to run your online shop in a certain way. On a website any kind of ecommerce solution can be created, one that works the way you want it to work. And there are thousands of add-ons, tweaks and updates that can be bolted onto websites too, that enable you to grow the shop and keep it up-to-date.
It is simply more businesslike
The fact is that social media pages look cheap. They are great things to have in addition to a website, but they don’t work well as replacements. If you want to appear business-like, a website will serve you far better than a Facebook page. Done right, a website will get you actual customers, not meaningless likes.
So yes, of course you need a website in 2017. You need something that you control completely and which is under your sole guidance, not that of a massive multinational with only its own interests at heart. You need a modern, responsive website that renders just as well on smartphones as it does on desktops. You need a site that indexes well in Google. You need a site that you can brand and style precisely the way you want with exactly the kind of colours and fonts that you want. Social media is a dead-end waiting to happen, but the web will always evolve and grow and your website can evolve and grow with it.