We know businesses that have been around for decades without having a website. But to really thrive in this business world, these days, you need to have some sort of online presence. Starting small with social media (Facebook, Google Plus, etc) is a great, free option.
As a salesperson at a web design firm, I sometimes hear from people that I am talking to about creating a website that “we already have a Facebook page and that’s enough.” When I hear this I usually go and look at these FB pages and many times find that they are very well managed, lots of likes, and have great information and pictures. These people have done a great job of creating an effective Facebook page and keeping it active, but is that really enough for your small business?
The short answer is “no”. A business needs a website too. Social media does some really nice things for a business. It creates a convenient mechanism for communicating with customers and getting real time feedback to improve your business. Think about a Twitter feed where someone complains about your business. If you are monitoring this you can address it immediately and show the people on Twitter how great you are. If you post a picture and deals or specials on Facebook then other people on Facebook will see it. These are all great things but there are other items that social media can’t do that a website can:
- Having something to call your own. When you create a website with a unique domain you start building up “domain authority”. There are complicated pieces to this but the simplest analogy is that it is like building credit. If you want a good credit rating it takes time and discipline. Once you’ve done this then a lot of opportunities open up to you in terms of getting the best rates and deals. Similarly with domain authority it doesn’t happen over night, but over time and with work your .com (or .net, .us etc) website will be linked to from other websites, will gain more traffic, and will get you more customers.
- Where do your customers hangout? Are all of your potential customers on Facebook or care to look at business pages on Facebook? The answer is no, but chances are they are on the web and when they want to do research about products and services they will take companies with an actual website more seriously than those that don’t have one.
- FB is great for current customer interaction but is rarely a stimulus to create new customers. Some business are pleased that they have a great customer-base and tout proudly that they didn’t even need a website, just a Facebook page. They are fooling themselves. They didn’t get their customers from Facebook. They probably got customers from other advertising or just from popular word of mouth and being around for a long time. This is fantastic for their business but what happens over time? Will that word of mouth and conventional advertising be self-sustaining?
- Bringing it all into one place. There are a lot of things you can do to increase your online reputation and help communicate the value of your products and services to customers and potentials. A website is a mechanism to do all of it in one place. Here you’ll have your contact info, a description of what you offer, your blog, links to your social media, photo galleries, forms, etc. All of these make a website a convenient one-stop for your customers to get everything they need.
Once again the answer is Facebook is Not enough. If you don’t have a website yet start researching to find out what it takes to get your own domain and get a website built. Nowadays it is easier than ever and there are a lot of do-it-yourself tools, as well as competent/affordable designers and design firms. The sooner you get started the sooner you can build up your online reputation and create a sustainable business.