The question about “Facebook or a website” has a very simple answer. But before I get to it, I’m going to go through some considerations. A “pros and cons” if you will, for both Facebook and websites and at the end of the article I’ll give you my conclusion on which one is better for business.

There’s no free lunch

Facebook is free. A website can be free if you do it yourself and, in spite of what some of the South African populace think about getting things for free, you get what you pay for. For this reason, if you only have a Facebook page prospective customers may consider you to be a cheapskate because you went the free route. This can also have an adverse effect on the perception of your product or service.

What’s in a brand

Facebook has limited options for branding. You can add your logo and change the masthead but that’s about it. Mostly you are limited to the homogenous blue and white branding of… Facebook! By contrast your website can be coloured and branded to your liking, whatever that may be. You are in charge here whereas on Facebook you have fit in with its guidelines.

Owning your own website gives you complete control

Who owns it?

You don't own Facebook and are therefore at the mercy of whatever they do. Being a for-profit corporation, publicly traded, their first priority is to their shareholders. If they implement a policy change, you just have to toe the line. If Facebook thinks a new feature should be added which best serves them, they do it. Equally the converse applies. If you are using a feature that Facebook deems irrelevant to their strategy, they will take it away. Where does that leave you if you are dependent on it?

Owning your own website gives you complete control. You can be as audacious or conservative as you like. You can say what you like in whatever way works best for your business. Want to run a competition on your website – do it! Want to list all of your products so people can buy them – do it!

Better yet, who owns the customers?

It's better to establish and cultivate relationships on Facebook, and then lure them to your website. These are your customers, not Facebook's. When last did you download your customer list from Facebook? Remember too, Facebook is where people typically already know you so they like you. What about new prospects? Yup, you guessed it that’s where your website comes into play again.

Take them home

Don't give away the keys to the Kingdom. Yes, Facebook makes it super easy to create content and then engage and interact with your customers. But once the interaction is done, you need to take them home. And where is home, your website. So while Facebook has a place, don't lose sight of what is needed to protect the integrity of your brand, the relationships created, and the best return from your on-line investment, namely your website.

Searching and longevity

Facebook gives you a page. OK, a few pages to promote your business. Your website gives you unlimited pages. Each page can be crafted to specifically target people looking (aka searching) for the product or service written about on that particular page.

Remember that interesting post you saw on Facebook last week but forgot to save. Try finding it again. Not so easy is it. The very nature of Facebook is a stream or flow of organically created, never ending information. On the other hand, Google and others are all about structure, searching and more importantly, finding content on websites.

Can you predict the future?

Less than twenty years ago two university students approached the Top Internet Company of the time, looking to sell their product for 1 million dollars. They were turned down. At its peak, this Top Internet Company was valued at over 100 billion dollars. Fast forward to now. The Top Internet Company is effectively no more, having recently sold its core assets for 4.8 billion dollars. What of the two students? They stuck it out and their company is today worth 500 billion dollars. This is the story of Top Internet Company Yahoo and Google.

Facebook is the most popular, wait for it, website (ironic isn’t it) on the Internet today. But it might not be that way forever. The short history of the Internet is rich with many stories of disruptive websites appearing out of nowhere and claiming top spot. Put another way, Facebook may fall out of favour and where would that leave your efforts?

So what is the answer?

Earlier on I said the question can be easily answered. The best way to decide whether Facebook or a website or both is best for your business is to identify which one best supports the goals of your business. Simple.

Still not sure?

If you are still not sure, my recommendation is to first register a domain (that’s the .com or thing if you are South African) and get a website going. Your website is where you will have total control over your branding, content and message. You will future proof yourself against any upstarts who may dethrone Facebook as well as any changes Facebook may make in their best interest and not yours. Then start adding good original content on a regular basis to the website and, additionally, setup a Facebook page, get some email marketing and other social media tools to support your business goals and what you do on your website.

Some statistics*

Some facts but mostly figures on Internet usage and audience sizes.

Internet Users in the world (2017) .................... 3.7 billion

Google searches every 1 second (2017) .................... 62.7 thousand

Total number of websites in the world (2017) .................... 1.2 billion

Population of South Africa (2017) .................... 56.8 million

Internet users in South Africa (2017) .................... 36 million

Mobile phone users in South Africa (2017) .................... 44.2 million

Mobile phone internet users in South Africa (2017) .................... 21.4 million

Mobile users who have a smartphone in South Africa (2017)  .................... 32.7%

Active Facebook users in South Africa (2017) .................... 17.4 million

Active Facebook users in the world (2017) .................... 2 billion

*Source: Internet Live Stats; Statista

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