At Tech Warrior we often get asked the question: “Should I take the time and effort to build a website for my business or is a Facebook page enough?” Put another way, the question is sometimes spun like this: “Why do I need a website when I can get a Facebook page for free?”
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 your business.
There’s no free lunch
Facebook is free. In spite of what some of the South African populace think about getting things for free, you do 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.
Yes, a website can also be free if you do it yourself. We’ll explore this in more detail in another article and see if free is actually free.
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. You are in charge on your website whereas on Facebook you have fit in with its guidelines.
Who owns what?
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?
Furthermore, Facebook has a shifting goal post when it comes to what kind of content it deems appropriate to post and share. In May 2019 Facebook removed a popular Low Carb High Fat (also known as Banting) group with over one million members. After some protest, the group was reinstated. The group now has 2.3 million members. To date the reasons why the group was initially removed remain sketchy. Perhaps the power of a million members carried some weight. Do you have the power of millions to protest against Facebook’s potential actions?
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 invite 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? You guessed it - 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 you have created, and the best return from your on-line investment, namely your website.
Purchasing domain names carefully is a very important aspect of owning a website. Having a website is an important part of running a business. Make sure you are the rightful registered owner of your domain name.
Searching and longevity
Facebook gives you a page. Okay, a few pages to promote your business. Your website gives you potentially unlimited pages. Each page can be crafted to specifically target people looking (aka searching) for the product or solution written about on that particular page.
Remember that interesting post you saw on Facebook last week but forgot to save? Try finding it again. Ever tried engaging with a restaurant menu on a Facebook page? 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, Duck Duck Go and other search engines are all about structure, searching and more importantly, finding content on websites. Specifically content that solves customer problems and issues.
Can you predict the future?
Twenty two years ago two university students approached the Top Internet Company of the time, looking to sell their product for one million dollars. They were turned down. At its peak, this Top Internet Company was valued at over 100 billion dollars. Fast forward to the present. The Top Internet Company is effectively no more, having sold its core assets for 4.48 billion dollars in 2017. What of the two students? They stuck it out and their company is today part of Alphabet, a trillion dollar company. This is the story of Yahoo and students Larry Page and Sergey Brin who started Google.
Facebook is one of the most popular, wait for it, websites (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? Facebook is already known by the youth of today as a medium for "old people" with fewer and fewer teens to early twenty year olds using it.
So what is the answer?
Earlier I said the question “Should I take the time and effort to build a website for my business or is a Facebook page enough?” can be easily answered. For a business, it is always best to have a website first and use Facebook as part of your digital marketing efforts to build relationships and connection with your clients.
Still not sure?
If you are still not sure, my recommendation is to register a domain (that’s the .com or if you are South African, the .co.za thing) 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. Thereafter, additionally, setup a Facebook page, email marketing and other social media tools like Twitter to support what you do on your website.