With businesses–small and large–depending more and more on social media as a marketing tool, the question begs: are websites still necessary? Can a business get away with promoting itself on Facebook, which has been increasingly targeting small businesses. The answer depends on what expert you ask. Both Facebook pages for business and websites have pluses and minuses.
But wait, don’t take down your website just yet. “Facebook is extremely important for online marketing, however a website is still the best way to be found online,” notes Felipe Gonzales, owner of Las Vegas-based digital marketing agency Cerebro Marketing. “According to one study, 60 percent or more of people begin by using a search engine to find products they want. Google is still the king of search, especially for local businesses…In a nutshell, Google allows me to discover businesses and services while Facebook allows me to connect with businesses. Google equals “discover.” Facebook equals “connect.”
There are many pros to Facebook. “With Facebook, you can interact directly with your customers and reach new prospects by engaging current customers online (friends of friends),” says Gonzales. “Another platform to promote your business is by using Facebook ads which use different targeting methods.”
Another upside to Facebook is that Facebook maintains all security, says Gonzales. Facebook has a built-in audience, but with a website you are responsible, basically, for driving traffic to it. “I would always say that having a website is a good idea but if no one is visiting it, then it is like a billboard in the middle of the desert. A website costs money, takes time to manage, and if no one is going there- it is a useless waste of money,” says Joseph L. Moore, founder of ELM Digital and VP Global Sales and Marketing for Native American Tea Company. “If you have someone dedicated to SEO, SMO and or SEM then it is worth pursuing. For most small businesses, a Facebook page and Facebook ads are far better, and far, far cheaper than dedicating resources.”
But on the downside, Facebook doesn’t let you be creative with your design. In fact, it is very limiting. Meanwhile, with a website, the control is all yours. ”You control the content; there’s no limit on amount of content and freedom of design,” says Gonzales.
Websites are also easier to find via search engines as they are indexed. This is changing, kind of. “Prior to now, I wouldn’t have suggested replacing a business with a Facebook page. The algorithm in which Facebook reduces the amount of total views for posts by business pages and companies has reduced the amount of exposure a business can receive without paying to promote their posts or run Facebook ads,” says Meredith Davis, president and chief creative strategist of Excelerate. “However, Facebook recently announced that it will be rolling out Facebook Shopping and Facebook Services, which allow retailers and service-related businesses to feature and sell products or services direct from their Facebook page. This will make it easier for a small company to run their business from Facebook.”
Another aspect to consider is security. With Facebook, the network presumably handles security for all its customers. On your own website, you must maintain security yourself for the website and add to the maintenance costs. “Also, the initial web design costs can be high and design must be updated every few years,” Gonzales points out.
On the other hand, since you are handling your own design you can customize the look for your business. “One of the benefits of a website is that it can be customized to fit your business. The downside is when someone DIY’s it and it looks unprofessional; that can turn people away (I know it has for me!). But, like I said above, it can contain a lot more information than a simple FB page and can also be used to collect emails,” says Rachel Vdolek of Glow Your Business.
Having both a website and presence on Facebook is the best idea. “In my opinion, a small business should have both a website and a Facebook page. A website can give you more details on the business that a Facebook page can’t, while a business will get more exposure with a Facebook page,” concludes Vdolek.