Social media or a website? What is the best option?

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Facebook is huge, but can it replace a website?

Many companies have decided to bin their website and go for a customised Facebook page to maintain an online presence. Why it is easier to see why they would do this, a billion plus Facebook users are just waiting to like their site, there are some significant drawbacks to putting all your digital eggs in the Facebook basket.

One of the first things that springs to mind is the way that users interact with web pages and Facebook. Web pages are essentially a one way communication media, you put something on your page(s) and the user then goes along and reads it. It is not unusual to have websites where the content has not changed in a long time. This is not a bad thing for everyone, contact details and phone numbers will rarely change and can be left in a dusty corner of the web until someone asks for them but a lack of fresh content can very quickly lower your search ranking and put people off your site.

Social media however is a totally different kettle of fish. Facebook etc. are designed for the instant creation of content and the widespread sharing of it between friends as easily as possible. It is like a beast that is always hungry, no matter how much you feed it there will always be the feeling that you should be feeding it more. This presents a challenge for smaller companies who may find that they struggle to find the time to keep updating their profile. This leads to visitors switching off and going elsewhere. This constant need to post should be outweighed against the cost and time in setting up a bespoke Facebook page, with the vast number of customisations available on the Facebook platform setting up a bespoke page can be a lot quicker and easier that deploying a fully functioning website.

Which leads us to the costs involved. Facebook accounts (generally) are free. Websites (generally) are not. A Facebook page can be administered by anyone but the complexity and technologies behind even the simplest website often means that a design company is called in to develop the site. This of course carries a cost (although with us it is very reasonable!) along with the expense of renting a server (something else that doesn’t break the bank with Gooseberry, most of our websites include the hosting) and then providing and training staff that are technically able to maintain a website running several different technologies.

It would seem a no brainer, and that is what many small companies have concluded.¬† Why go to the trouble of expense when we can use a platform that many staff are already on and familiar with? Will a website extend our reach and bring in customers more easily than Facbook? What benefit does a website bring that Facebook doesn’t?

The last question can be answered quite simply. Security. Not security as in hacking and selling information (although that is an issue for all web sites) but security that means your website and server are yours and yours alone. With Facebook you are effectively building your site on rented ground, and that ground comes with no guarantee that it will still be there in the future. OK, it’s not likely that Facebook is going to go under in the forseeable future but what if they change their terms of service, start charging for business pages or just decide that your page breaches one of their terms and conditions and pull the plug? Your page is gone and you are back to square one.

Additionally Facebook pages are not web pages, they are Facebook pages that Facebook decides what you can and can’t do on them. Although there are all sorts of things that you can do on a Facebook page you are still limited to what Facebook allows. In contrast you can do what you want with your own web pages, e-commerce, content management systems and just about everything else, and you can make them look just as you want with no other branding or adverts present.

There is no denying that Facebook has an enormous user base and an active and busy community swapping likes and recommending brands, businesses and services. Even though there are around 1.2 billion Facebook users¬†active worldwide (24m in the UK and counting) not everyone is able to, or wants to be, signed up to the blue square. Limiting your web presence to Facebook stops anyone who isn’t a user seeing your content as you intended. This is further aggravated by the way that users access Facebook, 4 out of 5 (according to the Guardian newspaper) access the network on the smartphone or tablet risking the smaller screens further degrading you carefully thought out layout and content even further.

In reality it is not about one or the other of course, but about striking the right balance between the two. Facebook is a fantastic tool for engaging with customers, building a fanbase and raising the profile of your business or brand. It requires work, you will need to post regular, interesting, exciting and fun content, interact with users and generally reach out and engage with customers old and new. Your website should be ready to be accessed by those looking for information that is more static than the dynamic content on Facebook, and where any business critical functions, such as e-commerce or mailing lists are located. Linking between the two is easy meaning that users will quite happily move between your two online offerings as and when they need to.

Get in touch today to discuss getting your business onto Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the other social networks and using them to drive traffic to your own web site.

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