I’ve been building websites now for many years, for myself and for clients all over the world. With the rise of social media the most obvious selling pick-up line has been taken off the table:
“If your business is not on the internet, you don’t exist.”
It was true, it was cheap and it was good while it lasted.
Now, with Twitter, LinkedIn and especially Facebook, but even tools like Tumblr and WordPress.com business owners, who are using the tools to check in on their kids or share pictures with grandparents are increasingly comfortable navigating the muddy waters of the internet and establishing their business on the internet. How hard can it be? It’s cheap, mostly free and the instant gratification is already build in.
Analytics software has been confusing for years. What’s a hit, a visit, a pageview? But Facebook insights are people centric: I see how many people like my page – good for the ego, how many people comment on my posts and engage with my business.
Now, of course, those pages need to be maintained with regular updates, comments need to be responded to, it’s a never-satisfiable monster. But, for most small business owner time seems to be cheaper than money so the college kid next door gets recruited to maintain the site and all seems well.
So, you got yourself you shiny Facebook presence, why bother now with a full website? What business still needs it?
What you do on Facebook is called marketing:
Marketing is actively promoting a product or service. It’s pushing out a message to get sales results.
But branding is something different, and it can’t be done on Facebook.
Facebook brands itself on Facebook. Your business is allowed to play on the playground that is Facebook and your brand will be associated with Facebook’s rise and fall the same way if your sole outreach to customers was by buying an ad in the YellowPages. While the YellowPages were an acceptable format of finding businesses, a valid directory of who is offering products and services in your geographic need your ad had the ability to create value for you. Now that the YellowPages are no more than door stoppers and nuisances that land in the recycling bin, your ad is useless and that’s how it will be with your Facebook page when Facebook will fall out of grace with the public.
Your website is where you can build your house. That’s the place where you tell your story, create an atmosphere and create a presence that will help your potential clients get in contact with you even when you’re not ‘on’.
A brand is what speaks on your behalf. A solid branding effort for your business builds a foundation that enables you to reach beyond your immediate reach of your latest status update. Google can’t read your Facebook page and while you can ask for people to increase your likes on your business page, most people who are searching for a business will start at a search engine. The work you do on your website, is the work that will create lasting value and bring you return for years to come.
Choosing your web presence to be on Facebook alone is like opening your business in a strip mall, next to the popular chain store that everyone is talking about. You might get traffic, you’ll have ample parking but when the chain store moves on, no one knows who you are. Social media sites are great distribution channels. “You go there to post a poster because lots of people walk by”.
But a brand creates a sense of place. And your own website is the place where that can happen.