A common question.
There are those who have never had a website because of the costs of hosting and design, and now they are opting for Facebook as an alternative because it is free. We even see some businesses getting rid of the cost of a website and switching over to Facebook only.
Is this wise?
While it may work for some, opting for Facebook over a business website is not good business, and is potentially problematic. While a Facebook page is an important element for most businesses , it is not smart to put all your eggs in the Facebook basket. Here are a few reasons:
1. Ownership – While Facebook is free, you don’t own it. If you build a website and pay for hosting, ultimately you own and control that website and can do with it as you please. Technically, you don’t own your Facebook business page; Facebook does. It is a free platform that you have been given the privilege of using. Sure Facebook is a giant right now, but what if it disappears tomorrow. All of the work that you have taken to build a community will be gone, with no website to back you up. Plus, you are at the mercy of Facebook. You never know what might be considered a violation of their terms of service, which could cause them to remove your page. The odds of this are slim, but is it a chance worth taking?
2. Facebook can change – Even if your Facebook page is safe, the platform is known for making rather large changes without any notice. Back in February they made major upgrades to the business pages which caught everyone off guard. Most of the changes were rather positive, but in the past there have been changes that have left users and businesses confused, and often with a loss of functionality. With a website, you know what you have. Any changes to a platform like WordPress are less frequent and much more manageable, and your site stays pretty much the same.
3. Facebook has limitations – There is only so much you can do on Facebook. For instance, I’ve been frustrated by an inability to upload pdf documents. There is a limit to the length of videos. Sure you can do a lot, and there is a lot of functionality you can add through third party apps, but there are limitations. Plus, you are also bound by rather strict rules on things like contests and promotions. On a website you have very few limitations. Additionally, a website affords you the opportunity to build special areas including private log-in areas for employees and customers.
4. Analytics – Facebook has done a decent job of offering some “insights” or analytics to help us better understand the amount and type of traffic we are getting on our pages. But much of it is open to great interpretation as much is based on “impressions”. You can’t really tell who is visiting your page. Analytics are important as you study traffic patterns, inbound links, time spent on site, and even know very specific information from your visitors. You can do a lot with Google Analytics, but we can supply very accurate web statistics.
5. Not EVERYONE is on Facebook – There are a lot of people NOT on Facebook that need your business.
6. SEO – This is a big one: Search Engine Optimization. While Google and the other search engines do index Facebook business pages, they don’t carry the weight of a website. You can do some things to optimize a Facebook page for the search engines, but it’s a lot harder to “get found” that way when people are searching for keywords within your business category. A website is much better for getting found.
7. Blogging and other content – You can try to blog on Facebook, but again, it’s a lot harder to get found that way. A blog, videos, online press releases, and other content can be put on a website, adding great SEO value as mentioned above. This could also include pdfs and e-books.
8. Your competitors – If your competitors have a website and are on Facebook, they will be a step ahead of you. Plus, there is always the chance that your users will be confronted with ads for your competitors right there on your own Facebook page. That can’t happen on your website!
9. Are you prepared for the challenge? – For the most part, and this is changing, your website is fairly static. While you should be making changes and updates to your site, they can be done on a more relaxed basis. With Facebook, because it is “social”, you only get out of it what you put into it. Engagement and community building need to be very proactive. You can’t create a Facebook page and just let it be. It is not a website. You need to be prepared to make the commitment to be on every day, adding content and responding to your community, and working to grow your community. If you aren’t prepared for that, a Facebook page might actually hurt you.
Our best advice is to have both a website and a Facebook page. If your biggest objection to a website is the cost, just remember that things have changed. Yes, you can pay a lot for a great design and functionality, but with open platforms like self-hosted WordPress, you can build a highly functional, nice looking page for a very low price that is 100% Tax deductible.