Now that most social platforms have a form of ‘business profile’ option, you might find yourself wondering if you really need a website as well as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. While it certainly makes sense to ask this question, especially with new features like product tagging on Instagram and Facebook, having a website is still very important for your business. The two platforms have their own benefits, but they’re always at their most beneficial when used together – in this case, more actually is more!
The benefits of social media for your small business
It’s rare to find a business that doesn’t have a presence on at least one social media platform, as this has always been a good way of opening the doors for communication with potential and existing customers. With such a huge majority of the business population now active on social media, it’s less of a competitive advantage to simply have social media accounts – but it’s definitely a disadvantage not to.
It’s quick, free and easy to create an account on any of the main social media platforms, meaning you can begin to build an online presence almost immediately. The interactivity of platforms like Facebook and Twitter means you can start to interact with your customers straight away, while also getting your brand seen by the friends of people you talk to, as your conversations show up on others’ newsfeeds.
While social media offers some of the functionality needed by small businesses, it lacks permanence and security. Instead of having ownership over your online presence, you’re effectively ‘renting’ online space from the social media sites you use. This means you’re totally at the mercy of any algorithm changes that may prevent your page from appearing on newsfeeds. More and more frequently, businesses are forced to pay for advertising to gain any exposure, rather than being able to keep using social media as a free way of growing their brand.
In addition, while it may seem as though the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be around forever, there’s no guarantee they won’t eventually go the way of websites like Myspace and Friendster – meaning you’re also at the mercy of the fate of the platforms themselves.
Opportunities for branding and credibility are also limited on social media. Your branding has to fit in with that of the platform in question, which can seriously limit your options. While no business can have particularly strong branding on social media, not making up for this elsewhere can leave you lacking credibility and distinctiveness. As mentioned above, while using social media can add slightly to the credibility of your business, this effect is now limited by the saturation levels of social media, leaving everyone on a fairly even playing field.
The benefits of a website for your small business
In light of these drawbacks, a website can act as the perfect solution to the problems posed by social media. It’s possible to have much more ownership over a website than over social media, meaning that potential impermanence and changing algorithms are no longer an issue. There’s also a greater sense of credibility provided by a website. This works on a sliding scale: just a website gives a certain amount; a domain name and personalised email address gives even more.
A website also serves as a central location for information: instead of having to ask questions on social media, your customers can find answers on your website. This reduces the need for repetitive questions on social media, freeing it up as a platform for customer feedback, reviews and more favourable questions – all with the potential to build your brand. This directly benefits you at the same time as your business, freeing up your valuable time, as you’ll only need to answer these questions once.
While social media has more functionality than it did a few years ago, websites still have a much broader range on offer. From blogs to ecommerce and more, they offer a smooth and complete way of operating that social media can’t compete with. All these features work in conjunction with advanced website analytics – whether these are included in the website builder itself or from an external system like Google Analytics. While social media includes some analytics, they’re generally not complex or complete enough for the needs of a growing business.
The best of both worlds
It’s easy to pitch websites against social media when it comes to your web presence, but in reality, they can work together in perfect harmony to make a much stronger online presence than either could alone. Both methods strengthen SEO, and a good social media following can drive customers to your website when it matters most – such as during a promotion or a big event.
While this driving force aspect of social media is incredibly important and useful, it can’t help your business to reach its full potential without the stability, security and flexibility of a well branded website. A promotion, for example, can find popularity on social media, but can’t become a reality without the ecommerce functionality of a website. Similarly, an event which requires customers to register their interest with their details will run much more smoothly with a dedicated contact form.
However you choose to use the two, you can (and should) use social media and a website in tandem to get the most out of both of these versatile, potential-packed platforms – and grow your ideas into a great business.
With special thanks to our guest blog contributor, Kelly Dillet – Marketing Manager at BaseKit.