Is Facebook as good as a website - but free?
Wondering if a small business website is all it’s cracked up to be? We’ve got the 10 top tips for small business owners struggling to see value for money.
The million dollar question - Facebook vs. Websites
When starting up - and running - a small business, shrewd budget management is essential for keeping on top of the day-to-day. You gotta develop a thick skin when you see a salesy type walk into your shop, and your ability to cut through jargon and ask tough questions has saved you from more than one bad investment.
So when the website conversation arises, it makes perfect sense to question the purchase, especially when social media offers the same essential services for free… right?
Think about this: each tool is developed with a purpose, and it’s in collaboration that big things can be built - you don’t build a home with only a hammer, do you?
I want to show you the immense value to be had in investing in both a solid website and Facebook (yes, Facebook is an investment too, when used to the max).
And don't worry about getting lost in the jargon - at the end of this post, I've got a value-packed FREE download which shows you to how wire up both of these platforms to funnel potential customers straight into your business.
But first, I want to draw a line in the sand that marks where Facebook’s abilities stop, and a website takes the lead.
1. As with everything - you get what you pay for.
As Facebook is allowing you to essentially ‘rent their office space’ for nothing, there is always a catch.
Relying on a Facebook page forces you to operate within the Facebook world, and it’s a world that ultimately turns on advertising revenue.
Once a Facebooker becomes a fan of your page, they will very rarely actually check your page itself (unless they’re looking for something specific - free pro tip alert!)
Instead, they’ll look forward to seeing your content in their news feed. The only problem is, your content will always be forced to compete with sidebar ads, notifications, alerts and everyone else trying to grab their attention.
It’s kind of like trying to run a small stall in a busy marketplace. Sure, it’s a lot cheaper than renting a shop front, but can your potential customers hear you over the noise?
This is the strength of a website - if you have a traffic strategy getting people clicking in, it’s your house, your rules. No shouting to be heard above the crowd, just you and your website visitor in a one-on-one.
2. Social Media is Distraction City.
This bring me to my next point - social media is distraction central. Not only does it distract us from what we’re doing outside Facebook to begin with (guilty, those little pings from the desk are so hard to ignore…) but it’s constantly redirecting our attention once we’re inside.
Facebook offers it’s users a constant game of ad jenga - stacking new types of ads on top of old ones in a constant effort to grab your focus. You could have the best cover photo (or even take advantage of their new video option!), the most up-to-date posts, the most insightful information - but if we get a notification saying we’ve been tagged in a cat-themed Game of Thrones meme, you know where we’re going next.
3. Same-same syndrome.
As a website designer, our websites are created with an intense level of design psychology embedded in them - from colour choices and font pairings, to the tone of images and the placement of important text. EVERYTHING has a purpose on a web page, and a good designer uses every opportunity to push a website visitor towards a conversion.
On Facebook, options in this area are limited, and on Instagram even more so. Whilst your content might be amazing, the whole page will never act as one with a single driving message to your visitor so as to encourage their business - there will always be visual distractions and inconsistencies, all working together to inadvertently water down your efforts.
4. You’re missing serious SEO opportunities
If you are making some stand-out content, it’s going to serious waste as a Facebook post alone. Why? Let’s track back a bit.
When you write an interesting article about your profession, it will by default be full of juicy keywords, the words members of your audience would use to find businesses just like yours. As someone searches for a term or phrase in Google, one of the things the search engine does is sort through the internet looking for websites whose content matches those terms. If your website is mentioning these phrases regularly - and shows other signs of being relevant & helpful - Google will show your website to the searcher.
So if your amazing content is locked up in a Facebook post, you run the risk of it being missed. Whilst Google may index public posts, it will always prioritise a well developed website. (Plus, Facebook is a major competitor for the Google+ service - would you give your competitor any free kicks?)
5. Facebook is here and now; websites are for life.
Following on from SEO, a website allows any content you create to have lifetime value. If you write a series of blog posts about a favourite subject of yours, those articles will bring credit to your website in the years to come, provided your website remains easy to index by search engines. Not only that, from a user perspective, information like this is easy to catalogue and even easier to find if you’re a new visitor looking for help or advice.
On the other hand, Facebook is for here and now. Think about your own experience - how often would you visit a business page and scroll back longer than a couple of weeks? Unless you’re lucky enough to create something that goes viral, your content on social media has a lifetime of a few days at best. Hence why constant activity is strongly recommended.
Where to from here?
So now we have a realistic idea of the strengths and weaknesses of both Facebook & websites, let’s recap on the best use of each:
- Facebook: a free way to announce your brand and start gathering fans online. With consumer attention more elusive than ever, Facebook (or more specifically, Facebook Ads) have the ability to reach the user inside their comfort zone for a relatively low investment. With helpful posts & insightful content, you can coax them towards your website where they can be encouraged to sign up, subscribe, download, contact or buy. It’s a great tool for moving potential customers towards your website and closer to sale.
- Website: with a solid foundation and a clever content strategy, you have the ability to target specific search terms and appear as a helpful advisor in search results. Your website can act as a warehouse of knowledge with lifetime value, and take advantage of a range of functions that draw a visitor towards a sale (in a very non-sleasy way, when done right).
So where to next? Here are our top 5 tips for getting both on the right track:
1. Snacks or Dinner Dates
When developing content for Facebook, decide with each post whether it’s a ‘snack’ (i.e. a quick piece designed to engage, entertain or increase brand awareness) or a ‘dinner date’ (designed to take the viewer to greater action, like clicking a link, signing up for an event or claiming a download).
‘Snacks’ are fleeting posts to be taken in passing, where a ‘dinner date’ asks the viewer for a commitment, taking your relationship to the next level. So always ensure your posts clearly fall into one of the two categories. Mixed messages are no good for any relationship.
2. Pass it along
Facebook is working for you at its best when it is directing traffic towards your website or other point of conversion where visitors take a step towards becoming customers. If you’re looking to increase your audience away from Facebook - like building an email list, or registering for a live event - treat your Facebook like a rescue mission; get those potential customers outta there ASAP.
Use persuasive text and strong images to move the user away from Facebook as quickly & enthusiastically as possible (before they get tagged in another meme and you lose their attention).
3. Leave a trail of breadcrumbs
Keep developing your valuable content, but ensure it lives on your website, with Facebook offering a preview. This is where a user-friendly website is crucial; we know many small business owners devote themselves to social purely because their website is locked up with an uncooperative service provider. At UpBound, we believe a successful website is one the client can contribute to, and one that can grow alongside their business.
Tip: you can also post snippets or extracts of your content in the “Notes” section of your Facebook page, as an extra way to spread the word.
4. Hard working content
Create content that works hard. When you write a blog, record a video or create a downloadable tool, comb back through it for little nuggets of gold that can be turned into inspirational or helpful Facebook posts. Use web apps like Canva to turn your wisdom into nifty post graphics.
5. Relationships are a 2-way street
Facebook can be a great way to get feedback on what content you should create next - invite your audience to ask questions or bring up problems they’re struggling with; they’ll appreciate your taking the time to hear them out, and you could be sitting on a goldmine of content ideas.
Wrapping it up
Facebook certainly has it’s place in your marketing arsenal. Whilst it can be tempting to rely on it in lieu of a website, it is best treated as platform for grabbing the attention of your audience and passing them through to your website as quickly as possible.
From there, your website presents you with a myriad of opportunities to engage the visitor and encourage them towards becoming a paying client.