I had a client yesterday share a conversation they had with a Social Media Marketing “professional” about how small businesses today can exist online purely through Social Media and do well out of it. The social media expert suggested that small businesses no longer had a need for an independent online presence in the shape of a company website, that social media platforms have allowed us to forego the overheads and hassle of the obligatory virtual real estate. Further more they went on to share that said guru would not trust a marketing agency who insisted that a website was more important than Social Media.
Now I’m not sure whether the point being made was lost in translation but it is something we hear more and more. Why would or should a start-up business put vital capital into having a website when they could very easily and cost effectively communicate their offering via social media. Well we decided to put our point of view across for those who are thinking the same thing.
There is little point in denying the immense power and potential Social Media offers all businesses and we certainly would make a point of insisting that all businesses should consider it as a necessity. But is it right to put that amount of emphasis on it’s importance to suggest it can and should replace a stand alone website?
After all social media;
- is free – which allows you to put more capital into other areas of your business
- allows you to quickly and easily get your ‘network’ of friends to do a bit of free marketing for you
- if you are already using it on a personal level, is a seamless extension to your existing activity
- is a more tangible engagement with your target audience which will boost your confidence as well as give you an indication as to what works and what doesn’t
But lets not forget that,
- there is a suggestion that companies with a professional website exhibit an image of trustworthiness and stability
- a website will offer you the ability to broadcast information in greater detail and in a more digestible format
- in the age of increasing visual communication, a website offers a far better platform to engage visually with your audience
- the conversion rates through websites are still a lot higher than through social media.
Apart from those very basic reasons I would like to share some experiences from our perspective, either directly or from what has happened through some of our clients.
Mooshmedia has had various social media profiles since June 2010 and we have engaged in a few leads, mainly through Twitter yet all but one have contacted us through our website where we were able to convert those leads into sales. We have found (and this is not a proven formula) that service based businesses tend to thrive more on Twitter than any other platform, whereas retail businesses have greater success on Facebook. This may have a bearing on who the two platforms are geared towards but in all cases the rate of lead conversions is a lot higher with businesses who have a website.
Through managing a clients social media accounts recently we ran a promotional campaign to help boost their profile and engage the audience in a product launch. We started to get direct messages requesting further information on the product. Although the information was readily available on Facebook we found the information on Facebook was proving to be a lot harder to digest and retain than it is on a website. And with twitter, it is a lost cause from the start. After all these are “micro” blogging platforms by nature. These leads were requesting information we were easily able to give them via the company website where those leads were one step closer to a conversion. I read a quote just last week which said “Social media by itself isn’t going to sell anything”. A quote worth thinking about!
There is an argument floating about that businesses who operate solely on social media are next to worthless. A strong statement indeed but if you read the terms and conditions of your social media provider, you will see that the profile itself is the property of the provider of that network and holds no tangible asset value to your business. In the same way that you cannot sell an ebay business in it’s own right other than as an accessory to a physical business. You are simply not able to sell your business based on it’s social media presence or stature. So other than your client list or stock value, your business has no real substance to it. You will notice I used the term “virtual real estate” in the opening paragraph to describe a company website. That is because a website does hold an asset value.
Mooshmedia is strongly biased, not toward website development as such, but towards anything which pushes the boundaries of brand development and awareness. Social media will perform well on both those fronts, but we don’t believe that on it’s own it will deliver substantial strength to your brand and it certainly will not add asset value to your brand let alone push many boundaries. Since Facebook or Twitter have the power to close your account at any point should they perceive your activity to contravene their extensive terms, then once they decide to take that action, everything you have hinged on your online activity is gone in an instant. There have been quite a few established companies lose their profiles by running competitions which don’t comply to the small print, so be warned.
In short, we cannot see any sense in what our client was advised and would strongly recommend that all businesses, big or small, consider their marketing strategy beyond one channel. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t trust a “Marketing Agency” who advises putting all your eggs in one basket.