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It used to be a customer’s automatic question to a business owner or company representative: “What’s your web address?” And the response would come equally as naturally in the form of the URL of that company’s website.
It isn’t always so anymore.
In an age increasingly dominated by social media, Facebook and blogs are rapidly becoming a preferred means for businesses to communicate ideas, share information, and advertise goods and services.
Fast and Cheap
More and more micro businesses are turning away from websites in favor of a quick and free Facebook page or blog.
The keyword is “free.” Companies can spend significant dollars, time and resources creating, maintaining and updating websites. With Facebook, HTML and coding talents are not required, meaning you don’t have to spend time with an IT expert getting your site up.
Small businesses, specifically, may benefit most from social media in favor of websites. These community-based companies are less likely than larger businesses to see the need of garnering widespread attention and customers that a website might attract. Instead, using Facebook serves as a viable alternative for building a close-to-home community of patrons and users.
At the very least, Facebook enables small businesses to get their name, address and contact information onto the internet, where potential customers can find them.
Facebook and blogs actually may be superior methods for communicating with customers, says Tim Brown, partner at Salt Lake City advertising firm Richter 7. “One of the top advantages to using social media is that it allows companies to proactively communicate content to an audience who has chosen to show interest in your company,” he says.
And Facebook is more than a free internet storefront—it has powerful tools for engaging with your audience. “Its native functions allow you to schedule posts, quickly amplify successful ‘engaging’ posts and monitor effectiveness of all realms of engagement. Social media is powerful and will only gain more influence as companies catch on. The world has already adjusted; companies just need to figure it out to maximize business.”
The tools also include a set of analytics that enable companies to fine-tune their approach. “Over the last few years, Facebook has drastically improved its ability to allow companies to track [return on investment] and analytics,” says Brown. “It easily allows users to measure and assess effective types of posts, times of day to engage, and share videos, photos and links in an effective manner. When you have that level of data, you can take advantage of what’s working. You’re more nimble; you’re more responsive. And if you’re reading the data correctly, you’re more successful.”
Out of Your Control
Of course, employing Facebook, blogs or other social media sites to house company information isn’t without possible drawbacks.
A critical question is whether a business will lose any credibility if it lacks a website and opts for a social media site. In reality, it may all depend on your audience and how you see best fit to reach it.
But remember, not everyone has a Facebook account.
Another drawback is that companies don’t really “own” their Facebook site. “They are leasing it from Facebook, which has the power to, and regularly does, change its policies and permissions,” says Brown.
“Companies aren’t allowed too much customizable freedom in Facebook, the way they are through websites. And there’s something about not having your own website that makes you not feel legitimate, if you’re a business, unless you’re a surf shop or in a certain category, such as entertainment.”
Brown suggests using a blend of all communication formats to promote a business.
“We are seeing companies that run effective social media platforms use combinations of websites, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and other platforms to accomplish their objectives,” he says. “For example, case studies may be best used in a blog format, whereas with Facebook, you ideally wouldn’t want your posts to be longer than about three lines. If they are, fans are more likely to skip what you post. So it’s a matter of activating the right platform to accomplish objectives.”
If you’re still not sure whether you’re ready to forgo the website for a Facebook page or a blog, consider these four steps from Brown:
“Define your objective, identify your target audience, determine your messages to that audience and identify what you need to monitor to know your effort is a success,” he says.