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The rise of the social network as a platform for conducting business has been meteoric. It wasn’t all that long ago that many were still questioning whether Facebook and its kin were useful beyond their basic function of sharing pictures, YouTube clips and mundane updates. However, since opening up Fcommerce to select companies and Google’s introduction of business profiles on Plus, plenty of big brands are taking it very seriously indeed.
So if you can promote your business through a free Google+ profile or Facebook page, why should you worry about having a website too?
Developing a website costs money. You have to buy a domain, buy the annual hosting, design a theme and then populate your pages. This can amount to a significant investment, particularly in the initial stages. Corners can be cut, for instance you could choose a free theme and a basic hosting package, but the results are likely to be below par.
You can get yourself set up on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and any number of business directories, including Yell.com and Qype, in a matter of minutes and it won’t cost a penny. With most of these profiles being crawled and indexed, it’s easy to achieve decent search engine visibility for your brand too. If you’re a services based business, then you can fulfil most of your online requirements through these few basic profiles, including interacting with your clients and prospects.
But they do have limitations. For instance, if you don’t have a unique trading name, other businesses could easily outrank you in searches. This will limit your visibility and reduce the chances of people finding you. Equally, some may be wary about making initial contact through a social platform. Whilst you can advertise your contact details within your profile, some will still want to check you out online before taking that initial step.
This is where backing up your social media activity with a website is so important. The two work extremely well together. One acting as a static resource or sales platform, the other as a more fluid and interactive customer services forum. Whilst remaining independent from one another, all are ultimately linked through your branding. You can also pass traffic between the various properties, helping to ensure that potential customers don’t stray and can find out everything they need through your sites and profiles.
It’s likely that some businesses are increasingly going to rely on social media profiles rather than a website. Pubs and clubs offer a good example of where building a community to advertise events or promotions is likely to pay dividends. In fact many have been doing this for years, ensuring optimal visibility within their target market. However, whether the same will become true of all industries remains to be seen.
Websites offer obvious benefits. First and foremost of these is your ability to control 100% of the content. It’s your domain and therefore you can design it as you wish and write content that best matches your branding. You are also able to target keywords beyond your company name, which enables you to attract more visitors and build your brand within the industry. So whilst it will require investment, for most businesses this is a price well worth paying.
So websites are far from obsolete. Their influence may fade, eventually, but having a strong site and social presence working together is certainly going to become even more important than it is today.