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The move to social media is the most important shift in digital marketing since the birth of the internet. In the same way that CRM was the buzzword of the 90s, social media is the touchstone of the noughties and the teens.
Gone are the days of big and costly interactive websites. More and more people are choosing to communicate with their brands via social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Many discover brands via these channels too. Of course this depends on your target market, but if the majority of them are already on Facebook or Twitter then the question becomes, do you really still need a website?
No: why Facebook & social media is more important
Facebook is highly customisable. Facebook tabs are capable of hosting third-party applications, allowing you to create the most elaborate interactive promotion or the simplest game.
Facebook Connect allows for the instant integration of applications and external content into a user’s news feed. This content can come from anywhere and all your consumer needs to access it is their Facebook login details.
Every interaction on your Facebook Page, from liking a video to playing a game, is shown in your Fans’ news feeds. If even one of their friends ‘Likes’ your page, that then shows up in their friends’ feeds, and so on. This network effect gives your messages incredible (potential) reach, for relatively little effort.
Perhaps the most important rule of online marketing is: Fish where the fish are. Facebook has over 600-million users. Obviously only a small percentage will come across your page, but think how difficult and costly it is to drive even a few thousand people to your website via smart SEO and banner ads alone.
You can incorporate all your other social media activities into your Facebook Page. For example, this might be a YouTube tab that pulls through your latest videos or a LinkedIn tab that shows your business contacts and recommendations.
It’s easy and free to create events and photo albums on Facebook. Facebook even allows you to create an online store within your Page.
You can speak to your customers directly and in real time, especially on Twitter, instead of asking them to complete an online form on your website.
But, having said that….
Yes: why you still need a website
Your website is your business card. A reputable company that wants to be taken seriously still needs its own domain and a well-designed website.
Your website no longer needs to be a complex and expensive platform with fancy built-in features. However, it should be easy to navigate, professionally designed, and contain the most important information, such as contact and product details.
If you run an online promotion that requires a microsite for some reason, then you will have a platform from which to launch this. You can always use Facebook Connect to link it into the social network.
You do not own your Facebook Page, but you do own your website. You also have to play nicely and follow Facebook’s rules and regulations or your Page might be removed.
On balance, the verdict is yes – you do still need a website – but it is not the place to be spending the majority of your time, money or marketing efforts. Facebook’s features make it easier, especially for smaller and medium-sized businesses, to get your message out. It also offers a potential audience that no amount of online advertising spend can match.
Be smart. Keep your website simple and invest in social media, especially Facebook content management, applications and competitions that speak to your customers in the space they enjoy.