Now that most social platforms have a form of ‘business profile’ option, SMB owners can often find themselves wondering if there’s any point in them having a website as well as Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. While it makes sense to ask this question, especially with new features like product tagging on Instagram and Facebook, having a website is still very important for SMBs. The two platforms have their own benefits, but they are at their most beneficial when used together.
The benefits of social media for small businesses
It’s rare to find a business that doesn’t have a presence on at least one social media platform, as this has always been a good way of opening the doors for communication with potential and actual customers. Since such a huge majority of the business population is now active on social media, it’s no longer a particular advantage to have social media accounts – but it’s definitely a disadvantage not to.
It’s quick, free and easy to create an account on any of the main social media platforms, meaning that businesses can begin to build an online presence almost immediately. Because of the interactivity of platforms like Facebook and Twitter, they can begin to interact with their customers straight away, while also getting their brand seen by the friends of those they communicate with, as their conversations show up on others’ newsfeeds.
While social media offers some of the functions needed by SMBs, it lacks permanence and security. Instead of having ownership over their online presence, SMBs are effectively ‘renting’ online space from the social media sites they use. This means that they are totally at the mercy of any algorithm changes that may prevent their page from appearing on newsfeeds. More and more frequently, businesses are being forced to pay for advertising in order to gain any exposure, rather than being able to keep using social media as a free way of growing their brand. In addition, while it may seem as though the likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will be around forever, there’s no guarantee that they won’t eventually go down the same route as websites like Myspace and Friendster – meaning that SMBs are also at the mercy of the fate of the platforms themselves.
Opportunities for branding and credibility are also limited on social media. SMBs must fit their branding around that of the platform in question, which seriously limits their options. While no business can have particularly strong branding on social media, not making up for this elsewhere can leave them lacking credibility and memorability. As mentioned above, while using social media can add to a business’s credibility slightly, this effect is now limited by the saturation-levels of social media, leaving everyone on a fairly even playing field.
The benefits of a website for small businesses
In light of these drawbacks, a website can act as the perfect solution to the problems posed by social media. It’s possible to have much more ownership over a website than over social media, meaning that potential impermanence and changing algorithms are no longer an issue. There’s also a greater sense of credibility included in a website. This works on a sliding scale: just a website gives a certain amount; a domain name and personalised email address gives even more. A website also serves as a central location for information – instead of having to ask questions on social media, customers can find answers on the small business’s website. This reduces the need for repetitive questions on social media, freeing it up as a platform for customer feedback, reviews and more favourable questions – all with the potential to build a business’s brand. This directly benefits the SMB and the SMB owner at the same time, as it also frees up valuable time for the owners, who only need to answer these questions once.
While social media has more functionalities than it did a few years ago, websites still have a much broader range on offer. From blogs to eCommerce and more, they offer SMBs a smooth and complete way of operating that social media can’t. All of these functionalities work in conjunction with advanced website analytics – whether these are included in the website builder itself or from an external system like Google Analytics. While social media includes some analytics, they are not complex or complete enough for SMBs’ needs.
Best of both worlds
It’s easy to pitch websites against social media when it comes to SMBs’ web presence; in reality, they can work together in perfect harmony to make a much stronger online presence than either could alone. Both methods strengthen SEO, and a good social media following can drive customers to an SMB’s website when it matters most – such as during a promotion or a big event. While this driving force aspect of social media is incredibly important and useful, it can’t help SMBs reach their full potential without the stability, security and flexibility of a well branded website. A sales promotion, for example, can find popularity on social media, but can’t become a reality without the eCommerce functionality of a website; similarly, an event which requires customers to register their interest with their details will run much more smoothly with a dedicated contact form.
However they choose to use the two, SMBs can (and should) use social media and a website in tandem to get the most out of both of these versatile, potential-packed platforms. To find out more about how you can help your SMB customers grow their businesses online with our sitebuilder and its inbuilt social media functionality, email us today on firstname.lastname@example.org.