It seems like every day there is a new social network popping up with hopes and dreams of capturing the precious time of us internet users. Business owners have always gravitated to where the people are focusing their attention. When the radio took attention away from the newspaper, businesses focused their attention on radio. When tv started to take over radio, the same change happened. Then internet took focus away from the tv. Now the changes are taking place inside of the internet. Businesses are focusing on engaging with their customers on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Google recently released business profiles for brands on Google+. As the changes keep coming and focus keeps shifting I would like to make an argument as to why your main focus should still be your website.
1. Social Networks are for Sharing
Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are all about sharing content. Look at the updates from your friends through out the day. What are they sharing and where do the links land? When a funny video is shared the video resides on Youtube and is brought in as a link. When an inspirational blog post is shared it comes in to Facebook as a link. These social networks are sharing platforms. They were not designed to be the “homepage” for your business. Having a page on these social networks has its place in your push for brand awareness but it should not be your main focus.
Your businesses social network page should be an extension of your website. It should complement your website. These social network pages can only contain a small amount of data about your business. I know that it is tempting to make the change because it seems that more interaction happens on your social network page than your website but I encourage you to keep your website as your main focus.
2. Not Everybody is on Social Networks
I have seen some companies forward their website URL to their Facebook page. They gave up on having a website for their company and assume that since “everybody” is on Facebook that they would just use their Facebook page. This is a bad idea. Not only are you alienating those who do not have a Facebook account from finding out more information about your company, you are showing most of us that you are lazy. Posting updates to a wall on Facebook is quick and easy, however it is not a good representation of your business. I can think of very few businesses that have so little about them that they can fit it on the Info page on their Facebook page.
3. You Can’t Capture Useful Data
Social Networks have the good stuff, all of the data from users profiles that would help us market better. They leverage that data so they can sell ad placement. Facebook allows ads to be sold on their website through their system which if used correctly can be pretty powerful. However, we do not get any of that data. If somebody clicks on a link to my website and finds something interesting, I can make a connection with them through a contact form. A viewer can only find your Facebook page if they either already knew your companies name, one of their friends shared a link to your page or saw your ad and clicked on it. Once they get to your page there is no way for them to communicate with your business other than to post on your wall publicly. It takes going to your website to engage on a more private level.
4. You Can’t Sell on Most Social Networks
Facebook does not allow you to sell directly to other Facebook users. Most social networks have this rule because it is a pretty huge risk to let people sell on your website when you have no control over what and how it is being done. You can post links to products that can be sold but you would need a website for that. This goes right back to my 1st point: Social Networks Are For Sharing!
5. Social Networks Go Away
How useful do you think some of those Myspace profiles that companies poured time and resources into back in 2006 are? Of course not all resources last forever but I watched some businesses pour all of their efforts into their Myspace profile just to have to switch focus to Facebook and Twitter which people expect even more of a presence on. There is a happy medium between having a presence on social networks and remembering that there is a “rest of the world” out there. Social networks are made for sharing content. If a social network goes away, we will find a new one to share on. Sharing has been taking place since the beginning of time and that platform continues to change. Do not put all of your eggs in one basket.
6. People Don’t Ask Stupid Questions Publicly
As I mentioned in #3, there are few ways with social networks to communicate privately. On Facebook this is not possible and on Twitter it is only possible if both people are following each other. You want to be available at the moment your customer or prospective customer has a question or concern. Most people are just fine asking any question through an email or a contact form. That question goes to one person who can answer it. The question is not on public display for all to see and potentially mock. Yes, we are talking about the insecurity of people. If I am unsure about something and ask a question, I don’t want to find out that the answer I was looking for was painted on the wall in front of me for all eyes to see. Let me email you through a form on your website and receive my responses privately.
7. Not All Forms of Customer Engagement Should Be Public
As I mentioned in my last point, not all people like making their issues public. When I want an answer from the source I go to the website and email directly. Posting on a public forum or social network often does not get me the answer I wanted. It gets me answers from users. Sometimes this can be good but often you get bad information. The more you force users to engage with your business on social networks the more you will have to pay attention to those conversations. Wall and topic posts from your customers could also take off in a negative direction. A minor concern that should have been sent in an email could turn into a rant feed of other customers who were not yet ready to complain but now are since someone brought it up.
8. Support Should Be Scaleable
Use the social networks to encourage people to contact you through your website to handle support issues. I really like how some of the large companies out there are using social media to make a public display out of how they are helping customers, however this can backfire for you if you focus to much on helping customers through social networks and forget about those coming to your website for support. Helping each customer with their issues through a social network is not scaleable. Support through a social network takes place like a conversation. This takes much more time to help a person than if it was over an email. Over time, the support posts to your profile, wall or feed will disappear as more posts push it off of the first page and closer to not being found at all. Use the customer engagement you have on social networks to create great FAQ pages on your website. Do you want to continue to answer those common questions on your social network pages all of the time? If the answer already resided in a FAQ section on your site, you could respond to the social network posts with a link to an answer on your site.
9. Your Website is Searchable
When was the last time you did a Google search for something and it resulted in a post to a social network? As of the time I am writing this it is very rare to get a search result that links to a post on a social network profile. This usually only happens when the search is very specific and there are no websites that have written about the subject. Posts to social networks are typically pretty short. Facebook limits posts to 420 characters, Twitter limits are set at 140. If I was focusing all of my attention on my Facebook page, how could I write an article like this? It would have to be broken into chunks and I would have to be very short winded on topics that could require a lot of explaining.
I write articles like this for two reasons. The first is to share information and help people make more informed decisions when it comes to marketing. The second is to increase my own brand awareness. I don’t feel that I can provide much value in the different ways that I attempt to in 420 or 140 characters or less.
10. A Website Can Make or Break Your Business
I never hear anybody say that they decided to do business with someone else because that business has a Facebook page. However I do hear people say that they decided to do business with a company because their website was very professional. You can differentiate yourself from your competition with your website, however for the most part all Facebook and Twitter pages look the same. You are just like everybody else and there are many perfectly good reasons why you should try your best not to be.
If you were just like everybody else why would you care about marketing your business in the first place? There has to be a reason why you are better than your competition? What sets you apart from the other guy/gal in town who offers what you do? When you think of ways to get those points across to customers who may not know you from your competition do you think that a social network profile could accomplish this for you? You can engage your followers in a way that will help build faith in your company but that can only go so far. The above nine points that I made all provide reasons as to why you would want your main focus to be your website.
I am not shunning the use of social networks. I have a profile on more social networks than I can even remember. My argument is that you focus your attention on your website and use social networks as a way to drive traffic to your website. Place all of your good content and nuggets of wisdom in your website where people can contact you. Encourage whoever is running your social network profiles to direct customers to your website for support where they can find FAQ’s, blog posts, articles, white papers, answers or direct contacts to the departments that can answer their questions effectively.
Social Networks can make for a great place to share stories and other information that is great, but not great enough to be a main focus on your website. Social networks have character limits because the content is meant to be kept short, just like the attention span of those browsing them. On Twitter, if you can’t say it in 140 characters or less, figure out how it can be turned into a blog post on your website. Use the social networks to share your catchy article title to drive traffic to that article on your website.
Thanks for taking the time to read this long article. As you can tell, I am pretty passionate about marketing and making the best use of your time and resources. If I can be of any help to you or your company, please feel free to contact me.