We originally wrote about this topic in October 2019 but the recent Facebook outage (not only affecting Facebook but also Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) shows that the message here has never been more relevant. It’s a risky business to have all your eggs in one basket.
We quite often speak to small businesses who have a thriving presence on Facebook and don’t see the need to have their own website as well. There are a number of reasons why relying on Facebook as an alternative to a website is a bad idea.
- It is risky to rely on a third party to look after your data – Your website is a business-critical asset and it’s risky to surrender control of it to a third party. Accidents can happen and even big companies that seem secure can make mistakes. In October 2021 all of Facebook’s services were knocked out for over six hours by what (at time of writing) seems likely to have been a technical error within the company. Companies that relied solely on Facebook or Instagram for their business were effectively completely paralysed during this time. And that’s not the only example. In 2019 MySpace admitted that it had accidentally deleted 12 years worth of users’ content and that the content could not be recovered. MySpace was once one of the most visited websites in the world and users trusted it with vast amounts of content. 50 million songs from 14 million artists were lost, in many cases forever. There is no guarantee that something similar could not happen with Facebook. Indeed, there’s nothing to stop Facebook turning off your content whenever it likes if you were to contravene its terms and conditions in some way.
- Not everyone is on Facebook – Facebook use is declining, particularly amongst younger people who are increasingly choosing other social channels. If you only use social media to communicate with your customers then you’ll have to move to new channels as they do. A website is a much more stable and permanent presence and, whilst not everyone uses Facebook, more or less everyone browses the internet.
- You don’t control your Facebook page – If you rely only on Facebook then Facebook has complete control over how your brand is presented. The look and feel of your Facebook page is determined by Facebook, giving you very limited opportunity to present your brand in your own way.
- Facebook might not be around for ever – The history of the internet is full of examples of social channels and websites that people assumed would be around forever but have now more or less disappeared. In the 1990s many businesses set up shop in Geocities, which was at one time the third most browsed site on the internet. In 2009 the site was shut down and 38 million pages of content were lost.
- Facebook is in business to make money – Although it doesn’t cost you anything to have a business page on Facebook it is becoming increasingly hard to get anyone to actually see that page or interact with it if you’re not prepared to pay Facebook money. Years ago businesses could generate significant amounts of organic traffic on Facebook for free but that’s not the case any more. If you want Facebook to show your page to people you’re almost certainly going to have to pay it money. Alternatively, you can drive traffic to your own website for free.
- Having your own website gives you more credibility with Google – Whilst Google will pick up your Facebook page, having a website gives you much more control over the search engine optimisation process, enabling you to build a site with content that’s precisely optimised for the interests of your customers in a way that can be much harder to do on Facebook.
- A website builds credibility with consumers too – Something like 60% of consumers will look at a company’s website before deciding whether or not to do business with that company. Not having your own website limits your opportunity to talk to potential customers at this stage in the buying process and can give the impression that you’re not a ‘real’ business, or at least not a stable and reliable one.
We’re big fans of social media and Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms certainly have a valuable place in most organisations’ marketing strategies. However, we’d strongly advise against solely using platforms controlled by one organisation. By all means concentrate your business through Facebook, but it’s a sensible precaution to have a website as well so that you have something to fall back on in the event of problems with Facebook. Similarly, we’d suggest having a presence on other social channels that aren’t owned by Facebook (such as LinkedIn or Twitter) for the same reason. We wrote more about how to select the most appropriate social channels for your business here.
Small businesses are sometimes reluctant to invest into setting up a website because they think it’s going to be a lot of work, but setting up a Facebook page and keeping it active is a lot of work too. In fact getting a website up and running can be a very quick process. We have some resources that can help you.
- Take a look at our free training video – How to set up a one page WordPress site in less than an hour.
- Sign up for one to one Build a website in one day course and by the end of the day you’ll have a simple but fully functioning website that you’ll be able to easily customise to the needs of your business.