Bespoke websites can cost from as little as £99 to thousands of pounds, so should small businesses abandon them in favour of Social Media platforms to save time and money? Or does this strategy only work for certain established and niche industries? Are websites really necessary? Social Media sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are free, easy to use and update automatically and provide a ready audience for products and services. Why go to all the bother of having a website then?
The Case for Websites
While social media is free and offers a great way to market a business, the functionality of these sites is limited and that is the biggest drawback. There are several things that a website can do that Social Media cannot. Advanced functionality aside, having a website adds online credibility and respectability to your brand. Some larger companies frown upon employees using Social Media during office hours and may even block access to these sites through their firewalls. If you are selling business to business this needs to be taken into consideration. Social Media posts are showing up in Google searches but this is rather hit and miss. If you want to make sure your message is getting out there to all then a properly designed website with effective SEO is essential. Social Media is growing rapidly but there is still a large proportion of internet users who do not use it. If you want to ensure your message is getting out to as many potential clients as possible the answer is that you need a co-ordinated approach in which your website is the fulcrum of your online presence.
The truth is that this is not a binary question. It is not website or social media but both. When it comes to where to spend your time and money, well that depends upon the scarcity of both. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a website. Shopping around for a good independent website designer can save you as much as 80% on the cost from established design agencies. They will ensure SEO is done correctly and if you have any technical issues they will sort it out saving you valuable time. They may even be able to help point you in the right direction when it comes to establishing a social media presence.
Why use Social Media?
Social Media can have a dramatic effect upon traffic levels to your website. It can also highlight the quality and level of service you provide with positive interactions with Social Media users. The number of Facebook likes and Twitter followers you have can lend credibility to your online presence. Testimonials are gold dust and when you get them spread them around. Get them on your website, re-tweet them and post them to your Facebook business page.
Social Media may be free in its basic form but it does require some considerable investment in time. Once established you may be able to spend less than 10 minutes per day maintaining your social media presence but you need to build up a following first. I maintain and monitor a considerable number of website and using Google Analytics I can identify the number of people who visit these websites and from where. Organic searches (Google/Yahoo/Bing etc.) make up between 30–70% of all footfall to these sites. The biggest factor in this is Social Media. Some website owners have an active and prolific Social Media presence. These sites tend to have between two and three times the visitors of similar sites whose owners do not use Social Media and have less of a proportion or visitors from organic searching.
If you are a Start-Up or an SME who still has not really gotten to grips with the internet the lessons are clear. Even if you’re going to reduce the development spend on a traditional website to invest more time in social media, you need both strands for an effective internet presence.
Get yourself a website, pay for it if you can. Make sure it conveys you core business message and that it reflects who you are as a business. Sign up for Twitter, create a Facebook business page. If you work in a visual medium sign up for Pinterest and Instagram. And spend some time and effort posting and tweeting and getting to know your potential clients. Establish an audience and make connections with them. Engage in meaningful conversations and make it fun. And if you are unsure of what to do next, go online and ask for help, there are plenty of people online who will point you in the right direction.