In a time where social media dominates as a platform for conversation, advertising and just about all other methods of communication between brands and their audience, are websites still relevant?
We can all agree that having a digital presence in this day and age is essential, but to what extent? Do you really need to spend that extra cash on a fancy new website? Is the Facebook page that you threw together last night, sitting in your tighty-whities and sipping R100 scotch not enough?
The short simple answer is yes, it is enough, if you are only planning on marketing your homemade marmalade to the neighbourhood, and are above manually delivering the flyers your children spent the afternoon drawing up for you on Microsoft Word.
The problem with limiting yourself to a social media page alone is, quite simply, how much you sacrifice. A fully customizable, tailored-to-your-needs website can go much further in captivating a potential client’s attention when compared to the limitations in both appearance and functionality that a social media page is restricted by. A result of the platforms that these pages are built on unfortunately.
Let us delve a bit deeper into exactly what personalised websites and social media pages have to offer, and where they might fall short in comparison to one another.
A website is a home
Someone once described a website to me as a “home” for your online presence; it’s a space where you are free to create a digital version of your brand or idea for the entire world to see.
You have full control over everything, from the layout and style of the site, to the content you choose to display – making it the perfect platform to present your vision, your ideas and ultimately, what sets you ahead of your competitors.
- Total, uninhibited control – Owning your own website allows you to create a look and feel that suits your brand right down to the features that you implement.
- Referrals – The ease and simplicity behind existing customers being able to refer their friends and family to your site by a simple link will aid in the promotion of your brand by word of mouth.
- The formidability of a strong, established online brand identity cannot be overstated – The credibility behind having your own domain immediately builds trust between your brand and audience.
- Email address associated with your domain – custom email addresses are also great for credibility. Owning a domain allows you to create custom email addresses for yourself and your employees.
- Operating costs at a fraction of the price – If your website is commerce based and you’re selling something to your clients, you’re already cutting out massive costs like renting a physical store or having to pay wages to multiple employees.
- Online stores have no down time – You’re open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year!
- Complete activity tracking – How many people visit your site per day, where your visitors originate from, how long each of them spend on an individual page, how many people initiated contact in the form of messaging or emails. Information like this is all tracked for you automatically, which makes in-depth analysis reporting a breeze considering how many metrics you have at your disposal.
- Link building – Having other websites linking back to your website will increase your website’s authority and organic search engine rating. Resulting in you receiving more visitors per day due to your website’s authority. This of course requires strong, valuable and consistent content creation.
- Increased sales – Possibly one of the biggest advantages of having a website over a social media page is being able to take advantage of how Google and other search engine’s index their websites. A social media page will not show up as a first page result to the average users searching for ‘hardware stores’ – but a website that has been optimised correctly might – thanks to the fact that social media pages cannot be optimised for search engines.
- Maintenance – Keeping a large website’s hosting rich content up to date can be costly as well as time consuming
- Required Marketing Investment – In order to gain and maintain traffic through to your website, you will need to put together an in-depth marketing strategy. This might only cost you time and effort, fortunately.
- Infrastructure and Design – It goes without saying that the more complicated the functionality and design of your website is, the more it will cost to set up.
One of the biggest draws of a social media page is, quite simply, simplicity. Social media pages are far easier, and far quicker to set up. A social media novice could do around 30 minutes of research and have their page setup within the remaining time left in the hour.
The global metrics regarding the usage of social media are actually ridiculous, a staggering 3.08 billion users have been noted as using social media in 2020. Compare that to the not-so-staggering number of 0.97 billion in 2010 and you’re looking at a growth rate of 217.53% over the course of 10 years, and this number is only going to be increasing. The audience is out there; paid advertising and targeting will enable you to reach them and help build up brand awareness.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of social media marketing strategies:
Social media pros:
- Your audience is massive – With the sheer volume of people using social media, your marketing campaign is bound to reach a large amount of users
- You’re directly connected with your audience – You know exactly who is interested in your business or brand because they choose to follow you. This enables you to get to know them better and, as a result, provide better customer service.
- The ability to FREELY post organic content – Social media platforms enable you to post a variety of content to engage with your audience (with?) : photos and videos can go a long way in captivating the attention of your target market. The best part? It doesn’t cost you a cent.
- Access to paid advertising services – Obtaining new leads is the cornerstone to brand and business growth. Social media’s paid advertisements allow you to reach these potential clients through ads that you have tailored to appear in the feeds of people who are looking for what you have to offer.
- Marketing campaign performance evaluation – Monitoring the general response to a marketing campaign you are running is made easy thanks to the statistical tracking provided by social media platforms. How many people viewed your post, commented on it, liked it, shared it, etc. Metrics like these are useful when reviewing the success of a marketing campaign and identifying what worked and what didn’t.
- Funneling traffic through to your website – If you have a website, a social media page is a great catalyst for driving up traffic. Compelling, captivating content can incite curiosity in users. Posting a link to your website on your page will provide them with easy access, allowing them to learn more about what you have to offer.
- Viral content – People love to share things that they enjoy with others in their network. If you have a wide reach, and your content is shared regularly, your content is being spread on an exponential scale, for free!
Social media cons:
- Negative feedback – They say that there is no such thing as bad publicity, right? WRONG. Negative feedback directed at your business or brand can have disastrous effects on your potential client conversions.
- Opening up the doors for potential embarrassment – As mentioned earlier, in the viral portion of the pros of social media, people love to share things that they enjoy. But what they love to share even more, are ideas and posts that they find controversial. One tiny oversight could lead to a maelstrom of negative publicity that will require a lot of damage control to come back from.
- Lack of response – You already know that a substantial amount of time needs to be invested into a marketing campaign in order for it to be successful. 10 hours spent on creating content that results in little to no engagement can be incredibly disheartening.
- Highly competitive market – Your posts are not the only posts your potential leads will be seeing. Your content doesn’t just need to be good; it needs to be better or at least on a par with your competitors.
- It can be expensive – Without investing money into paid advertising, you might not be able to achieve the reach that your brand needs in order to grow.
- Limited stat tracking – The feedback statistics that you are presented with might be underwhelming when compared to that of a website, as these statistics are limited to what the social media platform you have chosen to use provides.
- Your content might be less your own than you realised – The biggest price you pay when using social media is checking ‘I agree’ in that terms and conditions box. You might not be as in control of the content you publish as you may think, better read that fine print.
We can see that social media pages definitely have their uses when considered as marketing tools, rather than your one-stop-shop to online success. When implemented and promoted correctly, they can reach a wide variety of potential clients all over the globe. But, this initial contact should only be considered the first step in presenting your brand, used as a tool to drive traffic through to your website with the goal of converting a potential client’s curiosity, into interest.
If you want your business to thrive in this digital age, having an active social media page linking back to a professionally produced website would be considered the basics, the bare minimum required to market yourself properly and put yourself on the map.