For some of us, this question is akin to asking “why do humans need air?” or “what is the answer to life, the universe, and everything?”
But there are some unbelievers out there, some who doubt the importance of having a website in 2013 and beyond. Some justify it with the fact they have a Facebook, Yelp, or LinkedIn pages. Other business owners say that their customers find them just fine without a website.
If you have convinced yourself 100% you don’t need a website then don’t worry about this blog post. But if you have ever responded to the question “Why don’t you have a website?” and had an uncomfortable feeling in your gut or felt the words come out of your mouth and immediately questioned them, keep reading. Because you do need a website. Any serious business owner that doesn’t have a website is doing a disservice to their potential growth and customers.
Social Media is not a substitute
Let me give you a new mantra: your social media accounts are not a substitute for a website. Yes, that includes your stellar Facebook page, your super interesting Twitter account, your informative LinkedIn page, your highly reviewed Yelp account, or your active Google+ page. Your social media pages even might be appearing at the top of search results, which might lull business owners into thinking there’s no need for a website.
Social media is necessary and key to most digital strategies, but in no way should these pages be a substitute for a fully realized website.
A good website should tie all your social media together, harnessing their collective strengths and serving as an endpoint for all of your customers, followers and fans. When you rely on social media to be your only presence online, you lose the ability to have a safe haven, where you control every aspect of the look and message.
Consider Facebook pages. Every Facebook page is fundamentally identical, regardless if you have a few dozen fans or a few thousand. There is a cover photo and a profile picture. You can pin posts, upload pictures, and look at your analytics. You can add apps, which increase the flexibility of a Facebook page, but at the end of the day, a Facebook page is a Facebook page is a Facebook page.
Now look at websites. Websites can do whatever they want—technically. (Practically, yes, there are some similarities between websites, but that’s because good developers understand how customers interact and flow through a site.) But look at websites like Buffalo Wild Wings or Coca-Cola. Every aspect of these sites is branded to let their customers know they’ve come to the right place. Big pictures, interactive elements, and customized content not only appeal to customers but keeps customers on sites longer.
And this isn’t some exclusive club reserved for major corporations and nationally recognized brands. Every business deserves to stand out from their competitors, and having an identical Facebook page isn’t doing that.
When you use social media channels, you are playing by their rules. For example, up until September, if you wanted to have a contest or promotion Facebook, you had to run such content through an application. They’ve since reversed that policy, but that used to be a rule. They can make whatever rule they want, and if you don’t agree with those new policies, you’re out of luck.
With a website, you can do what you want. You could give away and iPad to anyone who clicks on a button conceivably (not sure why you would, but you could do it!). There are few things you can’t do on a website. People have even recreated classic video games in your browser. It all comes down to your budget, how good are the programmers you hired, and your vision.
Social media is a great way to get the attention of people, but where do those people go? Are they really going to stay on your page? Their newsfeed is ticking away right next to your page. When they find out their friend got engaged, you think they’re going to keep browsing your menu or go searching Facebook for pictures?
Websites are the landing points for traffic, equivalent to having a storefront at a mall. Social media, on the other hand, is the sign spinner in front of your store. They might pull in some traffic, they’re kind of entertaining to look at while there’s nothing else to do, but at the end of the day, do you remember the sign spinner or the merchandise inside the store?
Plus, selling products through websites is far easier than selling through Facebook. 2930 Creative can even build you an ecommerce site.
Social media is a powerful tool, one that we have used to great effect for our clients, but I wouldn’t confuse it as panacea to all of your digital needs. A website offers legitimacy to your business, a virtual storefront, and a chance to show off your uniqueness and establish brand identity.
But maybe I’m wrong. If you’re a small business owner who doesn’t believe you need a website, we’d love to hear from you, either in the comments below or in via email at email@example.com.