Tempted to forego a website for the free and easy Facebook page? Think again. | SteamboatToday.com

Tempted to forego a website for the free and easy Facebook page? Think again.

Sydney Schalit/ For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Pilot & Today

— Recently, I was asked, "Can my {business} Facebook page replace my website?" My kneejerk response was, "No, of course not!" Then, I looked more deeply into it to discover reasons for, and against, my answer.

It is easy to understand why business owners would be tempted to forego a seemingly costly website for a free Facebook page. Websites, especially those more than four or five years old — and, therefore outdated — can be difficult to manage or update and are probably not mobile responsive, while the Facebook platform for business is user-friendly, quick to edit and easy to use, even for a novice.

Facebook has upwards of 1.7 billion active users, according to Statista.com; depending on your perspective, that number is either appealing or appalling. Even still, relying on Facebook solely for your online presence will eventually negatively impact your business due to lack of control, news feed fatigue and inherent limitations.

Issue: Control

Facebook is famous for unveiling policy changes with little to no warning, which can have major impacts on a page. If you're a busy business owner, it is possible you will miss some of those announcements, your page will suffer and you will be left in the dark. Conversely, with a website, you have full control of it's content, presence and functionality. With your website, there are so surprises — you own it, you operate it, you control it.

Issue: Fatigue

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A Facebook page has to stay active, with engaging content and posts, in order for people to find and "Like" it. With that in mind, those who "Like" your page, will most likely only see it in their newsfeed, because it's uncharacteristic for a fan to visit a Facebook page unless there is a post in their newsfeed that encourages them to click and visit the page. This means that, not only will most of your Facebook page content go unnoticed, but also that your audience can grow weary of your posts showing up in their newsfeed, causing them to disengage with your page — not necessarily clicking the un-like button, but by hiding your wearisome presence.

When Facebook users want to learn more about a company, they are more likely to Google it than go to your page, because, as mentioned before, Facebook is notorious for policy and layout changes that can make it difficult for a customer to find the information they are seeking.

Issue: Limitations

Facebook, even with its mighty reach and ease of use, does not give your brand the search engine optimization or SEO, it needs to succeed in online searches. A website dedicated to your brand has the power of Google search on its side. A Facebook page can be found via a search engine, but it does not provide the same comprehensive SEO control of a dedicated website. A website enables you to tailor your content to the exact kind of phrases and keywords your potential customers are searching for, compared to a Facebook page, which is limited in this aspect. Showing up as often and highly as possible in online searches is a critical component of any business' acquisition strategy.

Solution: Both is best

In the end, it seems my kneejerk reaction was only partly correct: Yes, every small business should have a dedicated website, and no, you should not forego that website for the free and easy Facebook page. But, instead of yes or no, you should integrate both to get the best results.

Your website is the one place on the Internet where you get to control exactly how your business is portrayed: From photography to font, content to contact information, your website belongs to and represents your business. That content should then feed your Facebook page, which will enhance and reinforce your brand while reaching a different audience and offering brand exposure.

Facebook is, after all, free, and it offers a level of customer engagement a website does not normally have. Even with its limitations and issues, Facebook is a driving force in every online industry and should be a part of your business.

To create the kind of digital presence that is required for a small business to succeed in today's world, having both is best.

Sydney Schalit is the content manager at Steamboat Digital, a local digital advertising agency specializing in web design, video production, social media marketing strategy and beyond.