The question of whether or not businesses still need a full website or not has come up a lot at the Business Networking and Social Media events I’ve been to recently including yesterday’s Open Coffee Sligo. I’ve not given it much thought until now but here’s my honest opinion as both a Facebook Page and Website owner myself and regardless of the fact that I’m a web designer!
For a start, it has to be mentioned that no website can ever be as well trafficked as the likes of Facebook so it makes sense to be where everybody is. I used to always say this about eBay to people who wanted to sell online, ie – go where the people are buying then try drag them back to your own site.
I’ve heard it said that your own site could never match the technology on Facebook etc but I disagree. Even a freely avaible and simple system like wordpress can emulate live blogging, commenting, video/photo sharing and social functions through the likes of Buddypress and various other plugins and templates. There’s also plugins to show Facebook Like buttons and Badges on your site and to export your site news or blog directly to Facebook and Twitter automatically so good connections can be made between Facebook and your own web precence.
I find a lot of my recent clients are aware of the fact that their own sites can be made communicate with Social Media sites and they specifically request this functionality when enquiring. I’ve not had any drop their sites or go with a Facebook page only yet.
Another important consideration is that while Facebook may be king of the hill at the minute, that may not always be the case. Who is to say in 3 years time that it won’t be shut down (possibly over privacy issues!?) or introduce fees or just succomb to a new site on the block. What happens to all your data and customer interaction in this case?
Also, with your own site you will always have full control over the likes of design, content and privacy, choosing exactly how you want it to work for you. As of now, there are no easy ways to capture specific customer data or sell products from Facebook but this is easy to do on your own site through forms and carts, etc..
The old online branding advice of avoiding the usage of freely available email addresses like @eircom.net or @yahoo.ie in favour of a professional business address like @your-company.com also applies in that people may think less of you for only bothering to have a freely available Facebook page rather than a professional custom web presence.
In short I think the way forward is to connect people’s sites with their business precence on the social media portals and not just decide on one or the other. At this point, as a web designer, I’m not too worried.