In my 10+ years in digital marketing strategy, I’ve seen many businesses who have established their core marketing offline, using their Facebook page as their “official website”. If this sounds like you, and it’s working well enough for you, then the proof is in the pudding – you’re using Facebook as your website. Nothing wrong with that as long as you’re happy with the results!
The reason why I was made aware of these successful, thriving businesses was because they had reached the stage where they were no longer happy with the level of business they were getting. They saw a competitor with stronger growth, or their own business slowed down as times changed. For those who are looking to open up the toolkit and explore what you can achieve online, there’s a whole plethora of strategies, technologies, and audiences out there that you simply won’t reach with just a Facebook page.
Can a Facebook page replace a website?
I still get asked this question every now and then, typically from fresh startups who are looking at saving coin, and there are several ways you can argue the what-if’s and the yeah-but-I-only-need’s. But the generalised, nutshell summary is no. Sorry guys, but let’s start from no, and work our way backwards to see why the answer is no.
Fundamentally, if you’re interested in getting a website, it’s because you want a website design that sings your praises, and paints your services/portfolio/pricing/benefits in the very best light possible. Right?
So right there, it already starts to fall apart from a design perspective. Facebook pages, being templated and controlled in what you can and can’t do on it, will never let you really customise your user experience. For starters, all pages have a Facebook logo in the top-right-hand corner! You can set some images, but the vast majority of the page is, well, Facebook.
Beyond that, we can talk about functionality. Facebook has gradually expanded its suite of business features, and you can now add elements such as your Services, your Menus, and your products via the Shop feature. But what if you wanted to create a recurring membership service? What if you wanted to let people book out appointment slots? There are so many use cases that sit outside Facebook’s feature set that a business could need, many of which are easily handled by free plugins installed on a straightforward WordPress website.
It doesn’t stop there either. From a user perspective, you’ll never get away from the fact that people realise Facebook pages are a free service, and can give the impression that your business is less professional or competent, before you ever get the chance to speak to the customer. That’s if your customers can find your Facebook page at all – your search engine optimisation (SEO) capabilities are very limited, and given the norm is for businesses to have their own website actively optimised for search, it’s unlikely your Facebook page will be found at all.
All of that’s not to say DON’T get a Facebook page though. Sure, there’s a lot that a website can do for your business that Facebook pages can’t, but the flipside is also true. Remember that, like everything else online, Facebook in itself is a niche and market that you otherwise won’t reach if you don’t give it a go. Name one other channel that allows you to aggressively target specific demographics of users to the same level of detail, with the same level of ease, as Facebook’s audiences? You’ve got similar styles of demographic targeting available via LinkedIn, but not only is the targeting more simplistic, the audience is smaller as well. Don’t get left behind, if you’re looking to work on your online game, work on your website, and have your Facebook page working alongside it to grow your reach even further.
Why do you need a website for your business?
Nowadays, if you’re looking for a product or a service, there are really only two ways: asking your networks for trusted recommendations, or searching online. As the adage goes, the last time I picked up the phone book was to use it as a doorstop! In the days before the Internet became ubiquitous, being listed in the phone book was the way to be found, and now, having a presence online is the way to be found.
There are still directories and listings online, of course, and these are still considered worthwhile avenues to explore for your presence. But with the technologies the Internet has provided, websites now present even startup businesses with the opportunity to have a highly detailed, colourful and informative sales presence up 24/7.
Instead of having a cookie-cutter listing, businesses that put in the effort can have their brand voice clearly presented to their target audience, in the exact way that they know will appeal most and compel their customers to enquire. With a website, you can feature testimonials, photos of your shop, run videos of your products or services, and take bookings or orders without the user ever needing to pick up the phone or start their car.
With such enormous capabilities and convenience made more attainable than ever, the norm for running a business now includes having a website, usually backed with some strong traffic generation strategies to ensure the website receives the right traffic. For almost a decade, traditional opinions have been shifting and even large corporations are now realising how important it is for Digital Directors to have a seat at the board table. There’s no longer a question of whether a website is needed, and the conversation is now about how to get the most out of your website.
How can I make my website profitable?
I get it. Websites and digital marketing can be seriously baffling. With technology moving faster than ever, it’s hard enough for businesses to be proficient and competitive in their own industry, let alone staying on top of what best practices are for their website!
Compound that with all manner of digital marketing strategies being dispersed by practitioners of all levels of competence and experience, and it’s a recipe for people feeling ripped off and frustrated, left right and centre. So let’s take a look at the fundamentals of how you can make your website profitable.
First and foremost, it’s important that you’re driving the right traffic to your website. If you’re a dog groomer but your website is somehow only showing to cat owners, that’s not going to be profitable. If you’re struggling to understand who’s reaching your website, talk to a digital marketing team (like us!) to make sure your target audience is able to find and engage with your website.
Driving traffic to the site could involve paying for advertising however, so actually there’s a secret Step 0 that I’ll sneak in – make sure your website is able to track who’s reaching your website, and what they’re doing on your website once they arrive, so you can start to measure and optimise for profitability. This is most commonly in the form of a well-configured implementation of Google Analytics. If you’ve already got a digital marketing team and they’ve never mentioned this to you as Step 0, get a new team, and thank us later.
So let’s skip ahead to the next part of the journey – You’ve got the right traffic on your website, what can you do to make your website profitable? Just like meeting someone in person for the first time, your website only has a few seconds for that vital first impression to be made, so make sure your website is strong and drop-dead gorgeous. Make sure it loads fast, as your customers are busy people. Don’t ever have typos on your site, as it will detract from the customer’s perception of your competence. Prefer for customers to call rather than e-mail? Talk to your web designer, and make sure your preferred contact details are prominent and enticing to interact with!
Obviously, all industries are different so your mileage may vary. For example, higher value industries such as property agents may not have customers that buy straight away, and require multiple touch points of a period of weeks or months before an engagement. Get on the phone with your digital marketing team and ask about remarketing/retargeting. You’ve seen the ads that seem to follow you around the Internet after you’ve been on a website? That’s remarketing and retargeting at work, and it serves to maintain top-of-mind awareness and presence, so that as soon as the customer is ready to buy, they won’t need to look very far to find you. Don’t lose that fish once it’s on the line!
Finally, once the customer has enquired with your business or purchased a product, make sure your business processes are aligned with the rest of your customer’s path to purchase. Your Google Search ad promised the customer your business’ unique benefits, so they went to the website. Your website then presented them with pleasing testimonials from past customers lauding your business’ prowess. Now that they’ve enquired, be sure to present them with an excellent customer experience, so they will leave further glowing reviews and rave about you on social media, starting the cycle anew.
What does a website have that a Facebook business page doesn’t?
Credibility, credibility, credibility. It’s the online equivalent of having your own office, with your name on the front, instead of having a desk at someone else’s! With your own domain name, your ability to develop brand recognition is just that much stronger. What looks more professional, email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org?
E-mails are another consideration – when you get your own website, you also open up the possibility of having company e-mail addresses, which always looks more credible than if you’re giving out your Facebook or Gmail address. Business is massively about perception, so why give people reason to doubt how great you are?
On the website itself, your ability to optimise for search engines compared to a Facebook page is chalk and cheese. There’s an entire industry of SEO which revolves specifically around the optimisation of websites to drive interested customers to your business, which you won’t have access to with just a Facebook page. On top of that, having your own website will give you much greater ability to track and measure what your users are doing on the site compared to Facebook’s Analytics, so that once your visitor is on the site, you can learn from their experience how to continually improve your marketing.
Finally, on the topic of sales funnelling, it’s worth mentioning that if you’re running a business with a disparate set of services, it can be difficult to nail your user journeys and sales funnels on a Facebook page. As an example, we’ve worked with organisations that provided services to individuals, but also provided training to peers within their industry. On their Facebook page, it was open slather, heaping post upon post about each service, either missing one or the other demographic depending on the order in which they perceive that content. By building a website specifically tailored to segment these audiences however, we were able to entirely control each demographic’s experience and only deliver content that is relevant and compelling to them, significantly improving the delivery of their messaging.
Then why would anyone need a Facebook page?
As always, the big disclaimer is that we’re never saying Facebook pages suck, and to just get a website because we’re a web design agency! That would be disingenuous, since it’s 2019 and people are all over social media across myriad platforms. So how do we make use of that and where do Facebook pages come into it? Let’s talk about cross-pollination.
In the world of digital strategy, the notion of cross-pollination is always a huge consideration when looking at optimising marketing and ROI. The idea is that different traffic sources compound with one another to achieve a marketing result greater than the sum of its parts. By providing your users with continuous, multiple touch points, you increase the opportunities for user engagement, and subsequently improve chances of enquiry or purchase.
This is why Facebook pages are an amazing vehicle for cross-pollination and tying into other marketing efforts, and they are readily available to everyone and easy to implement as well. Just remember it’s not about being the loudest and following people around on every channel with ads, but provide your customers with an ongoing, genuine, interesting and relevant perspective of your business’ value prop. By running your Facebook page with the customer’s interests in mind, you can stay top-of-mind, keep them sticky, and grow your results across ALL sources of traffic.
Whether they’re newly aware of your business from Google Ads, or an organic search, or your posted LinkedIn article, once they’ve hit your website, your Facebook page can assist in extending your marketing reach and continuing to present your customer with opportunities to get in touch. As for existing customers, your Facebook page gives them a way to advocate your business and re-engage via your page’s posts by commenting, sharing, liking, and increasing your brand exposure through their networks, thanks to the Facebook feed algorithm. And if all of that sounds overwhelming and a bit too much, remember that all of these benefits come with a FREE price of admission. Start as big or as small as you want, setting up a Facebook page costs nothing unless you pay someone to do it for you!