It’s a Brave New World Outside Facebook

Being in a new city means I am always searching online for interesting new places to visit or eat. I am pleasantly surprised by some of the very well done business websites and social personalities in Chattanooga, but I am also deeply disappointed in the number of small businesses whose ONLY online presence is a Facebook page. Eeek!

There is a whole world wide web for the taking and promoting of your business.  Why would you limit your online footprint to Facebook?  Don’t say you “can’t afford” a website or search engine marketing because there are a number of low cost web options available if you do a little digging.  While Facebook pages are super easy and cheap to set up, they should be used as a compliment to your online strategy not a substitute. Here are five reasons why Facebook should never be your only online presence.


1) You Don’t Control Facebook, Mr. Zuckerberg Does

Any digital marketer worth their salt is well aware that Facebook is constantly changing their platform. Mark has caused all sorts of headaches concerning privacy, FBML/iframes, and contest rules. What if one day he is bored with making billions of dollars and just shuts Facebook down? If you have only built your presence on Facebook, you would lose it all and there would be nothing you could do about it. While Facebook being shut down isn’t high on the list of probable things to happen, it is still something to consider.  Fundamental of Marketing: Control your brand. You don’t have full control of your brand or any say-so on the rules of Facebook.  You do have full control and mastery of your brand on an independent website.

2) Search Engines Won’t Catch All Your Promotions

Facebook and Google are both alpha dogs and don’t play well together. Google, which completes about 65% of all online searches, has partnered with just about every one of the major social networking services (Twitter, Blogger, Flickr, LinkedIn, etc.) through their Social Search. Facebook has refused to share their social data with Google and has more of a partnership with Bing, which conducts only about 14% of all searches. This does not mean that Google doesn’t index Facebook pages, but it definitely means that many of the interactions with your customers and promotions on Facebook are only visible within Facebook. It’s far more beneficial to cross promote on other social networks and/or showcase your business on an independent site or blog that can be indexed by search engines.

3) Facebook is not Universal, the Internet is

Believe it of not, there are many people who don’t actively use Facebook or even have a Facebook profile. There are over 312 million US citizens. Facebook has more than 750 million active users, but only about 30% of all these users (225 million) are within the United States.  That leaves roughly 87 million US citizens who are not using Facebook. While a reach of 225 million users is still very impressive, it cuts out over a quarter of the population. Facebook itself is accessed through the internet and the internet is universal.  You have a better chance of reaching the 87 million and all existing Facebook users with an independent website.

4) Not Every Business Does Well on Facebook

Dan Zarella from Hubspot did some great research into the Science of Facebook Marketing.  He found that there are some Facebook pages that are naturally more successful than others.  The most “Liked” pages of Facebook tend to be movies, TV shows, or those related to food.  The least “Liked” pages seemed to be “local” businesses (ironically the ones I am always searching for).  If you don’t have many followers, then you would be better served with an independent website for promotions with traffic driven to it organically by search engines.

5) Locating You Isn’t Foolproof

With every small business I speak to about digital marketing, I advise that their first step be to get registered with Google Places and the other major search engines.  It’s free and will help promote them through regular searches.  Plus, customers can leave reviews about their business that can influence other potential customers.  Positive reviews = good things for your business and revenues.  But, if you don’t register with search engines and your address is only on your Facebook info page, you are missing an opportunity to be found by searching customers online.

Additionally, the Facebook mobile mapping experience outside the native Facebook app leaves something to be desired.  For example, I wanted to find a place here that cuts kids hair.  I was on my iPhone and did a search for “kids haircuts Chattanooga.”  It pulled up a cute little kids haircut business website and their Facebook page in the top three results (they were not registered with Google Places).  I first navigated to their website which disappointingly did not list their address.  I then navigated back to their Facebook info page and clicked on their address which automatically uses Bing.  Clicking the address which clearly stated “Chattanooga” sent me to a map of Seattle, Washington??  I navigated back and instead clicked “Get Directions.”  Bing’s mapping app appeared but failed to actually map the address.  Let’s just say Bing’s mapping service does not give me warm fuzzies and I decided against bothering with this business.

If your business is exclusively using Facebook, then it’s time for an intervention.  I am aware that not all businesses can afford a custom designed and built website, but businesses should not let this be their barrier.   The cost to buy a domain can be as little as $10 (depending on the exact URL) and directing it to a simple site is fairly easy nowadays.  Setting up a simple site can be done by any novice using services such as Google sitesWeeblyWebs, etc.  Plus, there is no cost to register your business with Google Places and other search engines.  It’s time to get on internet bandwagon.

As a consumer, how do you feel about businesses who exclusively use Facebook to promote themselves online?  Does an actual website make a difference in your search and you deciding to buy something or patron a business? Please share in the comments section below. 

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