Don't Forgo A Website For Social Media

Image Don't Forgo A Website For Social Media
By Vanessa Salvia, 6/1/11

A report from 2010 reveals an interesting fact about small businesses and the choices they make regarding how best to promote themselves. According to the July "Network Solutions State of Small Business" report, (http://www.networksolutions.com/smallbusiness/sbsi-wave-/3/?channelid=P99C425S627N0B142A1D38E0000V100), 9% of small business owners will spend less on their website, or forgo a website completely, in favor of using social media. Though that 9 percent may be saving money by not investing in their website, don't make the mistake of aligning yourself with this group!

It is tempting to opt in favor of a Facebook page, since a profile on this social media site costs nothing. But the whims of users of social media are fickle. Heck, the whims of internet users in general are fickle. Remember what happened to AOL when Google emerged in the 1990s? When social networking was just emerging, MySpace was the primary choice. Facebook originally started as a college-only social networking group, but once its doors were open for all users, its popularity quickly eclipsed MySpace. This didn't happen overnight, but it did sneak up on many people. The same can happen to Facebook when the next new social media site develops, or Facebook makes enough changes to their site that users get disinterested. If all of your networking and promotion is focused on one site--putting all your eggs in one basket--you will lose it and be playing catch-up when the inevitable changes happen.

You Should Control Your Message
Another drawback to social networking sites is that you have little control over how your message is displayed to the world. Facebook is constantly making adjustments to the appearance of their pages, how and where and which images are displayed, the default setting for how your profile info is shared, and which posts are shown (such as only the most popular or most recent).

MySpace has recently significantly shifted its appearance and programming. . . they now call themselves My_____ and focus primarily on media consumption in the form of celebrity news and video and music.

With a traditional website, you always have control over your message and its appearance. No matter which social network users migrate to or how existing ones change, your website will always be there and will always look exactly as you want it to.

Does It Meet your Expectations?
Small business owners, according to this same report, overwhelmingly feel that their use of social media has fallen short of expectations (36 percent). Only 9 percent felt that it exceeded their expectations. On the other hand, 63 percent of small business owners feel social media has helped make their customers more loyal, helped them stay engaged with customers, develop higher awareness of the company, and identify and attract new customers. But more than half of the respondents (56 percent) feel it has taken up more time than they expected. Only 25 percent of small business owners estimate that their investment in social media has made a profit, while 46 percent feel they broke even, and 15 percent estimate they have lost money.

Given the uncertainty of whether social media is going to be beneficial to your business and be worth your time, it definitely would be a smart move to diversify.

Be Visible in Many Ways
You definitely should be visible on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and any other social network that your demographic populates, but those should never be your primary asset - they should promote and drive traffic to your primary asset. When you sign up for and use a social network such as MySpace or Facebook, you are promoting someone else's business interests. That's fine, if it also works for you, but by building your own website you are building only your own assets. Investing your time and energy in someone else's social network could leave you with nothing if the network is sold, or reconfigured, and people don't use it or it shuts its virtual doors. You just never know with the online world. The more ways you can reach out to customers and engage them, the better for you, but no matter where the whims of the online world go in the coming years, your website is a hard asset that will always be accessible

When you are participating on Facebook, Google, or Twitter, you are giving them a lot of information about your business. The reality is that business owners need to play that game and engage users in those medias, but you also need to understand how much information those providers have about your business and how they might use it.

There must be a balance between being social and open, yet protecting your privacy and that of your employees. Facebook in particular has suffered from a number of issues related to privacy concerns and using their user's names and photos for customized ads directed at other users.

Keep in mind that just because some is not your direct friend on a social networking site, if they are linked to someone that is your direct friend, they might still be able to see what you have posted. Familiarize yourself with the privacy policies and privacy settings of any site you choose to use.

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