Could social media replace your website altogether? » SMEInsider

Could social media replace your website altogether?

Once, a business couldn’t survive without a website. Then, many businesses couldn’t survive without a website, plus Facebook, Twitter and a whole host of other platforms to promote it. Now, as social networks integrate more and more core business functions, do you need a website at all?

Building and maintaining a high quality website can be expensive and many great features that are tough to perfect are already built in to websites like Facebook and Pinterest or blogging sites like Tumblr and WordPress.

Plus, there’s a need to making pages look consistent and to talk to each other, which is often a lot easier to manage on the social media end than on your website, for two reasons. Firstly, sites like Twitter or Google+ are set up precisely to be customised by non-techies with no knowledge of coding, usually in much the same way, which helps with consistency. Secondly, they are created by highly specialised engineers who are focussed on improving the user experience, both for you and your customers, with all kind of plug-ins to link up or automate your output.

When you use a social media network, you typically get all of these benefits for free, plus invaluable insights and analytics. When a social media network can seemingly do all the work for you, it’s no wonder that some companies are ditching their websites altogether.

Of course, there’s a catch. If you want or needs to tightly control how your site looks and operates, social media sites will not give you this freedom. Plus, even if you love everything about a platform now, you can’t necessarily keep it that way. If Facebook, for example, decides to make major changes to its layout or the way that it incorporates e-commerce plugins and other apps, you and your customers have to just go along with it, disrupting your carefully crafted strategy.

This problem was highlighted a few years ago when some companies were seriously caught out by Facebook’s decision to scrap old-style “groups” and replace these with either a different form of group or “pages.” In some cases, this wiped years of careful community building by brands who were unable to migrate their followers, or who found their groups shut down without warning. Without a central website that you control, you will always be subject to the overarching commercial aims of the sites you use for free.

With so many ifs and buts, is anyone really making it work? The answer, according to Christopher Goodfellow in the Guardian, is yes – but only if you’re in the right market.

Goodfellow points to the example of companies like andSoMe, a recruitment advertising agency, that specialises in social media. Another hugely successful example is the photo-documentary project Humans of New York, which now runs entirely through Facebook. In both of these cases, the core of the business – what it does, how it operates and where this takes place– all revolves around social media, making a separate website redundant. For businesses that use social media to build engagement but do not exclusively present their work through social media networks, the issue is more complicated.

There are certain types of businesses that can progress well and excel in their use of social media and are able to convert interest into sales. There are others where the anchoring and the core nuggets of content [on websites] are still vitally important,” Julie Hawker, chief executive of the IT not-for-profit Cosmic told Goodfellow.

Mark Rice, co-Founder of andSoMe, agrees. “I wouldn’t say it is right for all business, certain businesses need to have a traditional web presence because that’s the market they’re in. If you want to make a statement about yourself and the kind of business you want to attract, social could do that for you without losing anything you would get from a regular website,” he says.

So, unless social media is intrinsic to your business, a website will most likely still be a key part of your arsenal. But the very fact that companies are making the shift indicates that, when it comes to marketing, community building and even sales, social media is where the action is headed. Make sure you don’t miss out.

  • Tom

    Is this from 2011? Everyone was asking that question then, and the answer was no. Why give control of your brand over to Facebook? Are you mad?

  • Steven

    Isn’t that last sentence completely contradictory?